While I was visiting my friend, she pulled out a huge shopping bag and started to stuff it with makeup, costume jewelry, clothes, accessories, and even expensive perfume. She did not ask if I wanted these things — just handed me the bag on my way out the door. Her generosity touched me, but I am not dressed in rags. My clothes fit me well and are clean with no rips, tears, or stains. I have a good purse I picked up for a song at a local thrift shop and good basic walking shoes. I do not wear makeup or color my hair because I am usually alone for days at a time except to run to the post office or grocery store. If I need to dress up, I can fuss and put on appropriate clothes.
I feel offended. In my whole life only two other well-meaning friends have gone so far as to purchase a blouse or top for me. A whole wardrobe — which, by the way, is not to my taste or in my size, plus all the bells and whistles, is a first-time experience. I do not understand why people would take it upon themselves to buy/give me clothes and think it would be a swell idea. It hurts my feelings, and the clothes are wasted because I never wear them, plus a resentment develops on my part. Since I saw her, I have received two more items in the mail from her that include a designer jacket for over $150 and a designer purse for over $75. I budget $25 a week for food for myself and eat a very healthy diet. For someone to think I would want or need a designer jacket that costs more than six weeks worth of what I would spend on groceries is ludicrous.
My friend is very smart, kind, and generous, but giving me stuff only makes me feel like I am lacking in her eyes. It makes me want to retreat from too much further contact. It makes me feel like I must look god-awful for someone to step into my life and shove clothes down my throat. I am comfortable with who I am, as I am, and these acts of generosity shake me up. I know she would die if she knew her gifts and generosity were hurting me, but I have no way of handling this situation that won’t take an emotional toll on me. — I Yam What I Yam
There are two things that I think maybe you could stand to have better perspective on. First, you say that you “suffer from chronic depression and have had to face a lot of challenges without support from a loving family or a support system,” and it is entirely possible that you’re friend is responding to THAT more than what you perceive is a response to your appearance. Maybe she picked up on the depression or you flat-out told her you suffer from depression and that, for most or all of your adult life, you’ve had little to no support. She is in a position of having material abundance and can share that with you as a way of showing you support. Her gifts to you are exactly that — a show of support — and not a show of intolerance or judgement about the way you look or live. Secondly, no, your friend will not “die” if she learns her gifts and generosity are hurting you! Of course, she’ll likely feel bad that she’s hurt you, but if she cares about you — and it sure sounds like she does, she would much more prefer the temporary embarrassment of learning she’s been hurting you over the longterm scenario of continuing to hurt you and continuing to waste money on things you don’t want.
You have to tell her to stop giving you these things you have no use for! Of course, you want to do this in the most tactful, face-saving way. I suggest this:
“There’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you and haven’t known exactly how to say it. First, I am so glad we’ve reconnected, and I really have enjoyed our calls and emails and texts and our recent visit. Your friendship and support have meant so much to me! And while I appreciate the gesture and the intention behind all the generous gifts you’ve given to me, I need you to know that I’m not wanting for material things. They simply don’t fit my lifestyle. I know you want to show you support me, and you already do that perfectly just by being a caring friend who stays in close touch. That is truly all I need or want from you — you, just you, are more than enough. And I hope that I, just as I am, am enough for you, too.”
Now Janet is asking to stay in our vacation home without us there. When my husband didn’t answer her right away, she texted several times asking again. She didn’t take our subtle hints that it wasn’t ok. We invited her and her husband to come with us the next time we were going, and she claimed it was too expensive to go at that time.
My husband’s brother stays in our vacation home when we are not there, but he’s family. We also trade a week’s vacation with a friend who lets us stay in his vacation home while he stays in ours. She just assumes that she can have a week now that she lied her way into staying in our home without us there.
How do I get my point across to her without ruining my husband’s friendship? He is sick over this, but I am angry that she has been so pushy. He thinks we should just let them go, but after being lied to, I refuse to be taken advantage of. I also think it will lead to more problems in the future if we do allow it.
What do you think we should do? — Don’t Want to Be Taken Advantage Of
Clearly, you don’t like Janet, and that’s fine. But your husbands are best friends, and you *say* you don’t want to ruin your husband’s friendship with Janet’s husband. One super easy way you could help not ruin your husband’s friendship and maintain friendly ties with this couple without the pressure of spending tons of time with a woman you don’t like would be to, you know, stop vacationing with them, so I don’t understand why you’re pushing a another joint vacation — why you’re telling them they can join you in your vacation home but can’t visit without you. Unless they were terrible guests who made a huge mess they didn’t clean up or who damaged or ruined something without offering to pay for it, I don’t understand why you’re so hellbent on making sure they only stay there when you’re present. Because Janet lied about the flights that one time? Because you want to punish her? Because you don’t want to be taken advantage of? Again, this would be all well and good if you wanted to cut all ties with the couple, but you *say* you want your husband to maintain his friendship with Janet’s husband, so being petty for the sake of being petty probably isn’t going to help accomplish that.
If this is about not wanting Janet to get a completely free vacation in the home you’ve obviously paid for, charge her and her husband a cleaning and maintenance fee. Explain that in the past when you’ve had guests stay there without you, there has usually been an exchange in place, and, in lieu of that, you’re asking for X amount to go toward the electricity and energy they’ll be using and for hiring cleaners after they leave.
But, really, I still think you’re being petty. I live in a neighborhood in Brooklyn where it’s fairly common to offer up homes to acquaintances — for free — when you’re going to be away for a week or whatever so that visiting family members and friends of said acquaintances have a place to stay that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg like most hotel rooms here cost. There are literally pages on Facebook devoted to this. I’ve had acquaintances offer their weekend homes to me and my family just to be nice (again, for free) — just because they were lucky to have something they thought we’d enjoy and we live in/mutually create a culture of generosity and hospitality. I’m not saying this kind of system is for everyone or that you’d never get taken advantage of, but I do think that being generous for the sake of being generous is so much more beneficial than being petty for the sake of being petty. And that’s just when we’re talking about acquaintances or people you aren’t super close to. When it’s your husband’s best friend, and you want to deny something that is super easy to give just because you *think* you caught his wife in a white lie once or you’re afraid of “future problems” that you don’t/can’t elaborate on, and your husband is “sick over it,” well, that’s pretty fucking petty, and I don’t think you really care about your husband’s friendship — or his feelings — as much as you say you do.
If this still isn’t resonating with you, look at it this way: compare the worst-case scenario of letting them stay in your vacation home without you (they ask to stay again some time or maybe they break something?) to the worst-case scenario of telling them no (it ruins your husband’s relationship with his best friend and, while you never have to deal with Janet and her husband again, your husband is forever mad at you for ruining his friendship). Whichever outcome is least preferable to you, do the other thing.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.