Picture this nuisance with me: You walk in and the restaurant is filled with an ambient clutter of loud music and chatty hosts, helping you warm up to a sense of fun importance. There are maybe 2 others in your group who came before you. You are number 3 of 15. No one is on time and absolutely everyone is there for someone else. By the time you all sit down, watch the Birthday Person fake a yelp of glee when they walk in, you are famished. The waiter hasn’t even taken the orders yet. You then engage in surface level conversations about work, school, and significant others. The entire time, you wish you had sat next to that one person you really want to talk to but they’re too busy juggling three conversations themselves. A total of 15 minutes will be spent on everyone asking the other what they’re ordering. That way, you can know what they’re having and order what you were going to order to anyway. Everyone is loud and complicated and the waiter hates you. Two people will decide it’s not a problem to come half way through dinner. The worst part of this whole pretense is that the Birthday Person carries the burden of making significant impact with all 14 of you before the night ends. He or she will wonder why you invited a random group but not their other close friends. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!
You will most likely get your food last and yeah, it was over priced. As checks are being paid, there are murmurs of what the rest of the night holds. The acquaintances all have other engagements and the real 5 friends will stick around for the actual birthday celebration.
Surprise Birthday Dinners: why do we do this to each other? Having a dinner for yourself is acceptable. This angle of it being a surprise is like a game of tag: if one person decides to throw one, a chain reaction is started for the next 364 days for everyone and their respective subgroups.
Not sure what a guy’s excuse is but ladies, I like to make an art out of getting ready as much as you do but planning Surprise Birthday Dinners are not the answer. You know what is? Something fun. Let’s be frank: the person in honor really just wants to hang out with their friends. They’re just glad you’re there. So as their friends, to channel all our efforts into finding a date that works for everyone, picking a restaurant that’s quaint and delicious—all while attempting to surprise the Birthday child—is wasted effort.
Why can’t we all skip the dinner pretense and plan something catered to what the person would really enjoy? Go to sports games, improv shows, karaoke bars, food festivals, support local musicians, a play, the arcade, a boat party, fishing, barbeque, set up a beach/lake picnic, a cooking class, pottery, a drive in theatre, or visit an obscure bar or specialty restaurant. Basically, surprise them with anything else.
Let me be super original and say that there’s an assumption about being in your twenties: you’re out to enjoy to life. You want experiences. With that in mind, why are we using our free time to sit at a giant table of 15, at a quazi-fancy restaurant, celebrating our friend reaching another year? Surprise Birthday dinners can be nice at times but it is mostly the strangest thing we have all made a tradition of.