Reaching a milestone can be tough – tough on the milestone-ee, but sometimes even tougher on the nearest and dearest!
When they’re not looking forward to entering a new decade – and there’s obviously nothing you can do to stop the inevitable happening – don’t panic! We’ve compiled a list of hints and tips to try and soften the blow.
Contrary to popular mythology, reaching a milestone can be something both women and men dread. So, if they’re about to turn 21, 30, 40, 50, 60 or even 70, you might notice some of the following signs, which indicate they’re more likely to cry than smile when they open their special birthday presents!
1. Total paranoia and terror that someone might be planning a surprise party.
2. Failure to want to make any concrete birthday plans – a lot of skirting round the issue, hmming and ‘we’ll see’s.
3. Not wanting to mention to younger colleagues or friends that this year is a special one.
4. Becoming overly concerned that they’re showing disturbing signs of similarity, both physically and in personality traits, with their parent/s.
5. Sudden crash dieting.
6. Wardrobe overhaul, and a surprising interest in what’s in fashion. Probably coupled with an unfounded decision that what they wore 10-20 years ago is what suited them best, and therefore should be regurgitated!
7. Eyeing up passers-by 10-20 years younger than themselves, without the required discretion they’ve traditionally employed.
8. Deciding on a total change of career or lifestyle. And yes, those who have the sudden urge to own a convertible red sports car do fall into this category!
We’re sure there are many more individual traits that many of you could tell us about, but we’ve gone for those that tend to be pretty widespread! And yes, we know, it’s all very good to talk about what nightmarish behaviour your loved one is displaying – but, hey, let’s cut to the chase – what should you do about it?!
Well, each individual case is as different as the birthday girl or boy themselves, but, rest assured, there are a few things you can try to see if you can alleviate the situation!
First and foremost, in fact, the golden rule is – don’t bring it up unless they do!
Whether you’re desperate to arrange something special for their birthday, or you think talking it through will help – believe us (and we’ve been through some pretty uncomfortable milestones in our combined times), letting them take the lead will hand back some much needed power. One of the (being serious here) reasons people can feel so dismayed when entering a new decade of their life is that they feel powerless. And let’s face it – they are! There’s nothing they can do to turn back the clock, they can’t put it off, ignore it or forget about it – and so giving them the power to discuss it as and when they decide to might just help them start to feel a bit more in control of their lives. Ok, we admit it, it’s a might!
Next, try to avoid pointing out any foibles they may display that could potentially be linked to age. Now, they might have always been a bit overweight, or unfit, or tell jokes from the 80s, but if you comment on this sort of thing in the month or so before their momentous birthday, they’re very likely to simply create an association of your criticism with their soon-to-be new age.
They’ll conveniently forget that you’ve always made the same veiled jokes, forget that their weight has changed very little over the past 5 years, forget that the last time they did any exercise…well, that it was a long time ago. They’ll assume you’re saying these things just because they’re getting older. And they’ll assume that you dislike their imminent age just as much as they do.
So, however hard it is, just try to lay off a little more than usual! Even when they’re eyeing up those leather trousers than really shouldn’t have been allowed off the delivery van, take heed of the old adage, keep it zipped and count to ten!
It may be stating the obvious, but if they’re displaying signs of not welcoming their new age, whatever you do, do NOT plan a surprise party. It is highly likely that it will all end in tears. Save yourself a lot of time and effort – have a restaurant and friends and family on stand by if you must, but be prepared to enjoy a quiet night in with a take away. And enjoy it with good grace too!
The old mid life crisis – a mainstay of many milestone birthdays. There’s been a great deal documented about what people do during a mid life crisis, but little which helps the nearest and dearest deal with it.
So, here’s our take. If they’ve got their heart set on a sports car – go with them to the dealers, take some test drives, read the brochures together. And then (and this is the important bit), and only then, after these visits, conversations, and so on, start looking at something else to spend this money that’s obviously burning a whole in their pocket on.
Say a holiday of a lifetime, maybe even a fly drive somewhere, and talk about hiring a sports car when you’re there. To test it out, of course, properly, not just a crummy half hour test drive or even a weekend loan – a full on fortnight test drive. The plan is that by the time you’ve returned (if you even make it that far) he’ll have got it out of his system. Hopefully, the longer you make the discussions go on, the more chance you’ve got that their interest will begin to wane. Well, surely it’s worth a try!
The wardrobe overhaul, image change, sudden attendance at the gym – all these things are symptomatic of the mid life crisis. Try and be supportive. The mistake most people make is taking the Mickey. A lot. This alienates the birthday boy or girl, and probably serves to convince them that they’re right and you’re wrong.
Tell them how good they’re looking, how much you like their new image, how great it is that they’ve joined a gym – even if the words stick in your throat on the way out! Just try and remember – it’s a phase – and all you need to do is support them through it. A bit like adolescence really.
And of course, if you can’t beat them, join them. If they start flirting incorrigibly with the 20 year old waitress, then you have two choices. Start flirting yourself with the 20 year old waiter, or start flirting incorrigibly with…them. It’ll probably shock them back into normality!
Let’s summarise here:
- If they’re worried someone might be planning a surprise party – make sure no-one is. Especially not you.
- Failure to want to make any concrete birthday plans – let them be the boss. Don’t try and persuade, coerce or convince. No plans = no problem.
- They don’t want to mention to younger colleagues or friends that this year is a special one – that’s fine – it’s their call.
- Becoming overly concerned that they’re showing disturbing signs of becoming like their parent/s - reassurance if the key. Point out both the differences between them and their parent/s, as well as pointing out their parent’s good qualities.
- Sudden crash dieting – let it be. It won’t last!
- Wardrobe overhaul – see above.
- Eyeing up passers by 10-20 years younger than themselves, without the required discretion they usually employ – the best policy here might be to act as a mirror. By enduring the horror of watching you act the same, they might just manage to see the error of their ways!
- Deciding on a total change of career or lifestyle – a tricky one here, but mildly interested ambivalence might be the best call.
Now, a slight digression. So you’re thinking – why would they offer a host of milestone birthday presents, there to celebrate that special milestone birthday? A little secret – those gifts are not for you.
They are for those thousands of people who simply don’t mind reaching a new decade. For those of the gift buying public who want to tease a work colleague, or loved one, to commemorate that special birthday with a gift that’s fun, silly, or simply special too. You may not believe this, but many people really enjoy the excuse a milestone birthday gives to have a good old fashioned knees up. And for those people, our milestone birthday presents fit the bill perfectly.
OK, so now you know what to buy for your boss, your mum, your best friend whenever they’re reaching a new decade. But what to about right now? Well, our recommendation would be to steer clear of the milestone birthday section, and instead, dip into the Gifts for Her, for Him, or even for couples. We’ve even come up with some suggestions below, so have a look, and buy them something that’s a collection of great treats to help them feel…well, like them again. Like them, but just a little more special than usual.