Prioritizing Creative Talents Over People

by admin on July 29, 2013

I know that charging cash for the “honor” of attending a party that you’re throwing is in bad taste, but what about if the “admission fee” isn’t money? A friend of mine, B, who is a good friend of my husband, is turning 40 soon. She is single, and she is by far the most extroverted of all of my friends, so she wanted to throw a big, fun bash for herself and invite all her friends. So far, I see nothing wrong with that. However, she’s requiring that all the guests collaborate and “create something” for the party. Her suggestions included a music video, a song, a game, a dance, or a puzzle. Seriously, it takes hours to do any of those things well. I know her through puzzles, and I’ve written some myself for puzzle events, and it takes me at least hours and better yet days to have a good idea, refine it, test it, and lay it out in a visually appealing way. I approached her earlier saying that I was concerned that I wouldn’t have the time to make a good puzzle for her and would therefore have to skip the party, and she said something along the lines of, “Well, I guess I won’t be seeing you, then.”

So, I guess I’m not going to the party. (My husband will be, though- he’s creating something.) Is requiring your guests to “create something” like this even polite? It seems to me that you’re just creating a lot of stress for your guests beforehand, and personally I would never want to do that for any party I was hosting. Thanks for your input. 0726-13

For heaven’s sake, guests are not trained pets required to perform on command.   Your instincts are correct that while the price of admission to an event that honors her is not money, it is still something that requires time to create.  When one exerts time and sweat equity, it is usually traded for money…that is how people earn money.    A lot of people have no concept of “time budgets” or “labor budgets”, i.e. that the time they expect people to volunteer for them comes at a price.    Time is not free.    What B is expecting is that people give her the gift of time and labor as tribute to her milestone birthday.

And while you intuitively know something is amiss with her attitude, you can’t quite put a finger on it.   What B has done is elevate the receipt of other’s creative talents to be of greater priority than having people there that at all.   Her dismissive response to your RSVP said it all.   Do you really want to be friends with someone who values gifts above people?

If I were you, I would ignore the demand for creative “gifts” and go anyway.    I don’t facilitate petty, self indulgent behavior and I seriously doubt you’ll get frisked at the door or escorted to leave.  Point to your husband and say, “I’m with him.”

To reiterate the Ehell position on self hosted birthdays,   only acceptable if birthday person hosts graciously providing all the food and entertainment and *GIVES* gifts to guests.   Anything else is pure greed, self aggrandizement and ego stroking.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

MichelleP July 30, 2013 at 7:49 am

@appalled, your post implies that the OP did something wrong when she said she didn’t have time to create a gift. She didn’t. The other scenarios you presented: asking to bring other guests, asking a host to exclude someone, are rude. The OP refusing to bring a “required” gift to a self thrown birthday party is not rude. I am not creative at all, and wouldn’t go to a party presented in this light anyway. The friend was rude, and just wants gifts. The OP handled it fine.


Mae July 30, 2013 at 8:19 am

Wait a minute- not only is the husband creating a game for the party, he is also working on a large puzzle with the birthday girl ?


Julia July 30, 2013 at 8:25 am

But… isn’t this just as rude as a registry? I mean, of course this story has the added gutpunch of “if you don’t do this, don’t show up,” but a bunch of commenters seem to be feeling that throwing your own party while openly requesting presents is rude… and it’s also exactly what we do at weddings.


siamesecat 2965 July 30, 2013 at 9:20 am

“The only way I could see that ‘bring something created’ idea working at all is if someone else was hosting the event, and asked the people coming if they would be willing to do that. My sister had bridal showers for some of her friends, and asked those would would be willing to contribute a square for a quilt. And she sent them all the supplies. And didn’t tell them they couldn’t come if they DIDN’T do something. That makes sense. What she was doing…doesn’t.”

Wow, The birthday girl really is a bit entitled, isn’t she? I think I’d decline as well, since I am not very creative to begin with, and have limited time and imagination. If you want me at your party, great, but making it a condition of attendance that I bring or do something creative, sorry, not going to happen,.

I did do something similar for one friend, for her 30th birthday; she loves to take pictures, and loves scrapbooking. So I thought it would be fun to put together a scrapbook of pictures of all of us, from various events, etc., but it was completely optional. If they wanted, people were encouraged to do one page, with photos of the birthday girl, and them, or whatever they might have. Supplies weren’t provided, but as it was just one page, the cost was minimal, and everyone thought it was a great idea. And when they all arrived, I snuck into another room, put the pages in, and the front page was card we had all signed, which I quickly glued on some pretty paper, and put in as well. She absolutely loved it!!! and we all had fun making it.

And when the same friend got engaged, for a gift, I bought a larger frame, with multiple photos spaces, looked through her online photo albums (she sends them out to everyone to look at), ordered some of the ones I liked, and then put together a photo collage of the two of them when they were dating, and also during the trip when he proposed. They still have it hanging in their home!


Tracy July 30, 2013 at 10:00 am

“…not serving dinner despite being at dinner time, requiring “dressy attire” when no one in our social circle wears nice clothes to work…”

Well, she just sounds better and better, doesn’t she?


The Elf July 30, 2013 at 10:36 am

Theme parties – like the quilt square shower Carol wrote about – are fine. But participation should always be optional.

Elle makes a good point with regards to possible miscommunication and looking for your desired result in all this, but I still think the basic premise is just rude.


Miss-E July 30, 2013 at 10:37 am

I’m surprised that hubby’s entry fee won’t cover both of them. Who makes EACH individual guest being something? I go to potlucks with my husband all the time where we bring one dish. Very odd.


Lauren July 30, 2013 at 11:29 am

Well, story seems off to me, but if they were my friend and husband I would write a horrible sing-songy rhyming poem, like the kind people read at retirement parties. Subject matter: how I was forced to write a poem so my friend would let me in. Toss in a couple of digs at your husband, and go have yourself a drink!

To be honest it may be that your friend was joking (still a bit harsh and rude, but some people think rude and obnoxious means brash and funny), and it’s possible your husband would only attend if he thought you were wrong about the situation.

If your story is completely straightforward and not clouded by any emotions, then you have to have a serious talk with your husband. If your friend was mean to you and he still attends her party without resolving the situation, he is not treating you right. Think about it, could you do that to him and still have a good time at the party?


Beth Erickson July 30, 2013 at 12:03 pm

The most creative birthday idea I ever have encountered was when my brother Steve (may he rest in peace) asked that we give him a copy of our favorite book or movie. OUR favorite, not his. It was a very interesting party that year.


Rap July 30, 2013 at 1:29 pm

“It’s not polite to hand out a bunch of invitations at school and skip over some kids, essentially rubbing in their faces that they aren’t invited, so you either figure out a different way to get the invitations to the kids, or you invite them all. ”

Yes, this, so much. Keep in mind that seven year olds don’t have a lot of empathy and will circle around and say “I’m going to X’s party and you’re not because you’re smelly and X hates you HAHAHAH” all while waving the invite. Ever have to deal with a class of 20-25 kids where five to seven of the kids are crying because the “popular kid” just rubbed their faces in how only the cool kids were invited? And remember, teachers aren’t parents so correcting the popular kid usually leads to Mommy and Daddy hauling teacher into the principal’s office to understand that their place is to teach readin’ and writin’ and they’ll be the parents and lil popular has every right to invite whoever he likes and if he doesn’t like child x, y, and z, then that is his priveledge and he will be encouraged to stand up for himself.

Yes – this sort of nonsense is one of several reasons why teaching is no longer my career of choice. And this is why schools crack down and have zero tolerance rules towards the otherwise innocent act of inviting kids to parties while at school.


babs July 30, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I would create puzzle for her that spelled out “Happy Birthday to You!” (Make it big so it looks really impressive.)
1 across – Ecstatically elated
2 down – Event celebrated once a year
3 across – 3:10 ___ Yuma (Movie)
4 down – Not me, but ______

There, she’s got her dang puzzle and you get to eat cake!


The OP July 30, 2013 at 3:12 pm

@Mae: She’s been in charge of a long series of multi-city day-long amateur puzzling events, and he’s been working with her on that this past year (and is transitioning to taking over the whole thing for the upcoming year). The events serve hundreds of people, making it quite a serious commitment for all of us, really. That’s why the relationship between him and her has the elements of a co-worker/boss-type relationship, except that it’s for a hobby and not paid.

From knowing her, I think she’s more oblivious that anything else. My husband pinged her about the party, and she honestly thought that having only cupcakes for a 7pm party (which is definitely dinnertime for our set) wouldn’t be a problem for anybody, that people would be excited about dressing up (instead of annoyed about having to go home and change), and that people would be super-excited about making all these things for her. I have no doubt that she would be super-excited about dressing up and making something for me, for example, if I threw her type of party.

This is a case where the Golden Rule just breaks- if your desires and likes are unusual, you should not base your conduct on what you would want done to you. You need to base your conduct on what the “average reasonable” person or, better yet, your target audience would want. I banged my own head against that more times than I can count when I was young, and now I try to read blogs like this one to figure out how something I think is fun or acceptable might be perceived by the average person. And I’m not even 30. I would hope that someone by their 40th birthday would be less oblivious than B is being.


Nancy July 30, 2013 at 6:32 pm

This custom is more common in other parts of the world. It is not required of guests but many guests will put together an entertaining piece to be shared at the event. My sister lives in Germany and guests, mostly his colleagues, shared music and reflections at her husband’s 60th birthday. We attended a wedding in Germany and members of the two families, plus some close friends, did the same, including a very entertaining “Muppet” sketch about how the couple met and fell in love. People are also invited to write and share reflections on the couple. The groom had lived with us for half a year so I wrote about that and included a couple of pictures. All the pieces were included in a book that was printed and given to all the guests.


Karen L July 30, 2013 at 7:49 pm

I think it is OK if the husband goes to the party. All night long people will be asking him “where’s OP?” and he can say “Oh, she didn’t have time to create a gift and so was not welcome”.


Angel July 31, 2013 at 9:05 am

Nancy, the difference there is it is not REQUIRED that guests create something to attend the party, it is something that some guests take upon themselves. And in that spirit it can be quite wonderful. But if forced it can wind up being a source of resentment between the guest of honor and the other guests.


Mae July 31, 2013 at 10:13 am

OP- I was just a little surprised that if your husband was making a gift for her AND helping her create a puzzle that she would so selfish as implying you were not welcome since you did not have time to create a puzzle for her as well.

Whatever you decided to do that night, I hope you have a good time! 🙂


Yet Another Laura July 31, 2013 at 10:53 am

You might consider finding something else to do that evening, something you have wanted to do for a long time and never got a chance, possibly go with someone you haven’t seen for a while. Maybe stay home with a huge bowl of popcorn and Netflix your way through a movie marathon. Whatever it is you do, have a great time. Hubby can go to this party, and afterwards you can ask him how it went.

I’m placing a bet that your alternate plan, whatever it may be, will turn out to be more enjoyable than the party you’ve described, based on you and your friends’ preferences. Your hubby will certainly come home with some entertaining stories you both can laugh about.


delislice July 31, 2013 at 1:24 pm

My mom LOVES crossword puzzles. I’m a wordsmith, and every year for Mother’s Day I make her a crossword puzzle. It takes me about four months. (I don’t have oodles of free time.)

I can’t whip them out on less than a week’s notice, especially if I’m trying to personalize it.

Letting guests know of a prevailing creative atmosphere, and encouraging folks to share their musical or dramatic talents with a short general entertainment — one thing.

This person? Something else again.


twik July 31, 2013 at 3:56 pm

EvilTwik would rummage through her odds and ends drawer, and find various bits of detritus. Say, a half-used eraser, an earring that’s lost its mate, and a subway token. Glue them to a piece of cardboard, and call it an “installation”. If asked what it’s supposed to mean, look slightly offended, and ask, “You’re an artistic person, and you can’t tell?”

Bonus points if the giftee thinks it means something wonderful about her. (Double-evil points if she takes one look and bursts into tears as it reminds her of her Life Slipping By.)


Reno July 31, 2013 at 6:13 pm

So she is basically demanding a home made gift as entrance to her birthday party. I would happily skip this event. And when is a joint gift from a couple not acceptable anyway?


Comprehension August 1, 2013 at 9:59 am

(( I approached her earlier saying that I was concerned that I wouldn’t have the time to make a good puzzle for her and would therefore have to skip the party, and she said something along the lines of, “Well, I guess I won’t be seeing you, then.”))

Did nobody even read this part of the post? The OP said herself she would have to skip the party. B didn’t uninvite OP, and are we sure that a song/dance/puzzle/etc is actually absolutely required as OP claims?

OP was unclear and vague with her “Say and Pray” method of talking to B. Should OP have been direct by asking, “I’m sorry I will not be able to construct a quality puzzle on such short notice. I take pride in my work and it would be an insult to you to throw together a poorly constructed puzzle. Am I still welcome to the party without one?”, a much more desirable answer from B would surely have resulted.

A direct approach would avoid and confusion and conflict. It is extremely unfair to B to hold such a misunderstanding against her. Really, be an adult and fix this mess you’ve rolled yourself in, OP.


Chelsey August 1, 2013 at 10:15 am

She may as well be asking an admission fee if we follow the old adage that “time is money.” (And I certainly do.)

Rap: When I was in college, I originally started as an education major. That sort of BS is why I switched to something that wouldn’t require me to deal with other kids’ parents. Today’s teachers are more valued for sucking up and playing politics than for actually teaching (and today’s college curriculum for becoming a teacher reflects that–I saw dozens of English Ed majors graduating who couldn’t even tell you the difference between “to,” “two,” and “too” because 75% of their classes were about dealing with problem children and their problem parents).


Carolyn August 1, 2013 at 11:10 am

Julia, regarding registries – it’s still considered in poor taste by many to suggest that wedding gifts are mandatory. There are those, like Miss Manners, that frown upon any mention of one being made on a wedding invitation. I’m inclined to agree, and would only direct guests to one if they inquired about one.


Goldie August 1, 2013 at 11:47 am

@ OP:

“This is a case where the Golden Rule just breaks- if your desires and likes are unusual, you should not base your conduct on what you would want done to you. You need to base your conduct on what the “average reasonable” person or, better yet, your target audience would want.”

Amen to that. Took me a while to learn this when I was young, but yes, we are all different and, in many cases, one should not assume that others would want exactly the same thing that you’d want done to you.

This “party” sounds like an especially stressful second shift at work, except at work you’d usually get food if you have to stay that late. I kind of feel bad for your husband! Sounds like you’re getting the better end of the deal by staying home that night.


Anonymous August 1, 2013 at 3:35 pm

>>So she is basically demanding a home made gift as entrance to her birthday party. I would happily skip this event. And when is a joint gift from a couple not acceptable anyway?<<

I agree about skipping this event, but about joint gifts from couples, that's been a bit of a bone of contention around E-Hell. It seems like it's common for couples to give joint gifts for other people's birthdays/individual events, but receive their own individual gifts on their special days. So, they're essentially giving as one person, but receiving as two. Christmas is easier, because then, if Anne and Bob give their single friend Carol, say, a movie gift basket for Christmas, then Carol could give Anne and Bob, say, a nice bottle of wine, or a throw blanket for their couch, or something they could both enjoy. However, I think joint gifts are okay in situations where the "gift" in question is either much more expensive than a normal "individual" gift, OR much more labour-intensive. So, in this situation, if the OP still planned to attend the party, I think the OP and her husband would be fine to give a joint gift, because making something together for the birthday girl will still be more trouble for both of them, than each of them individually buying something, which is what it seems that the OP would prefer to do. Being time-poor isn't really that different from being money-poor, because, just like money can only be used once, time can only be used once as well. For example, I have steel band today from 6 until 8:30, so if someone asked me to do something else during that time, I couldn't, because that time has already been budgeted for steel band. With gift-giving, people can usually decide if they have more time or money to spare, and adjust their gifting accordingly. I've bought gifts for people, but I've also given poems, artwork, slideshows, and all manner of creative things, when I had more time than money to spare. However, by demanding all homemade gifts (and making gifts mandatory), the birthday girl in this thread is denying people the opportunity to make the time versus money decision, and she's indirectly insinuated herself in their personal business. I don't think this is a friendship-ending thing in itself (although, if the friend is selfish in other ways, it might be), but it's definitely grounds to stay home from that party.


Ashley 2 August 1, 2013 at 6:14 pm

I’ll agree that B’s idea is a little tacky, but I’m a little fuzzy on some things. First, OP’s post says that the guests have to collaborate to make something which, if I’m not wrong, means that the guests are supposed to work together instead of making individual things?

Secondly, OP told her “I was concerned that I wouldn’t have the time to make a good puzzle for her and would therefore have to skip the party-” which B responds with “Well, I guess I won’t be seeing you, then.” I can see how B’s response comes off as blunt and dismissive, but we don’t know the tone of voice that was used or if she was genuinely disappointed. After all, OP did just tell her that she will have to skip the party, but what if B took that as a polite refusal to attend? Is it possible that B just thought that OP was politely refusing for her own reasons and B chose not to press the issues?

The third and last thing is that I don’t see how B being single has anything to do with the issue at hand, but that is just a minor thing that bugs me, I’ll just assume that it was an unnecessary detail that was added into the post.


schnickelfritz August 2, 2013 at 9:11 am

Comprehension – !!!! I totally agree, and I am amazed at the comments here, not noting that the OP literrally / verbally “RSVPd” she would not be able to attend. Twice! (as noted in her follow-up here). I counted only 7 or 8 comments above, that actually picked up on that. I understand the birthday girl’s response; she was giving the OP a way out, accepting her excuse and not pressing her (twice). And, I think the OP’s husband got it too.

(( I approached her earlier saying that I was concerned that I wouldn’t have the time to make a good puzzle for her and would therefore have to skip the party, and she said something along the lines of, “Well, I guess I won’t be seeing you, then.”))

This sounds like the OP is making the excuse to bow out of the party. It also sounds like the OP was passively aggresively telling the b-day girl that her request was rude (I find it more weird, than rude, but as noted above, some circles do these type of parties). Very poor communication. I don’t understand, if you are close enough to be invited, why would you not (well, I would) say “OMG I really don’t have time in this short notice to make a nice game!” And then a nice friendly chatty discussion would follow – with the b-day girl realizing, that, yes, this may be a bit much to ask for, or saying “no problem – I realize you are busy”. I hardly believe “no game no admittance” was in the b-day girl’s mind – the OP brought that into it with her statement “therefore I will have to skip the party” – that was snooty. And, OP, your follow-up made this story even weirder to me.


kingsrings August 2, 2013 at 10:59 am

This just keeps getting better and better. So now we’ve got a party where one is required to slave away for hours on a creative project, it’s held on a weeknight, formal dress code, and no dinner is provided even though it’s being thrown during dinnertime. Sounds like a rollicking good time, NOT!


Jaxsue August 2, 2013 at 12:05 pm

@jojo, I agree with a PP that your comment regarding women of a certain age is OTT. I managed to turn 40 and 50 without a catastrophe. We should have to deal with agism/sexism on this site. If someone is rude or difficult, it is they who are the problem, not their age or gender.


ArtK August 2, 2013 at 12:11 pm


No, it’s not the same as a registry. A registry is a wish list and a guest may give a gift from the list, or give a gift off of the list, or give no gift at all. What’s described in the OP is a *required* gift, and one of a very, very specific kind.


Kat August 2, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Honestly, my first thought was that it might be a good idea to do an “idiot check” because I could easily see this as a miscommunication.

As presented, this: “she’s requiring that all the guests collaborate and “create something” for the party” sounded to me like she was suggesting that this was the main activity of the party itself, and that all guests would be collaborating during the party on that one creative project, for which she gave several suggestions. So when the OP said “I don’t have time for that,” B could well have interpreted that as a snub, as in “That sounds like a lame party and I don’t want to go if that’s what we’re doing.”

I did NOT get the impression that B was asking for dedicated time *outside* of the party from every guest for multiple creative projects to bring with you as a door fee. What do you do with 20 puzzles at a party? I wasn’t there, I don’t know B, but if this seems out of character, maybe the OP wants to double-check what she actually meant. Because, a party where we all work together to make a creative project? That sounds like a lot of fun to me.


The OP August 2, 2013 at 7:15 pm

The party happened. My husband went, and I didn’t. In our social circle, it is fairly typical for couples to attend social events separately, so this was not some sort of huge red flag.

(By the way, I mentioned that she was single because some people say that you should never host your own party. I have no beef with that aspect, because she doesn’t have a husband or nearby family to throw a party for her.)

“I did NOT get the impression that B was asking for dedicated time *outside* of the party from every guest for multiple creative projects to bring with you as a door fee. ”
Her invitation very clearly stated that- there was a link to a spreadsheet, with an example line filled out, where you would list beforehand what you were going to make. According to my husband, at the party, the birthday girl solved a few puzzles while the guests helped her, and she declined to solve another handful; she also watched a few homemade videos, and there were about 3 or 4 group games that everyone participated in. Everyone who came brought something, either singly or as a couple; some guests Skyped in instead of physically going because to avoid giving a gift. My husband had an good time overall but told me that it wasn’t anything to feel bad about missing.

His closest friends later asked my husband privately why I wasn’t there. When he told them, they did agree that it was a bit presumptuous to demand that everyone make something for the party.

Yes, I did technically decline as a way of asking whether it was OK to not bring a gift, and it was passive-aggressive, because I was pretty angry. I know that if I had been in her situation, like if I were hosting a potluck, I would have said, “Oh that doesn’t matter, if you can, please just come and don’t worry about it.” Several people here have pointed out that she might have just taken the refusal at face value and not wanted to probe, which I didn’t consider at the time, so I’ll change my approach in the future.


mpk August 3, 2013 at 6:57 am

@Kat #81 – I think you’re partly right. I don’t think she meant for the guests to come up with separate gifts. But, I think the collaborating part was for before the party. Whatever they came up with is supposed to be used at the party. So, she is still asking for time, and actually more than that. Everyone else has to organize their schedules to find time together to not only come up with the idea but then also make it, whether it be a video, puzzle, dance or whatever.

I also think she thought the OP just didn’t want to go to her party. But, from OP response, it sounded like her husband talked to the party girl, so I don’t know why everything wouldn’t have been
straightened out then. So, maybe none of them know how to communicate.


NicoleK August 3, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Dunno, I’ve certainly been to parties that were jam sessions and the point was to show off your music or dance skills. I love parties like that. Not everyone does, I guess, in which case you can politely decline.


Eugenie August 25, 2013 at 12:33 am

“Her suggestions included a music video, a song, a game, a dance, or a puzzle.”
This has to be a joke. And if not, I’d keep a close eye on a husband who goes to such trouble for your single, extroverted, friend. Unless of course he has a history of writing songs, choreographing dances, and creating documentaries about his wife and everyone else he knows.

Why not create a sculpture of this chick’s ego with Elmer’s glue, popsicle sticks, and masses of glitter? Or try painting an “interesting” oil portrait of her. With hammer and nail in hand, ask her where she wants it to hang. Just don’t stay home. I’d go empty handed and then be truly surprised that her request was serious. “All apologies! I’m so embarrassed. It never occurred to me that you could be serious! I brought you some wine though.” Go to that party and laugh your ass off with the other guests. Whether they’ll admit it or not I’m sure they feel the same as you.


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