Dear Carolyn: I have been dating a man for about six months now. We exchanged gifts for Christmas and I do not know what to make of what I received. He gave me earrings he clearly bought on a trip he took a good six months before he met me. We did not open gifts in front of each other and I have not said anything other than thank you.
I am torn on how to proceed — I was raised to be grateful for any gift given and feel like expressing disappointment will make me look ungrateful. At the same time I don’t really want to walk around wearing something that was probably bought with another woman in mind.
If they’re pretty, wear them.
If they’re not, don’t.
If they’re pretty but you feel like a rube for wearing some other woman’s gift, then either don’t wear them, or use their next wearing as an opening to say, “These are really nice, thank you — did you get them when you went to [destination of last year’s trip]?” Be curious, not accusatory, and open to a good story.
I suspect you want a broader answer, but, no luck. Some people cut corners on gifts because they cut corners on everything (or, everything but themselves), and some because they’re wonderful people who panic at gift-giving time. You don’t want to stay with the former, but judging the latter too harshly could hurt you both, and I don’t know enough even to guess which one he is.
Maybe you don’t, either, yet — so give it time until you do. Look past the hardware and weigh his character.
That’s a good policy with gifts in general. Be grateful for any gift, as you say, but not just because that’s the polite thing. Do it because the time to express disappointment isn’t when you get a meh gift, it’s when there’s an important problem with what the gift means. Set at a proper height, that bar is one few bad gifts will clear.
Dear Carolyn: My daughter got married recently. It was a simple affair in a rural setting, just the way she and her fiancee wanted (and planned). I thought it was lovely.
My husband’s brother told my husband that if he had known in advance what the wedding would be like, he might not have come.
Please help me understand the motivation behind my bother-in-law sharing this information. Was it a warning that family weddings be more like he expects, otherwise he won’t share in our joy?
I know I should let this go, but I can’t. Right now, I don’t want to invite him to anything ever again.
Assuming the couple didn’t ask too much of their guests, like hiking a mile uphill through mud because they hiked that trail on their first date, it’s probably this: Some people just don’t feel important unless they’ve had the last word. Poor guy, if indeed he feels small enough to have that impulse and rude enough to act on it — though I think we can call his telling his brother, not you, a mitigating circumstance.
On the bright side, you have the perfect punishment. Keep inviting him! Ironic and polite. Deep breath, let go.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at washingtonpost.com.