Saturday, January 23, 2010

In which we try to de-escalate the gift giving but just offend Doris

September 2009 A huge box arrives via UPS. Primo opens it. Oh Lord. It's three pressed wood nesting tables. With hummingbirds painted on them. Ugly as sin.

Bless her heart, Doris has sent us an anniversary present. As far as I'm concerned, the only ones who need to recognize an anniversary are the persons in the marriage, so it is very sweet of her to send us a present at all.

But could these things be any more not to my taste? Hideous.

I call the vendor. Can we return them for cash? Nope. Only exchange. Rats. Double rats because our options are other hummingbird type options. I am not a painted hummingbird type person. At all.

I am thinking perhaps we just put these in the Goodwill pile, even though Doris paid $100 for them - on sale! - when she starts pestering Primo about my October birthday. Would I like this or this or that? She emails him links to various items, none of which he knows I would like.

We decide to address this issue, which has been festering for a while. Doris and Sly send us expensive, yet tacky, presents we neither like, need, nor want, then expect us to spend like amounts on every gift-giving occasion for them.

Indeed, they do things like send us a link to $99 outdoor lights and say, "Give this to Doris for mother's day." $99 for mother's day?! I send my mom a card! Yet they expect $100 for every occasion. That gets expensive and we cannot afford it. I'd rather pay off our mortgage, thank you very much.

I must say in Doris' defense that she has for years asked Primo what he wants and he won't tell her, so he has only himself to blame for a lot of the crap he has gotten. We can send her a list of stuff we want, which she will buy, but we don't need stuff. I would be thrilled if they would chip in for our plane tickets to their place, but Primo doesn't want to do that. What I really want is a moratorium on expensive gift giving. Stop the madness.

Primo writes a thoughtful, tactful email in which he tells his parents that although we appreciate the sentiment behind the gift of the tables, they really do not fit our decor.* He says that we also are not comfortable accepting expensive gifts from them given their financial situation** and would rather see them spending their money on themselves. He says he and I have merged two complete households, we really don't need any stuff, that maybe if they do want to give us presents, they could get us restaurant coupons or pay for our tennis classes.

Doris' response?

"I'm sorry my taste isn't to your standards."

When I tell Primo that his mother is passive aggressive, this is the sort of thing I mean. But maybe I am using the wrong terminology. Perhaps passive aggressive is not right. Manipulative? Martyrish?

Doris continues. "Your brothers liked the tables."

Ha. That's a lie. I ask Stephanie if Doris has given her or Jack the tables and she says no and that she hasn't seen them at Jack's. She also says that Ted's wife, Maura, would have just given the tables right away to Goodwill and not said anything.

So Primo has to have a long, long phone call with Doris and Sly about presents. And why we are So Hard to Shop For. He is exhausted by the time it is done, because of course the conversation has to expand to Why Don't You Visit More Often and Why Are You Married To That Woman Anyhow and You Don't Call Enough.

He does, however, emerge victorious with an agreement that we will return the tables for cash that will be used to pay for our tennis classes next summer and that my birthday present, even though I kept waving my hands mouthing, "No presents! Let's agree to NO BIRTHDAY PRESENTS FOR ANYONE!" will be a set of cloth napkins from Crate and Barrel, even though Doris the environmentalist thinks cloth napkins are unsanitary*** which I suppose they would be if you never washed them.

And we think things are fine.

Until Christmas.

* Which they have seen because they stayed with us for NINE DAYS when we got married. I assure you there is absolutely nothing in our house to indicate a liking of items with hummingbirds painted on them. Or of pressed wood. Nothing.

** They made a business investment that did not end well.

*** I think paper napkins are wasteful for me but great for everyone else because I used to work for a paper company and will someday I hope have a defined benefit pension coming to me so use paper, everyone.


  1. Ah, gift-giving debacles, the stuff family life is made of...
    Those tables sound pretty awful.

  2. I thought returning the hideous tables for a refund wasn't an option, only an exchange.

    I have a similar problem with my sister, who I am not close to. She keeps sending really odd, inappropriate gifts for my kids even though we've asked her to stop.

  3. Maureen, the tables were hideous- cheap, nasty Chinese stuff.

    Richard, exchange was the only option if we didn't want Doris to know what was going on. I could not return them for cash - only the buyer could get the cash refund.

    I even talked to a customer service rep about pretending they were damaged as a way of telling Doris that we'd just rather have the cash, but we were afraid she'd just order a replacement. The CSR said that they get a lot of people trying that because so many people don't like them.

  4. I completely understand this. Really, I think your in-laws are related to mine...

  5. Well, we've been using cloth napkins for ... 25 years or so, so you can't count my contribution to the paper company!

    Seriously, when family gift giving got to the point where we were just exchanging gift cards, I waited until March. Then I emailed that we were not interested in exchanging gifts during Christmas. It was far enough out so that it minimized the effects.


    1. I overheard someone talking about the gift cards she was getting for her family and I thought, "Then just send cash. What's the point of getting the dang card?" And of course, sending cash is pointless. Just don't exchange cash with each other!

  6. You are a mean , self centered person with no respect for elders. It is a nice gesture for his parents to send you gifts. Also, the fact that you want them to pay for your plane tickets to visit his own parents shows how selfish you are. No wonder you only have 78 readers.

    1. Doris, is that you? :)

      Thank you, anon, for your hilarious comment. Yes, I am TOTALLY MEAN for not wanting someone who can hardly lift herself out of a chair to make the effort to buy something for us - to spend the money - on something we don't want. SOOOOOO MEAN!