Miss Manners: April Fool’s Day is no joke when it’s your birthday


Dear Miss Etiquette: Through no one’s fault, I was born on the worst date ever.

Every birthday has a well-meaning but hurtful practical joke. Everyone — family, friends, teachers, coworkers, boyfriends — thinks they’re the first to make their joke and expect me to laugh. Because I love them, I try to play with them, but it gets harder every year.

I open beautifully wrapped gifts, but there’s nothing in the box (April Fool!), or birthday cards filled with glitter or other crap (April Fool!). I get a visit from “CPS caseworkers” with an arrest warrant ordering the “police” (April Fool!), to arrest my child (April Fool!). I sooner or later answer calls that tell me I need to get to the hospital immediately because someone is hurt (April Fool!).

My husband asks for a divorce (April Fool!) and my boss fires me (April Fool!). I’ve eaten birthday cakes flavored with hot sauce or baked with salt instead of sugar (April Fool!).

A meeting of the Church Women’s Society was held on my birthday. When I arrived, they were like “Surprise!” Jumped up shouting. For a moment I got emotional and happy, but the joke was that this was not a party for me.

I tried – I really did – but 26 years was too much. A few tears came out, so I ran to my car and drove away.

The women called to apologize and explain that they were just having some fun with me. My husband said that I am not at home.

I don’t want to be an old fool who can’t take jokes, but I don’t know how to confront them or think of a good way to tell friends to please stop making fun of me on my birthday. What’s a kinder way out of this?

Gentle Reader: As terrible as this suggestion may seem to you, Miss Manners suggests playing tricks on them. And that’s to pretend that after enduring these mean-spirited attempts at humor for 26 years, you fail to recognize them as such.

So when the box is empty, look up in surprise and ask, “Is there supposed to be something in here?” When your boss pretends to fire you, say sadly, “I liked this job, and I tried my best at it.” When you cut the cake, make a little face and refuse to eat more without giving any reason.

They would then be forced to retreat, as the women of the church did. At that time, you can say a quiet “April Fool” – not in capital letters, not with exclamation marks, not with a smile – and explain that you have been putting up with this all your life.

Oh, and when your husband asks for a divorce? Tell him you will call your lawyer. And if he hasn’t yet understood how these so-called “jokes” affect you, you can understand what he means.


Dear Miss Etiquette: Is it polite to spoon recently served, very hot soup?

gentleman reader: no sorry. But that doesn’t mean Miss Manners doesn’t mind burning your tongue. All you have to do is fill your spoon and hold it up for a moment while making adorable comments to your dinner partner for a few seconds.

Scroll to Top