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Monday question: No cake, please

Posted by Robin Abrahams  May 24, 2010 06:25 AM

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I've gotten questions before from people who prefer not to make a big deal of their birthdays, but this is by far the most dramatic version I've yet to read:

It's getting to be that time of year, when co-workers and friends insist on conveying well-wishes for my birthday. The only thing is, I prefer to let the day pass without observance and certainly without fanfare. In the past, people were taken aback by comments like "I don't celebrate my birthday" but even a quiet "thank you" is often followed by questions about how I celebrated "my day". I have one friend who was deeply hurt when I wouldn't reveal my birth date so that she could send me a card. (I recommended she send a card at Christmas, instead, but she was offended that I wouldn't share this information about myself.) Even taking the day out of work was unsuccessful - last year my birthday was proudly "announced" at a staff meeting! I know that people mean well, but it's hard to smile through painful memories of a day I'd rather forget. Is there a polite way to acknowledge their intentions while discouraging this unwanted recognition?

What do you think? As usual, I'll (try to remember to) post my response on Friday. And we'll have another conversation topic up for discussion on Wednesday.
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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at missconduct@globe.com.
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Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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