DEAR ABBY: I have a problem that happens once a year -- my birthday at work. There's a huge potluck with cake, banners, gifts and a card that has been circulating around the office for a week. I cringe at the attention. Everyone means well, but these celebrations are pure torture for me. I'm a 7-year-old all over again, trying my best to keep the anxiety and waterworks in check.
It goes back to my childhood. Growing up, we were very poor, and my parents made it clear that sacrifices had been made for my "big day," which always ended up with me guilt-ridden and in tears.
As an adult, I celebrate my birthday with my husband and son. We keep it low-key and I'm surrounded by the unconditional love I craved as a child.
I have tried bowing out and asked that gifts be made to charity instead, but I am told, "Oh, come on! We all have to go through this." I went so far as to confide to the party planners why I'm so uncomfortable. To my horror, a few of them began complaining about how hard they worked pulling everything together or how late they stayed up baking the cake, etc. It was like hearing my parents all over again.
Am I being too sensitive? I'd appreciate your opinion. -- SPARE ME IN MICHIGAN
DEAR SPARE ME: Because you have tried talking to your co-workers about the special circumstances surrounding your reason for not wanting an office celebration, it's time to talk to your supervisor or someone in human resources. I see no reason why you should have to suffer emotional stress so that everyone can have a party on your birthday.
And no, you are not being too sensitive. The party-planners have been insensitive.