People fussing over another friend, ignoring me
I used to very shy with no friends. I got over this, and now have more circles of friends than I can manage. One circle of friends has people that live in a town two bus-rides away. I met them when another friend used to have free petrol as part of his job and kindly drove us all regularly to this town for nights out. Now he's married, but I've kept in touch with the people I met in this town and for several years now I've regularly caught the bus to see them and stayed the night at their houses. I'm in a Whatsapp group with them and hear from them almost daily. COVID happened, this circle was better at organising Internet-based meet-ups than any other.
One of this circle has a special birthday coming up in December. Someone had the idea of organising a surprise gift for him. A price was stated, and I agreed to this. The first part of the gift is a caricature of all of dressed as the Birthday Boy's favourite film characters. The first draft came round, I didn't look like me, but all the rest of the characters were perfect. I was so concerned about seeming picky that I showed the picture to my work colleagues and other friends, and only a small percentage knew for certain which one was supposed to be me, and I let the gift-buying group know this. The artist removed the hat I was wearing, and I looked more like me - so we settled on that version. But I was the only one who was unhappy in the first place. Also, now it's too late, I think to myself that although I look like me in the picture now, without the hat, do I look like the character? I don't know how important the hat is to how people think of that character, not being a fan of those films. It's too late to question it now, and it doesn't feel good, and although the gift-buying group did agree with me over that hat issue, this didn't register with me at first.
Moving on to the second part of the gift, I believed this was going to be an appearance of the Birthday Boy's favorite celebrity at the night out. I since learned that it was just going to be a pre-recorded video. I mentioned in the Whatsapp group that I thought this was going to the person actually at the venue of the night out, and someone said we'd need to add a few thousand pounds to the fee for that to happen. I didn't watch the shows this person was in. I didn't realise where she lived and that she'd have to fly to the venue to be there. I'm not TV-obsessed.
People started getting excited, having ideas of what we could ask the celebrity to say in this expensive video. It just struck me that everything we could ask the person to say would be insincere, they'd just be lines spoken into the camera. If the person was there physically, I thought, they'd likely mean it if only slightly when they wished my friend a happy birthday. Someone else had previously expressed dislike of the celebrity idea be it in person or by video. I thought he'd be an ally. Instead, he said, "Hmmm, so much each? Blow it, I'll pay. How long's the video?" (Words to that effect anyway.) Anyway, the interesting thing is that he asked how long the video was AFTER he said he'd pay. This struck me as being utterly stupid, and I had to leave the Whatsapp group before I said something I regretted. I e-mailed the organiser privately expressing regret at being awkward over the cartoon, and that I'd have said yes to the appearance if it was an actual appearance and I wasn't looking forward to being the only one at the birthday night out who hadn't contributed. Even though she'd said it was fine not to contribute to that part of the gift, I feel that it wouldn't have been fine. She did reply, but I didn't want to look at it at that time on a Sunday before I went to bed, so I turned off my phone and decided to respond next day when I was more calm. I archived all chats with that group of friends temporarily.
I went into work the next day to learn that a dear colleague had passed away. She was much-loved. Other departments in the organisation had a minute's silence for her. It was an emotional week. I came home and was thinking about which ex-colleagues I was still in touch with who'd like to know, and I ended up spending a lot of time during the evening having long emotional chats with these former colleaugues and texting the work Whatsapp group where we were sharing pleasant stories about our colleague, reminiscing, crying. I had to warn my manager that my father had died from the same condition some years previously and I really had to watch what triggered me as when I first started this job (with nurses) I learned that a former childhood friend had died and felt no emotion but someone had complained about a patient being grumpy and that set me off crying because the description of this person reminded me of my father.
On top of this, I was dealing for the first time in my life with the fact that I'd been self-harming since childhood. I'd admitted this to myself and started private therapy only very recently, and this has changed my attitude to things a lot. I haven't self-harmed for weeks, I don't pick at the sweets and chocolates in the office any more, my handwriting is neater, and my manager says I'm a more positive person now. My work doesn't know about my self-harm, they just think I'm paying for private therapy for weight management and general stress, and the gift-buying friends don't know either. I've only told one of my other friends about it. I've paid for group gifts in this circle of friends before, and I can tell you how much I've spent on individual friends over the years, but I couldn't give you a figure for what I've spent on group gifts for this circle of friends which to me points towards the therapy making me think more about my spending now. If only I'd started it before I agreed to this stupid gift.
All this meant I was in no mood to entertain the idea of paying an extortionate amount to indulge an adult's TV, film and celebrity obsession. My colleague was the real celebrity, I thought. My therapist is a celebrity too as far as I'm concerned. I couldn't bring myself to look at the reply to my message about my disapproval of the video until Thursday evening, so the chats stayed archived until then. The organiser had said she was annoyed I'd left the group, that she and everyone had agreed about the cartoon picture (which was a surprise), and it was fine if I didn't want to pay for the video (but I didn't like going back on my word.) I explained in three different messages to the gift-buyers, in varying detail depending on how well I know individuals, that I was sorry I'd gone quiet because of the loss of my dear colleague, and the fact that I'd been getting treatment for a condition I'd had since childhood. I said I'd pay to see Birthday Boy's face as the question wasn't whether the celebrity was worth it, but whether the Birthday Boy was worth it - but I made a mental note never to get into this situation again. The next message I received contained a copy of the video, and asked for my opinion of it. I was added to the gift-buying group again, and people started confirming they'd paid and how we needed to beam the video onto a screen on the night out, and how we needed to decorate the venue.
It just struck me that if any of my friends sent me a message telling me they'd lost someone who meant a lot to them and that they were having private treatment for a condition they'd had since childhood, I'd express concern. I don't need a sympathy card for the loss of a colleague as she wasn't family, but surely, a word or two rather than just carrying on fussing over this person's celebrity obsession. My birthday is a few days after his, some of these people have said they can't come, and Birthday Boy hasn't even replied to my invitation. It's true that they don't really mix with my other friends and I have more luck with them attending if I hold my birthday night out a few weeks later and have a joint party with someone else not of that circle - but it hurts slightly that my message about a colleague dying and me being treated for a childhood condition has been ignored, and my birthday invitation has been disregarded, while they all fuss around this person. Other friends I've told texted me almost daily asking how I was and how my team at work was coping. I haven't had a big birthday while I've known this entire group yet, and I wonder if I'd get the same treatment. Also, although these people were great at staying in touch throughout lockdown, I haven't seen them at all this year. I haven't invite them anywhere, but it's usually one of them that does the organising as I always travel to them as it's not easy for them to come to me. If all this led to a big bust-up, it would complicate my life as Birthday Boy's brother is also a good friend of mine, and though he's not part of that group he is part of other social circles of mine.
My question is, am I being unreasonable to feel a bit put out and what should I do about it?
You're not unreasonable for feeling the way you do. You've had a lot going on. I'm sorry for your loss, and your set-back in harming yourself. Good for you for getting help.
This is a rather elaborate birthday present for anyone. I don't know of anyone, haven't heard of anything like this being done for any of the people I know. I'm just going to have to guess that THIS individual is very popular in the group. This is the problem with group presents. A few charismatic people receive the benefit of great effort, and a few people who regularly contribute are taken for granted. It's not personal, it's just the way it is. It happened to an acquaintance of mine: every birthday, baby shower, wedding shower, grand-parent's passing she contributed to the group gift "from the girls at work." She went into the hospital: nothing.
You weren't happy with the caricature and said so. Then you didn't like the video idea - TO THEM, you're sort of tossing a wet blanket on the whole party. I don't know if your disdain for pop culture (or whatever we want to call it) came through in your conversation with them, but it's abundantly clear in paragraph three of your post here. In a roundabout way, it is a little slap in the face for their values and ideas. I say that as someone who absolutely and totally agrees with you that this is wildly over the top. Yes, a celebrity paid to say happy birthday to your friend is silly and insincere - but in this country, people sent notices to a weatherman on a nationally broadcast morning show so he could say happy birthday to people over 100 years old. I guess it's cute.
I'm sorry they seem so indifferent, but I guess planning such an elaborate thing is fun for them. And...you don't know what's going on in all of their lives, either. Others may not have like their caricature and said nothing. May not have liked the video idea at all and thought "I don't want to rock the boat." It's entirely possible that others in the group are healing from things or facing things that they just aren't sharing. While you think this is all vapid and feeble, to someone else it may be a distraction for his/her troubles.