First Birthday as A Duchess

I enjoy keeping up with the British royals. Then, having watched Suits, seeing Meghan Markle join the fold was an added bonus!

Meghan Markle Birthday

Meghan’s first birthday as Duchess of Sussex this August prompted a great deal of media coverage. Some snippets:

  • She turned 37 this year on Aug. 4.
  • She spent the day at a friend’s wedding, where she had what was billed as a “wardrobe malfunction.” Stepping out of the car and waving she exposed a bit of a lacy bra and was later seen mingling with her shirt dress buttoned up a bit tighter.
  • As a Royal she is not allowed to have a big party. Only the reigning monarch gets the full fanfare (as the Queen did earlier this year).
  • She may also have to return gifts. Official guidelines read: “Gifts offered by private individuals living in the UK not personally known to the Member of the Royal Family should be refused where there are concerns about the propriety or motives of the donor or the gift itself.”
  • Prince Charless, Princess Beatrice, Princess Anne, and Lady Amelia Windsor are four other Royals who celebrate August birthdays.
  • None of these Royals would get the first bite of their birthday cake if the Queen was in attendance — she gets dibs!

Harry and Meghan had to return a total £7million worth of presents following their wedding.

Birthday Wishes

These prohibitions may be a bit more challenging for Meghan than your average 37-year-old. The American-born actress, raised by a single Mom, has said her mother told her to treat her birthday as if it were her “own personal New Year.”

Back when she was blogging, she wrote that birthdays are “your own chance to make resolutions just for yourself and what you prognosticate for the year ahead” and told readers she always wished for “more inspiration.”

Another article gave us a fuller quote from the now defunct blog site, noting that she wishes for: “More surprises, more adventure, more opportunities to grow, more days filled with giggles and cheeky jokes, more delicious meals, and more inspiration. Always more inspiration.”

I was particularly happy to see the longer list! Makes me feel a bit better about all the wants I have on my own birthdays! I will also, in October this year, add to my list, wishing that I could be as flexible as she proves to be in this photo!

 

Birthdays Don’t Always Go as Planned

As a big fan of birthdays I tend to focus on the positives. Yet, I am not the ostrich bearing her head in the sand. I recognize not everyone has the same enthusiasm for their birthday. Yet someone over at Insider decided to actively seek out bad birthday experiences. They gathered 19 “worst birthday horror stories” from Reddit. I thought I’d share some of these “disastrous events.”

There’s the person who spent $300 on an expensive dinner and had his/her girlfriend break up with him on the drive home.

birthday disaster

foter.com

Or another individual whose girlfriend forgot his/her 19th birthday and made him/her wait in line for hours at her college bookstore before delaying his/her return home to the traditional birthday pizza dinner with his own parents.

But they’re both trumped in my mind by the writer who’s boyfriend left him/her at the bar on her birthday — without telling him/her he was leaving!  

There are also tales of surprise parties ruined. But the winner in that category is the one who was worried his wife’s “keeping secrets” meant she was cheating. She was in fact planning a party with several close friends not seen in years, but…she was also having an affair.

Injuries and Worse on Birthdays

Another writer received a physical hit instead of an emotional one. “On my 10th birthday, my mom got a piñata. My best friend was trying to hit the piñata, and on his backswing, he clocked me right in the forehead.” While friends rushed to the candy from the piñata opened on the friend’s forward swing, the birthday celebrant fell to the ground bleeding with a “huge gash” on his/her head. Five stitches in the hospital were needed.

birthday piñata

Image source: Foter.com

Someone else recalled a brother slamming his/her face into the cake, missing the cake, and instead bashing the seven-year-old’s face into the table. “I started crying and got blood all over my cake,” this person wrote. Oh, and, “this happened again when I was 9.” That’s the kicker for me. Really? Again!

A 16-year-old with whooping cough needed to be quarantined. But the parents apparently still wanted to celebrate, so they put the ill teen in the basement and party upstairs. The writer said, “they put a piece at the top of the stairs for me.”

Another writer’s Dad ran over the cat in the family driveway, in full sight of the birthday goer and his/her friends having picked them up from a movie for the sleepover portion of the party. Two of the friends saw the “pancaked” body before the father was able to “hide the body.” Let’s just agree those are three words you don’t want associated with your birthday. 

I’ve written before about death on birthdays, and read about people getting shot at birthday parties, but even still, I can’t agree with the article’s suggestion that their stories “will make you not want to celebrate.” I doubt anything has the power to make me not want to make a big deal of my birthday, and those of the ones I love.

Birthday Bear Marketing Mayhem

When I was younger, I was a teddy bear collector. I loved plush bears, but all sorts of accessories with bears on them too. So, I probably would have lost my mind over Build-a-Bear’s “Pay Your Age” promotion — if I’d lived somewhere with the store.

Apparently, I would not have been the only person ready to lose their mind over the marketing ploy. Hundreds of people got in line to take advantage of the sale. Thousands of people received vouchers inviting them to purchase their toy another time. The company’s original July 12 event was so popular they had to call it off.

birthday marketing

“Based on the unprecedented response to our Pay Your Age Day event in our early opening stores, we are experiencing significantly longer than expected lines and large crowds. Local authorities are requiring us to limit the lines and crowds due to safety concerns,” the company stated.

Build-a-Bear stores, usually found in malls but also at tourist attractions in North America and Great Britain, let kids (and kids at heart) create a stuffed animal from scratch. The stuffed toys are not cheap — typically running $20 or more when you add in accessories. So people were excited over the idea of even kids as young as one-year-old being able to get in on the deal.

Build-a-Bear CEO’s Sharon Price John even ended up TODAY doing damage control. “We did see it wind up in social (media), and we did put a notice out for people that we thought the lines could be long, and we worked with the malls, but it was beyond anything we could’ve ever imagined.”

636670196252688875-Build-A-Bear-04

Birthday Marketing Mayhem

In bringing back the promotion, the company has linked the idea more effectively to birthdays. On your birthday, you can “pay your age” to get a Birthday Treat Bear. The smiling brown bear, which normally costs $14, is available through the new “Count Your Candles” program. 

The kerfuffle was meant to launch the new Birthday Treat Bear, the CEO said. “Because up to one-third of our sales are actually associated with kids’ birthdays. It’s their most special day.

With the new iteration of the promotion, Build-a-Bear joins a long line of retailers marketing birthday-related deals. Based on a blog last month, though, in which a guy wrote to Ms. Manners to complain about embarrassing birthday attention — only ask about the birthday deal if you’re ready for a serenade or having someone else pick your dessert.

 

Two Birthdays = Big Wins

birthday lottery

I’ve written before about two birthdays as if it was unique. At least this year’s earlier blog about a baby actually being born twice remains distinct. But, I am learning it’s not as uncommon as I’d thought for a clerical error to give someone two special days. Nevertheless, I can’t resist this story about a 79-year-old Maryland man playing both his birth dates in the lottery and winning 1.9 million.

It’s like a trifecta — two birthdays and a nearly $2 million lottery win? That’s Uber-lucky!

The man, whose name was not released in the news report I saw, was born in Louisiana on April 21. But, it was recorded as April 23, and not officially corrected until recently.

When buying a Multi-Match ticket recently the man played his lucky numbers (based on his two birthdays) and scored the jackpot in the Maryland Lottery’s May 7 drawing.

“I was scanning the newspaper and flipped to the lottery section first, and when I saw the numbers my eyes just grew bigger and bigger,” the man said.

The winner quickly called his wife. “When I told her how much we had won, at first she didn’t believe me!” he said.

The man planned to enlist the help of a financial adviser and use some of the windfall to pay off their bills and donate to their church.

Another Birthday Lottery Win

At the same time, I also came across a young woman who hit the jackpot purchasing her first ever lottery ticket to celebrate her 18th birthday.

birthday lottery

Charlie Lagarde purchased the scratch ticket alongside a bottle of champagne (18 is the legal drinking age in Quebec, Canada). Given the choice of $1 million Canadian as a lump sum or $1,000 a week for the rest of her life, the 18-year-old decided on the weekly allowance.

“It’s without taxes so it’s equivalent to a salary of more than $100,000 a year, so it’s a great start in life for that young lady,” Patrice Lavoie, a spokesman for the lottery corporation, told the Canadian Press news agency.

The teen plans to invest in her education and travel. She said, “I want to study photography. One of my dreams would be to work for National Geographic.”

No word on what numbers she played, but seems safe to say her birthday was a lucky one.

Military Keep Mum on Birthdays

 I know little about military culture, so I was interested to read recently a We Are the Mighty blog offering several reasons troops don’t tell others its their birthday. The reasons definitely reinforce my idea that being part of a military unit can be a lot like having several unruly siblings.

The first reason to avoid sharing your special day? “Your gift is embarrassment.” U.S. Army veteran Eric Milzarski, who was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division as a radio operator, tells us that the company might sing to you but only with the intention of making you feel awkward and embarrassed.

Second, the surprise party in the training room is highly unlikely. Instead military personnel will be expected to do push-ups for every year they’ve lived.

While, this might ruin many civilians for the rest of their birthdays, the veteran author tells us “It’s in good fun though and they’re almost always done with a grin.” Even when extras are added on: “One more for the unit! One more for the First Sergeant!”

Ultimately, things need to keep on keeping on. So amidst the pranks and awkwardness, the attitude is primarily: “Cool. You’re older. Now get back to work.”

Restaurant Birthday Etiquette

I read with some surprise recently a Miss Manners entitled: “I can’t believe they did this on my birthday.” The person who wrote into the syndicated columnist was “appalled” by the restaurant offering him a “large dessert of the restaurant’s choosing with a showy sparkler stuck into it.”

He and his wife had gone to a restaurant on his birthday. “A sign at the door advertised a special reward when paying the bill if you were dining on your birthday.” He mentioned his birthday to the waitress and was then “hugely embarrassed” when she arrived at the table with a dessert he could not share with his wife (she didn’t like it). Plus, “now everybody in the restaurant knew it was my birthday.”

He wrote, “I didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the waitress, so I feigned delight and ate the dessert. I really wanted to share a dessert with my wife, but because of the actions of the waitress, I was cheated out of this opportunity and I’m not very happy about it.”

He wrote to Miss Manners wondering how he should have handled this better.

The Mannered Response

She suggests that the restaurant did not do a good job of tailoring its service to its customer need. She even argues, “A more astute wait-person would indeed have noticed that you had not ordered your dinner from the children’s menu, and may have been able to adjust the reward accordingly.” There’s also a joke about a free pony ride.

Still, unless you have never eaten out in a restaurant before, how could you not expect there would be a dessert and some sort of hoopla. At least it wasn’t one of the restaurants where all the waitstaff available are pressed into service serenading the guest.

This man asked for the “reward.” What else could he have been expecting? A discount would be my guess. Yet restaurant after restaurant has made a sparkler or candle in a slice of cake, often with a song, the go-to response to birthdays. The cake is free. That’s the discount. But the price you pay is not getting to choose the dessert they serve.

I also to share my umbrage that Miss Manners equates this birthday “reward” with the kid’s menu. If you don’t want to be feted in public, don’t tell the waitstaff of a public restaurant it’s your birthday. Otherwise, don’t infantilize those who enjoy a little birthday pomp and circumstance on their special day — regardless of their age.

One last thing, imagine how chagrined these correspondents would have been to get the birthday surprise at this restaurant near my house. It’s really a showy sparkler!

birthday sparkler

 

Birthday Dictatorship — The Gift Registry

birthday wish list

Foter.com

Good Morning America recently asked its loyal Facebook fans to weigh in on whether or not “it’s ever OK for parents to request gift cards or create registries for their kids when hosting a birthday party.”

Kids, of course, would love this. My own son would be at Target with his portable scanner beep-booping over Magic cards, phone supplies, video games…and then he’d want to go do the same at Dick’s Sporting Goods too.

birthday wish list

One parent, a mother of 5, was onboard. “[A] gift card allows the kids to pick out their own stuff and also shows them money sense,” she wrote. “They know how much they have to spend and they can spend up to that amount, or use their money and add to it if what they want costs more. Gift cards are a godsend if u [sic] ask me.”

Plus, she has five kids. Think of all the junk that would otherwise fill up her house after a birthday party!

Another respondent, though, made an equally good point: “A child should learn that any gift is OK…It’s the thought that counts. Too many spoiled entitled kids today.”

GMA asked an etiquette expert too. Elaine Swann said, “The bringing of gifts is a gesture of goodwill and when we start to set standards and ask for gifts in this particular instance, I think it’s setting the wrong precedence in terms of entitlement.”

A Generous Alternative

One of the respondents suggested what has become my favorite alternative to birthday gifts — giving to charity instead. I am happy to report it is becoming increasingly common for me to see a news story about a young person:

  • Doing a pet food donation drive
  • Sking for donations to a charitable organization in lieu of gifts
  • Donating their presents to a homeless shelter or Ronald McDonald house.
  • Getting people together for a birthday party where they make sandwiches for a homeless shelter.

Young people are using their birthdays as an opportunity to do acts of generosity for others!

I was able to get my son to take this approach for a few years, but then he got older and realized his friends were getting gifts, and he wanted the same thing. I suggest the alternative each year, but I’m not going to foist it upon him.

In the meantime, I’ve become one of those Moms who provides a gift card instead of a present. Yet, I won’t be allowing my child to openly ask for cash or register for gifts any time soon.