Boycott the Birthday Bash From baby boomers to the "Me Generation," nothing says "I'm special" like a big birthday bash.

Boycott the Birthday Bash

Boycott the Birthday Bash

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

From baby boomers to the "Me Generation," nothing says "I'm special" like a big birthday bash.


And now to more incomprehensible behavior, the social mores of children's birthday parties. Here's our humorist, Brian Unger.

(Soundbite of music)

BRIAN UNGER: Along the human path from childhood to adulthood, the birthday party, once an innocent, optimistic celebration of life, evolves into a dreaded, obligatory ritual that shows no sign of becoming fun anytime soon.

Yet millions of people every day in America, adults of age-inappropriate giddiness, continue to utter the chilling phrase, I'm having a birthday party, to which no one replies, I don't care.

(Soundbite of song, "Happy Birthday to You")

Unidentified People: (Singing) Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you...

UNGER: This annual rite of passage, a ceremony often lamented for its expense and usually organized in a backyard by parents for children, turns over time to a self-made orgy of narcissistic self-promotion, an after-hours nuisance during which guests are subjected to Saturday night traffic, costly booze, mixing with strangers, culinary disappointment, and worse, bowling.

(Soundbite of bowling)

UNGER: Birthdays are benchmarks - at 16, 21, 30, 40, 50 - birthdays worth celebrating. But there's no Sweet 29th, no Big 3-7. These birthday-throwers must be stopped.

(Soundbite of "Happy Birthday to You")

Unidentified People: (Singing) Happy birthday dear - happy birthday to you...

UNGER: Today, the celebrated wants you, the celebrant, to attend a restaurant of their choosing, dine with dozens of their friends you don't know, then pay for their dinner, assuming there's enough tuna tartar to go around.

(Soundbite of applause)

UNGER: At one table are 25 of your friends' other friends, the ones you could care less about seeing ever again, but yet each year you find yourself staring into each other's bored faces and once again sitting next to a very dangerous person, Drunky McGlugglug, who orders bottle after bottle of expensive Bordeaux, the cost of which will be amortized over the 25 attendees, bringing your shared investment for the night thus far to $200, or the contents of your wallet, whichever comes first.

(Soundbite of music)

UNGER: After helplessly watching the you-invite-you-pay rule be thrown onto the pirate scrapheap of etiquette, after saying a silent prayer that you have enough coins to pay for parking, that beads of sweat aren't visible on your forehead, comes the gift-giving.

Look at all the expensive, wonderful presents people give - books, wine, spa treatments, iPods - and you have nothing to offer. On your person is a used tube of lip balm and some pocket lint. You brought not even a card, because you took the birthday invitation literally. No gifts, please, which in its passive-aggressive way actually means bring gifts, please.

Now depleted of $200, a nickel you found to tip the valet, and your shame, you drive home, knowing you're going to have to do it all over again next week. And that is today's Unger Report. Happy birthday. I'm Brian Unger.


Well, yeah, happy birthday, magician Penn Jillette, and Wisconsin Senator Ross Feingold, both born March 5. Have a good day.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.