Dear Ann Cannon • One of my friends goes crazy with gift-giving during the holiday season. She spends a lot of money and gives a lot of “stuff” to all of her friends. I heard she does it at work, too. I love to honor the season and my friendships, as well, but I do not want to spend the kind of money this friend spends or buy people something they may not need or want.
When one of our friends suggested that we make a contribution to a mutually agreed upon charity, she said it was a great idea, and then still gave all of us gifts too. What do I do?
— Frustrated Friend
Dear FF • It can be awkward when someone gives you a present and you have nothing to give in return. In this case, the fact that you and this friend agreed not to exchange gifts has further added to the level of social discomfort, right? But here’s the deal. I’m guessing that gift-giving is your friend’s “love language,” which means she’s probably going to keep at it, regardless of what you or others say to her.
So, what should you do? You could, of course, go ahead and get her a gift, as well. Otherwise, just thank her profusely and savor her generosity, which is probably what she really wants you to do anyway.
Dear Ann Cannon • Now that we’re being assaulted by Christmas music everywhere we go, my husband and I are trying to decide which holiday song wins the prize for being the most annoying. We’d be interested in your input.
— Is It Just Us or Do Some Christmas Songs Really Stink?
Dear Is It Just Us • Wow! Did you ever ask the right person this question! I’ve been looking for an opportunity to rant, so THANK YOU. The most annoying song ever invented is the one about the kid who wants to buy his mother a pair of shoes because she’s off to meet Jesus that night. SERIOUSLY! JESUS DOES NOT CARE ABOUT YOUR SHOES!
Also, note to my kids: If you want to buy me some shoes, please buy don’t wait to buy them on the day I’m fixing to die. Thank you. Signed, “Your Mother”
I heard from my old mentor Clifton Jolley, who offered this memorable take on the recent advice I gave to the young man who wants some holiday time away from his family:
While I find your advice to be considered and sound, I would suggest an alternate response to the lad who wanted some me-time over the holidays: One of the most important things to know about a family is that it is at once inconvenient and troubling. One of the ways we recognize our family is that we would not permit mere friends to treat us so badly, much less interrupt our failed hopes for solitude. Man up, kiddo! And cheer yourself up with the knowledge that your family likely resents you as much as you them. Why spare them your company?
When I was producing the documentary “Family: Refuge or Prison,” I interviewed the Catholic theologian Michael Novak (author of “The Family Out of Favor”) and told him that while I agreed with his high-minded essay about the importance of families, mine mostly made me crazy. He grunted and replied: “Families are designed by God to be combative. If you don’t know that, you don’t know families.”