I have my own story to tell, one that I got quite a few negative comments about my behaviour regarding the matter. I thought this would be nice to know where everyone stands in this story, thanks to your expert advice.
First, let me tell you a little about the actors in presence. There’s me (Dave), and my partner (Gary). Gary comes from a large family. I am accepted in his family, and enjoy my time spent with the “in-laws”. Among Gary’s family, there’s his brother, his sister-in-law, and their two children, aged 15 and 18. The parents are quite materialistic people, and that behaviour has left an imprint in their children.
It was a few weeks before the holidays. The problem occurred when we were discussing Christmas presents, in a perfectly casual and practical manner. Gary’s niece went to her purse, retrieved a piece of paper, and made the rounds with it. That was her Christmas wish list. The two things that irked me were : 1) She had written extremely expensive items on her list, mostly musical instruments, like a piano, guitar, set of drums, ukulele, etc. 2) I was the first person she handed the paper to and asked me to pick something to give her. While I make a decent salary, it is not one that can let me afford such luxuries for myself, even less for my partner’s niece. And her list was quite unbalanced, with only two much lesser-priced items, which, unsurprisingly, had already been picked out.
Here’s where, according to a few people, I made the first faux pas. I asked her, in a sarcastic tone of voice, if she wanted to have an orchestra for Christmas? She replied, I guess innocently enough, that she would learn to play whatever instrument she would be offered. Why didn’t I think of a kazoo then, I cannot imagine! Her mother intervened, maybe sensing that her little girl was going a bit overboard with her Christmas shopping.
Fast forward to Christmas. I decided to offer my partner’s niece two things, one of which I hate giving, namely a gift certificate of a decent amount, for a music (CDs and DVDs) store. In my mind, those certificates are way too impersonal, and I very rarely use them. The second thing was a joke, namely a Christmas CD of Brian Setzer Orchestra. As I explained to the family, the reasoning was that she got the orchestra she wanted, in a format that would fit in her room! To her credit, she took the gifts graciously enough. But apparently, that’s when I made the second boo-boo.
A few unrelated people present that day told me that I was being rude and downright nasty to make fun of her by offering her a CD. To me, it was less being rude and more about giving, in jest, a lesson in good manners. Guess I blew it.
What do you think? And if I am the offender, what could have been a good way to handle the matter? 0610-11
I’m aghast her parents thought their daughter’s blatant gift demands were not worthy of putting the kibosh on. Had I been in your shoes, the sucking in of my breath may have created a serious air vacuum in the room. I may have handed the wish list back saying, “I’m so sorry. I’m not Santa Claus and fulfilling this wish list is above my pay grade.” Or a simple, “I’m so sorry, I cannot accommodate your requests.”
She asked for a piano but unless she specified which kind, I might have bought her a $30 kalimba, otherwise known as a “thumb piano”.
The only possible error was in explaining to people why your gift was a joke. Her greed and presumptions doesn’t give you carte blanche to embarrass her on Christmas Day in front of everyone. You could have given her the Brian Setzer Orchestra CD but it would have been a private joke between you and her with others merely assuming to know why you gave it.