Author Topic: Reciprocal gift question  (Read 2340 times)

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Lynn2000

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Reciprocal gift question
« on: December 18, 2013, 04:58:45 PM »
This might be another case where I'm over-thinking things, but you guys are so good at offering different perspectives, I wanted to throw it out there. :)

I've been friends with Joan for a long time, best friends for a few years, but gradually we've drifted apart both emotionally and geographically. Typically we do get each other gifts at Christmastime. This year, I realized I had had no contact with Joan at all since we exchanged gifts in 2012, save from the occasional "like" or brief comment ("Happy birthday!") on each other's Facebook page. Oh, and I just sent her and her DH a Christmas card. I've been gradually reducing the effort and money I spend on her gift over the years and this seemed like a good time to faze out exchanging gifts with her at all. What I decided was that I would not get her anything, unless she brought it up herself and seemed to want to keep exchanging gifts (and then I would get her an Amazon gift card that could be sent to her instantly).

She hadn't mentioned anything so I figured we just wouldn't exchange gifts anymore. (Our birthdays are close together and about a month before Christmas; for the last few years we've combined birthday and Christmas gifts into one. If I were sending her something, I would have sent/mentioned it already, but I can't be sure what her timeline is.) Then yesterday, she included me on a message to friends in this area about when she would be in town over the holidays, and when could we get together? So she and I are now planning to have lunch together on a certain day next week. (It will be just the two of us, unless her DH and/or her mom comes along.) That's all fine, it will be good to see her.

What I'm wondering is, what if I get to lunch, and she has a present for me? In kind of an odd twist, her gifts for me have been increasing in (apparent) effort over the years, while mine have decreased, so if there was a present, it probably wouldn't be a token but rather something fairly decent, like maybe related to a hobby of mine or something. Or, of course, she could have decided to get me nothing. Normally I'm comfortable with accepting an unexpected gift graciously and not worrying about reciprocating it, but to me this is an odd situation because we've always exchanged gifts in the past--so if there was a gift, it wouldn't exactly be unexpected.

So I'm just wondering what you guys think about this situation, and if you have any advice for me. :)
~Lynn2000

kikikins

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Re: Reciprocal gift question
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2013, 05:03:55 PM »
I am not sure if there is a way to ask her before your lunch.

If you arrive and it is apparent that she brought you something, could you tell her lunch is on you so she doesn't have to worry about bringing a gift home while she is traveling?

Lynnv

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Re: Reciprocal gift question
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2013, 05:12:00 PM »
How about a gift card to someplace both you and she like.  If she whips out a gift, you can give her the card.  If she doesn't, you can use the card for yourself.
Lynn

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Runningstar

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Re: Reciprocal gift question
« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2013, 05:14:33 PM »
Lynn2000, I think that you need to either come right out and tell her beforehand that you are not going to be exchanging gifts with her (you can soften this up), or bring her a gift.  Since the history is that you will be exchanging gifts, and nothing has been actually said about stopping it, then it would be awkward to just not bring a gift.  Also, if a friend of mine was giving me less and less, I might just think that she is having a hard time financially and that she wanted to stop exchanging wouldn't cross my mind.

veronaz

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Re: Reciprocal gift question
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2013, 05:16:36 PM »
I am not sure if there is a way to ask her before your lunch.

If you arrive and it is apparent that she brought you something, could you tell her lunch is on you so she doesn't have to worry about bringing a gift home while she is traveling?

This would be fine.

bah12

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Re: Reciprocal gift question
« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2013, 06:00:31 PM »
I'm a little confused on why her gifts would be increasing in effort if your drifting apart emotionally?  Perhaps her gifts are a way to communicate that even if you're geographically separated and don't talk to/see each other as much as you used to, that your friendship is still just as valuable to her.
What is causing this drift for you?

Anyway, if your overall desire is to phase out gift exchanges with her regardless of the increased effort she's putting into these exchanges, then I don't think it matters if she has a gift for you at this lunch or not.  You could offer to buy her lunch and/or whip out an extra gift card you have, but the only thing you really "owe" her in exchange is a sincere thank you. 

Lynn2000

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Re: Reciprocal gift question
« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2013, 07:01:00 PM »
I'm a little confused on why her gifts would be increasing in effort if your drifting apart emotionally?  Perhaps her gifts are a way to communicate that even if you're geographically separated and don't talk to/see each other as much as you used to, that your friendship is still just as valuable to her.
What is causing this drift for you?

Anyway, if your overall desire is to phase out gift exchanges with her regardless of the increased effort she's putting into these exchanges, then I don't think it matters if she has a gift for you at this lunch or not.  You could offer to buy her lunch and/or whip out an extra gift card you have, but the only thing you really "owe" her in exchange is a sincere thank you.

OP here. Glad you asked about the history. :) I didn't want to overburden the first post with background.

I'll try to keep it brief. When Joan first moved away across the country, I feel like I tried hard to keep up with her--emails, gifts that I put a lot of effort into, etc.. And I did not get much effort back, I felt. No response to my emails for weeks, Christmas gifts finally sent in February, no thanks at all for the gifts I sent her unless I initiated contact... and some history of her being critical of gifts, as well.

This went on for years, and I finally got tired of it. I started consciously minimizing the gifts I gave her, and I didn't bother initiating contact with her unless I had a specific reason. As far as I could tell she had no reaction to this. About three years ago, all of sudden, her gifts to me (which had been kind of weird and random IMO) suddenly became quite on target. I really don't know why this changed... because we don't talk.

Nice gifts are nice, but I personally can't base a friendship just on that. I don't know what's going on in her life, I don't know what her interests are anymore, etc.. Like I said, we haven't had substantial contact since this time last year. I think of her fondly, I look forward to seeing her at lunch, but I'd rather spend my gifting money/effort on people I really have an active friendship with, and not someone who I just think of fondly from "the old days." I would really just like to take money out of the equation, think of her fondly, get together if we can, and not think about it any further.

I think your conclusion is correct, though. Even if I knew she was bringing me something cool, I would probably just get her... another Amazon card, and then next spring suggest ending the gift exchange completely. So maybe it doesn't really matter. I love how you guys can help me see things more clearly. :) I can definitely pay for lunch, but we're meeting at a little diner, so that wouldn't exactly be a big expense.
~Lynn2000

sammycat

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Re: Reciprocal gift question
« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2013, 08:25:11 PM »
Could you take something rather generic, or that you also like, and keep it on your bag or car, and if she doesn't bring anything for you you can just keep it for yourself if need be?

Zizi-K

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Re: Reciprocal gift question
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2013, 08:37:16 PM »
Why not send an email beforehand and say, "Hi Friend, I'm really looking forward to our lunch next week, but I wanted to check and see if we were still planning on exchanging gifts? Things have been quite busy for me lately, so it would be a relief for me to skip it, and I would be perfectly happy just to enjoy the lunch catching up."

You say this person is not a good friend, and that you don't want to exchange gifts, so why not be upfront about it? She too might be relieved not have to shop for one more thing, and travel with it. If she gets offended...well, it doesn't seem like such a loss.

Lynn2000

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Re: Reciprocal gift question
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2013, 08:55:31 PM »
Why not send an email beforehand and say, "Hi Friend, I'm really looking forward to our lunch next week, but I wanted to check and see if we were still planning on exchanging gifts? Things have been quite busy for me lately, so it would be a relief for me to skip it, and I would be perfectly happy just to enjoy the lunch catching up."

You say this person is not a good friend, and that you don't want to exchange gifts, so why not be upfront about it? She too might be relieved not have to shop for one more thing, and travel with it. If she gets offended...well, it doesn't seem like such a loss.

The only thing I wondered about this was, is it too late in the season to broach the subject? My guess would be that if she was planning to get me something, she would have it by now, because she will probably start traveling Friday evening at the latest. I wouldn't mind saying something along these lines, though. "Please don't feel the need to get me anything, I'm just looking forward to catching up with you"? At least then if she's already gotten me something, she'll know I don't have anything for her. How does that sound? I of course would like to avoid offense if possible...
~Lynn2000

lowspark

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Re: Reciprocal gift question
« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2013, 09:47:51 AM »
How about a gift card to someplace both you and she like.  If she whips out a gift, you can give her the card.  If she doesn't, you can use the card for yourself.

This is exactly what I was going to suggest. A gift card that you can either keep or give to someone else if it turns out she didn't give you anthing. It's easy and small enough to fit in your purse.

My guess is that she is going to give you a gift. She initiated lunch. It's very close to Christmas. She apparently has been putting more thought into the gifts these last few years. Everything points to a very good chance she will expect to exchange gifts at lunch.

Lynn2000

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Re: Reciprocal gift question
« Reply #11 on: December 20, 2013, 12:06:48 PM »
Thanks for all of your thoughts, and for helping me to clarify mine. :) As I said, I think of Joan fondly and don't want to cut her off, I just want to be done worrying about what to get her as a gift, since I don't know her well enough anymore to choose something good, and our relationship is no longer such that I feel like spending that amount of money on a (generic) gift for her.

At this point, I've decided to bring her some homemade things. My mom and I were going to make cookies for various Christmas gatherings anyway, so I will give her a selection of those; and my mom and I also made some blank cards, which we just did for fun without any specific recipient in mind. I think a box of homemade cookies and some homemade cards would be a nice gift, but yet it's not personalized just for her, so it's sort of another minimization step without going completely empty-handed. In fact even if we'd agreed not to exchange gifts I would probably bring her the cookies anyway. Then hopefully in a few months I will remember to broach the subject of not worrying about personalized gifts at all.

Sometimes I feel like the only person who worries about things in this detail.  :P
~Lynn2000

Runningstar

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Re: Reciprocal gift question
« Reply #12 on: December 20, 2013, 05:00:34 PM »
I love this idea Lynn2000. :)

Lynn2000

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Re: Reciprocal gift question
« Reply #13 on: December 20, 2013, 05:11:06 PM »
Thanks! I feel kind of... cold and calculating, quantifying gifts like this, but I guess that's how my brain works.  :P I actually love giving gifts, but I never want to get stuck in one of those situations where I feel obligated to get someone a gift but don't know them very well, so I go with something generic--the proverbial "cousin-in-law" gift or something. And in this case, even though we used to know each other well, I feel like that's fallen away, and my attempts to change it have failed in the past, and now I would just be giving her a generic gift card, or buying her something from her Amazon wish list without having an understanding of how it fit into her life and interests. And that's not something I really take much joy in, and I do think gift-giving should be joyful, especially since these are totally optional "fun" gifts.
~Lynn2000

Zizi-K

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Re: Reciprocal gift question
« Reply #14 on: December 20, 2013, 05:43:06 PM »
I don't see anything wrong with your approach. Gift giving is wonderful - until the obligation comes in, and then it becomes a form of social currency that's not joyful but anxiety-producing. The cookies sound like a great idea, I hope you enjoy the lunch.