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A Girl And Her Birthday
Not mine, that of some upset girl who's written to me. Tell me what you think:

Why do so many grown women find it a dump-worthy offense if their boyfriend or husband forgets their birthday?

Do women think it means a guy doesn't care about them if he forgets? Do you think it means that?

Why do so many guys seem to forget?

Personally, now that I'm not 6, I think of my birthday as a day to apologize to my mother. (I won some pickle company's contest for being the biggest baby born in Detroit the week of March 8, 1964.)

Many other women feel QUITE differently. For example, there's this, apparently from the wife of the blogger behind Life In Austin:

Things to do When Your Husband Forgets Your Birthday

10. Pick a fight at 11:30 p.m.

9. Break all his pencils.

8. Let your child loose on his artwork with a bottle of glue and permanent markers.

7. Consider getting cozy with that divorce lawyer you used to work with.

6. Buy yourself expensive jewlery.

5. Use photoshop to black out his face in every family picture.

4. Subscribe him to that service that calls you to remind you of important dates.

3. Call his mom and tell on him.

2. Cry.

1. Use it as emotional blackmail for the rest of his life.

- Mrs. Austin

Help me out. I'm trying to understand.

Posted by aalkon at November 24, 2007 3:07 PM


I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's because the majority of American women have not matured beyond age 6, or at least 16.

I anxiously await our resident misogynists to make me look sane by way of comparison.

Posted by: brian at November 24, 2007 12:54 PM

I can get that what's important to one person may not be important to another...but I, too, have a hard time understanding why adults can be so precious about "my special day!"

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 24, 2007 12:57 PM

It's about affirmation - proof of love and devotion. Neither my wife nor I care about our own birthdays, and I prefer to affirm my love and devotion in ways other than by commemorating birthdays (except those of my children). Were I advising someone who is upset at a husband or boyfriend over a forgotten birthday, I'd recommend that they examine the relationship in toto and determine whether their beloved is an inconsiderate lout in a global sense, or whether he provides affirmation of love and devotion in other ways more appropriate to him than remembering birthdays. I would further advise that if it turns out to be the latter that she get over the birthday thing and appreciate the good things he has instead of fretting over the small things she doesn't(I would not hold out hope of this advice being followed, however). On the other hand, were I advising a man being clobbered for forgetting a birthday, I'd tell him to try harder to remember her birthday next time, even if he doesn't happen to care about his own. I mean really, it isn't that hard to keep track of these things. Happily for me, my wife cares little about her own birthday but is conscientious about remembering other people's, so that people in our extended families still receive cards and gifts. As to me, the only thing my birthday means to me is that I can get away with doing fewer push-ups at the next semi-annual physical fitness test. Now there's something to get excited about!

Posted by: Dennis at November 24, 2007 1:02 PM

As I put in my notes: "Does he forget about you the other 364 days of the year?"

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 24, 2007 1:05 PM

I have never understood why people celebrate birthdays. I had no choice in mine, so why should it be important to me, or anyone close to me?

One day I figured out for whom birthdays are important. So I sent my Mom a thank you card on my birthday. She just melted. Got it.

Then, 3 months later (which was really 9 months earlier), I sent my Dad a thank you note. He called me and said "Son - the please was all mine." And them Mom said "Yeah, all 10 seconds of it."

After they passed away I found both notes kept away in their stuff. Guess my birthday meant something them.

Posted by: Gary Steiger at November 24, 2007 1:23 PM


Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 24, 2007 1:34 PM

I think it's all a matter of conditioning. Men just don't get the same kind of big to-do about their birthdays as women do. Just like women tend to keep it in mind in their circle of girlfriends, men don't in theirs.

Women get a lot of little life celebrations. We get sweet sixteens (or quinces), bridal showers, baby showers, etc. Some of us get more special attention in regards to these than others, so some of us expect more than others out of friends, family, and their (sometimes) unfortunate, current significant other.

And what happens when a woman forgets this oh-so important day of the year? She says the same things a man will (including "I forgot"), and life is supposed to just go on. Not acceptable when it's a man saying it, though. So, yes, I think it's yet another double-standard.

You want your guy to remember? Tell him the day of, and suggest what you might like. Going out to dinner, being treated to dessert, a book, whatever. It is not a big deal, and it is not something worth breaking up any perfectly good relationship up for. (He treats you well every day? That's your freakin' birthday present!)

Posted by: Jean at November 24, 2007 1:36 PM

(He treats you well every day? That's your freakin' birthday present!)

I'm with you, Jean!

Also, maybe there's something girly about remembering birthdays. I think it's more common for women friends to give each other cards, but when's the last time the guys went all Hallmark on each other on each others' birthdays?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 24, 2007 1:48 PM

I think I wrote that up originally, but forgot to put in there in the end, but I can definitely agree. Women usually find themselves in a circle of girlfriends who go over each other's birthdays and other 'special' occasions (like, say, the anniversaries of divorces) and do things for them. So it just further reinforces this and that notion about birthdays... poor guys.

Posted by: Jean at November 24, 2007 2:11 PM

Any ideas on why women do that?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 24, 2007 2:18 PM

I've found that past my early twenties, my birthday got less and less important. My husband doesn't forget my birthdays (in fact, he's better than me at remembering important dates), but we also casually discuss what we'd like to do on birthdays well in advance of the date. I think that women expect men to "just know" what they'd like to do or receive on their birthdays.

I think that birthdays are a part of emotional maintenance in a relationship. It's been my observation that women tend to be more high-maintenance than men. And I'm sure the Girl Police are going to come take me away for saying it.

So as long as I'm waiting for the pink squad cars to come screaming up to my door, I'll toss out this: women often have a lot of timelines and schedules for relationships and life events. Men don't seem as into that. Anyone know of any research results about how women and men view time?

Posted by: Karen at November 24, 2007 3:08 PM

One of the problems is when these timelines and schedules and such are tacit. Unless your husband goes to work every day in a jeweled turban, you probably need to actually tell him what dates he needs to commemorate to make you happy.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 24, 2007 3:14 PM

Yep, and I think most women expect their partners to catch some VERY subtle signals about what their own timeline/schedule is. They basically leave their guys in the dark. My husband ADORES the fact that I find ways to TELL him things. I think he dated a few clue-flinging hand-wringers and was just exasperated.

My husband isn't a fortune teller, but I should tell him to wear a jeweled turban to work anyway, just so he can look fabulous.

Posted by: Karen at November 24, 2007 6:23 PM

On the one hand, I think that women should avoid expecting their husbands and SOs to be mind-readers, and should put forgetfulness of special days in perspective.

On the other hand, unless these guys are trust-fund babies, I am guessing that *all* of them work in jobs in which they have to remember many things on a regular basis. How long does it take to put your wife's birthday in Outlook, with a reminder of several days ahead? Not long. How long does it take to program reminders into Amazon? Not long. People who can't remember meetings, conference calls and deadlines are toast in the modern world. Birthdays are just one more small matter to add to the list.

If you're talking about perpetually forgetful guys, that's one thing. Some people are like that. As long as they have other sterling qualities and are forgetful because they're so brilliant, that's fine. But when a guy who can remember everyone who played for the Yankees since the beginning of time, can tell you to the hour how long it's been since spring training, and can remember the date he lost his virginity forgets his wife's birthday for the umpteenth time after being told the birthday date is important, I'd find it kinda old too. Sorry if I'm being sexist or stereotypical here, but I'm not sure what's so difficult about remembering one or two days every year given the vast amount of modern technology we have to help us do so.

(Note: My birthday is not a big deal to me, and I have trouble remembering other people's birthdays, and yes, I'm an XX type. But Amazon, Outlook and other such services keep me on track. If you're dealing with a princess for whom every day should be SPECIAL!, that's one thing, but if you're dealing with a patient, good-natured wife who just wants to be spotlighted once a year or so, that's another.)

Posted by: marion at November 24, 2007 6:59 PM

"I won some pickle company's contest for being the biggest baby born in Detroit the week of March 8, 1964"

You couldn't make that one up! Hilarious.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher at November 24, 2007 7:22 PM

I pray to God I never meet that woman. If she's ready to ruin your life for that, who knows how psycho she would become if you forgot when her period is.

Posted by: Brian at November 24, 2007 8:14 PM

My dear wife (she's a hot redhead too, Amy) is not one of those types to make a big deal out of her birthday. I do remember it and I always try to do something for her, but we always talk in advance about it. One thing that helps a lot is that she never insists that we do anything on that exact day -- we both have very busy lives, and there is seldom time to do anything special on a weekday. Usually we save it for the next weekend. A couple of times, we've had a "simultaneous" birthday event for both of us (our birthdays are only two weeks apart).

On the other hand, my wife works with a lady who insists on her birthday being a big production every year. In fact, she doesn't confine herself to one day -- she has an entire birthday month for herself! And she isn't shy about reminding everyone. It's a good thing that I don't work with that lady, because I'd kill her.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at November 24, 2007 8:48 PM

I found one thing about some people and mainly women is the concept of surprise/romance. Women want to be surprised they want those roses pulled from behind the back and lavish birthday dinner planned ahead of time so she can say "golly you did this for me?" Men will do surprises but mainly in wooing stage of relationship and cementing of relationships. Once a relationship men feel not to do the work really anymore. Unless we now more details about the couple. I can guess the relationship is a long one and the man likely got lazy and comfortable to forget.

A key point of women vs men is that men are very blunt at times and women like to rely of subtle clues and hints.

Women if you want something done such as leaky tap tightened you should say

"Honey can you please tightened the kitchen sink please, today!" You tell what you want and a time frame to be done.

But time after time women like to say "Honey the sink is dripping". The man hears a basic fact will look and say yes "it is dripping". Then file the fact away maybe process the fact with wether it will need to be fixed or ignored. Women will here "yes it is dripping" and add in their head "I will fix it"

Next time your birthday is coming up. Say to the man what you would like event. Do not hint it will most the time just be ignored, not heard or just not understood.

Posted by: John Paulson at November 24, 2007 9:59 PM

I used to work with a guy who always remembered his girlfriends' birthdays. He told me he would intentionally break up with them a few days before, so that he wouldn't have to buy a gift. least he remembered!

Posted by: Doobie at November 25, 2007 12:53 AM

I can guess the relationship is a long one and the man likely got lazy and comfortable to forget.

We're all likely to get lazy and comfortable in long relationships. I see women get criticized all of the time for gaining weight, dressing in a sloppy manner and generally being more lazy about their appearance once they get comfortable in a relationship. Obviously one's behavior will change somewhat from courtship to long-time marriage, but, as we've agreed before, there's such a thing as being too lazy and too comfortable.

Again, I'm not fond of people who act like princesses about *anything*. But I'll point out that women tend to be the social coordinators in most relationships. They're often the ones who pick out the wedding gifts for friends, send the sympathy cards, write the thank-you notes, etc. Wanting to have one day out of the year in which someone else - the someone else for whom they're taking care of this - is instead doing something thoughtful for them to commemorate the day doesn't seem out of line. And yes, they most definitely need to communicate this...but I will give every guy in the world a hint: If you do something for your wife or SO and her face lights up and she can't stop talking about how great it was, she wants you to do it again, whether "it" is the Venus Butterfly manuever or remembering her birthday with flowers.

To put it another way...I'm guessing that remembering birthdays makes it somewhat more likely that the guys in question will get laid soon. That would seem to me to be somewhat of an incentive.

Posted by: marion at November 25, 2007 5:18 AM

Sidenote: It appears that Life in Austin and his wife (i.e. the author of the list above) have now separated because she's gay. Click on my name for more. Not sure what, if anything, that says about the birthday issue...

Posted by: marion at November 25, 2007 5:26 AM

In one of the Tom Clancy movies, Patriot Games I think, leading dude Jack Ryan comes in late from a busy day and finds his wife has a romantic evening all planned and prepared. Doh! Anniversary. He stammers that he should have been the one to make the arrangements or helped, or at least remebered.

She shrugs it off, "Only one of us had to." Clancy is like a romance novelist for men, pure fantasy.

Posted by: martin at November 25, 2007 7:05 AM

Thanks for posting that, Marion. Here's a comment from that entry:

When she and I met 10 years ago, she was dating a girl. Yes, she's gay. Regardless, we fell in love and got married and had two absolutely fabulous kids.

I see a lot of that word "Regardless," spelled out or not, in letters about relationships that have gone down the tubes...meaning the answer what there from the start, it was just disregarded.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 25, 2007 7:39 AM

Can't really relate to this. Amongst my circle, birthdays are generally remembered and often celebrated with a small but considerate gift. I don't know from where this image of the forgetful man who leaves himself open for henpeckery originates.

Marion - I checked out Mr. Austin's blog. He sounds remarkably like the other limp-spined douche who emailed all his friends that his wife had left him for Ted Turner.

Posted by: snakeman99 at November 25, 2007 7:41 AM

Correct me if I'm wrong on this: While women do send female friends cards and little gifties, men do NOT do this with their guy friends. I just can't imagine it.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 25, 2007 8:07 AM

"cards and little gifties"? no.

Funny t-shirts, bottles of scotch, money clips, steaks, replica sports jerseys - yes.

Posted by: snakeman99 at November 25, 2007 8:12 AM

"cards and little gifties"? no.

Funny t-shirts, bottles of scotch, money clips, steaks, replica sports jerseys - yes.

Out-of-press CDs, vintage guitar parts, jazz club tickets, killer wine, a funny card -- guys certainly do pay attention to what their buddies enjoy, at least in my experience.

But then I have to admit I also made my wife's birthday a celebration, and she never forgot mine, so maybe I just run with a crowd of people who keep that date as something important.

Oddly enough, I'll forget a business meeting about twice a month.

Posted by: Gog_Magog_Carpet_Reclaimers at November 25, 2007 8:42 AM

Have to second snakeman99. I don't actually remember anyone's birthdays, but that's part of what gmail's for. I have three male friend who remember male friend birthdays. The gifts may be rather crass, occasionally entirely obscene, but they are there none the less. I mean who wouldn't want their fiftieth b-day remembered with a package of depends? (I dread to think what my fiftieth will bring after that one)

Without gmail and her best friends reminders, I would never remember my partner's b-day. Thankfully I have both. As it stands, I do pretty well with it all. She always asks for something practical, I always respond with something practical and something wildly impractical (patting myself on the head - I'm a winner!!!)

Posted by: DuWayne at November 25, 2007 9:56 AM

Hey all, original author here. I wanted to add that when I check on search terms that hit my site, "husband/boyfriend forgets birthday" is the number one search term. Don't know if that helps. I've been writing that site for about seven years and no other search gets seen more.

As to the birthday, I honestly don't remember what happened that year. I was getting ready for a convention where I was going to be selling art and it's very likely the timing was just bad. No real excuse, but there it is. The year before I gave a surprise birthday party and the year after she went skydiving, so it's not like it's a pattern.

But whatever, take it all as you will. Thanks for reading the site.


Also, in my defense

Posted by: mr. austin at November 25, 2007 11:27 AM

Also in your defense...?

The suspense is killing us.

Personally, I find birthdays unimportant, but I know others' mileage happens to vary. Especially other women's.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 25, 2007 11:29 AM

(ignore that "Also in my defense", bad proofer)

Posted by: mr. austin at November 25, 2007 11:29 AM

If it's not too personal, I'd be interested in knowing why you two got married, and whether you had any worries about it.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 25, 2007 11:32 AM

Mr. Austin: Between your day job, your kids, and your art, I'm impressed that you manage to remember your name, much less anyone's birthday. Surprise birthday party? V. nice.

He sounds remarkably like the other limp-spined douche who emailed all his friends that his wife had left him for Ted Turner.

You know, I still think that that "limp-spined douche" was paving the way for his friends to cheer him on when he started hitting on hot college girls/grad students. After all, he's not the one who broke up his similar-age marriage! It was best for both of them. He's just a sensitive New Age guy...who can now chase after hot young tail without incurring the wrath of society. I notice that Dennis Quaid didn't whine about Meg Ryan leaving him for Russell Crowe - he went out and started dating younger chicks like the typical 40-something actor. He seems to be happier than Ms. Ryan today...

As for Mr. Austin, if you're going to invite people into your life with your blog, you often end up having to give them some details you otherwise might not share. I'd say the story about Mrs. Austin was one of those.

Posted by: marion at November 25, 2007 11:33 AM

marion - I'd actually debated whether or not I wanted to write about it, for this exact reason. I'd started the blog as a baby book for chronicling the lives of the kids for the grandparents. It changed mostly on its own. Once my family knew about it all, no reason not to write about everything. But it's depressing and some times boring and confusing, so I try not to write too much.

amy - We got married because we loved each other and yes I had plenty of worries about it, just like most people. It was not a mistake. It's just evolved into something most people are unfamiliar with, which is fine. Each situation, each relationship is going to be different depending on the people. We still love each other, we don't fight, we just live together as friends for now until the kids are older. It's hard sometimes, but it's the best we can do.

And I don't mean to hijack your post with this nonsense. I'd be more than happy to talk with anyone if they want to via email or something.

Posted by: mr. austin at November 25, 2007 12:29 PM

Thanks -- I was just interested because I think there's a tendency, especially in this society, to deny being gay, thanks to Puritanism that leads to discrimination against gays and pushes for heterosexuality.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 25, 2007 12:32 PM

That's very true, and that's one of the reasons she finally came out....again. She'd denied it for a long time because she didn't want to hurt me and because she didn't want to have to deal with the stigma. But in the end, her happiness meant accepting who she was. I'm completely okay with her doing so, it's just an unfortunate bit of timing.

Posted by: mr. austin at November 25, 2007 12:41 PM

Thanks for posting that, and my sympathies. One more reason I really, really hate religion (I don't know any atheists who give a shit who somebody else wants to fuck, providing it isn't the particular atheist's girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, or wife).

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 25, 2007 1:28 PM

Going back to the birthday question (I haven't read the blog in a week or so), I wanted to offer up a different perspective.

My birthday is a big deal to me. In my circle of friends (which 70% guys, most in their early to mid twenties), birthdays are generally celebrated. It's an excuse to have a party, an excuse to have a cake, to have fun and go out and make sure your friends "save the date" to go out and do whatever thing you wanna do. And yes, the guys thoroughly expect everyone to show up for their birthday party. Presents/cards aren't a neccesity, but showing up or a phone call is.

That being said, because we all consider our birthdays a big deal, we let everyone know when it is IN ADVANCE. At my house, I post a B-Day Countdown on our dry-erase board. The guys usually post something similar on MySpace. The thing is, no one expects anyone to have psychic powers and magically know when the birthday is.

For chicks who get ticked at guys who forget birthdays, remind them! If you want presents, write a little list. Most people I know like to get lists of stuff someone doesn't have and wants. If you want a special evening of wine and romance, just open your trap and tell him!

I do think, however, that something that John Paulson said may apply a lot to older women (or those who've been in a relationship for a long time), which is women love to be surprised, and after time, guys forget that surprise is a good part of romance. They don't remind their hubby or boyfriend of the date because what they really want is for hubby to come home with a dozen roses and tickets to a show, without having to be prodded to do it.

Just my experience, though.

Posted by: CornerDemon at November 29, 2007 9:28 AM

I'm with you on the reminder thing. I do think women think it's somehow less special or not special if they have to tell a guy.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 29, 2007 9:37 AM

Hey - birthdays are an excuse to treat a person to something special. Most people like that. It doesn't take much. At my new SO's recent birthday (57!), after the steak dinner, I dimmed the lights and brought out a cupcake with a candle, and sang "Happy Birthday." She was delighted. Do the cost-benefit analysis. (I'll let you imagine the benefit to me.)

The problem is that when you forget, you are saying that the birthdayee (?) is nothing special. That's hurtful. So come on guys and gals, make the effort to remember. Heck, it's not difficult.

Posted by: Norman at December 2, 2007 2:21 PM

Mine just chooses to not give me anything. We have been together for 3 years and he has not once gotten me a present or a card for my birthday. It has nothing to do with forgetting. He has made it a point to talk about my birthday coming up and actually joked about forgetting the date with me. But on the day he tells me he's not going to be able to get me anything because he is low on money. I'm considering leaving due to the fact that he is so inconsiderate. He seems great in some areas but in this he is deliberate and terrible. And he is also well aware of how much it hurts my feelings because we fought about it last year when I cried because he didnt get me anything and he tried to make me feel bad for making a big deal about it. He actually told me that I should be glad that he loves me and that he treats me better than anyone else would. Whatever.

Posted by: Carolyn at December 4, 2007 8:01 AM

He actually told me that I should be glad that he loves me and that he treats me better than anyone else would.

Carolyn...why are you still there? Read Women Who Love Too Much, and while you're at it, Six Pillars of Self-Esteem.

If you care about somebody, even if you think something that's important to them is kind of stupid, if it matters to them, you'll probably find some way to do it/celebrate it, etc.

Poor people can make dinner for you -- or just make you a card and pick you a flower.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 4, 2007 8:12 AM

thanks Amy, I'll get the books and read them. I guess I'm still there because of the hassle it would be to leave. The seperating all the joint stuff, not to mention, no funds for moving out etc. All extra money is spent by him. I have already made plans to get my own savings account etc. Its going to take time to plan and move but It may well be worth my sanity. thank you again for the feedback.

Posted by: Carolyn at December 5, 2007 12:07 PM

10 stupid mistakes that women make by Dr. Laura may not be a bad choice either.

Posted by: Smarty at January 9, 2008 10:23 AM

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