Birthdays: True Measures of Friendships

Brunches on the weekends. Phone calls > texts. Summer holidays in Tuscany. “Bestie telepathy.” Transparency and compassionate honesty. Mirroring (and reflecting) vibrant, emotionally mature, healed energy.…

This is what we’ve manifested. We are mutual warmth in an ice storm; and sisters from another life.


As a wayfarer, and someone who’s ever reinventing herself, maintaining friendships while simultaneously chasing creative pursuits, career aspirations and a dream existence is challenging.

Truthfully, I am the quintessential “busy” friend. The one who’s always occupied with a project, or navigating entrepreneurship – or traveling. The only way that I’ve managed to develop (and nurture) friendships is through consistent, concentrated effort and deep intentionality.

Being equally yoked though, is the real glue that binds. As we each stretch into new versions of ourselves, and constrict and contract out of old containers, our core values, priorities and mindsets hold us together – and keep us growing in the same direction.

Now that we’re in our 30’s, time has become our most valuable commodity, and unfortunately, we don’t always have the bandwidth to catch up as much as we would like (in person). However, there’s one occasion that we always make space for: birthdays. 

I was interviewed by Pop Sugar about the etiquette surrounding “Who Pays For the Birthday Dinner?” and it inspired deeper thoughts about friendship – and what “showing up” for your girls actually looks like.

Read ahead for excerpts from my Pop Sugar interview, as well as reflections on how birthdays can reflect the truest measure of a friendship.

Personally, “the most rewarding aspect of a birthday is having those that I love and respect genuinely show up for me." Acts of service, gifts and quality time have always been my love languages; and inform my barometer of love, or how much others care about me.

Some of my most cherished experiences have been sharing delicious food with friends on their birthdays; and swapping funny life and dating stories amidst a beautiful backdrop. In my Pop Sugar interview, I spoke about how my friends and I never allow the “birthday girl” to pay for her own dinner due to our shared values and lifestyles.

As I mentioned earlier, being aligned and equally yoked in terms of phase-of-life and mindset can establish a baseline for friendship expectations – and etiquette. When everyone is on the same wavelength, there are never feelings of obligation or resentment.

Still, even with shared (and established) customs, it’s important not to fall into an entitlement trap. Always show graciousness and your appreciation. For instance, “[I like to bring ‘little gifts’ to distribute to my friends at my birthday celebrations. I've become known for giving out long-stemmed roses, and I'll also usually bring my own cake] and a bottle of my favorite champagne and just pay the corkage fee.”

Muse by Midnight creative direction Muse by Midnight creative direction

Birthdays can also reveal whether friendships are one-sided, or not worth pursuing, as well.

Case -in-point: I once hosted a birthday dinner at a posh, hard-to-secure-a-reservation restaurant in West Hollywood – which required a deposit for each guest. The deposit was simply to prevent last-minute cancellations, and once all guests showed up, it was to be refunded.

Cue to my birthday dinner: I’d sent out invitations two weeks in advance, and asked all guests to cancel within 24 hours of the event if their plans to attend changed. One guest (who was a newer friend) not only asked for a +1 (which I granted), but also didn’t bother to show up (or cancel). Therefore, I lost my deposit for two people.

Of course, I understand that emergencies happen (and circumstances can change), but that same guest also neglected to follow up with me until three weeks post-birthday dinner. And even then, they didn’t apologize, which in my opinion, reflected a cavalier attitude and general lack of respect. 

I never invited that person to anything else. The situation illuminated a need to establish a separation between intimate celebrations like my birthday dinners, versus the public soirees and events that I usually host.

Thankfully, that sour incident was a rare one. I once had another friend drive four hours to attend my birthday, AND stage a photo-shoot for me (she’s a photographer), only to turn around and drive home. She knows that quality time, gifts and acts of service are my love languages, and so she displayed her love in such a way that I could receive it.

The point is NOT to ONLY display how much you admire and value your friends on their birthdays. Love and care should be extended regularly. However, for the busy woman on the go, birthdays can provide an occasion to show a little extra special care.

xo, Bella

P.S. I wrote about the process of outgrowing friendships, and how showing up as your authentic self can sometimes trigger a false "mirror" in friends, in my book, The Muse's Guide to Reinvention.

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