On the day of Christmas, my loving and misguided grandmother gave to me
December 25, 2017 7:56 AM   Subscribe

My grandmother insists that I need a new, "stylish, modern, sophisticated" coat. She's been insisting this for years, but this time she's practically forcing me to go shopping with her so she can buy me one. I live in Vermont, not New York City. I work in construction, not an office job. Most problematically, I already have a wonderful wool coat that I love that I think is legitimately stylish and many people give me genuine compliments on it the few times a year I do wear it - this is the coat that my grandmother says is hideous.

If I let her buy one for me, I'm pretty sure it will just sit in the closet due to incredibly strong resentment, and that having to wear it would drive me to tears. I told her I'd think about it. I don't even know how to deal with this.

To give you an idea of what a big deal this seems to be to my grandmother: before proposing this shopping plan, she sat me down and very seriously said, "I have a proposal for you and I want you to promise me you'll say yes." I replied that she's putting me in a tough place, and that I can't make a promise about something I don't even know. Then she gave a speech, with tears in her eyes, about how she only wants the best for her granddaughter and she wants me to be stylish and modern. (These are not things that are terribly important to me, other than for a few special occasions a year.) And she said that she wants to give me a lasting and memorable gift because she's 90 and won't be here much longer.

Unfortunately, now, what I feel is incredible sadness, disappointment, and resentment that she doesn't like me and my style the way I am, and that she's practically forcing me to buy something to suit her tastes and not mine. I'd just go and let her buy me a new coat, but I'm quite certain that she'll expect me to wear it every time I visit her, and I just. can't. stomach. bowing to that kind of controlling behavior. I've been wearing my other coat for years, and people have been giving me compliments on it for years, and my grandmother has been berating that coat for years. She does it with other things too, usually shoes. Sometimes I let her buy me them, sometimes not. Sometimes I convince her to give me an actually useful present (this year, I asked for studded winter tires for my car, and she got me them, and I made a point of falling over myself praising how incredibly wonderful and useful they are to me every single day, because it's true). But she's being really insistent about this fucking coat, and the more I think about it, the more resentful I feel that she can't just let me wear my own coat, which I like, and which other people like too.

And yeah, this does have to do with immigrant culture and what it means to be successful and she wants me to be upper-middle-class while I'm actively going the other way into the trades and manual work and rural living. So it's a complicated issue as a whole, but my god, this coat is just... a thorn in all of our sides.
posted by Questolicious to Human Relations (79 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
How often do you see her in a time of year that would require a coat? I hate to be harsh, but she's 90. Perhaps you could wear it once or twice and after her passing donate it.

Clearly this means a lot to you and brings up other issues but if there's aren't other reasons it seems like this would be a suck it up scenario.
posted by raccoon409 at 8:06 AM on December 25, 2017 [60 favorites]

Racoon409 beat me. The woman is 90 years old. Go shopping with her, let her buy you a coat, and wear it with a smile when she's around. Over half the year, you can justify not even bothering with it when you see her because it's not cold weather coat weather.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:08 AM on December 25, 2017 [16 favorites]

I think you should let her buy you the coat, to make her happy. But, the key is to work your mind around to a place where it doesn't make you so upset, and so that the existence of the coat reminds you of her love more than of her controllingness.
posted by bluesky78987 at 8:10 AM on December 25, 2017 [8 favorites]

I would let her buy it for me, then I'd return it and make up excuses about why I wasn't wearing it when I visited her. (How blunt the excuses were would depend on family culture.) I don't think you need to wear a coat you don't want just because your grandmother is 90, but fighting her about it is probably not getting you anywhere either.

The other tactic would just to keep saying, "No thank you," cheerfully, every time she asks, and refuse to get into any debates on the topic. "No, thank you!" End of conversation.
posted by lazuli at 8:14 AM on December 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

Sometimes the whims of a 90-year-old just need to be accomodated. It's about the coat, but it's also about the time you'll spend together shopping for it. Shove it in your closet, wear it when you see her, and then when she's gone, pass it along to someone.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:15 AM on December 25, 2017 [30 favorites]

She’s 90. Let her buy you the coat, and wear it only when you see her.
posted by amro at 8:20 AM on December 25, 2017 [10 favorites]

Can she buy you a specialized coat? For example, a coat for when it’s really cold, or a coat for when it’s not really cold, or a coat for when you’re wearing fancy clothes, or a coat for when it’s cold and wet...I would think there’s room on your closet for more than one coat, because you need different coats to do different jobs.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:24 AM on December 25, 2017 [19 favorites]

Can you have a conversation with her that addresses the deeper, root issues here? Start off with affirmations that you love her and care about her, and that you recognize why this is so important to her, as you've explained to us. Let her know that you would like to have a lasting memento from her of this sort, but that you want it to be something that you will also use regularly so that you think of her often when you use it. Then bring in your issues with the coat gently as a concern that this specific item doesn't quite fit into your life in that way. But before saying a firm no, ask her (ideally with openness and genuine curiosity) why this coat, in particular, has so much significance to her? Ideally you'll get some family history and build a stronger bond or understanding with your grandmother, from which the two of you could then brainstorm a more suitable gift.

I'm not sure that sort of approach could ever have convinced my grandmother to give me something not pink. Results may vary depending on your grandmother, who you know better than us, of course. Sounds like there may be some gender presentation issues as well as class issues in the background here, so this may be a complicated sort of conversation to have. In any event, it would requiring maintaining some emotional distance and lots of listening and perspective-taking from you, which, again, might or might not be feasible depending on your family dynamics. Best wishes.
posted by eviemath at 8:25 AM on December 25, 2017 [8 favorites]

Could you redirect her to get you something "stylish and modern" that you'd want for those "few special occasions a year"? Like formalwear? I'm sure there's a nice way to spin it - "let's get something really special", etc.

On preview, seconding leahwrenn.
posted by airmail at 8:25 AM on December 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

She did get you those great tires, and she no doubt views them as a compromise gift... so yeah, I'm on the 'suck it up and go shopping with her' team. And who knows? best case: you two really enjoy it together, and you might end up with a wonderful coat that you love as much as the one you already have. Worst case, you have a high-quality coat you only wear when you see her.

I hear what you're saying about immigrant culture and how you see your life going now, but... you know, is this the hill you wanna pick to die on?
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 8:28 AM on December 25, 2017 [17 favorites]

Let her buy you the coat. You will regret it when she is gone if you do not. It is not worth "winning" this one.
posted by mermayd at 8:35 AM on December 25, 2017 [27 favorites]

Ah man, I know how you feel. My grandmother was forever wanting to buy me stuff that suited her idea of how I should look, and she'd bring me magazine clippings to justify it, like look, you're an autumn in color, you should wear gold jewelry and this sort of turtleneck. And she'd always want to buy me gold costume jewelry from the department store, or a watch, and there was just no place in my life for an accessory like that in that color scheme, however sophisticated she might have thought it would make me.

So I hear you on this. Maybe there's something else that would suit this purpose, like nice boots or a piece of jewelry. Or you can just let her buy you a coat and never wear it and donate it eventually. But if you can, I agree it would be nice to figure out some compromise that's I guess fashion-related or wearable but isn't a coat, so it'll be meaningful and usable and respect your preferences.
posted by limeonaire at 8:38 AM on December 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

If your grandmother were much younger than 90 I think you'd have more of a case for pushing back on this. As it is, I'd humor her and let her get you the coat. Presumably if she is taking you shopping, she'll hopefully let you pick out a coat you like within the parameters of coats that are acceptable to her, so at least it shouldn't be hideously wrong.

Lots of people have more than one coat. An everyday coat, a fun fashion-y coat, a coat to wear with dressier clothes. Think of this as your "dressed up to visit Grandma" coat. And as someone said above, if you still hate it once she passes, donate it. I guarantee there is someone out there who will love it.

You can choose to do this for her, because you know she loves you (even if she disapproves of your style). If you choose to do this for her out of love, you've sidestepped being the control issue. You're a grown-up choosing to be kind to an old lady. And also sidestepped the possibility of a rift with your grandmother in the last years of her life, which would suck unbelievably more than you can imagine.

When I go visit my 94 year old grandmother, she likes to discuss fundamentalist Christian topics such as the Rapture, end-times prophecy and the like. I left that all behind in my teens and practice an entirely different sort of faith nowadays, but if that's what 94 year old grandma wants to talk about, I will gladly chat that and agree with her about the likelihood of Jesus showing up on a cloud to take her home. It doesn't hurt me to compromise my hard-won individuality for a few days a year, and it makes her happy.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:38 AM on December 25, 2017 [32 favorites]

As someone from a family that has spent decade trying to tell me who I should be and listing the ways in which I fail to be who they "need" me to be, I give you permission to tell your grandmother that you don't want a new coat and you never want to discuss it again. Just because someone is old doesn't mean that they are allowed to bully, insult or belittle you. If you need a script, how about something like "Grandma, you've raised me to be a strong, happy person and to believe in who I am. I appreciate that you want to buy me a coat but I'm perfectly content with the one I have. Thanks for thinking of me but, because this topic upsets both of us, I don't want to talk about it again." When she brings it up again (and she WILL bring it up again), you can say "Oh yeah, remember? We already settled that." Then change the subject.
posted by mcduff at 8:43 AM on December 25, 2017 [70 favorites]

I'm guessing in her mind, more or less consciously, this is an early inheritance. Whatever she gives you, you will probably have for longer than she is around and in that sense it may be symbolic to her.

Granted, my interpretation may be colored by the fact that my mom did things like this when she knew she was going to die. She summoned a lot of energy to take me and my sisters out and buy us several pairs of shoes apiece. It seemed really clear to us that she wanted to give us something to move on with, literally. She also gave me something to give one sister after she was gone, which seemed aimed at keeping our then-shaky relationship together.

Stuff like that can be endearing, or it can be intrusive. In the case of the coat, it is somewhat intrusive; she explicitly tells you she wants you to change something about yourself. It's almost as if she doesn't see you for who you are. This would annoy me, but it might be ameliorated by considerations of the time and place she's coming from. Could this be her idea of giving you something to protect yourself, in the way she imagines women have to protect themselves?

As weird as it may be, I would probably accept it, keep it around for a while and then give it away to someone who would love it.
posted by BibiRose at 8:48 AM on December 25, 2017 [8 favorites]

She has an image of you in her mind that doesn't align with who you are in reality. She's fixated on this coat thing as a way to get those images to line up better. You're fixated on this coat thing because it touches on dozens of small but significant troubling things in your relationship with her. It isn't actually about a coat for either of you.

Here's the thing - nobody's relationship with their grandmother is the same as anybody else's. We can't tell you what's right to do in this scenario. I have an evil grandmother who, if she weren't incredibly miserly, would totally do the kind of thing you've encountered, and my response would be heeellllll no, never, I couldn't give two figs that you're 96 and just broke your clavicle. But just like all these folks above saying that you should give in and her age means you need to let her manipulate you because it's benign, my opinion doesn't matter and has no bearing on your relationship with your grandmother, who is, hopefully, very different from my own. So you're going to have to do some thinking and unravel what's really going on and figure out the way forward from there.

Perhaps you can latch onto her desire to give you something to remember her by and instead ask for something decorative that is not wearable. If she's like my grandmother, fancier well-made housewares could do the trick, and although you might consider many of them useless it could be a lot easier for you to accept. Things like good heavy silver candlesticks, some fine porcelain serving dishes, maybe a very pretty quilt? Stuff that she would consider important for people of "class" to have, that could become heirlooms.

If the sticking point is really you can't stomach wearing the coat when you visit her, are you absolutely sure that's her intention? Have you asked; could you ask? Could it be that you took umbrage to her insulting your current coat and read a lot of other stuff into it that isn't there? She's still got this weird untrue image of you thing going on, but would she be happy just knowing you had the coat available to wear and not expect you to visit her in it like a uniform? If the conflict here is easily resolved, take it. Of course, if that's not what the actual conflict is? You're still left with a weird relationship and an ugly coat.
posted by Mizu at 8:50 AM on December 25, 2017 [23 favorites]

If you're wearing a non-modern, retro coat, she may have negative associations with the style that have nothing to do with you. Maybe it's a military-inspired coat that recalls unpleasant history, or maybe it's something that she wore the first time it was popular, and now feels it's hopelessly out of style. Anyway, I'd encourage you to not take her dislike of your coat/style personally. I think most 90 year olds probably think their grandchildren look ridiculous.
posted by acidic at 8:57 AM on December 25, 2017 [16 favorites]

she may have negative associations with the style

This. My grandmother was very perturbed when I went through a phase of wearing bright flowing colorful skirts. She associated them with hippies, and in her mind nice girls (this was in the 90's) did not dress up as "bohemians." She was also very against black. Black was only for funerals, or for people past a certain age. Forget Chanel or Woodstock - she had very set ideas about Proper Attire.

So she may just have a desire to see you look "proper" and you have to decide if it is worth it to you to humor her. I would change for my grandmother, grudgingly, but then I didn't see or get to stay with her very often. Also, like your grandmother, she gave generous gifts and made Grandma food and we had great times riding the subway and going into town and the like. I didn't feel she was controlling, just old-fashioned, and I knew she meant well. So I played along. But.

You have to figure out her true motive, decide if it is really an attempt at control, or just a misguided effort to make you look "nice." If the latter is really all she wants, perhaps consider a way to go along with it. If more about control, perhaps find a polite but firm way to refuse it.
posted by Crystal Fox at 9:23 AM on December 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

Questolicious, I agree with you. If you let her do this thing, and force you to participate, it could well be the last experience you have with her and it could add a small bitterness to you for the rest of your life. She's 90, and may not be around much longer, but you're younger and will have to live with this experience for a good while. So, I strongly disagree with the people who say you should humor her.

It sounds like she's clear-minded and competent enough to try to make her case for this coat, so she's clear-minded enough for you to a) make it clear to her that you've heard and understand her, b) that you love her and very much want something meaningful to mark your relationship to her, and c) help you come up with something else that really marks what you two have together.

Do you have a fond memory of cooking with her, or of visiting a particular place, or of reading together? Maybe there's a meaningful gift that would connect to those times.

OTOH, if she just wants to see you looking happy and pretty, maybe you could get a glamour shots-style portrait session, maybe even together with her. Just an idea.

Good luck. This sounds genuinely hard.
posted by amtho at 9:30 AM on December 25, 2017 [14 favorites]

Everybody's right that it's not about the coat. But I think there's only one way to make it clear to your grandmother how it feels to be you on this side of the conversation.

If (and only if) you decide to push back on this "gift", you should sit her down and say, grandmother, I love you very much. Your offer of a coat is very kind, and I know that this means a lot to you. But the way that you are offering it is making me very sad. I feel like you are forcing me to buy something that I won't like, and that I will then have to wear and pretend to like every time I see you. I don't want to lie to you, and I don't want to feel upset when I think about going to see you. I would rather feel happy to be with you for these years that we have left together than to be worrying about this coat and what you're going to say about it, and how sad that will make me feel. I know that there's a lot of very important feelings tied up in this offer for you. Can we talk about those instead of the coat? Maybe there's something else that we can agree on that will achieve the same purpose, and make us both happy. Then we can put this all aside and just enjoy each others' company.

That would, of course, be the ideal, constructive conversation. I don't have a family in which that would happen except on paper, in my mind, or in the afterlife. Maybe you do, which would be awesome.

You have plenty of other suggestions here. I don't recommend ignoring your feelings about this, or trying to rearrange them. I think that ignoring them will simply sour you to your grandmother, and rearranging them (unless done really well) will do the same. You're being forced into a corner by a loved one. This is not okay. You're a grown human being with agency, not a recalcitrant pet, and even those bite in self-defense. In my opinion, you'll need to deal with this head on. But how you handle it is going to center around how your family works. With that in mind, do you have anyone you can loop into this for support? Does your mother or father have any tactics or input to help with? Just a thought.
posted by knitcrazybooknut at 9:35 AM on December 25, 2017 [23 favorites]

I can remember feeling as you do - I was so angry and frustrated that my father to the day he died did not see me and accept me as I was. So I'm not denigrating your feelings.

But it seems to me your grandmother is preparing to die, and one of the many things she wants to wrap up first during her countdown to the end is to show you how much she loves you, however imperfectly, by giving you this coat to make sure you are ready to face the future without her there to guide you in "how to be modern and stylish" since that's obviously important to her, and she's worrying how you will manage on your own when she's gone. Once she's got you the darned coat, hopefully, she'll move on to check the other items on her countdown list. She's trying to get her house in order - accepting the coat is one way you can help her prepare to die.

Go shopping with her, have as much fun as you can with her, accept the darned coat, wear the darned coat when you see her, tell her you like it, but that's it, no more modern & stylish presents, and give it away the minute she dies - which won't be more than 10 years from now and no doubt much sooner.
posted by Gnella at 9:38 AM on December 25, 2017 [12 favorites]

I would just say something like, "Grandmama: grand-mothers and grand-daughters should NEVER agree on what is stylish! If they did, the results would be either embarrassing or a waste of money or both. Let's instead spend half a day getting haircuts and manicures / getting a membership to the theater we can attend together / getting our photos taken together / [something palatable] so that we have an experience we remember and both enjoy."
posted by cocoagirl at 9:43 AM on December 25, 2017 [9 favorites]

She's 90. You can resent the gesture and meaning behind the gesture but I bet you can also find another coat you like. It's not a bad thing at all to have multiple coats. Make an afternoon of it with lunch and coat buying. That way you get an experience out of it (ask grandma any questions about her you've ever been curious about) and she gets to buy you a coat and to shut the hell up about it.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 9:53 AM on December 25, 2017 [9 favorites]

If you do get the coat, think of it as a continuing gift from you to her. Depending on your overall relationship, it's not just humoring her, it could be you giving her something that's meaningful to her.

That said, I hate to ask, but how "rational" is she? Is she (a) clearly not suffering from any amount of dementia, and (b) someone to whom an argument like "when you disparage my coat and style, it makes me feel..." would ever make any kind of sense?

If not, and if you absolutely do not want to get an additional coat, there are a few things you could try. You mentioned culture and it sounds like she might be from a fairly traditional one where social roles are relatively defined. In which case, a granddaughter going against her grandmother's wishes and thinking she knows best might not go over well, but a mother talking with a grandmother about the granddaughter and steering her in a different direction might have some effect. Any chance you can recruit your mother or other sympathetic but high-status family members to your cause?
Another argument that might speak to her more than "this is my style and I like it" might be "this coat is very meaningful to me because it was given to me by a dear friend who ... " (or something along those lines). Then you can thank her so much for wanting you to have something from her that will last a long time, and say that what you really would love and what you have been wanting for a very long time is a special scarf, necklace, etc. (I don't know if you have or want to have children, but if you really want to lay it on thick you can talk about how those are things you could pass down to them...)

Good luck. It's hard. I think whether what you do will leave a bad taste for you afterwards is a question partly of your overall relationship with her and partly of how you decide to feel about it.
posted by trig at 10:15 AM on December 25, 2017

Do you have a stylish girlfriend? You can buy the coat with her in mind and time share it when it's time to visit your grandmother.

Try to let go of wanting to be recognized. I know it's hard. If you can let go of the need for her validation things will be much easier.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:15 AM on December 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't know your grandmother but I deal with the elderly daily through work. I guarantee you that your grandmother has a touch of Dementia. She has fixated on the coat but if it were not the coat, it would be something else - likely even more crazy making so you should feel good it's just a coat!

The only path open to you now is acceptance of your grandmother as she is, which you do by internalizing the two truths below and incorporating them into dealing with her. Kind of ironic that you want her to accept you as you are, and instead it is you that has to accept her as she is, isn't it?

(1) Your grandmother has a medical condition that has nothing to do with you. She is as unable to process your logical arguments as you are unable to square 32-digit numbers without a calculator. You've come to know her as an adult but things have changed; her cognitive impairment makes it impossible for her to reason the same way she used to, and that's that. You need to reframe "she doesn't love me the way I am" because it's not what this is about.

(2) There is a common mantra for people who are dealing with cognitively impaired loved ones: meet them in their reality. It is simply no use to fight a person with Dementia, no matter how baseless and downright ridiculous their "reality" is from where you stand - you will never get them to change their mind, never ever ever. It is far kinder to them - and yourself - to step into their world and just go with the flow. (It takes time to truly process and internalize this so keep working on it... this mantra has helped me tremendously when dealing with my own mother).
posted by rada at 10:20 AM on December 25, 2017 [43 favorites]

Do you love your grandmother? It sounds as if she’s looking at her own mortality and want to give you something that is important to HER. This is a need SHE has. I think maybe whatever battle you have with his concept and concern with how you look might be best fought elsewhere? Maybe your gift to her could be allowing her to do this misguided gesture. People derive great satisfaction from giving. I’d let a 90 loved person buy me whatever they wanted, pretty much.

If you are actually moved to tears by this, you know there is other stuff going on with you, and maybe separating that from this gift would be a benefit to you. I get this, actually, I was a bit like this when younger. But looking back, I see it was so much wasted energy.

(Also, who cares if a 90 year old woman doesn’t like your style? It’s just clothes, superficial crap. Love trumps stuff, for me at least.)
posted by Vaike at 10:24 AM on December 25, 2017 [18 favorites]

I think that you both have very strong feelings about this and only one of you can win, and if it were me I don't know that I would feel good about winning in this case.
posted by bleep at 10:29 AM on December 25, 2017 [13 favorites]

I fought with my mother in law about a piece of jewelry I would wear for my wedding then we went out and magically found something that matched both of our requirements. Totally unexpected and made it that much more magical of a gift.

Think about what could make a coat more palatable to you. A particular color, or it being super warm, or a certain length. Leather can be chic yet have some rugged appeal, too...
posted by cacao at 10:31 AM on December 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

She’s 90. Even the most clear headed 90 year old is going to be having mental issues that you won’t even be aware of, plus she’s from a generation that doesn’t talk about things openly.
If she’s an all around evil person, then tell her to go to hell and be done with it. But if she’s a decent human being in general, just humor her and think of it as a present that you are giving her.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:42 AM on December 25, 2017 [12 favorites]

If you "win," this could have a snowball effect. Grandma gets angry, starts telling your mom/dad and whoever else will listen what an ungrateful person you are, and people are forced to take sides. Imagine that she dies angry at you and how that might poison your relationships with other family members. It's a coat. Put it in the back of your closet and donate or sell it when she dies. I agree with rada that she probably won't give this up.

Learning not to take things personally will help you in many situations.
posted by AFABulous at 10:42 AM on December 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

It seems like you and your grandmother are engaged in a passive-aggressive fight about something you haven't, or can't, really talk about. Sometimes you just aren't ready or able to have the discussions you need to with the people you love. It sucks, because it means you can only communicate about yourselves to each other in ways that are clumsy and inaccurate. For example, my parents are immigrants. For much of my life, I just didn't have the emotional tools (in my case--self-awareness, patience, open-mindedness, self-acceptance) to bridge the cultural and generational divide between us. We couldn't talk about anything real--I couldn't wrestle through questions about identity, relationships, success, class, gender, sexuality, or race with them, which meant they really couldn't know who I was as a person.

Instead, we just ... did what you are doing with your grandmother, using gifts to express our values and butting heads when the gifts didn't align with our values. She's conceded a little by giving you winter tires--giving you hope that maybe she's finally starting to agree with you-- but then she pulled out the big guns to make you accept a coat of her choosing, thereby making it clear that she really doesn't agree with you. So, understandably, you're pretty upset--and, to top it off, you can't really talk about it.

I think you must care about having a real relationship with your grandmother, because otherwise you could just write her off. You could just let her buy you the coat, wear it when you visit, and never think about it again. It's hitting you personally because you want to have a real relationship with her, which means you want to be able to come to some genuine peace regarding your differing values.

If that's your real goal, what you decide to do about the coat doesn't really matter, does it? What you really need to do is to find other means of connecting to her and communicating with her.
posted by rhythm and booze at 10:49 AM on December 25, 2017 [8 favorites]

I love all the thoughtful advice above. I've heard it said that when we give gifts we are often actually drawn to give gifts that we want for ourselves. It's really hard to get inside someone's head and give them a gift that is both surprising and just perfect. So, we find something that delights us and we hope it delights our loved one as well. In part, this is why I think we should all just give each other money and then tell each other how we spent it. But, I digress....

When you think about it this way, she may be thinking about some time in her life when receiving such a gift was surprising and delightful or it's something she wished for but never got. A dream unrequited! For her, it has a special significance. What if the act of receiving this gift is a real gift to her? What if it helps soothe an old wound or brings up a magical (or tough) time for your grandmother and sets that memory to rest? Where lies the gift exactly in this exchange? It could be somewhere in the magical in-between.

Lastly, think about such an object and how it might have life beyond you. My MIL often gives gifts that are not needed by our household and I take them right to a women's shelter or other community organization that distributes such things. I feel good about that. Someone will be delighted. You can thank the coat for its service in the relationship between you and your grandmother (jealous of those snow tires!) and then see it on its way at some point in the future where it may serve a very important purpose.
posted by amanda at 10:56 AM on December 25, 2017 [10 favorites]

Grandmother's are hard.

They're isn't a right way to deal with this, and I'm assuming your grandmother isn't coming from an abusive place.

I'm a gender queer pagan, married lesbian. My grandmother (on the non abusive side of my family), who clearly loves me, asks me every time I see her if I love Jesus.

And I internally sigh and lie and say yes.

Why? Because I know my grandmother cares. She's been respectful about my choices my marriage, she's supportive in a thousand different ways. But she worries about me and jesus is important to her and my long term spirituality. Ultimately, my grandmother can't change what happens in the afterlife, if there is even one, but I can make her not worry about me while she's still here. So i do. And she smiles and gives me a hug and we talk over coffee about her dog or whatnot.

That's my rational for placating my grandmother.

You may come to an entirely different conclusion, but it is a part of your relationship and your response will effect it if it is an important thing to her regardless.

So my advice is 1) define how you want to spend your relationship time with your grandmother 2) define how you feel and how you think she feels about the experience 3) estimate the impact of yes or no on #1.

For me arguing about spirituality would cause a significant negative impact on a relationship I enjoy, and she would obsess over it to the point where she wouldn't see all of the stuff she actually likes about me. So, I give her peace of mind and we enjoy the time we have.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:59 AM on December 25, 2017 [10 favorites]

Unfortunately, now, what I feel is incredible sadness, disappointment, and resentment that she doesn't like me and my style the way I am,

You and your style are entirely different things. Your style is not who you are, and the fact that your grandmother does not like your style is unrelated to how much your she loves you as her grandchild.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 11:07 AM on December 25, 2017 [8 favorites]

I nth everyone who says, is this the hill you are willing to die on with a 90 year old grandma? Is this worth the fight? Is this going to end well? IT'S NOT.

You are taking it as a very personal rejection of you and your beloved coat because she haaaaaates the one you love. She is literally begging and crying at you to get another coat to please her when she sees you. You feel super strongly about this and so does she. For you it is a personal rejection of who you are as a person and it's an attempt on her part to manipulate you. You are taking it as a stab in the heart/insult to you. I can't speak as to what her motivation is, though. Maybe she doesn't mean it in the same way that you take it. Maybe she just finds it so painful to look at that she can't stand it any more. (I can think of a coat my mom owns that I feel that way about myself.) Maybe she just needs you to please her on this one thing a few times a year so she can rest easy. You keep reiterating that it is stylish and everyone else loves it but her, but that doesn't make it better for her. She cannot take looking at it, it bothers her that deeply, for whatever misguided reason.

Again: it's a damn coat that you will wear a few times a year to please her. Do you always want to be fighting about this coat until she dies? Are you so very upset at her rejection of you and your special coat that you have to have this fight in order to stay alive? She's not going to respect your choices on it because she feels that strongly that it's an eyesore. Whether or not it actually is, it pains her to see it on you. She wants this fight, I guess. But do you? Are you going to feel good about yourself if you keep fighting? You cannot convince her to love your "stylish" coat and respect your choices, that's what you want but that's not an option on the table. If that is categorically Not Gonna Happen, what are the other options and what can you live with in five years after your grandma is dead (or whatever)? Is this so important to you that you need to fight about it?
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:14 AM on December 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

The moment in my thirties when I stopped fighting my parents about clothes was like a milestone of adulthood for me. I still, 20 or so years later, look back on it as the moment I finally grew up. See, my parents hated my clothes. Hated them. Well, actually they didn’t like me much either - long stories, etc - and yet there we all were at Christmas or whenever, trying to make a go of this thing called family because liking is not always the same as love. Every year it was a battle about how I was dressed. So finally, one year, before visiting them, I went to Value Village and bought a whole new set of hideous clothes, the preppiest, most standard conservative awful outfits I could find. And. . a whole area of conflict was magically removed. It was such a relief. Yes, I looked like hell for a week, but, so what? It was a week out of my life and I had more weeks to give than they did. I went home and resumed my bohemian wardrobe and laughed about it with my friends. I kept this strategy up until my dad died, which actually, though I didn’t know it then, was not far off.

So, as you see, I’m siding with team Get Coat. Enjoy the shopping as much as you can, wear it when you see her - it’s Grandmother Coat! Put things in the pockets that you want to remember when you next see her! Maybe wire it - I SO wish I had quietly recorded my older family before they all died. But I would step back and just let the pain of it go. Remember, if she didn’t love you she wouldn’t be offering a coat.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:33 AM on December 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

It sometimes helps me to reframe stuff like this by thinking about my elder relatives' childhood and upbringing - a lot of older folks had what we would today regard as traumatic childhoods or were raised by people with traumatic upbringings and didn't get a lot of tools to deal with that. One of my grandmas grew up on a poor farm and was later shuttled between relatives. She was sometimes stubborn and defensive, but she worked hard, made sure people close to her had the material things (she thought) they needed, and loved making fun, happy memories for the kids.

You can also try asking your grandmother about her favorite coats or coats she had when she was your age to try to get at her underlying worry. Doing a first round of shopping looking at pictures of coats could help with this, too. Does she favor styles that were popular in a certain decade? What was going on in her life then?
posted by momus_window at 11:34 AM on December 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Just watch her ass live for ten more years...Just tell her no and it’ll never happen and stop asking. Then be extra nice about other stuff.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:35 AM on December 25, 2017 [5 favorites]

...resentment that she doesn't like me and my style the way I am,

People that age simply don't work like that. She's merely made up her mind and sticks to it, as many old people tend to do.
But why would you think she doesn't like you? There's no logical connection there. Even stubborn people can be full of love.

Try taking some pride in being the one who is young enough to be the more flexible one. This is not battle for domination. Do as others suggest: accept the coat as a manifestation of her being who she is, and don't take it all quite as seriously. Wear the coat when she's around, otherwise don't.
posted by Namlit at 11:36 AM on December 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

This sounds awful and I can very easily empathize with how it feels to have someone in your family insist that they love you very much while actively and vocally hating and criticizing everything you choose for yourself. And yes, letting her buy you a coat you hate will likely cause you resentment every time you see it in your closet or are forced to wear it for her and listen to her crow about how much nicer it is than your old coat.

You need to weigh that potential resentment against how she will aggressively continue to berate your choices otherwise, and how that makes you feel, every single time you see her. There's no easy way to come out of this without some kind of unpleasantness, you need to decide which is the lesser of two evils.

I personally would just let her buy me a new coat and then take it to a consignment shop the very next day. If she asks about it, it's at the very fancy expensive dry cleaner's who in turn send it out to elven maidens in a distant forest to wash with their tears or whatever, sorry, it's a very fancy process to take proper care of a coat like this!
posted by poffin boffin at 11:41 AM on December 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

Also she probably hates your style but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you. She’s old and from another country. She’s not gonna get your style, she’s 90. You’re lucky she’s not trying to make you wear a hat everywhere or telling you that buttons make you look easy. Laugh it off
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:01 PM on December 25, 2017 [5 favorites]

Take her to the Carhartt store. Hopefully, getting you a great work coat that you like will make her feel good.
posted by H21 at 12:23 PM on December 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

You cannot convince her to love your "stylish" coat and respect your choices, that's what you want but that's not an option on the table.

Exactly. Leaving aside her personal motivations and opinions for the moment, it's worth considering that pretty much any 90-year-old (even one who is not experiencing dementia, etc.) almost certainly possesses less cognitive ability to be flexible about this than does their grandchild. Elderly people often get stubborn about seemingly little things like this because their brains have literally changed: "Research has shown that concept formation, abstraction, and mental flexibility decline with age, especially after age 70, as older adults tend to think more concretely than younger adults."

You possess the cognitive and emotional capacities to view this situation differently (including figuring out how to see her need to buy you a "nice" coat from her point of view, learning to uncouple approval over your sense of style from your sense of self, projecting into the future how you might feel about this argument after she dies, etc.) in a way that she very likely does not.

Life is both short and long: short insofar as your grandmother is in her 90s, and it's not unreasonable to assume that this is probably among your last Christmases together. And it's long insofar as you will have many years of living to do after she dies, during which you'll have the memory of what your last years with her were like.

So let her get you the coat. If she means well (from her point of view, even if your definition of "meaning well" doesn't exactly align with hers), then receive it as a gesture of love and wear it a few times around her, and then donate it. And even if you believe that this is 100% motivated by malice on her part (though it doesn't sound like you do), then take it solely as means by which you get to redistribute a little wealth and donate it right away. Someone out there needs (and will love) the coat, and you will have done a good thing by getting it out of a store and onto their back.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 12:25 PM on December 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

if she just wanted to make you over in her image or her style, she could and would buy you a coat without giving you any say in it, and then you'd be stuck having to give it away or set it on fire when she wasn't looking. but she wants to take you shopping.

that means at the very rock bottom bare minimum, she cares that it fits you. very probably, it means she cares that you also like it, and that it's a joint decision and not just her selection alone. and very possibly, the coat is an excuse and her main wish is to spend a day shopping with you.

if you can convince her to instead buy you a different permanent luxury good to keep as a memento of her, like a very nice scarf or watch, do that. her taste in accessories might be easier to align with yours. but if she can't be convinced and you don't hate her, let her buy you a compromise coat. if she can't compromise and it's an awful coat or nothing, accept it but don't wear it and give it away quietly, you don't have to keep it; think of it not as giving in but as tricking her into buying a very nice new coat for an unknown recipient of whatever charity you give it to. but only say No to the whole thing if you hate the person, not just the present.

as someone said above, a coat is heavily symbolic: of warmth, protection; it literally embraces and surrounds you. it is to take care of you when she's dead. this is all stifling and intolerable from a person you don't wish to be embraced or protected by, so not a reason to give in unless you want to give her this comfort. but I think her insistence on style makes it seem more about looks than it really is. when very old people fixate on something this way it is not usually superficial even when that is the reason they're willing to articulate.
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:30 PM on December 25, 2017 [12 favorites]

I think there is a long tradition of young people having to wear things to please their grandparents. Does it help to know you are not alone?
posted by amodelcitizen at 12:33 PM on December 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

I agree with everyone else and especially like amanda's thoughts. You don't have to view this as an insult or as controlling. She is respecting your rural lifestyle or else she wouldn't have bought you studded tires; she does want to respect your style or else she would've just got you a coat herself. For some reason this is very important to her, and just as she's accommodated things that are important to you (snow tires? for Christmas??), I'd show her this love.

She wants you to have a certain kind of nice thing. And while that isn't going to necessarily help you, it's not going to hurt you. Nice things are nice to have, when the time rolls around that it becomes useful. Maybe try to find a coat you actually like? A nice wool coat will last a long time. You might be glad you have it in ten years.

Failing that, find one that's comfortable and has a lot of pockets. You can chase escaped goats and repair the barn latch in any coat. :)
posted by salvia at 12:42 PM on December 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

Everyone has made excellent points above. I'd just add that it strikes me that your post spends quite a lot of time justifying that the coat really isn't as bad as Grandma says because other people compliment it. You don't have to justfiy why you're wearing it in your own mind, as you decide her tastes are not yours. That kind of inner monologue justifying why what one's (doing, wearing, eating, loving) comes from a habit of pushing back as a kid against authority figures who told you what was going on with you. To me, if you didn't feel at all defensive about your choice or feel the need to justify it to yourself anymore to the inner voice you have of your grandma/mom/whoever, this whole issue would be less charged. So I don't think it is definite whether you should humor her for her age or stand your ground but I do think that it matters for you to let go.
Also remember that old ladies think they know a thing or two about modern and stick to their guns when they don't get it. For example, my mother (80s) was aghast that my teenage daughter's blonde dye hair showed dark roots. She insisted on trying to take her to the "beauty parlor" because obviously we'd just let this awful thing get out of hand. She also was upset that the dye didn't look "natural" blond, that everyone would know she dyed her hair and it was so not-classy. There was no way she was going to get that this was on purpose. There would be no point in trying to justify to her that her friends liked it or anything else -- it just really didn't matter. We bonded over cooking instead.
posted by velveeta underground at 12:53 PM on December 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

So, hey. I get you. I GET you. My maternal grandmother was super fundamentalist and as long as I can remember a visit to her involved stopping at the last truck stop before her town to put on "MeMaw clothes" - skirts, long sleeves, etc.- so that she wouldn't spend the visit being upset by our sinful attire and pulling my mom aside to tearfully worry that she was dooming us to hell by not teaching us the right ways.

Now, when I visit my mom, I don't have to change my physical clothes, but I also don't show my real self, because it's just... not worth the static. I choose a less genuine but harmonious relationship that stays at a more superficial level over trying to get her to see and accept who I really am. Sometimes it makes me sad, but I have made that choice based on what is best for my own emotional health.

Before I came mostly to peace with that, though, I used to have nightmares that I would wake up and mom had gotten my tattoos removed. It was horrible - I still remember that gut-wrenching sense of fundamental rejection. Not a rejection of my style, but a reflection of my self, which my style is one expression of.

So I COMPLETELY understand that feeling - that you want your loved ones to GET you, to love the you that you have worked and struggled to build and self-actualize over years of private labor. It's not about the coat. It's about what the coat represents.

So then... what do you do?

knitcrazybooknut above gave you a good script for the hardest but possibly best choice, which is: have Real Talk where you try to get to the bottom of what the coat really means to HER, and you share how you are feeling, and likely you both cry, and then you try to find a way forward where both of your needs are taken into account.

However, that is a hard thing to do and requires a non-insignificant amount of emotional labor. It is completely fine to decide you aren't up for it. So then, look into additional options.

If what you want most is to smooth this over with a minimum of emotional upheaval, I would suggest that you look for a Compromise Coat. I have like five different coats that I wear for different combinations of weather/dressiness/occasion/color choices. Is it possible to get a Grandma Coat that fills a niche OTHER than the one filled by Your Current Lovely Coat? The other half of the Compromise Coat is to work on yourself - maybe in therapy, maybe by journaling, maybe through introspection- to change the story of the coat from "this is a marker of Grandma's control and disrespect" to "This is a symbol of a choice I made to help Grandma work through her feelings about her own mortality and legacy."

Now, that sounds like you doing all the emotional labor so that she can make you wear the coat, but from my own experience, it was enormously helpful to me to realize in therapy that I had been making choices either in compliance with or rebellion against my mom in certain areas of my life, but either way they were always about HER, and that's why I still felt so enmeshed and trapped and miserable. Learning to move to a spot where I can make those choices FOR ME pulled the venom out of a lot of these types of interactions and now I can kind of internally roll my eyes and go along with a rare (thing I wouldn't choose to do for fun/wear/watch) because it makes my mom happy.

Basically: the coat is a small issue. You won't feel better about this until you dig a little bit at the stuff the coat is a stand-in for. And once you've done that, either with your grandma or by yourself, it's like magically the coats go from This Whole Big Thing to a minor annoyance you can laugh at later.
posted by oblique red at 1:01 PM on December 25, 2017 [14 favorites]

I think the point that a lot of people are not addressing above is the one that I feel uniquely poised to answer. This isn't about you AT ALL, this isn't your grandmother saying you are bad at things. This is all, all about immigrant class differences. This is about her looking at what will likely be the end of her life, and saying, "Did I do enough to pull my children and grandchildren out of the struggle and strife that I endured?"

She looks at your coat, which I'm sure is lovely and appropriate for the kind of work you do. And she thinks, "No one will respect her in that coat. No one will know she's a respectable lady, the result of two generations of work. They will think she is poor and they will treat her like she is poor and our family will slide back into poverty." It's not about the coat - it's about economic insecurity and fear of the world and seeing everything changing.

It's not that she wants you to get a coat to her tastes - undoubtedly her own personal tastes are entirely different than the coat she wants you to get, because she's clarifying she means a "modern and stylish" coat. Based on my own experience with this kind of thing, I'd wager she wants to get you a ridiculously expensive coat, in wherever in upper middle class land your style would fall - the kind of investment coat you would and could wear for ten to twenty years. The kind of coat that could change a life, in her mind.

She's trying to buy you security. And maybe she doesn't have enough money to leave you actual security - a house, or something big you really need. So she's trying to stretch out her power, the last power she has, to do the most good she thinks she can do, to shoot you up in class so that you'll be able to be happy and safe once she's gone.

The question isn't: should I buy the coat or not. The question is: have you had a deep conversation about your grandmother about your hopes and dreams, and how you are secure or not secure, and what would give you the most security? Because that's what she wants - not just a coat. She wants to do the most she can to give you security.
posted by corb at 1:05 PM on December 25, 2017 [80 favorites]

I agree with corb to an extent. This is about immigrant class differences. I remember getting a big challenging assignment to $organisation in $city and my mother told me that I should really consider investing in some pieces of statement jewelry before I went. At the time I was furious - thinking "I've worked so hard on so many complex challenging problems to try make a positive contribution to the world and my mother literally only gives a shit about what I LOOK LIKE?!" but actually I think it is because my life and/or work seemed so unrelatable to her but the world of what women signal by their appearance is one to which she feels she can speak with helpful authority.

I don't think your grandmother is trying to control you. Where I disagree with corb is that I don't think this is case for having a deep conversation. I think appearances are important to her because of generational/immigrant differences - she was raised (I'm guessing) in a world where she and her peers' worth was almost entirely evaluated on their appearances and the messages they send via their clothing/styling choices. She doesn't want you to be perceived poorly. I think it would be a kindness to meet her where she is and let her buy you a coat.
posted by bimbam at 1:39 PM on December 25, 2017 [14 favorites]

Whether you let her buy you a coat you don't want or need, ask her about how people dressed when she was %your age, where did they go when they went out, who did she date, etc. When my aunt died, she had literal dance cards, and great pictures, and it would have been fun to hear those stories. And she will almost certainly enjoy telling them.
posted by theora55 at 1:52 PM on December 25, 2017 [5 favorites]

I feel like you're immediately assuming that your grandmother wants to buy you a coat you will hate, and then you'll be forced to wear it (or create more grief for not wearing it), but every time you put it on it will feel like you're being forced to wear your grandmother's rejection of who you really are. But the thing is, if that was what your grandmother wanted, she'd have already bought you a coat and wrapped it and given it to you. Which she didn't do. "I want to buy you a stylish coat" is 100% not the same thing as "I want you to have a stylish coat, and I'm willing to pay for it." Because even if you're not on the same page of what constitutes styish - and you may not be - she wants to buy you a coat you'll love. She wants to take you shopping and let you pick. That means you can say no to anything you try on that you don't love.

Fashion isn't only about personal style. It's also about being able to be a chameleon, and wearing something that makes a whole new statement about yourself -- and if you don't feel it, you can take it off and be someone else by putting on something new. Your grandmother isn't trying to reject you or your sense of style. She just thinks that having a certain type of coat will allow you to make a certain type of entrance, and she wants you to have that experience.

I'd say yes, go shopping with her, and just tell her off the bat that you have particular taste and you're going to need to have a veto if you don't like something. Then open your mind, try on a lot of options, and see if you can't find something fabulous that also works for you. The best case scenario is you have an amazing special-occasion coat that lasts ages. The worst case scenario is you have something you like well enough that you can wear when you visit your grandmother. There are a lot of great coats out there - I think your sticking point is that you're automatically assuming you're going to hate it. And that's 100% in your hands.

TL;DR, try to have a fun shopping afternoon with your grandmother, stick to your guns about what you like, and maybe watch Desperately Seeking Susan. You can change your clothes, but it's up to you if you want to let your clothes change you.
posted by Mchelly at 2:05 PM on December 25, 2017 [11 favorites]

My grandmother was your grandmother, but like 50 billion times worse (I'm guessing). My attitude is free stuff is cool, I like free stuff - even when it comes with some serious B.S. and eye rolling associated with it.

Do you know what kind of coat she'd want for you? Where you'd go shopping? Can you scope out in advance? Maybe even chat with a clerk in advance? There is a way to get this in your favor. And...free coat.
posted by Toddles at 2:09 PM on December 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

Hi there! Hoooo boy can I relate. My grandma was fixated on wanting to buy me a very nice NEGLIGEE, I shit you not, for my bridal shower. She wanted to go shopping with me and would call me to let me know she had gone to Sears to look at negligees “but not many of them were floor length and those that were had foam cups for shaping and I’m not sure you need that.” I told her repeatedly I did not want a negligee. My mom told her. My aunt told her. She was determined to buy me a negligee and it was starting to become A Thing. She had weird antiquated ideas about me needing a bridal trousseau and only had sons so I guess she wanted some sort of intimate shopping bonding experience with a female descendant and envisioned a Veronica Lake type classic Hollywood garment. Which might even be fine but no one wants to wear anything remotely sexy that their GRANDMA gave them and I couldn’t explain that to her without risking hurt feelings and much drama. It was clear she was really wrapped up in this and had attached a lot of historic and emotional weight to a piece of clothing. I was tempted to do the same since we’d butted heads before about me dating, not being religious enough, etc. so I felt this was her trying to “approve” of me being sexual now that it was sanctioned by marriage, and I didn’t want that approval or her stepping over that boundary.

We didn’t go shopping (she was in poor health) but I bought a basic satin black nightie at Macy’s with money she gave me, my mom had it gift wrapped, I opened it at the shower, she was pleased she had done her duty, and finally let it go. It sat in my closet for a few months and then I donated it, unworn. The peace was worth accepting the stupid negligee.

Anywho. I sympathize and I think it’s super common with elderly relatives to put all sorts of unwanted meaning into an object or gift. In these situations I think it’s helpful to remember Marie Kondo’s attitude towards gifts - the true value of a gift is in the moment it is given. After that its purpose has been fulfilled and you can let it go without guilt. I would accept the coat, try to keep in mind in this case it’s more about the giver than the recipient, and wear it a couple times in her presence. After that it might be too warm or the coat is just too nice to risk getting dirty or it’s at the cleaners or it doesn’t match these boots etc etc etc while happily wearing the usual coat. If you’re able to find a coat both of you like, that can be an added bonus.
posted by castlebravo at 2:20 PM on December 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

Go shopping together. Buy coats. Have a nice lunch and rock those coats. She's being pushy about this, but I'd do it just to have a laugh together.
Tastes change. A basic black coat may be just what you need in a few years.
It could be much worse.
posted by TrishaU at 2:47 PM on December 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

I greatly disagree with the majority of the comments in this thread, and wanted to throw my opinion in the mix to try to balance the thread out a bit. I very much agree with mcduff's comment above, and feel that just because someone is old, doesn't mean they get a free pass to do whatever they want. I really hate that our society is basically built on these superficial relationships because everyone refuses to engage with others on a real, honest, and meaningful level. If I were in this situation, I would tell my grandmother that I did not want the coat, and try to engage her in how she was feeling, and tell her how I was feeling, and thank her for the thought. If she continued to insist, I would set a boundary that we weren't talking about it again, and that was that. If she actually bought me the coat after all that, I would refuse or return the gift.

Now, I guess that could come across as I'm a terrible person, and mean to my grandmother. But, I expect people I relate to (friends, family, husband, coworkers) to relate to me respectfully and as a full person.
posted by FireFountain at 3:17 PM on December 25, 2017 [10 favorites]

I'd also just like to add that, I strongly believe that one person's happiness should not come at the expense of someone else's. Doing things just to make family members happy but makes you unhappy is not fair, and people who love you should never be putting you in that position IMO.
posted by FireFountain at 3:23 PM on December 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

One positive outcome would be for your grandma to hear you when you say "I don't want another coat" and let it go. Another positive outcome might be for you to get a great coat that you actually like and will wear for years.

I would go shopping with her but do a few things to turn the situation to you favor and to give you a sense of agency. Research coats beforehand - get an idea of what might be a win-win. Possibly visit the store beforehand as suggested above. Send her some links beforehand to gauge her responsiveness to what you like. This will also help her, hopefully.

Depending on how far you go with it - if you dress up a bit the day you go shopping with her, the range of coats you can try on and match this image she has of you may broaden somewhat.

If you can't find something you like that she's willing to buy, then you have to either say no or let her buy something you don't care for. Be mentally prepared for every outcome, which will help you feel more in control and less fearful of being controlled.

If you do wind up with an expensive coat and decide to get rid of it sooner or later, I suggest consigning it rather than donating. At least you'll get some benefit, and you can set it aside for when you need to replace a coat in the future - if you want.
posted by bunderful at 3:23 PM on December 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

I really hate that our society is basically built on these superficial relationships because everyone refuses to engage with others on a real, honest, and meaningful level.

In 98% of all circumstances, no one actually wants your/anyone's unfiltered honesty.

There are times when differences are just not reconcilable, and pointing at them and yelling about how important they are means that you will have no relationship. Sometimes that is inevitable, even praiseworthy. Over a damn coat OP doesn't even have to wear, it's not. A modest evasion or deception can preserve the relationship that exists.

It's really hard to step away from the symbolic freight an item can acquire if it happens to fit into a long-standing, emotionally fraught narrative, says the woman who a couple of days ago yelled at her mother over losing a $2.95 Metrocard, but later on you will be asking yourself what you were thinking, how such a dumb little thing could have meant so much, says the woman who is already feeling like quite the jerk over it and will probably feel a sting of shame over that memory long after her mother is gone.
posted by praemunire at 4:29 PM on December 25, 2017 [20 favorites]

I get the struggle and the concern for her respect for you/your style, but I also think the fact that she gave you the tires you requested is awesome and suggests that she *does* respect who you are, and the fact that she wants to shop for the coat with you suggests that she wants you to like the coat as well (not just have her foist it on you).

None of us know you or your grandmother, but your title suggests that you think she is doing this out of love, and I think it would be great if you could think about where this might be coming from or mean to her (possibly wanting to take care of you or give you security, as some folks upstream have suggested) and see if you can find a way to be comfortable with this gift that she wants to give you, whether or not you ever actually wear it.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 4:42 PM on December 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

Just setting aside the emotional aspect for a moment--are you sure that you won't come out of this with a coat that you like? I mean, there's a wide, wide world of coats out there. I would imagine that she could be persuaded to like a good-quality black coat in pretty much any cut. Is there no cut of black dress coat that you would like? None at all? Because you will find a use for that at some point in your life no matter what your job or class and regardless of the fact that you already own a nice coat. I own a bunch of coats, even a nice black dress coat, but if someone wanted to buy me another I bet I could find one that we both liked. Maybe when it comes down to it, she actually will be buying you something that you want.
posted by HotToddy at 4:58 PM on December 25, 2017 [14 favorites]

As the kid of immigrants who has to deal with class issues, corb's answer is a dead on.

I spent a lot of time fighting my mother about similar things -- in my case, it was expensive clothing gifts being purchased and given for astrological/horoscope/superstitious reasons, and I resented and hated it. What, did she think I needed to receive gifts on certain days so that my marriage would be successful? Friends told me all the time about how great my husband and I were together. We had a solid, modern wonderful relationship.

And then I thought about how my mother was trying to protect me from the worst heartbreak of her life. In her mind, she was doing her absolute utmost to make sure I would never experience the central tragedy of her life -- in the same way that she made sure that my sister and I never went hungry as children or had to work to earn enough to stay in school, she wanted to do her utmost to make sure my husband loved me and would never abuse me.

How the fuck does buying me a coat (that was the present one year, I swear to god) on a certain astrological date do that? Hadn't I done that by marrying a man who respected me and loved me and treated me as an equal?

But it's what my mother BONE DEEP believed and still believes, and while white American culture says I shouldn't let her and shouldn't have accepted the gift and should push back against her magical superstitious old world thinking, I ended up accepting the gift in the spirit of recognizing the fact that she was doing her utmost to make sure I would never end up in a Greyhound station with my children and nothing but the clothes on my back, the cash in my wallet, and the bruises on my face.
posted by joyceanmachine at 5:20 PM on December 25, 2017 [29 favorites]

I think what might be making this hard is that you feel like if you accept the coat, you're accepting all of her other expectations on what you should be. That sounds really hard. If you can work your way around to viewing it as just a coat- even if it means way more to her than it does to you- you might be able to put yourself at ease about it, if you decide to accept it.

Also, if and when you ever visit the Big City, having a City Coat might be useful, even if only to blend in. I work in a Big City and I just can't with City Style. I'm sure I'd like your coat more than her platonic ideal of a coat. And yet- if I had one that blended in, I might feel more comfortable. So having a City Coat might be useful even if you hate it.
posted by BungaDunga at 5:22 PM on December 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

I understand.

A few years ago my mother got it into her head that I MUST have a Leather Coat.

Now, I did not need a leather coat, did not want one, did not have the slightest desire for one.

I let her buy it for me. I wore it a handful of times. Back in 2013 when we had the fire, it got all smoky smelling (and I gained some weight, nuff said. )

Mom is in her late seventies, but what other folk are saying is accurate. Let her buy you the danged coat. Treat the shopping as a chance to learn about who SHE is while she is still here with you.

And one other thing-as you well know, clothing is costume. We use it to communicate to others who we are. I just wanted to let you know it is okay to have clothing items that tell a different story that you normally tell because once in a while you need to be able to *pass* so to speak.

The coat is just a symbol. Let it be a symbol of love,not manipulation. It is probably both but you get to choose the frame.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:41 PM on December 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

I feel that you’re coming at this mentally from a worldview in which she is firmly the Adult Authority Figure and you are firmly the Rebellious Youth Seeking Approval.

However, realistically (and sadly) past a certain age your grandmother will swap places with you and become the Helpless Dependant while you are the Adult Authority Figure. She is extremely close to that age if she isn’t there already.

What you do as the Adult is accept her judgement the same way you would a child’s, which is to smile and nod and say “oh my” and “yes, you certainly feel that way don’t you?” Etc. You accept her feelings but be as offended at the judgement as you would a 3 year old saying you’re a stupid head. Do you know what I mean?

I would be tempted to call this the perfect challenge/watershed moment for becoming the Adult in the relationship. The Adult takes the high road, always.
posted by stockpuppet at 6:00 PM on December 25, 2017 [5 favorites]

66 answers?! I am truly amazed at all the thoughtful advice I've gotten here, and on Christmas Day, no less. Thank you all.

Corb and bimbam are spot on that this is about immigrant/class/generation differences, that my grandmother grew up in a world where the opportunities presented to her were largely based on her appearance, and that she is trying to buy me security. Corb has it exactly right that she wants to buy me a ridiculously expensive coat, "the kind of coat that could change a life." She even used nearly those exact words. She probably thinks it's the kind of coat that would find me a husband.

This may not get resolved immediately, which works in my favor. The remaining two days of my visit are already full with existing plans, so there's pretty much no time to go shopping. I might be able to skirt the issue by just wearing a different coat the next time I see her. And who knows, I might be able to find a coat I enjoy if I do eventually go shopping for one. But I love the idea of asking her about the deeper issues here, finding a long-lasting gift that is meaningful to both of us, and also talking about how people dressed when she was my age.

A deep thank you to everyone who responded.
posted by Questolicious at 8:16 PM on December 25, 2017 [30 favorites]

This question made me so sad. My grandmother, who is the only family member who would have loved me, passed away unexpectedly years ago. Some time before she passed she sent a card to me through my mother, asking if I was okay, to please write to her, that she would understand any sadness I was feeling.
But my mother did not give me the card until after my grandmother had passed.

I spent this Christmas and Christmas Eve completely alone. I would have given anything for my grandmother to still be alive, for her to have invited me to go shopping during the holiday season, to have picked out a beautiful coat for me that would have reminded me of her after she was gone. We would have had lunch together and she would have asked about my life and cared about the answers I gave. She would have given me advice and kindness. I have so many questions for her too, about her family history (she was Sicilian), her life before I was born- puzzles pieces to my mother and her actions that only she could have provided.

I remember once when I was little, my grandmother wanted to take me shopping, just me her oldest granddaughter. I felt so special, so grown-up, but my mother would not allow it.

Here is a quote from Cheryl Strayed, one of my favorite authors:

“One Christmas at the very beginning of your twenties when your mother gives you a warm coat that she saved for months to buy, don’t look at her skeptically after she tells you she thought the coat was perfect for you. Don’t hold it up and say it’s longer than you like your coats to be and too puffy and possibly even too warm. Your mother will be dead by spring. That coat will be the last gift she gave you. You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life.
Say thank you.”

Take your grandmother up on her offer. Use the shopping trip as a time to bond with her, learn about her life, ask advice. You may be surprised at her wisdom. If you create a positive experience, you will treasure the memories created for the rest of your life.
posted by lonepilgrim at 12:07 AM on December 26, 2017 [28 favorites]

A month after our impromptu decision to tie the knot, we visited my 87-year-old grandma at my country of origin. I introduced her to my new husband, and she presented me with an envelope full of money, and two necklaces that she had been saving since I was a little girl for the occasion of my marriage (one for me and one for new husband). I certainly don't need the money and she's the one who's struggling to pay healthcare bills, husband never wears necklaces, and even though I occasionally wear them they were certainly not my style. We thanked her profusely and wore them for the rest of the visit. She made such a point of telling us about the kind of gold used, and that it "wouldn't tarnish" which made me think that it was a point of pride to have not-costume jewelry to mark such a momentous occasion.

As we were leaving, I slipped the envelope of money back to my aunt in charge of finances. We don't use the necklaces day-to-day but I've kept them.

Fast forward this year, we visited her again. I brought the necklaces along, and made a point to wear them when we went to see her. We only visited twice for like an hour each time. Once we left, my mom called me crying, because my grandma hadn't stopped talking about the darned necklaces for 3 whole days and how happy she was to see us use and "enjoy" them, and my mom was blubbering about how she managed to raise such a thoughtful daughter.
posted by tinydancer at 6:13 AM on December 26, 2017 [49 favorites]

I might be able to skirt the issue by just wearing a different coat the next time I see her.

Maybe so, but I would consider trying to give up this hope. If you try this and she still wants to give you a coat, will you be able to not take it personally? And for all you know, it’s all about a coat to her because maybe when she was 17, someone insulted her coat.
posted by salvia at 7:15 AM on December 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

She probably thinks it's the kind of coat that would find me a husband.

So, this reminded me of a conflict with my mother some years ago. When I was a young adult just starting out, my mother kept buying me these ridiculous status items -- in particular, a number of pieces of diamond jewelry. Now, I hate diamonds (for both ethical and aesthetic reasons) and our taste in jewelry is NOT aligned. But these things were so expensive and she was so enjoying giving them to me (and being able to afford to give them--we had been poor my entire childhood), so I just sort of uncomfortably accepted them.

And not only did I not like the jewelry, I felt misunderstood and, like, "corrected." Which was kind of a pattern of my family in my youth, that I was consistently "girling" wrong. And now I was "womaning" wrong, because Women Are Supposed to Like Diamonds, Why Can't You Just Be Normal For Once.

As I got a little older I realized that it was much more complicated than that. My mother was in the midst of making some really terrible personal and romantic choices in the interest of gaining some financial security. And ultimately, she was afraid that I would eventually do the same -- marry someone awful just so I could finally get the diamond ring, the fancy purse, the big house.

She was wrong in the sense that, like I said, I hate diamonds and fancy purses, etc. But she wasn't wrong completely -- I absolutely did hunger for validation, approval, that stamp of "being lovable." She was trying to protect me by giving me what, in her mind, were talismans of that approval. She was saying, "you don't need to date some asshole; you are good enough, you are lovable, you are worthy. And if anyone challenges you on that, you just blind 'em with this weird diamond ring."

All of this to say, even if she does think it's a husband-finding coat, it doesn't have to be a referendum on you as a non-husband-haver. It may just be, for her, a talisman that says "listen world, my grandchild is worthy, she is lovable, and don't you effing forget it."
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:40 AM on December 26, 2017 [29 favorites]

As a counterpoint, I'm not a huge "stuff" person, and some of the stuff I have that my beloved, now-deceased mother gave to me (or I inherited after she died) fills me with joy, because I like them on their own, while other stuff she gave me that I don't like does not make me feel filled with nostalgic longing for her -- most of it I've given away and I'm fine with that decision. Feeling guilty and/or joyful about material goods is not really a given, even when the giver has passed away.
posted by lazuli at 10:11 AM on December 26, 2017

About a month before my mom died, she became obsessed with the idea of buying my father a slim fit white linen sports coat. He did not want this coat, but she was DETERMINED. Of course, she was in hospice care, and couldn’t actually leave the house, so it meant sending me out to go shopping on her behalf, at multiple stores until I found one that she liked.

She gave it to him on his birthday, and he was baffled but said thank you, and pointed out that it needed to be tailored. And then she died, and he returned the coat to the store, because he would never in a million years wear that coat.

I don’t know if that would work for you— but just because she buys you a coat doesn’t mean you have to keep the coat. There can be a middle ground between “you are wrong and your wrong desires are hurting me” and “yes okay I will submit to your demands”.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:44 AM on December 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

In your shoes, I would accept the gift of the most classic, best-made coat that made her happy. I would keep it as close to new as possible, wearing it only the minimum number of times I could let her see me in it. Then, when she passed on—as she will, given her age—I would sell the thing at a consignment store and buy something I liked to remind me of my grandma who, however misguidedly, wanted to keep me warm and safe.
posted by rpfields at 1:24 PM on December 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

I strongly disagree about the idea that your grandmother has dementia or memory problems. There is nothing in your post to indicate that.

But I do agree that her wish says more about her than it does about you.
If you can recognize that and accept her gift as a gift to her, do so. If not, don't make yourself bitter by taking it.

Also, it doesn't sound like she is exactly on her deathbed. Plenty of people love to be a hundred. Take that for what it's worth.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:25 PM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I would have appreciated it if my grandmother insisted on buying me a coat, even one I didn't like, than on insisting buying me a subscription to Billy Graham's magazine.

Give thanks that the things your grandma doesn't agree with about your taste can be solved with a coat.

After her death, you can give it to a woman's shelter.
posted by yohko at 12:12 AM on December 28, 2017

She probably thinks it's the kind of coat that would find me a husband.

Oh yeah, I didn't know your marital status and didn't want to speculate, but if you are in fact unmarried, I would bet this is exactly true. My own grandmother pitched an epic shitfit when I got a tattoo, and when we finally talked at length about it, it was because she thought it lowered my marital chances.

The world is changing right now. If it were me - well, when it WAS me - I would point out that marriages are no longer the ticket to security they once were. The divorce rate is higher, and alimony is no longer as robust, nor does it last as long. If you can show her that success in your profession is more likely to grant you security than a fickle man who may not even last or take care of you the way she thinks they would, she might also be willing to get you, say, a nice set of tools or something you can use for the remainder of your career and think positively about, using in the way it is intended.

I hope you can have those conversations and that they go well! If you need tips or just want to commiserate, feel free to MeMail.
posted by corb at 7:09 AM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm getting two subtexts about your grandma from your question. One is that she doesn't feel that you present as "feminine" enough (work in trades, unmarried, she doesn't like your coat or shoes) and the other is that she fels you need something with lasting value, an "investment piece" so to speak (my 92 year old grandmother has some coats that she's had for decades, made of fur, really really nice cashmere feeling wool, natural thick good quality fabrics that honestly I think you'd have a hard time finding nowadays, and they were expensive and are considered as precious as her wedding ring).

That said, just go shopping for the coat. MAybe you will both find something you like. IF not, pretend you are a girly girl that just got out of prison and only have some shit standard issue hoodie, pick out a coat as that character and donate it to some charity like Dress for Success.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:45 AM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Don't know if someone mentioned this, but get an L.L. Bean coat. I believe they still have the lifetime return/exhange of an item policy.
posted by Crystal Fox at 12:08 PM on December 28, 2017

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