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Miss Manners: I hate my April Fool’s birthday and getting pranked

Advice by
April 1, 2024 at 12:00 a.m. EDT
3 min

Dear Miss Manners: Through no one’s fault, I was born on the worst date ever.

Each birth anniversary, there's a well-meaning but hurtful practical joke. Everyone — family, friends, teachers, co-workers, boyfriends — thinks they're the first person to play their joke and expects me to laugh. Because I love them, I try to play along, but it gets tougher each year.

I open beautifully wrapped presents, but there’s nothing in the box (APRIL FOOL!), or birthday cards are full of glitter or other messes (APRIL FOOL!). I get visits from “police” with arrest warrants (APRIL FOOL!), “CPS caseworkers” with orders to seize my child (APRIL FOOL!). I answer wee-hour calls telling me to rush to hospital because somebody’s hurt (APRIL FOOL!). My husband asks for a divorce (APRIL FOOL!) and bosses fire me (APRIL FOOL!). I’ve bitten into birthday cakes flavored with hot sauce or baked with salt instead of sugar (APRIL FOOL!).

The church women’s society met on my birthday. When I arrived, they jumped out yelling “Surprise!” For a moment I was touched and elated, but the joke was that it wasn’t a party for me. I tried — really I did — but 26 years was too much. A few tears escaped, so I ran to my car and left. The ladies called to apologize and explain they were just having some fun with me. I had my husband say I wasn’t home.

I don’t want to be an old sourpuss who can’t take a joke, but I don’t know how to face them or think of a nice way to ask friends to please stop pranking me on my birthdays. What is a gracious way to get out of this?

As appalling as you will find this suggestion, Miss Manners suggests playing tricks on them. And that is to pretend that after 26 years of enduring these mean-spirited attempts at humor, you fail to recognize them as such.

So when the box is empty, look up puzzled and ask, “Was there supposed to be something in here?” When your boss pretends to fire you, say sadly, “I loved this job, and I tried to do my best at it.” When you bite into the cake, make a slight face and decline having more without explanation. They will then be forced to retreat, as the church ladies did. At that point, you can say a quiet “April Fool” — not uppercase, not with exclamation marks, not with a smile — and explain that you have been enduring all that your whole life.

Oh, and when your husband asks for a divorce? Tell him you will call your lawyer. And if he hasn’t yet understood how these supposed “jokes” affect you, you may mean it.

Dear Miss Manners: Is it polite to blow on your spoon of newly served, very hot soup?

No. Sorry. But that does not mean that Miss Manners is fine with your burning your tongue. You need only fill your spoon and hold it aloft for a moment while making a few seconds of charming remarks to your dinner partner.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

© 2024 Judith Martin