Déclassé, gauche, or acceptable?
July 6, 2015 11:15 AM   Subscribe

I'm going into the hospital soon for surgery. Recovery time will be a while. When my friends find out (and they're very dear friends) they'll say, as people do in these situations: "oh, no! What can I do to help?"

Would it be too beyond the pale to suggest selections from my Amazon wishlist for my Kindle? I have 25 ibooks listed that would be super-conducive to recovery. Nothing is over $39, and most selections are in the $9.99 range. If this were suggested to you, would you cringe? Opinions needed.
posted by BostonTerrier to Human Relations (39 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If I were your friend - especially if I were a far-away one who couldn't bring you food or water your plants or things like that - I'd be delighted to know that this kind of thing is an option.
posted by rtha at 11:19 AM on July 6, 2015 [27 favorites]

Nope, nothing wrong with that. I'd love to be pointed to a list like that!

If you have needs for things to be done, errands, shopping, physical help, you might make your own signupgenius page or Google Docs spreadsheet or something you can direct people to.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:20 AM on July 6, 2015

"I'm going to have plenty of time to read! I'd be glad if you have any favorites that you think I'll enjoy on my Kindle. I've also got an Amazon wishlist filled with things other people have suggested that I'm looking to buy as I go through them. Those will help immensely. If you see anything I'd enjoy, I'd be grateful!"
posted by inturnaround at 11:20 AM on July 6, 2015 [16 favorites]

My friend posted her Amazon wishlist to Facebook before her hysterectomy; it had lots of stuff like fuzzy bed slippers and hot water bottles on it. No one was offended, not everyone bought her something, but lots did!
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:22 AM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd be a little offended. I want to help with things you can't do, you can buy your own books. That's just mooching.
posted by Aranquis at 11:23 AM on July 6, 2015 [55 favorites]

It depends almost entirely on your circle of friends. If you're the kind of people who give each other presents all the time, go ahead. If you're more Christmas-and-birthday-only people, then stick to asking favors rather than presents (this is how it may be perceived).
posted by Etrigan at 11:23 AM on July 6, 2015 [9 favorites]

I'd be a little offended. I want to help with things you can't do, you can buy your own books. That's just mooching.

Totally agreed. I would cringe at this request. I would prefer to be asked to drop off food, walk the dog, etc; there's nothing about having surgery that makes you unable to obtain your own Kindle books (I'd also be dying to ask, have you checked your local library? I'm not buying you a book if you can borrow it for free).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:26 AM on July 6, 2015 [22 favorites]

You could always try responding with something like "Oh, there aren't really any tasks I need help with but I really appreciate the offer! I'll just finally be reading all the kindle books on my wishlist while I recover."

That way you aren't actually asking for them to buy you books but they now know there is an amazon wishlist out there with your name on it that you will be powering through.
posted by magnetsphere at 11:27 AM on July 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

Are you too poor to afford enough books, or will medical costs make you unable to afford them? Then yes, go ahead and casually mention it. If you could easily buy them yourself, then I'd think it's gauche. People are offering to help you with stuff you cannot do because you are recovering from surgery. If you can physically "turn the pages" on a kindle then you can manage to buy something on it.
posted by desjardins at 11:28 AM on July 6, 2015 [7 favorites]

I agree that it's OK to make your wishlist discoverable (and even make a casual mention on social media), but that it would feel weird to get a request to buy something if I am in the area and asking if I can do something to help (I may have time but be low on funds myself).

If it's a friend/relative that lives out-of-state and would usually get flowers or something similar, and they ask if they can send you something, I'd be OK with mentioning it.
posted by typecloud at 11:34 AM on July 6, 2015

This sounds like it should be a targeted request - pick the people you're fairly certain would like to buy you a little get-well present, like close friends and family. A lot of these "can I ask for [gift]" questions seem to me to be questions about knowing your audience. You can ask for things from close friends and near kin that would be gauche and grabby if asked of your larger circle, precisely because your close friends and near kin have a richer and longer-term relationship with you with more reciprocity and individual understanding.
posted by Frowner at 11:44 AM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Your best friend needs to make a Caring Bridge page for you -- and he/she can spell out these things on that page. So it's separate from you and doesn't sound greedy. People WILL want to help. Some of those people will find a targeted gift suggestion helpful. (Perspective I'm coming from: I'm the bestie of a person with ovarian cancer and have spent two years coordinating this sort of thing.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:46 AM on July 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think that's a great thing to offer people who are out of town and wanting to help long-distance. For people close to home, I personally would be delighted and not offended at all to get such a request (giving people books is my FAVORITEST thing) but I imagine many people would.

One way to split the difference might be to make it a broad request for "ways to help pass the time", some of which are non-monetary, so maybe it's "I'd love to get letters, funny/interesting articles that you see, or even books from my wishlist!" But the trick to that is you have to genuinely be just as happy if you get a long chatty letter from a friend, or a link to a cute cat video, as you will be if someone sends you the latest Chuck Tingle dinosaur erotica book.
posted by Stacey at 11:47 AM on July 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Make sure to throw some good games on that wish list too...even reading gets old after a while. Eventually you'll need a ride home right? That's something to ask about...and maybe the route from hospital to house goes by the ice cream parlor...
posted by sexyrobot at 12:11 PM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I agree with others that say when people offer to help, they mean things they can do for you that you can't do or would be difficult for you to do because of the surgery. Its not an opening to solicit gifts. If they ask if they can get you anything, by all means mention your wishlist but specifically asking for gifts just because you're having surgery is tacky IMO.

In my experience, being in hospital isn't really a gifts situation beyond flowers and edibles (if you're allowed to eat)
posted by missmagenta at 12:12 PM on July 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

I tend to agree with the people who'd look at this with a side-eye: what about having surgery would make it difficult to buy your own books or use your local library's digital service? If I'm offering to help, it's to do something that you can't do.

That said, I'm in Canada where being in hospital is not generally a financial imposition. If you're genuinely facing financial hardship, even of the 'we're trying to cut some expenses during this time' variety rather than the 'crushing long term debt' variety, it would become more acceptable to say something. I still wouldn't flat out ask people to buy me things, but I might say something like "Obviously with me off work, things will be a bit tight budget-wise, and I'll be super bored, so if you've got ways to amuse me -- trashy magazines you're done with, Kindle loans (especially of books on my wishlist link: ), time wasting apps I just need to try -- please send them my way."
posted by jacquilynne at 12:14 PM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would be far more likely to buy you a kindle book than I would a dog. A few dollars for a book is much better for me than having to cook something and take it to your house, which is dollars plus time. Being able to do the social expectation thing of showing that I care without too much outlay is great.
posted by Solomon at 1:04 PM on July 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Opinions seem to be split. Ah, America!

I'll take the coward's way out. I'll ask Mr. Terrier to publish my wishlist on his Facebook page, after everyone's informed about my infirm. That way I'll "know nothing about it. Oh, that Mr. Terrier! He does think of everything! Thank you so much for this great book!"
posted by BostonTerrier at 1:06 PM on July 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

Ugh! Ick! No! Don't do it! I would think very badly of an adult who did that. Now, if you happen to be a 10 year old, then that's okay. Otherwise, buy your own treats. Allow your friends to run errands for you, drive you places, bring you food, and the like. They are offering their time and it is polite to accept their time and then write a thank you note after. Also okay to buy them kindle books as thanks for the more tedious jobs.
posted by myselfasme at 1:08 PM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't even ask Mr. Terrier to do that. My first response would be to ask why isn't he buying things for you, if it is so important. Once again, you are not 10 and this is not your birthday. I say no.
posted by myselfasme at 1:10 PM on July 6, 2015 [11 favorites]

Ah, America!

Canadian here, gotta agree that this would be tacky as hell.
posted by Sternmeyer at 1:10 PM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: slinking into fetal position

I withdraw my plan.
posted by BostonTerrier at 1:21 PM on July 6, 2015

I have no intention of buying anyone a dog. I meant I wouldn't be likely to walk a dog.
posted by Solomon at 1:25 PM on July 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

I agree with ThePinkSuperhero- I would cringe a little too. Maybe I'm a misanthrope, but to me, when people say "oh, that's terrible, what can I do?", they're really saying "I'm so sorry to hear that, I hope you get through it okay. No, really I do." To point them to your Amazon wish list seems a bit gauche. Perhaps a bad comparison, but in my experience, when people ask "How are you?", they mean this to be a fiendly coversation starter, and the last thing they want to hear is a tale of woe.
posted by MacChimpman at 1:28 PM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would totally buy you a book if it made you feel better! (But I personally don't want people in my house cleaning or dropping off food when I'm sick- the more solitude the better!)
posted by Mouse Army at 1:29 PM on July 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think it's a little tacky to advertise it but it'd be fine to instruct your spouse/bestie/SO/whatever to let people who might be going down the path of buying and sending you flowers, that in lieu of flowers you'd really rather have reading material. That comes across more as an instead-of-X-I'd-prefer-Y preference and not as a "please buy me stuff" thing.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:49 PM on July 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

As you can see, this depends entirely upon your friend circle. My friends would think nothing of buying a little get well token, and have done so when I had a very scary surgery. I got lots of trashy magazines, a few great books, and even a couple of DVD series (this was pre-Netflix). They've done it for me, I've done it for them, and it's awesome and fine.

Are your friends like this? Then go for it! With our (the general "our") circles of friends being so multi-cultural these days, any friend you have who would get seriously cheesed off at you without considering that sometimes people do things differently and that's okay...maybe isn't a friend I'd like to keep around. I mean, I get a little huffy at things some of my friends do, but then I remember that they're not, like, committing murder or something and no one is forcing me to participate and I'm sure I've done stuff to make their eyes roll, too, but we're still friends!

If I was your friend, I would totally welcome this concrete, easy thing to do to help you during your recovery.
posted by cooker girl at 2:04 PM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

No slinking! Man, seriously, I'm so in camp "I never know what to do to help and this is a great suggestion" that I am seriously wondering about people who would judge this kind of request from someone who just had surgery, jeebus. I would totally have the Mr. mention it if you don't feel comfortable doing so and at very least ask "If anyone has the books on this wishlist and could Kindle-loan them to BT". It's an innocuous request which imposes on absolutely no one.
posted by theweasel at 2:18 PM on July 6, 2015 [9 favorites]

What about saying, "You are very kind to ask! I am actually on the hunt for new reading material to keep me occupied. This is what's on my wishlist -- do you have a favorite that I might enjoy as I recover?" And then kind of hope people get the hint? IDK I know that sounds really passive but it might soften the "ask" into more of a "guess". Personally if I ask if there's anything I can do for someone I mean it so a clear cut "books, please!" would be welcome but YMMV apparently.
posted by Hermione Granger at 2:26 PM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Look. This is a moment when you will actually be suffering. People around you who love you will want to help. Someone's going to be doing your laundry (maybe it's your husband). Someone might be bringing you a meal (maybe it's your friend who lives in town). But I guarantee you there is someone who wants to do something nice for you, who can't make the meal or do the laundry. If they don't know what to send you, they'll be sending you flowers and balloons. Those are charming, like, the first five times you receive them. After that, they're just clutter. With my bestie, I actually had to do an all-points bulletin for people to stop sending flowers and balloons -- there was literally no room left in her hospital room for such things.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:03 PM on July 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

I for one wouldn't cringe at the original request, but seeing as others would, how about saying "I'll probably be bored a lot - do you have any good books to lend me?" as a compromise?
posted by namesarehard at 4:28 PM on July 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I like the suggestion of having someone elsa point towards ypur wish list if a friend asks. But also, you may not have enough attention span after surgery to actually dp all the reading you imagine.

Best wishes for smooth sailing!
posted by mightshould at 4:37 PM on July 6, 2015

Will people offer to bring food or want to give you flowers that are over $9.99 in value? If so then whatever, do what you want. If your friends were going to spend ten bucks on you in the form of flowers that will die, in theory they ought to take it well that you would prefer being able to read. Just be sure to mention / keep track of who gives you what book and at least mention your enjoyment of it or if you are able, talk about the book/why you wanted it/what you thought.

My friends would expect me to want minimal visitation and wouldn't bat an eye at this. Only you know YOUR friends.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:45 PM on July 6, 2015

You could mention that you'd love to get some books to read for your Kindle without mentioning the wishlist. Then, when people send you books, if you don't think you would like their selections, Amazon makes it pretty easy to exchange them for store credit you can use to buy the books on your wishlist. And you also may get some great new books you didn't know you wanted to read. That may be a compromise that people can live with. But I'd do it only individually with people who have said they wanted to help or get you a gift, not en masse via Facebook.
posted by decathecting at 8:58 PM on July 6, 2015

Asking friends to specifically purchase books for you is a little off-putting, to me.

I think you should say: "I'm looking for reading material and would love it if you could lend me a book that you recently enjoyed".

That would be amazing, and you'd probably get heaps and heaps of very interesting books that will be like small tokens of your friends' personalities.
posted by suedehead at 9:34 PM on July 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Put my vote in the Not Tacky column. It's cheaper and easier than a meal or flowers, simpler than trying to get myself to your place for something. I would be grateful to know it was a way to help that was that simple.
posted by vunder at 10:05 PM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

In the UK, at least, you can't buy ebooks from Amazon wishlists as gifts ("gifting is not yet offered in the Kindle store"). Have you checked this is actually possible where you are?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:44 AM on July 7, 2015

I went through a year of pretty rough chemo, surgery, and associated side effects, and the solution my bestie/communications director and I came up with was: we created a lotsahelpinghands site.

On the site, we put every kind of in-person thing I needed help with: laundry, rides to and from the hospital for appointments, a weekly meal delivery, someone to grocery shop for me, etc. The site also had the link to my amazon wish list. Whenever anyone asked Bestie if they could help, she would give them the link to the lotsahelpinghands site, and people could self-select the kind of help they could/wanted to offer. Most of my people who were close signed on for the in-person help, and most of the far-away folks sent gifts, and I was grateful for all of it.

The books and items were as much help to me in recovering as someone cleaning my house was. I was fine with this set-up - it never even occurred to me that people who love me and were actively asking to help would find it distasteful or get judgey with me about it.
posted by deliciae at 2:04 AM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

In the UK, at least, you can't buy ebooks from Amazon wishlists as gifts ("gifting is not yet offered in the Kindle store"). Have you checked this is actually possible where you are?
I bought several Amazon ebooks for others last Christmas, so it is a possibility in the US.
posted by soelo at 8:01 AM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

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