Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Birthday is important to her — but not to her boyfriend
Q: I've been dating my boyfriend for a little over a year. My birthday is coming up in two weeks, and he hasn't brought up the topic. When I ask if he wants to do something, he avoids it altogether. I found out last night that he is having a family member come visit him around the same time as my birthday (by his choice). This will basically eliminate our alone time. Am I being too selfish in thinking that my boyfriend should plan something for my birthday or even ask what I'd like to do? I'm pretty laid back and not asking for anything glamorous. I'd be happy with a picnic at a park.
Carolyn: I suppose it's always possible he's planning to surprise you, but I hate even mentioning that for fear of stoking expectations. So here's the answer I really mean: Have you made it clear to him that you care about birthdays? Both by saying you care and by going out of your way to celebrate his?
Not everyone does care, so it isn't fair to either of you to harbor silent expectations. Arguably, you made your enthusiasm clear when you brought up the topic, but why hint when you can explain?
That's the relationship angle of your question. The other (bigger) part is about your expectations. People who care about their birthday/Christmas/Valentine's Day/whatever are better served by releasing all expectations of other people. Don't make your enjoyment contingent upon having your grown kids travel to see you, your spouse surprise you. Likewise, with birthdays, pick something you love to do and plan it. Let the joy brought by others be a bonus.
Anonymous 2: Blankets, plates, cutlery, cups? Carrying it all so it doesn't break or spill? The right location? Plus romantic/charming expectations/cliches just waiting to be dashed? Picnics in the park are great, no question, but they're hardly a simple thing. Ask yourself whether "I'd be happy with a Big Mac with a candle in it!" to test whether you are really laid back/low maintenance.
Carolyn: Agreed, a picnic is no picnic.
Older than 10: What is this seeming obsession that chronological adults have about their birthdays? Sure, it's a birthday, but why are you sulking because the universe isn't revolving around you?
Carolyn: (Light thump of a pita chip hitting the table) It's NOT?
Re: Birthday boyfriend:
Anonymous 3: A guy who's that not into birthdays ought to be able to say, "I don't know, hon, I'm really not into birthdays." If Anonymous is saying, "Hey, what could we do?" and he's avoiding the subject, I think something is amiss.
Carolyn: I don't know, Anon. People who deflect loved ones with "I'm not into birthdays" are usually called something unkind.
Once her birthday comes, she'll see how he handles it and learn a lot more of what she needs to know. No sense forcing the issue now.