2007_05_birthdaymeal2.jpgThe NY Times' T: Styles Magazine makes us a little crazy, what with all the luscious product shots with staggering price tags (there was even an ad for $650 FAKE flowers at Gracious Home). But Alexandra Jacobs' essay on the pains of birthday bill splitting really hit home.

Surely you've been invited to birthday dinners where you pray that the bill splitting will be handled with grace and tact (like the significant other throwing in a chunk of change to cover a good portion of it...or at least the S.O. can take the lead in figuring out the costs) but then it becomes people arguing, with their cell-phone calculators out. Or you've avoided going to someone's birthday once you find out what restaurant it's going to be at. It's a battle between the have and have-nots, too, as those watching their pennies order less yet still have to chip in as much as the dude who ordered the filet mignon. Which leads to this wise suggestion:

“I went to a dinner for a friend that ended with a girl calculating how many glasses of wine each person had had, dividing the cost of the bottle by glass and calculating how much each person owed,” said a Brooklyn-based lawyer. “Then she calculated the cost of what each person had had to eat, added in the birthday girl’s cost — you get the point. If you’re going to a party at a restaurant, you need to be prepared to split whatever the bill is. Then you can complain about it later to someone who wasn’t there.”

How do you handle birthday party spending? Sometimes people do the smart thing and choose inexpensive places and also make people BYOB. Sometimes the birthday person has the waiter bravely keep different bills for everyone. And sometimes you just suck it up and vow to go to an even more expensive restaurant on your birthday for payback.