Hey, Bonita!

Hijacked Birthday Plans

Hey Bonita,

My friend and I got into a weird argument that made me feel somehow misunderstood but also really selfish. This is an “Am I The Asshole?” question. I get easily overwhelmed, and my family makes EVERYTHING a huge, stressful ordeal. Way over the top.

Growing up in this situation has made me hate holidays, birthdays [and] big life events, honestly. Next month is my birthday, which I usually avoid doing anything for, but I decided to plan my own get-together at my house the way I want to celebrate. Multiple members of my family are already taking over the planning and doing things I specifically asked them not to do. And it’s at my house. I’m so frustrated because it’s turned into something I don’t want and I’m not comfortable with AGAIN. But my friend basically told me I’m being a brat. They have a very unsupportive family that would be more likely to forget their birthday than do something like this. So they said I should just be thankful and don’t have a right to be annoyed. Obviously I feel like the bad guy now, and I feel even more guilty that I still feel like none of my feelings are being taken seriously and all of my boundaries are being crossed. AITA?


Hey Anon,

You are NTA (not the asshole), and there are definitely non-assholish ways to address your friend’s comments. You’ve already displayed excellent empathy by just acknowledging your friend’s feelings—they’d love a party like this, after all. They’re speaking in respect to their own desires instead of yours, which isn’t great, but family stuff runs deep and can get reactions out of us we wouldn’t ordinarily have. You have every right to be annoyed because it’s YOUR life and YOUR birthday we’re talking about, after all, and you’d be correct to remind everyone of that. You know what you want, don’t you? Yes, and that’s a chill birthday gathering that doesn’t trigger your anxiety and make you resentful towards those who love you.

I don’t know how far into next month your birthday falls, but do you have time to undo any of this before the big day? I’m concerned that you’ll have a panic attack or just be really miserable and on edge during the entire event, so I suggest reaching out to the primary party planners and asking them to take it down a notch. Perhaps suggest an invitation-only rule instead of an open guest policy if it’s the large crowds that bother you, or maybe cancel the dinner on the town if you hate forcing service workers to sing to you. Maybe they’ve lost their minds and hired catering, to which you could suggest grilling out instead. Maybe all you wanted was just a few friends to come over and eat cake with you, and if so, then you should just ask for that.  

You’re allowed to ask for and to have the things you want in life, from a simple birthday to an arctic cruise. I know it can be really difficult to stand up to family expectations, and too often people think of big stuff like, “Dad, I don’t want to become a miner; I want to dance!” or something. Yeah that’s tough, but sometimes saying no to a pushy relative can be a challenge all in itself. I have an aunt who is still giving me the cold shoulder because of a disagreement over my dad’s funeral program—almost two years after it happened. I know how it feels to stand up for your desires and be characterized as an asshole because of it. But the fact is that I don’t see that aunt every day, and she has no regular impact on my daily life, so I’ve made peace with her reaction and just hope that eventually she’ll stop being a brat. I can only apologize so many times! You can’t always get what you want, and that includes pushy family members who try to run everything.

Happy birthday, and I hope that some part of the day at least resembles what you originally wanted for yourself.

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