Dear Ms. Meniscus:
I have a Christmas question for you and I guess it doesn’t matter really that I have bad arthritis or not. It’s a bad relative question. I go to my brother’s house for Christmas and every year his wife gives me a gift I know someone has given her before (does she think I don’t remember?). I told my husband she does this but he still thinks I should buy her something new even though we are not made of money. Do you think it would be okay for me to give her something that someone gave me that I didn’t like and not tell my husband?
Hark the herald, angels sing…(or cry)…’tis the season of re-gifting.
It sounds as if your sister-in-law re-gifts you an item that’s been given to her in your presence. Madame hopes this isn’t the case—but from what you’ve written, (“does she think I don’t remember”) it certainly sounds like it. How appalling! How far back does your memory go? When it comes to families and slights, Madame would say: quite a way back! Your sister-in-law’s gift giving appears to be an in-your-face act of hostility taped with a bit of wrapping paper. Madame hopes you are certain that a particular item of contention is not simply dog-eared but actually, clearly, memorably, opened in your presence. So the time has come to say something. “Oh, dear me, Gertie, aren’t these kitchen towels lovely—they remind me of the ones you have. Thank you. Then, when you get home, donate them to a good cause.
With the towels gone, we still have the matter of revenge, Lisa dear, you do know that two wrongs don’t make a right. There are some people who believe re-gifting is a mere slight, but it’s insulting in many cases. Sometimes the re-gifter isn’t cautious. They leave (gasp) an old gift card in the bottom of an ugly wedding vase, or they forget to check the tag on the champagne box. Madame isn’t going to lecture on the artless form of re-gifting, for that you can turn to the Internet. What she will tell you is that since there’s no love lost between you and Sister (in-law) Carrie, why emulate her? Bake a cake for your brother and his family, bring a lovely little plant, or a box of candy. It doesn’t have to cost much to keep your sanity during this joyful (we hope) season. Don’t spend a fortune, don’t bother lying to hubby, and most importantly, maintain your dignity, especially when it’s over a kitchen towel.
Good luck, and happy wishes!