Loathes sister's 'controlling' generosity
DEAR AMY: My sister is a lovely, kind and generous woman who adores me. She is also triple-A alpha and has a job that requires her to have all the answers for everyone else. My problem may seem silly, but I am upset and confused. Every time my sister wants to give me a gift (and her gifts are always way too generous, and much more than I could ever reciprocate), she asks me what I want and then gets me something she decides is better. If I get up my squeaky little nerve to ask if I can exchange the gift for what I really want, she argues with me about why what she chose is better. In the end, I keep the gift, tell her how fabulous she is and feel like a jerk. Since it's not something I wanted, and since it is now loaded with negative emotions, the gift is not enjoyed. This year I told her I was buying myself something, and suddenly something in the same category (but much bigger and not really what I had in mind) was delivered to my door. The gifts make me feel powerless and disrespected. I know the answer lies in how I talk to her, so please, some tips. I couldn't stand another argument in which I anger her without being able to make myself heard. Whenever I try to give her a gift, she tells me if she wants something, she'll buy it herself.
The Lesser Sister
DEAR SISTER: Your sister is a generous and manipulative saboteur. She is so competitive she cannot relax. She won't allow you to give her gifts; respond in this spirit, and don't allow her to trap you. Don't take the bait. Tell her, honestly, "Let's just stop giving material things and do things together, instead. Opera, ballgame or spa day? You decide." If items arrive on your doorstep that you have not asked for and do not want, either accept them gracefully (and enjoy) or -- if you choose to exchange or return them -- thank your sister and make sure her money is refunded to her.