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Gimme, gimme

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I love your site, it helps me keep my sanity during my workday! Maybe I am overreacting, but I thought that this was the height of tacky. My fiancé and I attended a couple of birthday parties for a good friend of ours here recently, the second of which was a surprise party that occurred about 10 days or so after her actual birthday. To preface, we are both college students on a limited budget and what with trying to save for our own wedding; we don't have any extra money. In spite of this we contrived to give her a reasonably nice gift at the first party, (and ate Ramen for a week) and then heard about the surprise party from her boyfriend 3 days before it was to occur. We cancelled other plans because we were told she would be upset if we did not attend and all her other friends were there. Well, this party is in the middle of nowhere at her sister's home, almost an hour's drive from our town. We asked up front if there was anything we should bring, and were told all that was required was our presence. The boyfriend was supposed to email us directions the day of to make sure it "stays a surprise", and never did. So here we are about 2 hours from the start of this thing making frantic calls for directions. We arrive and find out that this party is to be held outdoors on their back porch. No biggie, except that it is July in the Deep South and there are mosquitoes/other bugs everywhere, and of course no citronella candles or Deet to be had, and it is sweltering hot outside.

So our friend gets there, and is suitably surprised. The sister and her husband bring out this lovely wrought iron wine rack, which birthday girl is very happy with, and we all are thinking "what a nice gift". Bear in mind that ALL of birthday girl's friends at this party had attended the first one with gifts in tow, and are empty handed now because of it. Birthday girl is led inside by her sister (no one else is allowed inside) on some pretext or another, and sister's husband says: I need everyone to pitch in for the gift. WHAT??? I just stood there open mouthed while all of our friends started digging in their wallets and handing over 5's and 10's or whatever they had. Everyone else had given money, and the husband is just standing there looking at us with his hands full of bills. So, completely embarrassed, we slink off to the car and dig in the ashtray for change, which is all we have. The few quarters we can come up with got a decidedly chilly reception, to say the least. We dropped off the money, and said our goodbyes. To top it off, we were shopping a few days later in a specialty store for some things for our own wedding, and came upon the exact same wine rack, marked way down to $29.99. The wine rack they presented her with was in a bag from this store, so I am positive it is the same one. I know the husband took in more than 60 bucks from all of our friends who had already bought gifts for the first party. On top of that, we heard later from our friend that her sister had been offended that we left so quickly!!! Awful, awful, awful.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest!

Gimme 0806-03

I received an invitation to a House Warming party and was shock to see this on the invite "No gifts please, we prefer gift cards from Home Depot." I mean, why don't you just say "We know you have bad taste and we won't like anything you buy so save us the trouble of having to exchange it!" I don't know why I was surprised. A few years earlier the woman's parents threw her a surprise birthday party at a restaurant, rented the banquet room, had seating arrangements and when the waitress brought her parents the bill at the end, they had the guests pay the bill.

Gimme 0809-03

A friend of mine recently told me of a shower invitation she received. It was not a baby shower, or bridal shower, but rather, a "weight loss shower". The person in question is a co-worker and after joining a national diet program, lost a significant amount of weight. Since a new wardrobe is not cheap, she is throwing this shindig for herself. And to make this etiquette breach even more horrific/amusing, she distributed the "invitation" via a mass email to everyone she could think of, with a list of her favorite stores, and her new measurements and clothes size. I mean, really, what will people think of next?

Gimme 0926-03

Each year I sent my niece a present or check for her birthday. Usually my brother (her dad) would call and say thank you for the gift. More often than not though, I would call and make sure the gift even arrived. Usually, I would get a "oh yeah, she got it, thanks." Well, this wore real thin after a few years. Finally, one year, I had had enough and didn't send a thing. My niece called the day after her 9th birthday and said " um...yesterday was my birthday." I said "yes". Now keep in mind, I had just given birth two weeks before and she never even asked about the baby. She said "well, I didn't get my check for my birthday for you." I was so furious, first of all for this child to call me and "request" her check, then to my brother who didn't have the good manners to stop it. I said, "Well, where is my thank you card from last years gift?" She said, "Um, I didn't send one." I said "well then I didn't sent a gift this year." Surprisingly enough for Christmas that year, I DID receive a thank you card. My kids are pre-teens now, and I ALWAYS make them write thank you notes within 2 days of getting a gift for any occasion.

Gimme 1013-03

I had a friend that I will call "T". T was born with the misfortune of having a birthday between Christmas and New Year's Eve, and every year it was difficult to plan anything because people always had some type of family obligation or were out of town. Knowing T's situation year after year, my husband and I wanted to do something special and invite her to a 5 star restaurant.

T was very happy at the prospect of going to a fancy restaurant on her birthday. It was very difficult getting a reservation, but I managed to snag one. On her birthday, the day of our reservation, T called us up and said she really didn't want to go to a 5 star restaurant. Instead, she wanted to get some Indian food, and she called up 4-5 who were in town and wanted to go for Indian food as well. Baffled, but only wanting for T to be happy on her birthday, we called and cancelled the coveted reservation. We were extremely fortunate not to be charged a late notice. Before the birthday party at the restaurant, we stopped by a Pottery-Barn type shop and picked her up an espresso maker. She opened the gift at the restaurant along with her other gifts. We were surprised that these people were able to show up with gifts at the last moment. 2 days later, T calls me up to "discuss something". What she wishes to discuss with me is would I be willing to return the espresso maker. After all, she explains, she doesn't really drink coffee and has no use for it.

So now I have two presents that weren't good enough for T's birthday. After deciding that this will be the last birthday I celebrate with and for T, I go to T's apartment in the 'hood to pick up the espresso maker. After making small talk with her, T tells me what she wants from me for her next birthday - A surprise party! Yes, after rudely scrapping a 5 star restaurant reservation with us, after deciding that my espresso-maker wasn't good enough, this person had the gall to request a third present that required a heinous amount of work around the holidays and wanted it to be a surprise. From me! Needless to say, T's next birthday and two birthdays after that went unnoticed. And there were no surprise parties!

Gimme 1021-03

After a large musical production the cast decided to go to a fairly expensive all night deli. About 60 people in the cast plus quite a few of the tech crew were there and all were expecting to pay for their own food and drinks. I went as a stage mom since my 4 children were in the children's chorus. I ended up sitting at a table with a woman I had never met before and she explained that her teenage daughter knew some of the cast members and had come along to be with her friends. She told her daughter that she could only get some ice cream and then she just ordered a coffee. After about an hour, she got up to find her daughter and leave. While she was gone, one of the dads came to our table to announce that he was picking up the tab for the entire cast then left to let others know. A few minutes later the woman came back to the table. When we said we thought she was leaving, she said she had just ordered four Reuben sandwiches because "some guy" was buying. It was amazing that she was adding another $32 (4x$8 per sandwich) to a bill that was over $1,000 but that wasn't all. She got the sandwiches to go so she could feed them to her family for lunch the next. I've never, ever seen anything so tacky in my life.

Gimme 0416-03

First, the story:

Several years ago, my friend Jean, who lived in a city about an hour and a half away, phoned and informed me that a friend of hers was going to host a birthday party for her, and that she'd love for me to come. I enthusiastically accepted the invitation and wrote down all pertinent information, but wasn't able to chat for very long (I was on my way out), so I told her I'd call her back before the party to confirm details. I figured I'd ask her then if there was anything I could bring.

About a week before the party, Jean phoned back and said that since the friend throwing the party was buying the liquor, which would be costly, she thought that I might want to make and bring food. Some of the other invited guests, she said, had asked if they could bring anything, and she figured I would definitely want to, since she knew how I loved to cook (which is true and if I may say so myself, I do it pretty well).

That was OK by me--liquor is indeed expensive, so I'm all about sharing the burden. Besides, I had fully intended to ask her if I could bring something to the party, and had even looked forward to making something--so what if she'd beat me to the punch by broaching the subject first? So I again said sure, I'd love to!

I set to work scoping out tasty hors-d'oeuvre recipes, and when I found one I thought would be good, I phoned her back to ask if it sounded good to her. She paused, seeming hesitant to reply, so I thought she must have been working out a polite way to tell me that my snack suggestion sounded icky-awful to her! When she finally spoke, however, it was to inform me that yes, it sounded fine, but she hoped I'd bring more than THAT, because there were 20 people invited to this party; everyone might not like it, and besides, I'd have to make a lot of it to give 20 people enough to eat! I should, she suggested, probably bring a variety of dishes. This is when I realized that she was not expecting me to bring SOME food to the party--she expected me to bring THE food to the party (And OK, when she asked, she did say something like, "I thought you might want to make THE food," but because she then went on to tell me that other people had offered to bring items for consumption, I pretty much just ignored that fact.)

I was pretty shocked (after all, I was not the one who'd offered to throw this gal a party), but I shut my trap and looked up more (simple and quick) recipes. My original plan had been to arrive in her city well before the party, and shop for a gift there (much better shopping to be had in those parts) before I headed to her place, but in light of this new development, I decided that catering the entire party would be gift enough.

You can see where this is going, can't you?

Jean called yet again a couple of days later, and told me that since she knew I was going to get her a gift, she figured she'd make it easy on me and let me know what she wanted.

By then I was speechless. As it turned out, though, I supplied neither food nor a gift for the party; instead, I came down with bronchitis and found myself unable to move on the morning of the party. I'd stayed up late the night before making the food, however, and it was all ready to go, so my sister (who had not been invited to the party--she didn't know Jean well at all) offered to come pick it up at my house and drive the three-hour round trip just to drop it off at Jean's party. I told her not to bother, but she phoned Jean herself. Jean also told her not to bother (though I don't know how she fed people, since I found out later that the other guests who'd offered to bring food were told that it wouldn't be necessary). A couple of weeks later, Jean called me to see if I'd recovered from my illness. I told her that I had, and thanked her for her concern. Unfortunately, her REAL concern was whether or not I'd bought her the birthday gift she'd requested yet. If not, she said, she'd thought of something else she'd rather have. If I had, however, she'd be willing to accept TWO gifts, the second one as a way of making amends for the fact that I'd failed to provide the food I'd promised for the party . . . I believe that was the last time we spoke.

Gimme 0923-03

An acquaintance of ours from a church group, Millie, moved out of town, but would occasionally join our group for special occasions. She contacted my husband and I and asked if she and her sister could stop by our house before the church social (a potluck dinner) to visit with us, and to kill some time because they were coming into town a bit early to do some shopping. We agreed, happy to host them.

When the sisters arrived at our house, four or five hours before time to leave for the potluck, and well before we expected them, she asked if she could use our oven to bake some bread for the dinner. As it was otherwise unoccupied, we agreed. Once the bread was in the oven, she felt she needed to freshen up and asked to use our shower. A bit more unconventional a request, but we didn't have a problem with it. Once she got out of the shower, she asked if she could freshen up her clothes in our dryer to get out the wrinkles. Again, we gladly agreed, as it's the sort of thing we do for our friends.

She ran to the local grocery store to get a few last minute items for the dinner, and asked us if we needed anything from the store. I asked her to pick up two bottles of spaghetti sauce for a dish I was preparing for the dinner. I told her I appreciated her picking them up for me, and assumed it was on her dime as a return favor for letting her use our hot water and all of our appliances.

While she was gone, several other friends had arrived at our house to visit before we all left together. When Millie arrived back at our house from the store, she handed the bottles of sauce to my husband and, interrupting a conversation with someone else, demanded five dollars for it. My husband (a bit shocked) replied, "Sure, no problem, in a few minutes (when I'm done talking here...). About ten minutes later, when someone else brought up paying for something, Millie snidely said, "speaking of payment, I need five dollars for the sauce." I immediately wrote her a check! To this day among our circle of friends, she's known as "Five dollar Millie".

Gimme 1125-03

Page Last Updated May 15, 2007