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Response to "Quid pro 'no'"

Posted by Robin Abrahams  September 28, 2012 04:05 PM

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First of all, my apologies for those of you who have had commenting and formatting difficulties. I don't know what's going on with the commenting software (didn't even know it would be changed, in fact), but let's hope it gets worked out soon. 

Anyway, your comments about Monday's question were fairly consistent with my own read of the question, which was that 1) if it's really about the presents, the LW is being petty, but 2) it's probably not just about the presents. 

Scorpio75 preached the Miss Conduct gospel on the first point: 

An invitation to a party is not a bill of services nor an invoice. 

Sing it, Scorp. The LW is wrong to be keeping score like that. If the friend were generally an advantage-taker, that is one thing, but if a person fails to reciprocate in one particular area, my advice is to cut them slack. They're probably helping you out, or putting up with your own failures, in ways that you don't even realize. Or someone is, anyway. Don't be a karmic beancounter. 

However, many folks felt that the LW probably wasn't upset about the presents per se, even if she thought she was. Bluemoose wrote: 

Why are you and your husband hurt? Is it because you've drifted apart and you regret that? Or is it about money? If it's the former, send a lovely card with an honest and heart-felt note about missing the friendship of this person and welcoming his new partner into his and your lives. Invite them for dinner or another social event that isn't about gift giving. If it's the latter, just move on and count this "friendship" over. 

GMV had an eloquent take on the situation: 

Here's the thing about presents: they aren't swaps, although it may seem that way when you have a pack of kids who are all growing up together. You give them with the full knowledge that they may never be reciprocated. Sometimes there are long periods where presents go back and forth and there's some parity, but sometimes things change. I think your kids didn't get presents because your friend had other priorities. I do think you are being petty about not going to the wedding and wishing him well in his new life. What probably hurts more is that his behavior plainly states that he's not as interested in your children as you thought he was, or should be. When you see him next your thoughts should be about the value of the friendship and what you and your husband want to put into this new phase of it rather than what he owes you and your children. 

And impstrump noted: 

Meanwhile, the friend thinks you've mutually opted out of gift-giving and everything is copacetic. 

So true! I always do wonder how the subjects of the letters I get would describe the situation. This might be one of those cases in which the friend being written about is happily oblivious that there is any "situation" at all.

Have a wonderful weekend, dearies! Come see "Blood Rose Rising" -- our second episode, "Heir of Suspicion," opens tonight. I hear there's a strangely familiar Housekeeper at the Blackwood Mansion this weekend. Join me there, and on Facebook --  and don't forget, the holidays are coming up, so if you have a burning question, get it in to Miss Conduct soon. But if it burns every time you have a question, see your doctor. 
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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