Last year my cousin gave me a fruitcake for Christmas that I had given his mother two years before. I know it was the same one because I made it myself and it had my personal handwritten label on it. I was a little offended at the time but thought I had let it go. Now as I am considering gifts for this year, I realize I am more than a bit peeved and do not even want to do anything for him. Would that be incredibly rude?
My Dear Bill,
In a word, yes. Your cousin probably had no way of knowing the fruitcake came from you in the first place and may have been suffering from the delusion that fruitcakes remain edible for years. Most of us know this is hardly the case. I once remodeled a kitchen using a couple of fruitcakes that had been handed down to me a few too many times as extra bricks for fillers in a dividing wall. It was late on a Sunday evening, I found myself short on supplies, and all the hardware stores were closed. Those old sweetmeats made a mighty fine substitute. The house has long been sold, but I keep in touch with the present owners and that wall is still quite sound.
Perhaps your cousin, as well as your aunt, has caught on to one of the latest trends in the world of giving—“re-gifting.” Many consider this a form of recycling and a creative way of both keeping expenses down and not buttering the Wonder Bread of corporate conglomerates. I certainly find no fault of form or thinking here. What I would caution against is keeping the presents all in the family. There is, as you have discovered, an excellent chance someone will end up being be found out.
The best strategy to employ with your cousin (or with anyone) is to take the high road. Being human, you may be tempted to give that cake right back to him. Bill, please don’t do that. It sounds like you have a fondness for baking. Why don’t you bake him something that is known to have a limited shelf life? If you are pressed for time, pick something up for him that you know he would really enjoy. Do try and stay away from candles this year. Recent studies have reported they are the most re-gifted and returned item on the swapping block. Have a wonderful holiday.
Help. My husband reads too many fashion-gossip magazines. He is now is under the impression that it’s okay to go out to dinner or social functions wearing hats because he sees pictures of Brad Pitt doing it. It’s embarrassing for me and I can’t seem to make him understand that he is not a movie star and we don’t live in Follywood. Am I being too uptight about this? He is 41 years old and a doctor.
My Dear Elizabeth,
Simply put, gentlemen do not wear hats inside unless they are required for professional reasons. They certainly do not don them in restaurants or when making appearances at social gatherings. I glance at the occasional “Style and Smile” rag myself and have seen these glamour boys with their head gear held high, which always causes me to shake mine. I don’t think you are being uptight at all. It seems to me you are attempting to spare your poor husband some needless embarrassment by suggesting he act like a grownup and employ respectable manners. It is quite reasonable, Elizabeth, to expect your mate to act in ways that will not embarrass you. Unfortunately, reality does not always meet our expectations. Hopefully your husband will grow out of this phase. If not, don’t worry—by next week Mr. Pitt will be dressing like a spokesmodel for Banana Republic. They don’t call them fads for nothing.