Do I have to buy a birthday gift every weekend?

Birthday wine!

When I was in the States, I felt like it took forever to make friends. And then there were different levels of friendship, and it was impossible to advance to the level of I’ve-known-you-as-long-as-So-and-so because So-and-so was there for two years before I got there, and she’d only been there four years, and that was already twice as long as I’d been there.

It was exasperating.

And then people would have parties, but only some people were invited, and you were instructed in the invite not to tell other people about the party. But then everyone knew each other (small town, small company), so you’d hear about it and you’d just feel bad/you’d mention it and make someone else feel bad.

“I miss Taiwan! We always invited everyone to our parties!”

Now that we’re in Taiwan, though, I see the other side of the coin: Every fucking weekend, it’s somebody’s birthday, a Western holiday, a Chinese holiday, or a local holiday.

It’s exhausting and expensive. People buy each other gifts here, too, like a bottle of wine or some fancy lotion. I’m of the opinion that because we are in our 30s and because we’re so busy seeing everyone we have to see every weekend that we don’t even spend that much time with any one group of people, that we don’t need to keep showing up to restaurants for dinner and drinks and a present. I’m not going to have a dirty-diaper tantrum because somebody didn’t buy me a bottle of wine they know damn well I can buy for myself.

When we have to buy someone else a gift, I’m like, “I haven’t seen this kid in three months and I don’t even know if he gives a shit about good wine.” So I bought an inexpensive bottle, and a couple more for our upcoming housewarming party because it’ll probably be fruity and easy to drink, if it isn’t flat and doesn’t taste like stems.

…Except that my friends were super generous when they came to my birthday gift. I didn’t say “don’t bring a gift” on the invite because I thought it was tacky and unnecessary. I didn’t know that people were asking J what to bring, and he was telling them all to bring wine, or that some of my lovely friends would bring me handbags and even clothes. I felt ashamed for not wanting to buy gifts, and so overwhelmed by everyone’s thoughtfulness…

Yet, if they hadn’t brought gifts, it still would have been a wonderful birthday.

How much are we supposed to budget for birthdays every weekend? I don’t even want birthday gifts, seriously. Not in a mean kind of way, but if people want to spend money to have dinner and drinks with me, I’m pumped! You don’t need to drop cash on buying me booze or handbags or dresses, too! I don’t want to seem ungrateful, either, and I don’t want to opt out of this nice community, but it gets expensive. Are we too old for this?

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