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Carolyn Hax: Turning down a friend who invited herself to a birthday celebration

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: Every year on my birthday, my husband and I do something simple like going to a museum and dinner.

I have a friend who is in a long-distance relationship, and I'm not a fan of her boyfriend. She announced that my birthday is when her boyfriend will be visiting next and she wants to double date. She ended the conversation with, "Let me know what we're doing,'' and has brought it up multiple times since.

I want my low-key birthday with my husband, but this is the only day they have free and she is very excited to celebrate together.

You've talked before about how as adults we need to calm down about our birthdays. Do I just suck it up and spend the day with the glass bowl?

— Reluctant Birthday Girl

Reluctant Birthday Girl: I've also talked before about how we get to decide how we use our own time. When she "announced . . . she wants to double date" on your birthday, you had every right to say, "I'm sorry, I already have plans, but when he's in town next, we're in." Saying no isn't rude.

You can still say it, even though having stalled stalling this long will make it more awkward than it needed to be. Just say: "I should have said this upfront — we have long-standing plans on my birthday. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but please do let me know next time your boyfriend is in town."

There are usually several principles that can be applied to any given situation. The one you rest on is the one that honors your integrity best. There's nothing wrong with planning the birthday you want. There's also nothing wrong with setting aside your preference to indulge a friend.

It becomes something wrong when you make a choice because you think you're supposed to, but don't actually believe in it, and then just go miserably through the motions, thereby serving no one.

Something to keep in mind: With few exceptions, the best time to say "no" or have a difficult conversation is as soon as possible after you realize it needs to be said. Waiting just gives you a whole new awkward thing to admit on top of the original one, and it's often the stalling that comes between you, not the original awkward thing. It's the emotional equivalent of the coverup being worse than the crime.

And, ah, happy birthday!

Re: Birthday plans: I agree that she has every right to spend the day as she wishes, but she should be mindful that the friend is very likely to see it as a snub, if she passes up a rare opportunity to go out with the husband she sees every day.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: The friend has principles to choose from, too. My fave: Don't look for reasons to take offense. And another one: Don't assume your viewpoint ("She sees Husband every day!") applies to everyone.

If I choose to stay home vs. going out, that doesn't mean "I chose my dingy old living room over seeing you"; it means I chose to stay home over going out.

Plus, Birthday Person is responsible for her feelings, not her friend's; the friend invited herself.

I could do this all day!

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