OK, so you are invited to a B-day party.... what next?

I recently got into a little debate with a few friends of mine. One of the friends (We will call him ‘Castanza’) was recently invited to another friend’s (Bobby) daughter’s B-day party. I think the daughter (Shorty) is around 2 or 3 years old.
Castanza did not have any money to buy Shorty a birthday present, so he decided to just not show up. His argument was that it would be incredibly rude to show up without a present. He said that you can’t show up and eat all the food and stuff without bringing a present. Others agreed with him.
I said that is bullshit. I think it would be worse to not show up at all. If I invited someone to my daughter’s birthday party, or even my own, I would be more pissed off if the person did not come at all. It kinda sends a “I had better things to do” message. I also said that there was nothing wrong with Castanza just telling Bobby he is sorry for not bringing anything, but money is just tight. It would be much better to show up, make a presence, sing happy b-day and leave, then to not come at all. And besides all that, I said that a b-day card is only a dollar or so. Cheap bastard!!

Getting further into the argument, it was revealed that the B-day party was scheduled at 4pm on Sunday. Castanza really decided to not show up because he wanted to watch football! What an asshole! I think this prooves me right. He sent a “I have better things to do” message. In his mind, he really had better things to do.

After all this, they still argued that it would be better, or more proper, to not show up than to arrive without a gift. What is wrong with them?? I would rather have all my friends there and no presents, than no presents and no people. If I invite a person, it is because I want them there to share the memories… not because I want my daughter to get more presents!

So let’s continue the argument here. Which to you think it right? If you were invited to a child’s B-day party, the child of a good friend, and you had absolutely no money:

Would it be better to-

Not go at all?
Buy a freaking card or something at the dollar store and show up?
Show up and apologize for no gift?
Just show up and say nothing? (no gift is no big deal)

Your opinions matter. Any etiquete teachers here?

Interesting - a similar thing just happened to me. I was invited to two birthday parties on the same weekend. (Both for adults, and in bars.) The first was for a woman I’d never met face to face. I got her a token gift, (which maybe you would have liked, given your name), a green plastic bear thingy that sort of resembled a koosh ball. No one else brought a gift, but she seemed to appreciate the fact that I did.

The second party was for a guy who I’ve known for about 10 years. He’s not a very close friend, but he’s a member of my large circle of friends from college. I didn’t bring a gift to his party. Several folks who are much closer to him did, however.

I guess I would say that for an adult, it depends on the situation, but I agree that for a child, a token gift is the way to go.

As the parent of a 3 year old, I second the nomination for a token gift. Three year olds don’t know how much things cost (or they shouldn’t, anyway.) However, I have two additional comments:

  1. One should always be free to turn down an invitation and

  2. Why were they inviting a bunch of adults to a pre-schooler’s birthday party, anyway? I mean, unless, Castanza is a special friend of hers, what is Shorty getting out of this? Her parents should not be using her birthday as an excuse to have a party for themselves.