SparkNotes Blog

Auntie SparkNotes: My Friends Forgot My Birthday

Dear Auntie,

My group of friends and I are really close. We grew up together and know each other quite well. Recently, this past year, we were all turning 16 and throwing surprise sweet-16 birthday parties for each other. These were not big parties or anything—just some balloons and a few friends to celebrate. My birthday came around during a major holiday, and I can understand why I didn’t receive a party. But one of my friends had promised me she would throw me a party later on in the year since everyone else had gotten one. This party never happened,  and I assume they just forgot this promise.

Honestly, I’m okay with my friend forgetting, I just don’t understand why I keep thinking about it. I know my friends still appreciate me and I do like them too, I just don’t know how to get over this one thing. It’s not something I want to keep thinking about, it’s something I want to forget—but for some reason, I just can’t. Any advice? 

In that case, Sparkler, I’m going to suggest something that will probably seem completely counterintuitive and crazy to you: for the next five to ten minutes, just sit back, cut loose, and wallow in all that disappointment you’ve been trying so hard not to feel.

Because while I know you don’t want to let this bug you anymore, part of the problem is that you’ve never fully given yourself over to being bugged to begin with—because you want to be mature about it, because it’s not the kind of thing you can really express out loud, and because you know it wasn’t personal and therefore shouldn’t bother you. But even when you know intellectually that this is something you need to get over, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s emotionally ding-dang devastating. Honey, of course you’re disappointed. Of course you are! You got screwed out of a fun surprise party that you were totally looking forward to, for no other reason than that the calendar conspired to make it inconvenient. That sucks. It objectively sucks. And the fact that you’re mature enough not to hold it against your friends for forgetting about the party doesn’t change the objective suck of it all.

Which is why, first and foremost, I think you need to cut yourself some slack and just let yourself feel lousy for a second, which is the way any person would feel in your position. Wanting to get past it is great, but to do that, you’ve gotta slog through it first.

With that said, once you’ve waded through your natural human reaction to being overlooked on your birthday, the next step is making peace with it—or maybe more to the point, making peace with the situation that gave rise to it. It’s only a guess, but I wonder if part of the reason you’re struggling to let this go is that you’re astute enough to recognize its future implications? If your birthday falls in close proximity to a major holiday, it’s always going to be a struggle to get your friends to celebrate it on the day (or to remember their well-intentioned promises to throw you a belated party down the line), and that is a bummer of a thing to deal with—even if you know that your friends love and appreciate you and that it’s not an intentional slight. (Side note: Ordinarily, this is where I’d also ask if your unhappiness about the birthday thing stems from it being part of a larger trend wherein your friends overlook you in other contexts—but you say that’s not happening, so we’ll skip it.)

But here’s the thing: friends who love and appreciate you will also not hold it against you if you open up a little about how this situation makes you feel—particularly if you’re doing it as part of a proactive step toward preventing history from repeating itself. Which is why I’m going to suggest that you wait until you’re about a month out from your next birthday, and then say an in-your-own-words version of the following: “I know it’s silly in the scheme of things, but I felt so left out when we didn’t do anything for my birthday last year. I know the holiday makes things tricky, but if I have a party on [date], would you guys be able to make it?”

Doing this accomplishes two things: first, you’ll be casually and non-confrontationally communicating about something that upset you, which is a useful skill to have—not to mention that it gives your friends an opportunity to do better next time, which is the kind of thing people who care about you generally appreciate. But also, you’ll be taking an active step of your own to address a situation that really bummed you out—which is one of the best ways in the world to keep yourself from continuing to fret over it. When you know exactly what you intend to do about an issue, you don’t have to keep thinking about it. And while throwing your own party may not be as exciting and surprising as having one thrown for you, it’s a pretty fair trade for the peace of mind and the modicum of control that comes from having a concrete plan to eat cake. Good luck—and happy belated.

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