Dear Miss Manners: I adore my longtime boyfriend and the happy life we have built together. There is, however, a recurring issue over which we cyclically disagree: his birthday.

While never truly enjoying getting older, I have always enjoyed celebrating my own birthday — what a wonderful excuse to see loved ones and share a good time over food and/or drinks! My boyfriend, however, sees his birthday in an entirely different light.

Sharing a life with him, I am privy to some of the horror stories that were his birthdays growing up. To be blunt, they weren't great. But that life is decades behind him.

We, an out and proud gay couple, have been blessed with many friends who have become as dear to us as any blood kin could ever be. They have regularly expressed their desire to celebrate his birthday over the years. Sadly, my boyfriend will often lie to them (or expect me to do so!) about his exact birthday, claiming the date has passed.

I think this behavior is selfish. I've had plenty of bad birthdays, even with people I love, but I would never think to use that as a feeble excuse to justify deceit. What's more, I'm crushed that we have so many wonderful people in our lives who want to celebrate this wonderful man, and he takes offense!

He claims the effort and energy of showing appreciation over gifts or muddling through small talk (which, to be fair, isn't his forte) just makes the day about everyone else and all the more difficult to bear.

I don't know how to justify this mentality to myself or others. I've suggested he talk to a professional about it, but to me it seems he's simply hellbent on denying our loved ones the chance to celebrate him and show their happiness that he was born. Instead, he's chosen contempt!

Please, help! What is the kind and gracious approach to show him the error of his ways? How do I stop these faux pas that are cavalier at best, and cruel at worst?

And demonstrate your love and appreciation by forcing him to endure an event he finds unpleasant?

It is possible that in addition to his bad memories, he has seen too much of people using birthdays as a self-centered test for others to prove their devotion, usually concluding that they failed. But that hardly matters. The important part is that the gentleman does not enjoy these parties. Are you seriously suggesting that he seek therapy for this?

Miss Manners hopes you and his friends will find ways to show him appreciation that he actually enjoys.

Dear Miss Manners: I know about the existence of dessert spoons and forks, as well as their placement and purpose. But I still don't understand how to eat with them.

Eat the cake with the fork and leave the spoon alone? Eat the ice cream with the spoon and leave the fork? If there's a sauce, do I — or may I — eat with the fork and mop up with the spoon? Do you ever use both at once?

Indeed you do: That is the default method at formal meals, used for every dessert except those when it would be ridiculous. So please do not let Miss Manners hear of your applying a spoon to cake or a fork to ice cream (unless it is an ice cream fork).

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

2021, by Judith Martin