Question: How Do You Celebrate Your Birthday? And How Do You Acknowledge Others'?

I've been thinking a lot about birthdays lately. Mine was last month, and while I meant to write this more or less around that time, there's no untimely moment to talk about something that everyone celebrates. And besides this isn't really about my birthday. It's about everyone else's. What do you do on your birthday? Do  you like to celebrate, have a party, go all out and make a real event of it? Or do you prefer to lay low, keep it easy, maybe have an intimate gathering or even just a day for yourself (with a spa treatment or two)? Does it change from year to year?

Now. What do you tend to do for other people's birthdays? I like to be one of the first to send an email, a card, or call—anything to make someone feel extra special on their birthday, because I know what it's like to have mine forgotten (it's happened to all of us, I'm sure). I generally don't make a big deal about my birthday in terms of throwing parties and publicizing it, but it means a lot when friends acknowledge it (and I feel pretty lousy when they don't). My friend Rebecca is the same. "It's a catch-22," she said. At the same time, we both expect most of our close friends to recognize these personality quirks. But should we?

Birthdays can be such interesting psychological case studies. Some other people I know turn really sullen and down when the day approaches and would rather not address it at all. Others turn it into a week-long national holiday. Maybe some of my friends don't care or even notice if I'm actually one of the first to wish them a happy birthday. Or worse, they think I'm being ignorant by pushing my own preferences onto their day. So I guess the question is, do you know how your friends WANT to be treated on their birthdays? And do you oblige? And how sure are you that your friends really know what you want on your birthday? Maybe it's something worth sharing (in a non-onboxious conversation that doesn't start with, "So my birthday's coming up and this is what I want you to do..."). It's an important base to cover—kind of like your funeral arrangements, morbid as that may sound—so no one's left with the burden of feeling guilty and uncertain.

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