Miss Manners: Not charming to throw your own party

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Was it tacky of me to throw my own birthday party?

I wanted to use my birthday as an excuse to have a fun party, so I invited friends, who all agreed in advance to share the cost of pizza, and I provided cake and cookies. (A plain cake – I did not write “Happy Birthday, Me!” on it, which I do think would have been tacky.)

Some friends remarked that they thought it was strange for me to “celebrate myself” in this way – getting my own cake, etc. But these friends certainly weren’t about to throw a party for me – nor did I expect them to – and this seemed like the best way to throw the party that I wanted for myself.

Is there established etiquette for throwing a party for oneself, and did I breach it?

GENTLE READER: Children give their own birthday parties, with the help of their parents, in the hope that it will teach them how to be gracious hosts.

But many of them must have flunked, because the adult birthday party, in which the host’s interest is in honoring himself, often at the expense of the so-called guests, has become common.

Do not expect Miss Manners to reassure you that this is a charming thing to do. As you heard, your own friends were not charmed, although it was unkind of them to say so.

It was, as you put it, “the party that I wanted for myself.” Where were your thoughts for your guests – other than that they should pay for the pizza? How can they help noticing that you are prodding them to honor you?

It is not that mean old Miss Manners expects you to spend your birthday sulking along. But there is a subtle – and nevertheless crucial – difference between wanting to celebrate with your friends, and instructing your friends to celebrate you.

A particularly gracious touch would be refraining from calling it a birthday party, so that guests do not feel obliged to bring presents. But perhaps that is too much to expect, on top of your having to pay for the pizza.

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