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Let's Dish: Have You Had a Birthday Dinner Nightmare?

Let's Dish: Have You Had a Birthday Dinner Nightmare?

Yesterday I came across a hilarious and poignant column in Slate discussing the drawbacks of the dreaded birthday dinner. "I hereby propose that the birthday dinner go the way of the $4 cup of coffee, the liar's mortgage, and the midsize banking institution," its author proclaims.

The truthful description of his birthday dinner nightmare includes awkward small-talk, excessively-ordered appetizers and drinks, and inequity when it comes to paying the hefty tab. Not to mention that since everyone celebrates once a year, birthday dinners can be frequent and repetitive. For this reason alone, I can't say I attend every birthday dinner I get invited to, and I never hold my own.

Still, it can be nice every now and then to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. What about you? Are you a fan of the birthday dinner? Have you been subjected to your (unfair) share of disastrous birthday dinners?


Join The Conversation
orangek8 orangek8 8 years
What we usually do, is a group of about six of us go out to dinner. One person offers (usually beforehand) to put the dinner on her card, and then later emails everyone with what they owe for their dinner (what they ordered), plus their portion of the birthday girl's dinner. Then they just write her a check. It has always worked painlessly for us. The only thing painful about my last birthday is that I ended up singing karaoke!
LoveSarah LoveSarah 8 years
I will only go out with a few close friends, and usually we split the bill. It's just a lot easier that way. Sucks for the waiter, but at least we tell them before hand :D
Rancher'sGirl Rancher'sGirl 8 years
When I was single, I used to enjoy going out with friends on their birthdays but as time went on, I ended up having to cough up extra money a few times too often when people stiffed the bill. $20 here and there may not seem like a lot to most folks but it was a major hit to my wallet. I would order an appetizer and a non-alcoholic beverage, and end up helping pay for someone else's steak and wine. I have no objection to paying my share of the honoree's meal but paying for someone who "skipped out" really steamed me. My husband and I have birthdays just two days apart so we just go out for a nice dinner alone or invite a few people to our home for a delicious, informal supper.
hyzenthlay20 hyzenthlay20 8 years
It seems like for several years someone would always stiff the tab when we went out for (cheapie) dinners (Spaghetti Factory and the like). Then we started going to nicer places where dinner and a drink would be $20 to $25 and I remember one year when my friend had a large group and the tab was stiffed $80 or something, and two weeks later I had my smaller group out for dinner and we had something like $15 too much, and no one wanted to take any money back, so we left a LARGE tip for the waiters. I was . . . well, that was a great, great gift from my friends. I was proud that was the dinner we had to celebrate my birthday. We had a blast sitting around, had a drink, some good (but not too expensive) thai food, and we were able to give a generous tip. What more could you want? :)
c-a-t-h c-a-t-h 8 years
Wow, considering my birthday is tomorrow this is some interesting insight. I like to keep it low-key, maybe a few beers but more importantly a lot more laughing with people I care about. Luckily, I only have few close friends :)
dcfashionista dcfashionista 8 years
I have been on the wrong end at dinner parties. Once I ordered an appetizer and a drink and had to pay $40, my former supervisor told me next time to just order a moderately priced meal and a drink and when then It will be fair when folks want to split the meal evenly.
Zulkey Zulkey 8 years
I'm of the mind that if you want a birthday party, you throw one, and if you can't afford that, have a get-together at a bar so people can mingle as they like and order (and pay for) what they like. Splitting a 20 person bill makes me want to stab myself.
LaLaLaurie06 LaLaLaurie06 8 years
My birthday is the day after Christmas so there is usually not a big celebration with friends. Growing up I always celebrated my half birthday. Once we got into college and away from birthday parties, I tried to get my friends to go out to lunch on my birthday (not pay for my portion, but just go to lunch) but some had to work (once I had to work) and the one lunch I did have was just really awkward and I felt like I had forced them to go out with me. The past two years I've been home visiting my parents on my birthday. Last year it was just me, mom, dad, and fiance with a small cake. The year before that I was on an airplane. Sorry this was kind of rambly. :)
Deidre Deidre 8 years
In recent years, I opted for ordering pizza and serving up some beer at my place. Maybe about 15 people tops; and everyone always donates $5-10 (without being asked, which is so nice!). Anyone wants to join in at a bar afterwards, I have always made sure it's a pub without a cover. Not only is that type of bar more my style, I don't feel guilty about asking anyone to spend superfluous money. If they want to drink, they do, but it's not required. I have definitely been to a couple of over-the-top dinners; where spending averages $50 per person. If it's a good friend, I don't mind. And I've bowed out of attending these kinds of things if I didn't feel comfortable (either because of the restauarant, or the level of acquaintance).
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
I'm with TidalWave - it totally depends on your income level what you think is expensive or not.
TidalWave TidalWave 8 years
Shmoo15: $35 per plate is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much for me! If you invited me there, I would eat dinner at home beforehand and just order a drink! Seriously!
shellbelle1 shellbelle1 8 years
I've never understood this whole splitting the bill thing. When we go out for dinner, be it someones birthday or not, everyone only pays for what they order. Doesn't that make much more sense than me helping to pay for someones steak when I only had a salad? And they can usually split appetizers (or the birthday persons meal) equally on everyones ticket. At least that's the way it's always worked for me and my group...but maybe that just means we don't go out to fancy places...
shmoo15 shmoo15 8 years
Usually when I plan a birthday dinner, I try to pick a fun and affordable place. My last birthday dins was at The Front Porch in SF and it only cost everyone around $35. I recently went a good friend's birthday party at Bubble Lounge where she ordered us three $65 food platters plus the CRAZY expensive drinks. I ended up spending $40 on a beer, a glass of prosecco and a couple pieces of cheese.
partysugar partysugar 8 years
I think when having a birthday dinner, the key is to keep the group intimate and small. More then 6 people is too much.
mlen mlen 8 years
i'm having 2 lol one tonight with just 2 close friends i've known for 20 years and then one tomorrow with a group of about 10-12. but i'm keeping it simple at a local mexican place- byob. it'll keep the costs down and still be fun!
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
My hubby and I eat dinner at home, much more intimate than going out.
TidalWave23 TidalWave23 8 years
TidalWave (great minds think alike - except in birthday dinner situations:)) - I am a complete foodie and cook for my friends 5-8 times a month. I love entertaining at my house and it's become a pretty routine thing for most of them. Being out at a restaurant with a large party is pretty chaotic, but I know my friends enjoy not having to plan the evening themselves and it's like a reunion for us all. Like I stated before, I know it must stress out the waiters but my friends have all worked in that industry before at one point in their lives and they're all respectful adults. We certainly don't act rowdy or nag our waiters for anything. In fact, we always open a tab at the bar before sitting down and get up to get our own drinks (or just get bottles of wine for the table). As far as the seating - after we've all eaten or while we're waiting for the food to arrive, we all periodically get up from the table (to go to the bathroom/bar) and find another seat to chat with someone. We only sit in our designated seats for the actual meal. It's never been uncomfortable for anyone and I have gotten compliments from my friends for planning the outing and from the waiters for not being a hassle and tipping graciously. So all in all, I think (in my situation at least) the pros outweigh the cons.
hotpants76 hotpants76 8 years
i had a horrific 30th bday dinner. went out to a nice italian place with close friends and family. we were in a private room filled with bottles and bottles of wine. my mom and her boyfriend thought it would be a good idea to steal a bottle and while they are passing to each other under table, they drop it and it breaks. HUGE MESS! nobody knew what was going on till we heard the crash. ruins a friend's purse that was on the floor nearby. i was highly embarrassed. i was raised better and was mortified that she acted to classless in front of my in laws and friends. what's even worse, she never apologized for it. then to top it off, someone stiffed on the bill and we came up $80 short and no one would own up to it. my husband and i ended up kicking in the difference. so yeah, i can say for sure that bday dinners are a bad bad idea....
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
It wasn't my birthday, but at a friend's birthday dinner (for 14 people), one couple barely paid their share, wouldn't admit it, and the rest of us were left to pick up the extra $50 that they didn't pay. They weren't invited the next time. As far as birthday dinners though, I feel like if you're on a student budget like I am, the hefty tab that always get run up can be a real downer. I always feel like I can barely order anything in order to pay for my food and the rest of my share for the person having the birthday. It can honestly be more stressful than anything else.
Dana18 Dana18 8 years
Once , my girls friend had a birthday dinner at a bar.I was very expensive. some people didn't want to pay their share. The food was small tapas plate. We were still hunger after we left and had to go some place else to have a real drink.
Angela123 Angela123 8 years
Ha! The article was hilarious, that's EXACTLY how I feel.
TidalWave TidalWave 8 years
TidalWave23: (good name! :) ) You don't mind going to a restaurant with such a huge group? If I'm with more than 8 people, I would much rather cook for them than go to a restaurant. Why? Because they sit you at this big long table where you can only talk to the three people next to you and food always takes a while and waiters get stressed out. It's always been much more enjoyable and social to have a bigger group get together at someone's house and just have everyone chip in for the meal.
TidalWave23 TidalWave23 8 years
Yes - I have a huge group of friends that I want to celebrate with and that want and need an excuse to go out and have fun. My birthday dinners are usually extravagant (not in cost, but in quantity of guests). It can tend to be a little chaotic and I think it might be alot to handle for the waiters, but we all tip big at the end of the night to compensate. I'm excited to see what happens this year - or next week rather (wow, it's coming up fast). I think my friends have always enjoyed celebrating my birthday, not necesarily cause they're celebrating "me" but because I'm able to get everyone out together and away from their busy lives for one night. It's always a good time had by all.
Chaoticfury Chaoticfury 8 years
It depends on who's birthday it is now. If it's someone who lives out of town and I haven't seen in awhile I'll go out for dinner. Someone in town and I see frequently, I would do an at-home dinner spread with gag gifts and possibly a prank before the night is done :P
Mesayme Mesayme 8 years
I lied...hold on, I don't go out. Not for mine. I want to be home where it's quiet. But other's birthday, I may treat them to dinner, no more going all-out cooking...too much chaos.
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