Miss Manners: Parents’ extravagant gifts make daughter feel guilty

December 31, 2018

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am 25, and this Christmas I got everything I asked for and then much, much more from my parents. I got expensive concert tickets and a diamond necklace on top of everything else.

I am so grateful, but when I open expensive gifts, I feel guilty because my parents do not buy themselves or each other any gifts. In fact, they hardly get any gifts for Christmas.

I do buy them gifts, but nothing near the level of what they give me, especially this year. I just can’t afford it, and they know this. Then to top it off, my mom said, “Oh I was gonna buy myself the necklace I got you because I liked it so much, but I decided not to.”

I said, “You should have! You deserve it!” But she shrugs it off. I tried saying, “You should buy yourself something nice; I know you could use a new camera. I am an adult; I don’t want anything big this year.” She said, “I do need a new camera, but they are so expensive!” She is right, and the kind she would like is way outside my budget. I suggested she and my father exchange gifts, but she claims they already agreed not to.

I know she is happy to give and her intentions are good, but it is not what I want. I want to see them open something that would make them happy. I wish they would understand that expensive stuff doesn’t make me happy.

I was thinking I want to give her the necklace she gave me. It’s beautiful and I know she will wear it more than me. It is not something I could ever afford to buy her. However, I am afraid she would be offended if I offer. Is it rude or selfish?

GENTLE READER: If you were in an O. Henry story, you would sell the necklace and use the money to buy your mother the camera. You would not tell her, but if she found out, you would explain that you know she wants to make you happy, and that is what makes you happy.

Miss Manners realizes that this violates her rule against rejecting presents. But while it is hard to say that someone who gives — or wants to give back — a diamond necklace is selfish, this one came with a hook, in addition to its clasp. You need to deal with the underlying issue, because it is going to keep recurring.

Alternatively, you could say that you want to share the necklace with her, and that it would have more meaning to you if she wore it first. And you should stop asking for presents — unless you ask for something, like the camera, that would make you happy because it would enable you to give it to her.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend just emailed that her housemaid threw out my holiday gift! How do I politely respond?

GENTLE READER: Not by sending another present, which is the only motive Miss Manners can imagine that your friend had for mentioning this. You need only say, “What a shame. I had hoped you would like it.”

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