is it ok that this pissed me off?
January 25, 2022 7:19 AM   Subscribe

My thoughtless father has struck again. But am I overreacting?

In December COVID restrictions temporarily eased up (prior to Omicron) and my dad felt safe enough to travel to India. My aunt (his little sister) died of COVID last year and he had some loose ends to tie up regarding her estate, her flat, and items she had left for me and my four cousins (my aunt never married and didn't have kids, we all got a sizeable cash inheritance from her since she she was frugal, had a pension, and had a lot of savings and investments - some of what my dad had to do involved dealing with the chartered accountant who was helping with the investments, which was the most complicated). My stepmother has been in India for over a year taking care of her mother, who is very ill, so they got to spend some time together.

I would like to preface this next part by saying THIS IS NOT ABOUT ME WANTING GIFTS, FANCY OR OTHERWISE. This is about my dad being thoughtless in a way that is consistent with many prior such acts. I don't need or want gifts from India - my partner and I relocated further upstate six months ago and are struggling to get unpacked because we both have Too Much Stuff and are amassing Goodwill bags of clothes and piles of items to sell. I do not need more stuff, though I would accept gifts graciously as I am not a monster.

In the past when my dad and stepmother traveled to India, my stepmother would pick out funky earrings for me - she knows my taste and fashion sense, and she also knows that I do not wear gold jewelry (it looks bad with my skin tone, even though gold jewelry is very common in India). I have many excellent earrings from her. My dad defers to her, mostly (important later) when they go gift shopping for me and their friends back in California.

What my dad often does, though, is pick out clothes for me in India. I think it's hard to shop for clothes for ANYONE unless you know them well and especially are cognizant of their size. Every single item of clothing he has picked for me on India trips has been two to three sizes small for me. Unwearable. Now, as I said before, I don't really need more clothes (I need LESS OMG I am Marie Kondo-ing my closet this week), so in the end the lack of the new clothes that fit isn't the problem.

The problem is, he picks these clothes KNOWING that they are too small for me. He thinks it will motivate me to lose weight. I've been chubby most of my life and my dad has made it clear to me, since high school, that he feels personally ashamed by this - as if it's a referendum on his parenting. I am chubby mostly because I have PCOS which presents with insulin resistance. I take medicine to treat it. I excersize (not as much as I should have during COVID lockdown, but I'm not glued to the couch either). I eat healthy food. My A1C is fantastically good, and in the end, though my endocrinologist wouldn't mind if I lost 30-40 pounds (me neither!) she mostly cares that my A1C stays low enough not to make me full blown diabetic.

When my dad presents me with these tiny clothes it makes me feel anger, shame, and hurt. Especially when he gleefully suggests that I should aim to lose weight to fit into them. My aunt (the one who passed) often would help him pick these clothes and was fully on board with the small sizing gambit. (This is a woman who, when I was 20 years old, looked at a photo of me from when I was in SECOND GRADE and said "You used to be so thin, what happened?" Um... puberty? Are you seriously comparing my weight at the age of 7 to my weight at the age of 20?!)

At any rate, on this most recent trip my stepmother was super distracted with her mother's care that she didn't have time for the traditional earring shopping. Again, this is fine with me, because I REALLY DON'T NEED MORE STUFF. My dad told me that one of my cousins bought me a 24 carat gold necklace with a certificate of authenticity to go with it. Very sweet, but I don't wear gold. (He did remember that.) Cool, I'll save it as an investment piece and we'll give it to my stepdaughter when she graduates college. She can wear it or save it as an investment piece. I won't wear it and I DON'T NEED STUFF I WON'T WEAR.

He also said that my late aunt left behind some jewelry for each of the female cousins but didn't specify what went to who so he chose a couple. My birthday is coming up soonish, so, early bday gift. Cool.

He is back from India and sent the gifts to me. He neglected to send the certificate authenticating the gold necklace. He threw it away. He. Threw. It. Away. My cousin specifically included it from the jeweler to send to me because it's a big old chunky necklace all in 24 carat gold. It's expensive. I could get it analyzed by a jeweler I suppose but I don't understand why my dad would throw something like that away. (He also never put approximately a million dollars' worth of gold jewelry gifted to my mom on her wedding day - she died 25 years ago, and was clear that jewelry was for me - in a safe or a safety deposit box. He kept them in his underwear drawer. He lives in a posh neighborhood. His house was broken into and all of the jewelry was taken. Never to be found again. Police were like, why did you keep it in your underwear drawer? It's partly my fault for not taking the jewelry when I turned 18 but I assumed my dad had it locked away in a safe deposit box. That was my inheritance from my mother who I lost when I was 12, and it's gone.)

He picked out two bangles from my late aunt's collection to gift me. Silver bangles. Hey! He remembered! I don't need more stuff but bangles are pretty! I have gigs coming up, I could wear them!

Not really. They are small AF. They are clearly meant for a child. My skinniest friend couldn't put these on. They are ridiculously small.

I asked him if he didn't notice how small they were. He said if I dieted and excersized more I could easily wear them.

These bracelets are MEANT FOR A CHILD.

AGAIN, THIS IS NOT ABOUT ME WANTING GIFTS. I HAVE PLENTY OF JEWELRY. I DO NOT NEED MORE STUFF. This is about a pattern of thoughtless and unkind behavior vis a vis my weight via gift-giving - the too-small clothes, the child-sized bangles (I will give those to my three year old niece, she's the only one I know who they will fit), the comments about how this will "motivate" me to become thin. Not to mention the thoughtlessness of throwing away the certificate of authenticity for the 24 carat necklace. Not to mention KEEPING MY INHERITANCE FROM MY MOTHER, WORTH ONE MILLION DOLLARS, IN HIS UNDERWEAR DRAWER.

He also threw away silverware - real silver - that was my mother's, engraved with her initials - that were also to go to me. He claims they got mixed up with his normal silverware and he had too much silverware and accidentally threw them away. He "accidentally" threw away all of the ENGRAVED silverware?

Again, I REALLY don't need more stuff. This is not, not, not about wanting gifts. This is about him being unkind and passive aggressive. This is about how I'm angry that he lost the items my mother left to me when she died when I was young. This is about his callousness.

But there's a part of me that wonders if I'm overreacting. Ok, he sucks at gift giving. Fine.

But this also all feels... calculated. And I don't know what the deal is about being careless with my inheritance from my mother.

I've asked questions about my dad before - most recently about his pathological lying. He is a narcissist, undeniably so. I guess I'm having trouble parsing whether this bungled gift stuff is a part of that, or if I'm just being petty. I don't know. I honestly don't know. Can any of you give me some thoughts or insight

Final reminder: This is NOT about wanting fancy gifts, or gifts at all. I don't need more stuff. This is about what feels like calculated and/or thoughtless behavior via gifting.

posted by nayantara to Human Relations (35 answers total)
Your dad sucks, at least about this, and is not going to stop sucking. He’s giving you gifts you physically can’t use unless you do what he wants!

Maybe have the bracelets melted down and turned into a necklace with your name, or something you’d actually like. Or meet a child and give them to a child!

You’re not being petty, and even though this seems complicated from the inside, it’s just a dad being shitty.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:28 AM on January 25, 2022 [19 favorites]

I don’t mean “just” as in unimportant. I mean “just” as in garden-variety you-are-not-alone he’s-not-unique “just”.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:29 AM on January 25, 2022 [3 favorites]

I don't think you're being petty. The reason I think that is because you were very clear that it's not about the things, it's about the pattern, and the pattern sucks. You're allowed to trust your own perceptions and you should. The thing my mom tells me when I complain about family members being weirdly & unnecessarily insulting is that they come from a different time & are stuck in their old contexts. Dads also tend to be utterly clueless about things like what their daughters should wear, and jewelry. That's not to say it's ok, but for me knowing why something is the way it is helps me get over it even if I don't like it so it doesn't become an energy sink.
posted by bleep at 7:41 AM on January 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As someone who also comes from a family where there has been constant food and weight discussion, amateur analysis, criticism, and insanity, I would say this isn't calculated, just deeply ingrained pattern

Doesn't make it any less annoying as shit, but maybe that perspective will allow you to let this go more easily.

My only advice is to set clear boundaries about weight talk. Cut it off immediately when it starts. I even cut certain family members off when they tried to compliment me about losing weight (it was really meant as a dig towards a sibling). Your father cannot have a rational discussion about this so don't let him try.
posted by brookeb at 7:44 AM on January 25, 2022 [5 favorites]

Is there perhaps a distinction worth being made between the instances of your dad being bad at protecting wealth (keeping your mom's jewelry in his sock drawer, throwing away the certificate) and the gifts that serve as cruel commentary on your weight? The first two read like genuine accidents to me - nobody anticipates being robbed, and I've accidentally thrown away important papers before myself. Whereas giving you items that are too small, and then telling you they might motivate you to lose weight - that's calculated.

I'd write a letter to your dad focusing on the weightloss related gifts, explaining why they're cruel, and how you are managing your health just fine. In the future, I'd probably try to make a joke about it "Oh thanks dad for this shirt, I can't give it to my 7-year-old neighbor!" Like, your dad is being ridiculous, but I'd try not to let it get under your skin - people's relationship to weight is socialized - no doubt your dad grew up seeing women shamed for their weight, and now he's internalized it and projected that onto you -it's very shitty of him, but it's also not personal.

If you really want to try to start a conversation with him, the podcast The Maintenance Phase does a real deep dive into debunking a lot about what we think about weight and health and weightloss.
posted by coffeecat at 8:05 AM on January 25, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Um, I think the definition of petty is mutually exclusive to the definition of $1M. You can't be "petty" over $1M. I don't even know what to tell you about losing $1M by accident. Except that you are well within rights to be mad. For a long damned time.

Did his narcissism mean that he couldn't let someone else's gifts to you (like your mom's) eclipse his own? Like, if he couldn't be front and center there, he was going to find some way to make it not happen?

Between that and the weight aspect, it honestly sounds like you have a really decent understanding of what's going on and why it bothers you. There's not much to do beyond that. You can't change him, or even get him to acknowledge this. You're never going to be able to have this conversation, the one you've written out here, with him. The only thing you can possibly do besides enforcing boundaries is to figure out how to let go of needing to resolve it with him, of needing him to recognize and acknowledge what he's actually doing. He's never going to see it the way you (or all of us, on your behalf!!) do. He'll do this again. And again. The only thing you can do is be different yourself.

But again, you are completely within your rights to *be* bothered here. No doubt.
posted by Dashy at 8:10 AM on January 25, 2022 [21 favorites]

Best answer: This is not thoughtless behaviour, this is deliberately, thoughtfully cruel behaviour. You are not wrong to be upset by it.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:14 AM on January 25, 2022 [21 favorites]

Oh, this isn't conversation-starting territory, to me, it is conversation-ending territory.

This feel like a place where Captain Awkward's advice about "returning awkwardness to sender" is appropriate.

I would not physically allow this guy into your space/your home, instead, either meet in public spaces or visit his home. You can tell white lies about that - "I'm on a work call" "I'm busy" "now isn't convenient" "have an important meeting in five minutes."

During these actual meetings at his place and not yours, it is appropriate to be extremely direct - "No, Dad, do not bring me inappropriate clothing, and do not make any comments about my weight or body." "Stop doing this." "This is hurtful."

If he doesn't listen, get up and leave, and don't take his calls/emails/texts for at least a day or two. I don't think this piece of work will listen to gentle requests.

If extremely direct feedback of this kind doesn't produce changed behavior, I would suggest lengthening those periods of time where you don't physically interact and you ignore all his correspondence, for your own well-being.
posted by All Might Be Well at 8:18 AM on January 25, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Of course you are pissed off! This is a pattern of behavior of your father being careless of your feelings and outright mean. You mention that he is a narcissist. This is, in my experience, typical narcissist parent behavior. He did these things because he isn't capable of caring about anyone else.

Let's review:
-- He uses gift giving as an opportunity to insult you and to try to assert ownership over your body. I'd suggest that gift giving is a particularly insidious way to do this because it is a moment where the recipient is emotionally open to the giver.
-- He was careless with YOUR property. Property that was both financially and emotionally precious. Your mother's jewelry and silverware were a gift to you. If he were able to care about your feelings, he would have taken very intentional care of these things.
-- He undermined the gifts from other relatives (your cousin and your aunt) to make them useless to you. In effect, he stole these gifts from you.

Being angry about his behavior is a necessary step in healing the damage that being raised by a narcissist has caused. Do not squash down this anger. At the same time, do not expect that he will change or feel any remorse.

(Just to let you know you are not alone. I have not seen my college diploma since the day of my graduation when I handed it to my mother for safekeeping. I confronted her years later and she shrugged and said "Eh, I must have lost it or something." This type of off-handed cruelty and neglect is very common in narcissistic parents.)
posted by mcduff at 8:19 AM on January 25, 2022 [12 favorites]

Best answer: One more thing: why in the world do you even get close to thinking you're overreacting?

Whatever underlies the answer to that question is probably the issue you need to get at. You undoubtedly know that a narcissist gaslights, and pressures you to conform to their script. Are you still susceptible to this? (we all are, self included here).
posted by Dashy at 8:32 AM on January 25, 2022 [3 favorites]

Tell your father that any gifts of clothing or jewelry that do not fit you will be immediately sold or donated to charity. Tell him you do not want to hear comments from him, ever again, on your weight or the size of your body, and tell him that if he violates this rule at any time you will immediately end the conversation. And then when he does inevitably ignore you and violate this rule, immediately end the conversation. Hang up on him. Walk out of the room.

If, after this, he blows up at you for setting healthy boundaries, feel free to end the conversation with him FOREVER if that's what feels healthy for you. You have official permission from me, a random person on the internet who also happens to have a narcissist for a father. I cut off contact with my father decades ago and have absolutely zero regrets about doing so, because he had plenty of chances before then to decide to stop being an asshole; it was his choices that made the separation necessary not mine.
posted by BlueJae at 8:52 AM on January 25, 2022 [3 favorites]

I guess I'm having trouble parsing whether this bungled gift stuff is a part of that, or if I'm just being petty.

Would it make you feel better if it was unintentionally cruel, rather than intentionally cruel? I suspect not.

I would consider chesty_a's approach taken a step further: modifying what you can to fit yourself, ideally in some ostentatiously obvious way it was never intended, and re-gifting the rest.
posted by mhoye at 8:56 AM on January 25, 2022

From an anonymous user:
My father is a pretty problematic guy with behaviors I don't like and opinions that I don't agree with. He's the father that worked to keep the household running and left the care and management of the children to my mother. When we reached adulthood, his job was finished. While he loves me and I love him, we are strange acquaintances. (He'd say we are close.) For years I cried and quietly raged that I didn't feel supported and that he kept me at arm's length.

Once I realized that I was never, ever going to have the close relationship with him that my peers had with their fathers and that he was never, ever going to change into a different man my outlook improved tremendously. I released all expectations and now anything problematic no longer disappoints me and I'm delighted by the (scant) things he gets right. When I visit him I no longer expect heart to heart talks, but he'll buy me all the drinks I want at the bar.

All of this to say that the poor decisions your father has made surrounding how to give you gifts are ... poor. His personality sounds very less-than and you are not being petty. Barring a life-changing event he'll likely not change. You and I, we didn't hit the Daddy's Girl lottery. It stinks. The best gift you can give yourself is to give up hoping that he'll finally get it right and expect nothing. "Here's a package from Dad. I bet it's some more too-small clothing. Yup. Off to eBay or Goodwill. Too-small bangles? Gonna sell those suckers to a jeweler and buy myself a new video game."

It takes a while to get to that point and it's difficult but worth it.
posted by travelingthyme at 9:13 AM on January 25, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Of course he's being awful. Of course you'd be upset, incensed even.

The only thing I'm unsure about is why you are not already 100% clear that this is unkind, awful behaviour -- why are you uncertain enough that you need to ask?

Of course, I can imagine that dealing with this kind of thing has left you uncertain about _so many things_, but -- you can trust yourself on this. This is beyond.
posted by amtho at 9:19 AM on January 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

I have a different perspective on this, which is to try to forgive him, not for his sake, but for your own sense of peace. I don't think there's something that you can magically say that will change him.
posted by pinochiette at 9:41 AM on January 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You cannot change him, but you can change your response to him. People above have some good suggestions about how to change your response to him, but I also think some of these suggestions come from the point of view of Westerners and might not be aware of some of the cultural nuances. No one has mentioned therapy yet, but this sounds like a good opportunity for the perennial AskMe recommendation of therapy - I'd just suggest that if you do so, try to find a therapist who's deeply familiar with Desi family dynamics.
posted by matildaben at 10:43 AM on January 25, 2022 [4 favorites]

one of the problems with "healthy" being used as a euphemism for "thin" is that fat-baiters get to disguise their cruelty and fat-phobia as concern for fat people's well-being.

So that business about bringing you too-small stuff as a "motivator" to get you thin is.. horrible and gross and cruel, but he legitimately may not realize that; he may think he is acting in your best interest. If it helps you to forgive him - which is to say, to not be burdened by the idea that your father is hurting you out of gleeful sadism - then that might be useful.

With regard to the jewelry... it's horrible that it was stolen. I don't know how it works in India, but where I live I think a lot of people think of their home as their castle and don't think about burglary as a thing so likely that they need to store their valuables offsite. Is it possible he was too cheap to rent one? Didn't trust the local bank or didn't have one? Thought he'd lose track of it if it went offsite (he doesn't sound great with documents!)? Wanted to keep the jewelry near him because it felt like keeping your mother near? I don't know.

Is he cruel to you beyond the fat-shaming?
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:51 AM on January 25, 2022

Best answer: There's two questions here: is it okay to be pissed off, and does being pissed off do anything good for you.

For the first - of course it's okay. There's no correct or incorrect here, but I'd definitely agree that kind, good behavior this is not. I'd find it obnoxious and get angry about it too.

For the second, though -- that depends on you. Sometimes anger can be good. But I know that my reactions to things like this make me less happy overall and take away from my peace of mind. In the (fewer than I'd like) cases where I've been able to just feel less emotion about one of these things and accept it kind of philosophically, my own state of mind has been more pleasant.

So if you're able to, the shift from "can I be angry at this" to "should I bother being angry at this?" might be a good one to make. But yeah, it's not always easy.
posted by trig at 11:20 AM on January 25, 2022 [4 favorites]

He's not good at gifts: fine. He doesn't take appropriate care of expensive things that belong to other people: less fine, but it's a thing you learned about him at great cost and now you know it and know not to rely on him for such things, it is what it is.

But the bullshit about your weight is absolutely fucking terrible. You are not overreacting. You are not wrong to be hurt by it. I can't speak to the appropriate way to respond to it given that there are cultural issues in play here that are not my own, but from my perspective, you would be well within your rights to refuse and walk out on any discussion about your weight or health with him, and to refuse to accept any gifts that are inappropriately sized for you. I don't know that you can ever change someone like this, but you can decline to give them the opportunity to make their bad behavior your problem.
posted by Stacey at 11:26 AM on January 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

Is there a practical way to avoid the pain of too-small gifts? Like, do you have a friend who can open them (if they are mailed) out of your sight so you don't have to be pained every time he sends you something? Your dad is probably not going to stop being a jerk, but Stacey nailed it: If there is any way you can decline to give him an opportunity to hurt you, that would be awesome. You cannot control him; you can really only control your own responses to this continued behaviour. I'm super sorry your dad continues to harass you about your weight. WTF?
posted by Bella Donna at 11:31 AM on January 25, 2022

Response by poster: Re: the stolen jewelry - he works in a very senior role in the corporate office of a well-known national bank. You'd know the name (they have been in the news, ahem, a lot in the last four years due to some shady stuff). HE COULD HAVE GOTTEN A SAFE DEPOSIT BOX FOR FREE. IT'S A PERK OF HIS JOB. He has worked in banking for nearly 40 years!!! When he called to tell me what happened I was completely gobsmacked. He hadn't even insured the jewelry! He got $5000 from his home insurance company for the loss. And he kept the money.

I have no idea what he was thinking. In India yes, it's not that uncommon for expensive items to just be hidden away (all of my American desi friends who I told about this incident were like "Ugh, Uncle hiding jewelry in his chaddi drawer, tale as old as time" (though they were all very sympathetic and upset on my behalf because it was my mother's gift to me)). But he's lived in the States for nearly 50 years - over half his life. Working in BANKING AND FINANCIAL SERVICES.

He may have been thinking "I live in [poshest East Bay neighborhood ever], bad things don't happen here." He brags about living there to everyone he meets, like he expects a round of applause for living there. Was quite hilarious to see this in NYC where literally no one cared or had even heard of where he lives.


My casual theory about the jewelry and the silverware is, he's always had a bug up his ass about my mother's family being more well off than his (both were gifts from her family), and there's some part of him that subconsciously DNGAF about being careless with these items - to the point that he forgot that they were both left to me when she passed away. He'll never admit it. It took him YEARS to admit he threw away the silverware (I kept asking and he said he was "looking for it").

I should have taken it all when I turned 18. That's on me.

Oh, and he hijacked MY college diploma too. I had to steal it out of his house ten years after I graduated.

Thank you all so much for your responses. I'm beginning to see that the shitty "weight loss" gifts and also the carelessness with valuable items that belonged to me (inheritance from my mom, the necklace my cousin bought me) are all a part of the continuum of control he desperately tries to hold on to in his relationship with me. He loaned me $9K when I bought my last house before my partner and I relocated and while we were selling said house Dad was blowing up my phone asking when I was going to pay him back. We were living out of a hotel and trying to buy our current house. Like, he threw a temper tantrum on the phone during my lunch hour when I said that the closing on the house sale wasn't done and I wasn't sure how much money I was getting back after closing costs and so didn't know when I'd be able to officially pay him back. (I should NOT have taken the loan.) Screaming so loud my boss could hear from her office and she came to check on me because I was close to tears. My dad is on my partner's shitlist permanently because of this. We didn't take a penny from him when we bought our current house (together) and on some level this bothered my dad too. This is another thing he does - he brags about how much money he has (he is wealthy, career finance and all, and his house is valued at nearly $2M) but he always acts like he's about to be destitute, like that $9K is the difference between his current life and living in a homeless shelter. (Yes, I did pay it back. My partner says I should have kept it as an inconvenience fee for putting up with his tantrum.)

This is getting long, but thank you all again. Yeah, this is clearly something worth being upset about but... when you grow up with a parent like this (and he was a single parent for a lot of it), you lose track of what's "normal" and what's not.

I talk about him a LOT in therapy.
posted by nayantara at 11:34 AM on January 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

The loss of your mother's jewelry sounds like carelessness, and I think it makes sense to mourn it as a tangible token of her, but to try to release your Dad's involvement. Time passes. People can be jerks, but people can't be changed, and some anger is just toxic to you.

he picks these clothes KNOWING that they are too small for me. He thinks it will motivate me to lose weight
When my dad presents me with these tiny clothes it makes me feel anger, shame, and hurt.

This is unkind, and not uncommon from parents, and not okay. The bracelets might be an oversight, but the intentionally wrong sizes of clothing is mean. I would write a letter, on paper. Dad, you pick these clothes knowing that they are too small for me. It does not motivate me to lose weight. When you present me with these clothes it makes me feel anger, shame, and hurt. You should stop it. I have given the clothing to a local thrift shop.
posted by theora55 at 11:53 AM on January 25, 2022

Response by poster: Also, these child-sized bracelets he sent me? My aunt didn't leave instructions as to which cousin gets what, but three out of four of my cousins have young (under 4 years old) daughters and common sense would dictate that perhaps one of these cousins should have gotten these bracelets instead of me (my dad just happened to be at the flat looking through her safe before anyone else got there). I don't know what other jewelry was there, but seriously, these bracelets should have gone to one of my cousins' daughters. Now I have them. I'm giving them to my stepbrother's 3 year old daughter. I feel bad that my cousins didn't get an opportunity to claim them for their kids.

He put his desire to shame me about my weight above the common sense of leaving child-sized bracelets for the children of the family. Ughhh
posted by nayantara at 11:54 AM on January 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

He has repeatedly lost or had stolen things of value that belong to you, and you note he lies. Are you sure he didn’t steal them himself? It’s super-easy and instantaneous to test whether the necklace he gave you is 24k — maybe check that he didn’t swap in a fake?

Either way, yes the aspect you’re actually asking about is totally horrible, not petty.
posted by daisyace at 12:16 PM on January 25, 2022 [6 favorites]

My cultural background is different from yours, so I don't know that my suggestions are good ones. At this point, I'm not sure I would even open a gift of clothing from him. And if I did open it and it was too-small clothing, I'd be tempted to hand it back to him and let him know that they will not be used. If he pressed it on me, I'd recommend to him that he return the clothes and get his money back, letting him know that if they stay with you, they are going directly into the garbage or recycling. And then do it. In front of him. You can say "thank you for thinking of me" and then change the topic. Something benign like "What are your plans for the upcoming holiday?"

"Thank you for thinking of me. What are your plans for the upcoming holiday?"
posted by vitabellosi at 12:59 PM on January 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

Whoah. My spidey-sense is tingling here. I think he stole that stuff. He took jewelry for himself (you said he got their first?) and then some childlike jewelry assuming: (a) no one would want them and he could look generous by just taking small stuff when he already had other stuff, and (b) he could "gift" them to you and look good plus shame you (bonus!).

Which, honestly, the more he keeps you at arms length and feeling ashamed and off-balance with his bizarre attacks on you, disguised as "gifts," the less you will dig into what happened with the things that were meant for you. Honestly, make a list. A list of all the things that were "lost," "stolen," "mishandled." Look, I may be way off base and you'll know if I am and act accordingly. But, I don't think he was robbed either. Once you have a list, I think you can decide what to do from there. List the good gifts, too, or the valuable stuff that wasn't lost...if there is any.

I think you are right to hand off the tiny bracelets to some other children in the family. That's a kindness out of [whatever BS your dad is up to]. Can you reach out to the person who helped buy the authenticated jewelry? Can you send a photo of the jewelry and even get on the phone with them? "Hi! Dad said you helped to pick this out... [wait for what they say]... he said there was a certificate of authenticity and that it was XX that true?! [like, OMG! how generous!]." If it is all true maybe they could at least help you get another certificate or let you know whether it is even worth your time to get it appraised.

I'm sorry. Your Dad, in addition to all the stuff you've penned here, is gaslighting you about everything and seemingly enjoying keeping you off balance. Here, I love you, a gift....ha-ha! You'll never be worthy! I'm so sorry and I'm not surprised you are spending time on this in therapy. Hugs and strength to you.
posted by amanda at 1:14 PM on January 25, 2022 [6 favorites]

"a million dollars' worth of gold jewelry"

"He got $5,000 from his home insurance company"

I don't understand why the insurance company would only reimburse $5k but maybe I just don't understand insurance?

Others in this thread have covered the emotional aspects of this situation. In terms of some practical advice:

You can refuse gifts. You don't need to take the gifts and reallocate them to other members of the family, or find a sensible place to donate them, or explain to your Dad that they are the wrong size or the wrong style. All of that is a burden that is not necessary for you to take on. Tell your Dad: "Please don't buy me any items when you go to India. We are trying to downsize." And then, when he gives you something (because of course he will) you need to be prepared to stick to your guns and refuse it. Hand it directly back to him. Leave it on the table as you exit his house. Mail it back to him. The handling and disposal of these unwanted items is not your burden to take on.

Remove all of your possessions from his house, if he still has any. Don't count on any inheritance. Don't get attached to any items that have been "promised" to you. This is another way to control you. Expect nothing!
posted by cranberrymonger at 1:37 PM on January 25, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You are not overreacting. If anything, you are under-reacting. I am so sorry that your father is like this. (My father is a bit like this, too, albeit with fewer financial resources to throw in my face.)

In the future, I would consider simply not accepting any of his so-called gifts, since they are not gifts at all but rather deliberate and incredibly nasty insults. (You have already learned not to accept another kind of “gift” from him—financial loans—and I’m so glad.) I would literally hand any too-small clothes right back to him after I opened them, or mail them back to his home if they came in the post. All you need to say is, “This is not a gift. It is an insult, and I don’t accept it.”

I also want to point out that, despite your framing here, the other “gifts” you mention… really aren’t. Your inheritance jewelry wasn’t a gift, it was already yours. The necklace from your cousin and the bangles from your aunt also were not gifts from him—they were things that already belonged to you that he was entrusted to deliver. I bring this up not to be pedantic, but rather to point out what I suspect is a pattern of thought that contributes to his behavior: that everything that belongs to you is actually his, up to and including your body. When he harangues you about your weight, he is saying that he believes he has the right to say what you should do with it. When he maintains possession of things that belong to you, and then is careless with them, he is flexing his power over you. (To that point, I think you should stop beating yourself up about not taking immediate possession of your inheritance at 18; I suspect that, if you had tried, the push-back would have been swift and explosive. I bet he liked having that claim on you.)

I am very sorry that you are dealing with this situation and these negative emotions, but your emotions themselves are emphatically not the problem.
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 1:51 PM on January 25, 2022 [11 favorites]

oof, sorry I misread as to his geography.

and I agree with CtrlAltDelete's reading. He sounds incredibly controlling and arrogant. I'm sorry, this all sounds super painful.

It's ok to decline gifts. It's ok to leave them right there on the table.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:19 PM on January 25, 2022

Response by poster: cranberrymonger, the jewelry itself was not insured for its value. Since he had no proof of the value (the gifts were given to my mother in 1977), his home insurance company only gave him the bog-standard reimbursement for a robbery according to his policy. I think he should have given the money to me as some sort of compensation for losing my fucking inheritance, but hey.

A few of my friends wondered at the time whether he stole the jewelry himself. I wondered for a while myself. I haven't seen a copy of the police report but my stepmother (who is a non-lying credible source, I trust her more than I trust my father) says that the police were informed and she was there when the police report was filed. There had been a rash of break-ins in the neighborhood that week - someone or someones decided it was time to hit up the rich folks of Berkeley and made a killing without realizing it. This was corroborated not just by my stepmother but by the local newspaper. Several neighborhood friends who I know and are trustworthy were also robbed.

As for the silverware, I am 100% certain he threw it away out of spite, perhaps after he and I had an argument. Which I just don't understand. My dad has always been shitty to me, but he loved my mother and took amazing care of her while she was sick - his behavior when it came to my mother was nothing short of heroic (people contain multitudes). You'd think that he himself would have a sentimental attachment to a set of silver that had her (married) initials engraved on it. Either that or he was in a bad mood because he was ruminating (again) about how her family was wealthier than his - he has a bad habit of, when he misses my mother, looking at their wedding album, which inevitably triggers bad memories of her family (who were actively horrible, abusive people despite their generous gifting) - and threw it away in a fit of FUCK MY IN-LAWS. Who knows. (He's also resentful that my stepmother's first husband who passed away 15 years ago was a diplomat. My dad just cannot deal with other people being more important, fancy, or richer than he is.)
posted by nayantara at 3:02 PM on January 25, 2022

Best answer: I have an aunt who I am not close with - she is mean and only likes nephews, not nieces, and we are not the same race, and her racism towards me is pretty evident. She has always disapproved of my appearance.

Anyway, she once called me repeatedly on an extremely busy day when I was already near tears from stress. She announced that she was making me a necklace for Christmas, 2 months in the future, and needed to know my preference RIGHT NOW. She monopolized my time with guilt trips and questions and not listening and making me repeat things for THIRTY minutes until I was literally in tears because of how overwhelmed I was. I should have just hung up but we'd never been close and I always wanted her to like me so I didn't want to slap back her kind offer to make me something I would really like.

I asked for a very plain subtle necklace made of tiny identical inexpensive seed beads, choker length, using just one colour - either red, blue, black, or silver. I have long hair that gets tangled in ornate beads so I specifically said I didn't want ornate beads. I dress in a simple, masculine style, so I didn't want anything overly feminine or colourful.

At Christmas she presented me with: a gaudy, waist-length necklace made of huge ornate beads, in multiple colours. In every possible way it was the exact opposite of what she had harassed me to finally request.

I saw it and just felt absolutely awful. I was so hurt and angry I didn't even want to touch it. So I said, "Auntie, thank you for making me a gift. But you basically bullied me into telling you what I wanted and then did the exact opposite. This necklace hurts my feelings because you were really demanding in making me choose a design; I was actually in tears because you were being so aggressive and demanding on a day when I was already in a rush and stressed... and I see you didn't listen to a single of the simple preferences that you had forced me to express. So.... I prefer not to take this necklace. I can't wear ornate beads with my long hair, and I don't wear these colours. Thank you for the effort: I hope you can give it to a different friend who will wear it."

My whole family (not North American) thought I was breathtakingly rude. But I was really proud of myself. Fuck her and her lifetime of finding ways to hurt me when I was a vulnerable little girl. I don't need her any more.

Do you see any parallels between my story and yours?

PS - If your dad is going to leave you an inheritance don't do this! Be juuuust nice enough to him to get and take that money, he fucking owes you.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 3:05 PM on January 25, 2022 [13 favorites]

Response by poster: (btw, though, I have full durable POA and health proxy for him and I am his sole beneficiary in his will both of which I have copies of and I know for a fact that he's not going to change that - he and my stepmother are not legally married and chose not to specifically because they didn't want to combine finances and want to leave their respective monies and assets to their own children. he won't go back on this, my godmother, who is my mother's best friend, helped him draft the will, and if anything were to change she'd be giving me a heads up STAT. and also he takes great joy in looking at all the money I'll be getting whenever he kicks the bucket - feeds his ego. he just completely fucked me over with my mother's gifts to me for reasons unknown. I'll step away now.)
posted by nayantara at 3:11 PM on January 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You aren’t overreacting. It sounds like your father has a not uncommon but extremely toxic relationship to gifts and important possessions; he uses them as a vehicle to act out his negative emotions and interpersonal dramas, to symbolize his deep, complicated, bad feelings and as a pretext to start family fights. Being careless with his late beloved wife’s jewelry as a maladaptive grief response, giving you hostile, shaming gifts like the clothes that don’t fit, using the $9K loan as an excuse to scream at you for hours. The kid’s bangles and lost certificate are trivial in comparison to losing a major gift your mom gave you or the controlling behavior and meltdowns over the house loan, but because those things happened, any of his typical shittiness around gift giving, especially in the wake of a death in the family, is going to trigger all of the other, deeper stuff: losing your mom’s heirlooms, the loss of your mom, his ongoing financially enabled emotional abuse. It sounds like death and grief is part of this pattern for him, too, so the loss of his sister is probably exacerbating this bad behavior. It sucks but I think ultimately you have to try to condition yourself to accept that your dad’s relationship to gift-giving is fundamentally broken, that in any situation where he’s giving you something that should be an expression of love and care, from himself or other family members, you are just not going to see a good outcome. He got your hopes up by getting the metal of your aunt’s bangles right and telling you about the valuable chain, then, for whatever fucked up reasons he always sabotages gifts and inheritances, made them unusable. I doubt he’s doing this consciously but he’s doing it consistently enough that it might be worth it to explore in therapy that he is actually just incapable of giving you gifts that aren’t toxic in some way. A lot of wealthy people have extremely destructive emotional associations with love, money, and the way family love is uncomfortably both emotional and transactional, and your dad is right up there with the best of them.

I’m sure you’re familiar with grey rocking and think that might help with the shitty or ruined gifts— your dad obviously seems to be trying to use these crappy gifts to pick fights with you, like the loan, and you don’t need to keep getting jerked around like that. Other posters have good ideas about having a trusted person open them. I think a confrontation or rejection is exactly what he wants— an excuse to pull the kind of screaming fit he did over the loan— so I would avoid that. Give him a lot of “hmm” “ok,” “hey, I’m getting a work call, let me get back to you” answers if he tries to draw you into conversation about him or your cousins giving you something— I would not ever allow him to get into enough detail about potential gifts like the gold necklace that you knew it once came with a certificate of authenticity. You don’t sound like you’re financially in a place where that investment gift is going to be the difference between making rent or not, you don’t need it, it’s not worth the emotional price of getting on the dad’s terrible presents rollercoaster. If he tries discussing presents with you, cut him off with a breezy “I’m sure whatever it is will be great!” and change the subject and don’t allow him to return to it, or suddenly need to end the call if he won’t drop it. Also, if you haven’t already, talk to your therapist about building emotional tools to deal with this before your dad starts feeling his age or having health problems and starts inventing fights over his will, because that’s extremely likely. I’m so sorry he’s like this— you deserve a family who can give you uncomplicated, un-barbed presents that are symbolic of love and support rather than toxic emblems of your dad’s unresolved, terrible emotional state.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 1:18 PM on January 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

You've got some responses noting you don't have to accept the gifts. I'd add that if it were me, I would not even open the packages. I would just Return to Sender or, if the USPS doesn't let you do that anymore, pay to ship the box back, unopened; if he gave me the gift in person, I would push the box or bag back across the table, without looking inside.

Some responses offer examples of wording that's either white lie-adjacent or just defusing. I would be utterly direct. 'I am certain you get me things knowing they will make me feel terrible -- so many times now, I assume you do it *because* they will make me feel terrible. I apparently can't stop you from doing it, but I definitely can not accept them.' Honest to God, if I had a fireplace, I'd be tempted to burn the packages, unopened, and send him video, except you'd risk destroying something valuable one of those times.

And a word of warning: If he's a pathological liar, then you sound a little too certain that you're still sole beneficiary. Your stepmother and godmother might not know everything he's been up to.
posted by troywestfield at 9:29 AM on January 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

With regards to the child's size bangles: We have similar (not exactly the same) cultural backgrounds - I've been on the receiving end MULTIPLE TIMES of 'gifts' that have been aimed at forcing me to lose weight - clothes that were too small, diet books, one time one of my uncles offered to pay to send me to a 'fat farm' (his words) and the rest of my family were like 'Oh how kind of your uncle, he only wants to help you, now say thank you like a good girl'. (I didn't.) Older desi relatives using their wealth to toxically control our bodies is a thing. I hate that it is, but it totally is.

I have nothing to say that hasn't been said already by Mefites more eloquent than I about your dad's breathtaking act of spite in throwing away your inheritance. But I don't think you're being petty, by a long shot, and I would question why you would think that your thoroughly justified anger and grief could be considered petty. Your mom left you things which have an emotional value to you and those things were taken away. It's not about the money.

I hope you find a good therapist who specialises in South Asian family dynamics, to help you work through your, again, completely justified feelings of sadness and anger.
posted by unicorn chaser at 2:55 AM on February 4, 2022

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