I was having a nice chat with a friend on the phone the other day. We don’t know each other very well, but see each other at parties maybe twice a year, and I really like her. Out of nowhere she said, “Do you have a teapot in the shape of a bird?” (she knows I’m a keen bird watcher).
I replied, “No I haven’t”, but I really wanted to add, “..and I wouldn’t want one. I hate that kind of thing!” But of course I didn’t. She sounded delighted and excited with my response, and said, “Ah, then wait till the next time I see you!”.
I’m sure you can see what’s coming. She’s been to a charity shop and found a cheap novelty teapot in the shape of a bird, remembered I like birds and bought it for me. Unfortunately I hate novelty nik-nacks of all kinds. I know some people love them, but I won’t have them in the house. I realize I sound ungrateful, but when she next comes round I’ll have to pretend to be delighted with the gift, so that she’ll be happy she bought it for me, then keep it for a couple of years in case she asks where it is, all the time hating the darned thing and resenting having to look after it.
This isn’t an unusual situation, I know. How could I have politely let her know on the phone that I don’t want this gift? And now how can I receive the gift in a way that let’s her know I like her, and appreciate the thought, but without opening the flood gates to more?
Any advice, gratefully received. 1103-14
I think you are missing the hidden jewel of your dilemma and are focusing on making a mountain from an ant hill. There are lonely people in this world who would be thrilled that someone, anyone, would have been thinking of them in the midst of their daily life and then taken the extraordinary step of buying a gift the giver felt would be appreciated. There is not one hint of malice, evil, selfishness or unkindness in what your friend has done that deserves your dread and hatred of the gift.
It may be a cliche to say that “it is the thought that counts” but you would do well to ponder this more fully. From my perspective, you are entirely viewing this as to how it inconveniences you and focusing on the material. As I get older, I have become less enamored with material possessions and more appreciative of acts of thoughtfulness and kindness from people. But there are material possessions that are so intertwined with someone’s thoughtfulness and kindness that I cannot bear to part with them. As I type I am looking at a small glass rose sitting right under my monitor. I hate glass work and would never buy it for myself but someone dear gave that to me and every time I see it, I see love.
You can pitch the teapot in the trash as that is your prerogative as the gift recipient but I would suggest examining the potential of deepening this friendship with this person who thinks of you when she’s out shopping. I read a lot of submitted stories to Ehell from lonely, sad people who cannot seem to find someone worthy of friendship and here you are with someone practically in your lap and you want advice on how to rid yourself of this problem. There is no polite way to tell someone you do not want their gifts of thoughtfulness.