Thank you too much!
May 26, 2009 6:42 PM   Subscribe

A friend made a really sweet, but kind of awkwardly generous, gesture. How to respond gracefully, while still giving her an out?

(Just as a preface, I have a hangup about receiving gifts and favors-- particularly big ones. They make me feel miserable and guilty, as though it's my fault that the person went to all this expense/trouble, and I get freaked out thinking about just how grateful I'll have to be to make it up to them. So if this seems kind of like a retarded overthinking of what should be a relatively straightforward social situation-- well, guilty as charged.)

So I had a baby last month, and various friends were excited and supportive, including the church choir where I sing. About two weeks after the birth, someone I know from choir approached me and said she'd like to throw a party for the choir at her house in the baby's honor. This was a pretty overwhelmingly generous offer, as the group is large (~25 people), and the woman in question doesn't even know me all that well (we've hung out a bit in the context of other church groups, but never one-on-one, and no conversations beyond small-talk). She's not a wealthy retired socialite or anything, either-- we're talking a super-busy shift-working mom of two, so throwing a party for a huge group of people would likely be a big deal for her in terms of the investment of time and money.

At the time, I thanked her profusely, and probably a bit anxiously, and she closed by asking me to let her know some dates that'd work. Four weeks later, I still haven't been able to bring myself to contact her, largely because I've been unable to figure out answers to the following:
  1. How can I give her a list of dates without sounding weird and presumptuous (like, "Ahem...the following are some good dates for you to schedule my party")?
  2. On the off chance that she might since have rethought her initial impulse, is there any way to avoid Abilening by politely giving her an out? I'm especially concerned about this given that lots of people have already met the baby (brought her to rehearsal a couple times) so a debut party at this point might seem a little anti-climactic.
  3. If the party does happen, is it appropriate for me to offer to pay for anything and/or help with prep, or would that be rude?
  4. Said party won't end up devolving into some kind of shower, will it? Because the choir already got us a group gift, and OMG uncomfortable.
  5. Although we haven't broken the news to anyone here yet, we're actually planning on moving out of the area in a few months. Does our secret lame-duck status change matters at all?
  6. And lastly, regardless of whether this happens, what might be some nice ways to let her know how much I appreciate the really sweet thought?
What's that you say? Why yes, I am kind of a social idiot. Advice from anyone versed in intermediate-level-and-above interpersonal interaction would be much appreciated!!
posted by Bardolph to Human Relations (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have no advice, but I just want to say that I have a similar hangup about receiving gifts and favors. You're not alone here.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:52 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

You're a new Mom who just, JUST had a baby. You'd be completely forgiven for "forgetting" the offer for the party due to your dirty diaper changing, lack of sleep mode. Let it rest. Claim you forgot if she brings it up again. If she does, just politely thank her and declare that things are a bit busy/crazy right now and that while you appreciate the offer, you'll need to pass at the moment. Feel free to mention that since the choir gave you a gift already, you'd be uncomfortable with an additional party. It may be that she also lets the issue rest. And yes, it would probably be another shower type of event.
posted by onhazier at 6:52 PM on May 26, 2009 [8 favorites]

Like madcaptenor, I have no advice, but I feel the same in regards to gift receiving.
posted by firei at 7:00 PM on May 26, 2009

My wife and I dealt with similar issues when her work and our church threw baby showers for her after our son was born. No one minded that it took a few weeks for us to get back to them, and her approach was usually "if you'd still like to host a baby shower, dates X, Y and Z work for me. Let me know if you'd still like to do this and which of those dates would work, if so."
posted by Happydaz at 7:17 PM on May 26, 2009

Given your description of your circumstances and personality, I would second onhazier's advice. It seems right on to me.
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 7:23 PM on May 26, 2009

I like onhazier's advice, too, but I would feel awkward every time I saw her, waiting to see whether or not it came up. If it were me, I'd initiate by calling her and saying, "Thank you, thank you, thank you for the gesture, but between just adapting to the new addition and the fact that the choir group already threw a shower, you shouldn't go to all the trouble and expense of a another party in the baby's honor." She might still insist, which to me means maybe she's the kind of person who really loves to throw parties and has been looking forward to throwing this one. Then either you can give her a date and feel comfortable knowing that the offer was more forthright or you can insist right back that you're not up for it. (I'll bet she backs off of the idea.)

And if it seemed a little uncomfortable, I'd probably invite her over or out for coffee or a drink sometime soon. I am sure you're busy and adjusting... but maybe now is the perfect opportunity to start a new friendship with another parent.

posted by juliplease at 7:31 PM on May 26, 2009 [6 favorites]

Think of it as a collaboration between you two to bring the baby to meet all those people. It's not that big of a deal, maybe a few hours? Be gracious and say "hey, you want to get together about that baby party?" She'll say yes, then you give her the dates and then show up. Done and done. If she didn't want to offer, she wouldn't have, so don't feel guilty for letting people do what they want to do.
posted by rhizome at 7:36 PM on May 26, 2009

I wonder if you realize -- some of us *really* like to give parties. Particularly if we like the person involved or the event or the occasion. It's *fun* for us! I think it's fine for you to let it slide and maybe the party doesn't happen, but I thought you should realize the flip side.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:08 PM on May 26, 2009 [7 favorites]

Some people (women, usually) LOVE to celebrate the arrival or impending arrival of babies and will go out of their way to do so. It sounds like your friend is one of those people. If you really don't want to have a party, you should tell her so that her feelings aren't hurt. Yes, you're a new mom and get some allowance for "forgetting" stuff like this but it's still sort of hurtful to never hear back from someone after you offer to throw them a party. It feels kind of like a snub. But you're perfectly within your right to not want to do this, especially since you're leaving town soon. If you want to do it, call up your friend and give her a few dates - she asked you to do that so it's not presumptuous of you to respond with a few dates. Yes, you can offer to pay for some of the party but you don't have to and you shouldn't insist. You'll soon find that babies make people do unexpected stuff. It's a good thing.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:11 PM on May 26, 2009

Some people Just Love Babies, especially new babies in their congregation. It seems like a celebration, and not an attempt to place you in any kind of obligation. Anyway to your points.

1). Really doesn't mater at all. She's be happy to hear from you. She did offer after all.

2). Not an issue. Also, the party is not redundant. She/they want to have a party together at a specific time. Doesn't matter if they have already met the baby. A party is something different.

3). Don't pay. You're the guest. Contributing a special dish might go down well - however new motherhood is also one time when you can happily accept other people cooking for you.

4). I don't think so. But maybe you could clarify, by asking, or by saying that "Well you don't know how to bring this up but if there are any, uhm gifts being considered, maybe a contribution to a charity in your name would be appreciated."

5). This would be the most awkward for me. But tell them when you have definite confirmed plans.

6). By going and being a gracious guest ;)

They want to see you and the baby. They really do. Maybe you could see this as doing them a favour by showing up and doing the new mom schtick. Who knows - you may meet other people there, other new parents, etc.

Remember - you have the ultimate get out of jail card - a new baby. You can leave any time you want because baby is looking tired/hungry/cranky etc.
posted by carter at 8:13 PM on May 26, 2009

And also what otherworldyglow said.
posted by carter at 8:16 PM on May 26, 2009

People love babies and love celebrating. it's okay to let them. In fact, it's nice to let them. Tell her you feel kind of shy about putting people out. Be firm about no gifts if you wish. But, honestly, I love buying adorable baby stuff to gift, and I'm not alone.

Babies are magic. People want to get close to that magic. Congratulations!
posted by theora55 at 8:49 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

You could contact her apologising for "forgetting", now that an amount of time has passed that obliges an apology. It seems fair enough to me to drop somewhere in there that, many of your choir-mates having met the baby and given gifts now in the time since you "forgot", you suppose that a party's no longer anything she should really trouble herself and her busy life to do for you -- though that you were touched and are so appreciative of her kind offer. Having thus given her an out, if she still expresses a wish to hold the party, then, as others say, you can just assume she loves parties and let her go for it. You can also put off offering dates unless she DOES come back still wanting to go ahead with it.

The fact that you're moving soon would probably make me feel weird about accepting their hospitality, so I get your problem there. If she communicates she wants to go ahead with her party, could you suggest she throw it as more of a general gathering at which you'll certainly bring the new baby to meet anyone who hasn't met him/her yet - as a "guest of honour", say! - but it's really also just a generic extra-curricular social thing? As a bonus, that might ward off gifts and things too?
posted by springbound at 9:23 PM on May 26, 2009

She specifically asked for it, so you can just give her said dates

Except except except -- I have known a staggering number of people who would make this kind of offer and expect the overture itself to be the gift, and would be quietly (maybe publicly) fuming about "what you've made her do" if she took you up on it. For real. I'm related to some of these people. How well do you know this person's pathologies? :^)

First step might be to let it "slip your mind due to your schedule". If she brings it up again, thank her and give a half dozen days, then insist that there be no gifts ("Thank you, but we have everything we need already!")

Oh, and get her something really cool and thoughtful and not at all normal to thank her.
posted by quarantine at 9:31 PM on May 26, 2009

Er -- if you took her up on it
posted by quarantine at 9:32 PM on May 26, 2009

If she hasn't mentioned it again (especially if you expressed interest previously) it's probably either slipped her mind or she's cooled off on the idea.

So there are two main options I'd be comfortable with - the first is the one everyone's mentioned, which is to 'forget' about it and just not bring it up again. This has the disadvantage that you feel tense and anxious wondering if it's going to come up or if she thinks you're rude for forgetting.

The second option is to contact her and say, "Hi, I just remembered that chat we had a few weeks ago about throwing a little party to celebrate (baby). Sorry for not saying anything sooner, but I just wanted to say thanks for the kind thought. I think everyone's had a chance to meet her by now, but I was wondering if you wanted to get together for lunch sometime." or something else that would let you guys get to know each other and be friendly without her needing to spend a lot of time/money. I think that also helps you not be too stressed about how much she's putting herself out - she's not! She's just meeting you for coffee or lunch or whatever.
posted by Lady Li at 11:24 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't worry about not contacting her.

For one thing, you've just had a kid!! Four weeks fly by!! You're entitled to spend your time getting to know your kid and getting adjusted to the situation. People have to understand that you are not going to be particularly engaged with the outside world, for reasons of logistics, and reasons of biology.

As well, there are certain kinds of people who are "helpers" - they want to help people whether the person has requested help or not. Your new friend has probably done this before and has received the same reaction or lack of reaction (I speak as a former "helper" personality... Helpers can sometimes become great at sales, as long as they remember the mantra that you should always give the customer what they want, rather than what you think they need.)

Anyway, like Lady Li says, perhaps contact her and invite her over to visit with the baby. If the topic of a party comes up, you should communicate clearly: "I'm not sure I'm ready for a party just yet. I'm still getting adjusted to life with a new baby."
posted by KokuRyu at 12:17 AM on May 27, 2009

Note: I am coming at this from the perspective of a fellow overthinker. So, I sympathize with your predicament.

However, while reading your question, I was struck by this phrase:

[she] said she'd like to throw a party for the choir at her house in the baby's honor

That sounds to me like she may have been thinking of having an event for the whole choir anyway, and that your new baby is just a nice excuse to actually have that party. Thus, there's a good chance that she just likes hosting parties. And, given the hectic nature of new parenthood, she wants to make sure it's a time convenient for you (hence asking you for dates that are OK).

Re: the moving thing: if you are OK with telling people soon that you will be moving, it doesn't have to make the party an awkward event; instead, it could function as a "welcome baby/bon voyage to Bardolph/we'll miss having you in our choir" party.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:09 AM on May 27, 2009

I think Lady Li and KokuRyu have the right answers, if you're as uncomfortable with the situation as it seems you are. Just because your friend loves throwing parties (allegedly~) in no way obligates you to be excited about going. However, she probably is trying to do something nice for you, so I think the lunch idea might be spot on, if you would enjoy that yourself.

Seriously, though, you just had a baby. You probably have way more stress than any person should ever have to deal with. I like to think that most people would understand if you said that you just couldn't handle a big party right now.
posted by ashirys at 7:06 AM on May 27, 2009

Everyone has given you some good advice here. One thing I didn't see is ask her to make the party pot luck. This way she is not paying for everything out of pocket and everyone can contribute equally. When sending out invites just put down Pot Luck... Bring desert to one guest, app to another and so on. Also honest is always the best policy. Talk to her and let her know that you already had a shower and you want to be involved in the planning. This way if you are planning it you will know what is going on. My 2 cents. Spend them wisely. Lastly congrats on the baby!
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:00 AM on May 27, 2009

If I offered to throw a party for someone (for any reason) and they took over a month to get back to me about the party date, I would assume they are not interested. Granted, in such a situation I would have been a terrible nag, repeatedly stressing the offer still stands and pushing for a date. Obviously posters upthread disagree with me, but I would say let it be, and spare yourself the awkwardness of a party for yourself that you don't want to go to.

Unless you're asking now because you'd really like the party afterall... then what rhizome said.
posted by purpletangerine at 1:16 PM on May 27, 2009

I think it's fine for you to let it slide and maybe the party doesn't happen, but I thought you should realize the flip side.

Yes! What struck me here is that she may have been looking for an excuse to have the choir over. Lots of people actually love to throw parties.
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:14 PM on May 27, 2009

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