I Was Cursed When I Told Someone ‘Happy Birthday’

I’m 22. Ok, I’ll admit it. Most of you are probably scoffing at me saying, “Ha. You child.” But I’m not embarrassed. I’m proud to be young. But I’m also afraid because I only have eight more years left to enjoy my 20s. Only eight. Actually less than that as we speak. I’m not saying 30 is old. It’s absolutely not. One hundred is old. Thirty is the new 20. Actually, these days it seems like 40 is the new 20 thanks to Demi Moore and cougars of the like. So turning 30 can’t be that bad. But really, before I continue to dig myself into a deeper hole of ageism, I need to ask you something. If someone tells you they just turned 30 and you’re younger than they are how would you respond?

Let me tell you a quick little story to explain myself:

Saturday night I was out with a friend and a bunch of random people I didn’t know. The random people happened to be in their upper 20s. Totally cool people. At one point, this one girl walked up to me. I didn’t know who she was, still don’t. I’m assuming she was friends with the other random people I didn’t know. Anyways, she comes up to me and says, “I just turned 30!”


I put the exclamation point there instead of a period because she was drunk. I don’t think she said it excitedly, but she certainly did not say it with a scowl on her face. Therefore, she’s getting the exclamation point to indicate her lala land drunken state.


I respond. “Oh, congratulations!” In return, she says to me, “Fuck you.”

Yep. There you have it. I got the big ol’ F U in my face for telling someone congrats on her birthday. The only thing I could think of to do was apologize. “Oh nono! I’m sorry! I wasn’t trying to insult you! I was just trying to be nice. It was your birthday after all!” I was trying to be nice! In retrospect, I should’ve added a “And you don’t look a day over 25!” to save myself but it was too late. She had already F U-ed me and I was officially humiliated. I felt terrible and ashamed.

I still don’t get what I did wrong, though. Turning 30 is a big deal to a lot of people and I totally get that. But did I really deserve the swear? No. She could’ve turned it into a joke. I love those kinds of people who turn insults into jokes. It’s a classic defense mechanism and humor is always the answer in awkward situations. Always. Should I have said “I’m sorry,” instead? Or “That sucks?” Or perhaps I should have stuck with the more traditional, “Happy birthday,” but she probably would have glossed right over the “happy” and thought I said “congrats” again. I really don’t know. I thought milestone birthdays warranted a big congratulations. That’s what Hallmark tells us to say. That’s why I need your help. Because I having a feeling I will be meeting more recent 30-year-olds in my future and will need to have responses that do not warrant for “Fuck You” in return.

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    • Jessica Pauline Ogilvie

      Oh no, she’s giving 30-year-olds a bad name! Unless you said “congratulations” in a way that was dripping with sarcasm or pity, which it doesn’t sound like you did, I think you said the right thing and she was probably even more bombed than your exclamation mark would indicate. Turning 30 is different for everyone — I, for instance, entered into a state of complete and total panic beginning at 28. I have friends who couldn’t wait for the big day because many of us have been told that the 30′s are the best decade (you finally have your shit somewhat figured out and you’re young enough to enjoy said figured-out shit). Anyway, I think and hope that this girl was an aberration, and there’s really not much you can do to account for people like her, because her curse-out had nothing to do with you or what you said. Maybe she was just looking to get angry at a young ‘un, in which case you inadvertently took one for the team. In closing, I think congratulations is a fabulous thing to say to someone on a big birthday. So is Happy Birthday.

    • nolalola27

      I think there was more going on with her “Fuck you.” I doubt you’d be met with that response if you congratulate any more 30-year-olds, but I also don’t think “Congratulations” is an appropriate birthday greeting. Congratulate me for reaching 90, not 30.

      What should you say to someone who says “I just turned 30?” “Happy Birthday.”

    • Karen

      Eh. She just wanted to make someone else feel like shit, just as she apparently does about NOT being in her 20s anymore. I guess it worked. Try not to let her keep doing it, and forget about that bitch. I hope she reads this and knows what an ass she is. Bottom line, Jillian, YOU’RE fine… a nice person, whereas she is NOT.

    • ashmoth

      1). Who says contratulations?
      2). Who says FU to someone they don’t know?
      3) . After reading the former and latter, re-evauluate your life. You are clearly over-valuing your youth, which is so fleeting you WILL be the FU lady in a few years, and also, why don’t you have any friends your own age, as you seem to be hyper-aware that everyone there was older than you? Perhaps have a personality and some accomplishments, and you will be less likely to be in said situation and if so, would not take it so personally.

    • Rebecca

      Since she was drunk she may have though you were being sarcastic.

    • kendra

      yeahhhh….i don’t think your “congratulations” came out as innocent as it sounds. it was probably more of a “congratulations??!” i probably would have responded the same if a random person came up to me and told me something like that out of the blue…and i was feeling snarky.

      i’m not 30, but i’m knocking on its door. i can tell you i feel happier, healthier, and so much wiser now than when i was 22. there is an amazing life beyond the early 20s :).

    • Allyson

      I think congratulations is a perfectly acceptable thing to say to someone who just had a birthday – after all you say it at other big birthdays… 13 (in the Jewish faith, you are an adult) 18 (officially an adult), 21 (official legal to drink alcohol) 25 (officially old enough to rent a car). Thirty is NOT old at all, but a LOT of people feel it’s a big birthday in their life and a congrats is well deserved. A genuine congrats no matter how old you’re turning should neverrrr be met with the f-bomb.

    • Christine

      I could totally picture the look on your face when some rando comes up to you to tell you it’s their birthday. I would assume she was looking for some kind of “congratulations!!”/ “yahoooooo!!” comment as well if she was soliciting birthday lovin’ from strangers. She’s probably just mad your “congratulations!” wasn’t followed by free birthday shots….or a hug.