Editor’s note: Annie Lane is off this week. This column was originally published in 2018.
Dear Annie: I am in my 60s, as are my brothers and sisters, and we’re all retired. We have always exchanged nice, thoughtful (though not expensive) gifts for birthdays, Christmas and maybe some other special occasions. Over the past several years, my brother “Rod” and his wife, “Erma,” have, in addition to a lot of other rude behaviors, started giving people gifts that are, in a word, mean-spirited. These are things that the recipients almost surely don’t want and/or can’t use. Several of these “gifts” seem very clearly to be things they found in their closets or at some kind of garage sale. Others seem to be presents they’re regifting — not really picked out for the recipients, to put it mildly. Money is not the issue for them. You’ll just have to believe me on that.
People have politely mentioned to them such things as, “I don’t know when I’m going to be able to use this.” Everyone has continued to buy them what seem to be nice gifts, and I really don’t mind that (for the moment).
My question is: Should I send a thank-you note? I really don’t want to encourage this baloney. It seems kind of silly to put money and effort into a gift exchange just to insult people. To be honest, I don’t exactly know what to say in a thank-you note. “Thank you for the nice jacket that doesn’t fit and has absolutely no tags on it”?
I would prefer not to stop this gift giving, because for the rest of us, it helps us to connect and is a nice tradition. The most recent time this happened, I did talk to Rod about it. He would not admit there was anything wrong with the gift, although he did say it was not exactly what he had gone to the store to buy. Any thoughts?
— When Is a Gift Not a Gift?
Dear WIAGNAG: I’ll take your word that this isn’t a matter of money (though do consider that you never can be sure what’s in another’s bank account). If you really believe they’re acting out of inconsideration, then no, I don’t think you need to send a thank-you note. Sending one would probably just make you angrier about the whole thing.
If the shared ritual and connection with your siblings are what you really appreciate about the gift exchange, you can find those things elsewhere. Browse the internet (Pinterest in particular) to spark your imagination for holiday traditions you can start together.
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