DEAR MISS MANNERS: For the second year in a row, my friend forgot my birthday. Over 20 years ago, when we first became friends, she started the tradition of giving me an inexpensive token gift to mark my birthday. The emphasis was always on the thought rather than the expense. Each year, I responded similarly on her birthday, which is several months later.
When she married, she and her husband started calling me on my birthday to sing “Happy Birthday,” as well as giving me a token gift when next we met.
I honestly think my birthday just slipped off her calendar and that it is an oversight. After all, she was the one who started the tradition of thoughtfulness.
Last year, I proceeded as if I hadn’t noticed, and gave them token gifts when I saw them. How should I proceed this year? It’s clear that my birthday is no longer on her calendar, and is not likely to return.
We often talk by phone and used to attend a lot of cultural events together. Since we won’t be seeing each other due to the pandemic, it will be easy to let the gift tradition slide.
I would like to at least text them a greeting on their special days, but feel awkward. Would it be an impolite reminder that they forgot mine?
GENTLE READER: It may well remind them, but that does not make your courtesy into a reminder.
Miss Manners would like to congratulate you -- not so much because you had a birthday, but for refraining from being morose about your friends’ omission. She often hears from less mature celebrants who consider their birthdays to be tests of whether their friends meet their expectations.
Such little customs do slide off, which should not be cause for grievance. This friendship seems to be continuing, so you should feel neither obligated nor banned from offering them birthday greetings, without regard to whether they do so.