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Urban Etiquette

Ellen Vanstone answers your questions about the annoying behaviours, poor manners and impatient encounters that dot the days of a city dweller.

Urban Etiquette: How do I get co-workers to celebrate my January birthday?

There is no polite way to tell people they are self-deceiving liars and weak-willed hypocrites about their bogus New Year’s Resolutions, writes Ellen Vanstone.

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Ani Castillo / For Metro

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Dear Ellen,

My birthday falls on Jan. 7 and every year I feel I am cheated out of a real office party because of people’s New Year’s resolutions. At other birthday parties throughout the year, my co-workers indulge in cake at work and then a wild night on the town. But when mine rolls around, everyone is avoiding cake or sugar or alcohol or whatever. I wouldn’t mind, except their resolutions never last, so by February they are all eating and drinking at the next person’s birthday party. How can I politely ask them to be fair and properly celebrate my birthday without their "fake" resolutions?


Dear MF,

Your question gives me the opportunity to remind readers that good manners aren’t just about trying to “politely” get what you want. They are an end in themselves. If you believe in going through life as a well-mannered, i.e., considerate, person, you must occasionally sacrifice your own selfish desires and put other people’s needs first — even if their needs appear to be patently delusional.

Besides, even if you merely use “good manners” to manipulate other people, you’re out of luck in this instance. There is no polite way to tell people they are self-deceiving liars and weak-willed hypocrites about their bogus New Year’s Resolutions.

Thus, your options going forward are as follows.

1) Stew with toxic resentment that undermines your own mental and physical health because you were tragically born in January.

2) Bring in your own cake, get wasted, and celebrate solo. Perhaps others will break down and join in when they see how much fun you’re having. Try to refrain from hurling abuse at co-workers who refuse to participate in said fun.

3) Pretend that you yourself are on a strict January regime of dieting and teetotalling and force everyone to reschedule your office birthday party to February.

4) Suck it up. Consume the celery sticks and emetic tea, or whatever other disgusting treats are on offer, and count your blessings: You have a job. You have co-workers willing to acknowledge the anniversary of your appearance on the planet. And you have a blowout event to look forward to in February when everyone has fallen off the wagon and are ready to overindulge after a deprived January. 

It doesn’t matter whose birthday you're all celebrating, as long as you’re in it together.

Need advice? Email Ellen:


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