Birthday Etiquette: It’s A Thing

Today is January 10th and it’s Kimby’s Birthday!

As we discussed her day on Podcast #120 named “It’s Not My Birthday” (Midlife Moment: we thought the show would be airing on her actual birthday. In reality, it ended up being the day before. Oops.), we started talking about the idea of birthday etiquette and if the different forms of wishing someone a happy birthday in today’s age of social media each mean something different.

Reflecting back, I realize a good old snail mail card didn’t even make it into our conversation!! Sad but true.

Does anyone send a card in the mail anymore? I mean how do you time it correctly in this day and age when people expect something to happen on the day, at the moment? And since our expectations have changed to email or text that can get to someone right this second, will the time it takes to get to someone’s mailbox ever be anything but disappointing?

Think how next day shipping from Amazon has changed how we can quickly handle a last minute gift and it has the same feeling as when you had to really be on your game and mindful of what you were sending and when?! Or does it hold the same weight and energy?

Yes, it’s the thought that counts, but what is the thought?

Does a post of Facebook have the same thoughtfulness as a call? 

Is a direct text more intimate than a declaration on social media? 

Is a voice memo more personal than a text?

Has all of this social media made a hierarchy of degrees of intimacy in your relationships? 

Personally I feel each is different and a choice.

Now yes I am aware that I am in charge of the story I tell about other people’s choices and I can decide to make it a personal affront or NOT. I do not make other people’s actions a story about why they don’t like me enough or anything down the shame spiral. It is simply information about THAT person as to how they choose to show up. No judgment, just information. 

Their actions are not about us, it’s information about them. And as always, kindness, compassion and curiosity are the best ways to look at all of our human ways. 

This can actually be really fun!

Also, we all feel REALLY differently about our birthday celebrations!! Some people really take it seriously and it means a lot to them who shows up and who doesn’t.

Sadly, I imagine I am a failure for these types. I make it really clear to these types that I don’t have the same energy and expectation around my birthday and I hope they know how much I love them even if I totally blow showing up in the way that feels right to them. As I hit this midlife age, I try to honor these people by doing my best to show extra care for them on these days, but it’s a stretch for me. I feel the lack of ease from my own expectations of the day and well, I humbly own it.

The flip side is what choices WE make. 

What do these different choices mean to us about how we are showing how we care for the people in our lives?

I can feel the anxiety of making the call, and I can feel the joy of making the call.

It leads me to wonder what the story is that I am telling myself that makes one choice feel stressful and intimidating and the other version that has me doing the hell yeah pick up the phone and dial dance.

Geez we are interesting complicated beings aren’t we?

So the calls that are easy to make and the texts and silly Happy Birthday videos I send (please God I pray there isn’t a montage of the MANY happy birthday song videos I have sent over the years surfacing any time soon!), I hardly have to look at those. But I am interested in uncovering why the other choices are made. What am I telling myself about my relationship with the person who I don’t think would want to hear my voice on their day letting them know they are special to me??? How is there even a story that fits that? 

They are too busy?

It will take too long?

Help! I mean really I am having a hard time coming up with stories that fit this bill. 

And the truth is I sort of hate all of the story options. 

These are some of my favorite moments! When I get to these kind of revelations that any story I can imagine sucks and isn’t a story I am interested in choosing……

It’s time for a new story. Here is my first attempt.

Birthdays are yet another chance to tell people I care for, love, and admire how I feel, and I believe that feels good to the giver and the receiver. However I choose to give this message, it is a gift and I want to be deliberate in my choosing of how I will deliver the message based on what feels best to me.

I’m gonna practice this new birthday etiquette thought this year and I’ll let you know how it goes.

How will you handle birthdays? And what are your etiquette thoughts? I’d love to hear!

Gotta go run and make a call….