Do You Have To Let Your Coworker Have Sex With Your Husband?
And other questions for which I have answers...
In today’s edition of “I Have Answers To Questions People Asked Famous Advice Columns” we have three letters sent to three different publications.
1) Does My Extended Family Hate My Daughter?
DEAR ABBY: Our daughter and her cousin are the same age. Both are medical school graduates. Eight months ago, when this cousin got married at an in-person wedding, he was showered with gifts from the family. My daughter, in contrast, had a private ceremony because of COVID concerns and sent a wedding announcement to the family. To the shock and amazement of my husband, my daughter, and myself, not a single person in the family thought to send her a gift or even a card.
There’s no bad blood in the family. Everyone appears to love her. She is disappointed and devastated. Should I just get over this, or should I say something to the family? She and her husband live 2,000 miles away, and at this point, I can’t envision them making the effort to fly home and see the family ever again. — BAFFLED IN TEXAS
Dear Baffled In Texas,
Abby’s response is that “the rules of etiquette state that wedding gifts are required if someone is attending a wedding” and that since there was no wedding, no gift was expected.
What is this, Little House On The Prairie?
I have been to lots of weddings. I have given gifts for many of them. It has been probably twenty years since I actually brought that gift to the actual wedding because the registries are online. My physical presence at the wedding has long since stopped having anything to do with the “gift.”
Amazon and the miracle of e-commerce have detached the physical wedding from the wedding gift, and that has had multiple consequences: on the one hand, it makes it more acceptable to attend a wedding and not give a gift at all. You won’t get weird looks. On the other hand, it means you are expected to send gifts on certain occasions even if you don’t attend.
For example: Sometimes I’ve been a plus-one at a wedding and I wasn’t trying to impress my date by showing what a good and interesting gift-giver I was. I didn’t give gifts to the married couple because I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me and none of us would have given one shit if I had spent $15 on some knick-knack just to say I had.
But I have given gifts to many married people despite not attending their weddings. Sometimes you can’t make it! Indeed, it is fairly standard to send a gift when you actually can’t attend a wedding. It shows that you care, even if you can’t be there.
The logistics of this are not complicated since, again, all of this is done online now. People make registries online and include them in their invitations.
Invitations. This is the key thing that your daughter and Dear Abbie are missing.
The expectation of a gift is not tied to attendance at a wedding. It is tied to receiving an invitation to the wedding. That is the moment when people decide to send a gift.
Your daughter didn’t send any invitations because she didn’t have a wedding. Because of that, no one sent her a gift. This is her fault. Sorry.
She sent “a wedding announcement”? Is that like an Instagram post but printed out and mailed to people? No one is going to send you a gift or even a card because of that.
You might expect extended family to send her gifts because they’re family but they probably are a bit insulted because your daughter did have a “private ceremony.” A private ceremony implies a couple handful of people. Maybe immediate family (did you attend?) and the closest two friends of the bride and groom, respectively. So potentially 12-20 people.
Well, your daughter just told Aunt Ginny that she doesn’t make that cut. And Aunt Ginny has responded in kind: she isn’t going out of her way to track down postage and mail your selfish daughter a card.
(Your daughter could have avoided this by saying they didn’t have a ceremony at all. That would imply she got married with two witnesses and a justice of the peace, or something. But she didn’t say that. She said she had a very very exclusive ceremony.)
Invitations are nice! They make the person who receives them feel valued! The invited in turn responds to this kind act by sending the inviter a gift. Your daughter did not play her role in this exchange and has no right to complain.
The second she decided to forgo a wedding where she could send invitations to people, she should have accepted that she was not going to get any gifts. All she can hope for are some Instagram likes on the photos.
If she really just wants some gifts then she should have left the door open for a future reception after she wasn’t freaked out about Covid. She could have said that in the announcement. Some nonsense about “getting together to celebrate at a later date.” Then once that date came, you could send an invite, and the gift expectation dance would begin.
Does all this sound stupid to you? Sort of silly and ridiculous? Well, it is. This is silly and ridiculous. Sometimes people get mad about something that is silly and ridiculous because they don’t want to get mad about what they’re really mad about.
To zoom out for a second, why is your daughter spending her honeymoon period upset about this? Is it because the marriage isn’t going as well as expected? It seems like there is a chance she is projecting her anxieties and fears about this new marriage onto the loose acquaintances who haven’t sent her Amazon gift cards.
How much time are you spending with your daughter? Does she, like, call at weird hours? Does she go for long drives just to get out of the house and call you to talk out of earshot of her husband? Do her husband and she seem to be getting along?
To the extent that this is about the gifts, it is her own fault. But in reality, it seems like the more likely answer is it isn’t about the gifts and your daughter is looking for something else: freedom from the fear that she might have made a mistake.
But the truth is her extended family can’t buy that for her from an online registry. You can’t give that to her from a FaceTime call 2,000 miles away. Even her husband can’t give that to her, just as she can’t give it to her husband. She has to find it for herself in time.