Ask Amy: Friend’s gifts are really burdens

Dear Amy: I have a casual friend who won’t stop giving me excessive gifts, even after I have asked her to stop.

We take morning walks together, but we do not share any other social activities.

She found out when my birthday is, and surprised me with a custom-made cake and a large bag full (13 items) of what she called “trinkets,” but some of these items retail for at least $25 to $30 each!

I thanked her, but also protested loudly that it was way too much. I tried to reciprocate on her birthday, but could not keep up.

Christmas was even worse.

I felt so inadequate and uncomfortable that I talked to my therapist about it.

She suggested picking a time when there are no occasions coming up, and having a frank talk with her about how uncomfortable this makes me.

So I did.

I asked her if we could stop exchanging gifts, and she agreed.

This year around Thanksgiving I reminded her again to please NOT get me a Christmas gift, and she responded with an “eyeroll-OK-sure.”

This year she waited until Dec. 26 to leave it on my front porch, and claims it’s not a Christmas gift!

After I saw what was in that gift bag (the total value close to my entire gift budget for my grandkids), I actually sat down and cried.

Is something wrong with me? I know I’m practical and frugal to a fault.

Is this a new normal? Am I really that out of step with the times?

I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but how do I get her to stop?

What would you do?

— Retired Recipient

Dear Recipient: You are not out of step. This is NOT the “new normal.”

You are not practical and frugal “to a fault.” Your walking partner is a boundary-leaper to a fault.

Your choice to follow your therapist’s advice was a good one. You have handled this well. You’ve asked the other person to cease this behavior which has made you so uncomfortable, and she agreed.

You’ve asked what I would do? I would react the same way you have — bewildered and doubting myself.

I think you should consider returning these gifts. Tell her, “I was honest about how uncomfortable this makes me. I’m upset that you haven’t respected our agreement. I can’t figure out why you don’t understand my feelings, but for our friendship to continue, I need you to agree to stop doing this. Please — no more gifts of any kind. I just want to enjoy our relationship, without anything else attached. Can you do that?”

If she responds with a wink wink, nod, nod, then you should assume that she will simply never take your needs seriously or respect your wishes.

Dear Amy: My friend says that people hardly ever change. He says that we have to just accept or detach from them.

I think people can change.

What do you think?

— Brian

Dear Brian: Let me put it this way: I’m absolutely convinced that I can change, and yet I know that I’m unlikely to change much.

I also have faith that others can change, but I don’t make the mistake of assuming that their changes will be those I’d wish for.

I agree with your friend that dramatic and lasting change is rare, but I take issue with the “accept or detach” idea. Acceptance is a form of detachment in its purest form, but sometimes — when change is necessary for a relationship to continue — if change doesn’t happen, disengagement is called for.

Dear Amy: “Shattered” was a woman who gained significant weight after a bad break up. Even though she had lost a large portion of it, she still couldn’t stand looking in the mirror or taking photos of herself.

Your advice was sound, but it seems like a good place to also offer advice on practicing body neutrality.

We tend to get trapped in a cycle of feeling “ugly,” “gross,” or “unworthy” when our bodies aren’t what we wish they were. It’s so freeing to walk the path of a body being good simply because it is a body.

As someone who struggled with their looks for years, when I began to recognize that my body was good simply because it did the things bodies are made for, I found myself freed from negative emotions connected to its form and began to develop positive feelings toward its function.

— The Owner of a Good Body

Dear Owner: I love the way you expressed this. Thank you!

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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