Christmas Gift Inequity
December 24, 2004 9:20 PM   Subscribe

I spent my first Christmas with the boyfriend's parents this year. I showed up empty-handed, after a late "oh, mom got you some stuff, too." I came away with more in presents than I'm going to get from my own parents. Now I feel like an ass. What do I do?

I know the requisite thank-you notes (thank my mother's insane compulsion for that), but I'm not entirely sure what to put in it. "Hi, sorry I'm a total prick who didn't even show up with a bottle of wine. Thanks for the knives, though. They're spiff."

Hmm. Probably not the way to go.
posted by billybunny to Human Relations (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Cook a meal for them. Do the dishes every single day you're there. Something like that. That will make them appreciate you more than any gift you could give them.
posted by Doohickie at 9:25 PM on December 24, 2004

I would send some flowers or something with a thank you note. That way, they get something and it doesn't look like you're trying to compensate too much, which could make it awkward.
posted by amandaudoff at 9:38 PM on December 24, 2004

Send a gift with your thank you note; in your thank you note, tell them how much you enjoyed your visit, and just mention that you wanted to get them something as a token of your appreciation. (And, they know the score, probably, so don't stress too much about not having a gift: all they care about is whether you appear to make their son happy).
posted by brool at 9:43 PM on December 24, 2004

In your thank you note, which accompanies the flowers you'll send, be expansive about not expecting such generosity and how very much you appreciate them making you part of their wonderful, warm Christmas celebration. Next time bring a really nice bottle of Scotch or champagne, or whatever they drink. And now you have to be their son's love slave. heh.
posted by theora55 at 9:57 PM on December 24, 2004

I second all of this. If they're decent people, the best present is you making their son happy. If they are older, have more money than you, the best thing to is send a thank-you note where you express how much you appreciated their hospitality. Even flowers are not that necessary, if you feel that would make the situation awkward. Just a nice thank you! And don't worry about it too much - sounds like you're part of the family now.
posted by keijo at 12:57 AM on December 25, 2004

I think theora55 is on the right track with the mentioning of you "not expecting such generosity", as this seems to be a tactful way of genuinely thanking them and drawing a little attention to the fact that you were not informed you would be exchanging gifts. Hope it works out, first time with the other fam can be stressful....
posted by rooftop secrets at 3:57 AM on December 25, 2004

My mom is about to do this to my boyfriend, as soon as we show up at her house. In her case, she really doesn't care at all what she receives; she just has a huge amount of joy buying, wrapping, and giving presents. So, for her, the return gift is that he'll smile and be happy when he opens the presents. Some people just really get into giving lots of stuff. I think, yes, send a thank-you note, and maybe flowers, too. Make sure you mention in your note what a great time you had with them.
posted by faustessa at 8:29 AM on December 25, 2004

theora55's exactly right--a warm note saying you weren't expecting such a generous reception, and then wait till the next time you have a legit reason to gift back (like a return visit) for a nice response that doesn't go overboard.
posted by LairBob at 9:05 AM on December 25, 2004

she just has a huge amount of joy buying, wrapping, and giving presents.

Likewise my mother, and she can well afford it, and I've learned to just graciously accept it. Diff'rent strokes, diff'rent folks. No guilt required or desired.

theora nailed it.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:25 AM on December 25, 2004

In my experience, what really makes all the difference with SOs is that you get on with the relatives - presents are nice and all but no really gives a toss about that. As long as you're grinning like a happy person and feeling at home I guess everyone will look forward to seeing you again next year - and that's when you can make it up to them.
posted by dodgygeezer at 11:59 AM on December 25, 2004

My parents pulled this on a now-ex-boyfriend of mine when I brought him home for christmas. A note of sincere thanks is going to be fine. There's nothing they want that you can afford to buy them, and they know it. Sending a note will be fine - hey, it's more than my ex did!
posted by kavasa at 8:46 PM on December 25, 2004

Lucky you, billybunny, that New Years is conveniently a few days away. Use this bonus holiday to send them a nice gift that is parent-appropriate...such as a nice bottle of champagne and fine chocolates, or a gift basket of dried fruit/nuts/chocolates from your local caterer/gift shop. Attach a very nice note of recognition and appreciation for their prior Christmas gifts as well.

I'd use your recent faux pas as a simple lesson to never show up at a guest's house empty-handed. I've lived by this maxim for years, and always bring friends, relatives, and acquaintances either flowers, wine, ground coffee, or a dessert. If they are hosting, it's de rigeur to bring a small gift.
posted by naxosaxur at 9:48 PM on December 25, 2004

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