So, maybe your beginning story wasn't so great…or maybe it was. You were blasted into a cold world of happy, romantic, baby loving bliss and you grew up the cherished angel of so many hopes and dreams and then you became, well, you. Or, you were tricked into coming into a cold dark reality where you not only had to eek out an existence, but somehow manage to make sense of it all while holding onto your sanity until you became, well, you. Whichever the case, with the new year starting all over, I think it’s time we celebrate! It’s your birthday today or if not today, then another day like it is coming soon and one of them has to be yours! You were meant to be celebrated, you were meant to be special, you were meant to be, well, you! Perhaps, depending on the clarity of your glass, half empty or full, you may want to do something different fun, even exciting or daring. Maybe, even to learn something new because today is the first day you will ever be this young again!
Here are some protocol tips to keep you on the receiving end of well wishers and family. Remember, birthdays only count if you continue to have them, so be safe!
1. Don’t assume that everyone already knows! If you want to be celebrated, simple state “Today is my birthday and I want to….” This sentiment is best practiced on friends and family who have a vested interest in helping you to make this a great day. Advance notice is also nice in case said friends or family wants to give you a gift or may be otherwise occupied at the last minute.
2. If you want to do something wild or adventurous, consider who you ask. Don’t attempt to coerce others into your fantasy without permission. I once had a friend invite me to explore a famous cavern for her birthday celebration. Imagine my horror when we drove four hours to embark upon a six-hour spelunking trip complete with interior cave exploration crawling on hands, knees and stomach in tan shorts, a white tee-shirt and with only a headlight in total darkness! A word to the wise, this is not the way to keep future friends!!
3. Be prepared to pay if you invite your guest to a restaurant. I know it sounds crazy but the old rule still applies, unless offered, if you ask, you pay. Do you ever recall emptying your piggy bank just to go to someone’s birthday party?? Remember, other than a gift as a token of celebration, it’s your party and they can pay if they want to… so, pick your guest and your celebration location wisely. On the other hand, if someone offers to pay, don’t argue, reach for the check or cause embarrassment, simply say “Thank You” and smile!
4. Don’t assume special privileges from perfect strangers. It was once taken for granted that you would receive a small token just for existing if you proudly announced your special day. The kids would allow you to move to the head of the cafeteria line, you got to sit in the front seat with the parents, your boss let you leave a tad early and even restaurants gave freebies! But today, even if you are able to “have your cake and then eat it too” you should not expect the same level of wonderment and awe unless you go to a restaurant that sings and/or you get to wear the special hat!
4. Speaking of Cake, if there are candles, blow gently! Try to avoid at all cost using flying spittle to help extinguish the flames. Unless you are in a restaurant or a catered affair, it is also good protocol to cut the cake and serve your guests first, then yourself. Birthdays do not exclude you from being a great host/hostess! However, if someone offers to cut and serve the cake, then you as the guest of honor should be served first!
5. Don’t make friends and family feel obligated to gift you especially if you have not been an ardent gift giver yourself. By the same token, if you have given and you do not receive, demonstrate maturity and remain quiet. (Note: this does not pertain to married people. Be prepared for emotions and lots of them!) Next year, drop hints before your big day and plan early to reciprocate in other celebrations. When given a gift, American tradition is to open it, comment and thank the giver, and yes, protocol dictates that you should still send a thank you message later. By the way, gift cards to gas/convenience stores count and make great last minute gifts!
6. Don’t lie. If your day has passed, then accept that today is about someone else! Don’t milk the celebration by declaring “well, my birthday was last…!” You will appear petty and selfish and next year, you may be dubbed ungrateful by more than just your family. If asked, politely state that your birthday has recently passed and speak about the adventure of it all.
7. If you didn't get the celebration you had hoped for, chin up! One thing that is certain –if you live long enough, you’ll have another chance!
I am Pamela Coopwood and I am “Speaking of Protocol”
Pamela Coopwood is a Certified Trainer of professional Protocol and Etiquette. Her company, Speaking of Protocol, LLC, a subsidiary of The Planned Event, LLC, offers seminars, classes and corporate training's to enhance the soft skills necessary to be successful in today’s business arena. www.theplannedevent.com/703-615-9525