DEAR AMY: A few months ago, I was upset with my husband, and he sent me flowers. I told him it was a nice gesture, but I would rather not get flowers because I think it is a waste of money, and flowers eventually have to be thrown out. It was my birthday recently, and he asked me what I wanted. I couldn't think of anything. (We've been married for 15 years and I have usually bought my own birthday presents.) So, he got me flowers again. I asked him if he remembered I would rather not get flowers because I would rather not waste the money on something I would have to throw away. He said he remembered, but he wanted me to know he was thinking about me and didn't know what to get me. I'm upset! I feel like he doesn't listen to me or take me seriously. This isn't the only time this kind of thing has happened. I feel like he's just checking off a list: Wife's birthday — send flowers — check. Am I making too big a deal out of it? Should I just be happy with the flowers?
DEAR UPSET WIFE: I wonder why you are being so mean to the person who is trying so hard to acknowledge and please you.
I see a guy who perhaps has not tried hard enough for 15 years. He is trying now. And you are telling him, "No thanks." (Is it too late to accept his efforts? I hope not.)
Flowers have symbolic and romantic meaning. The man who sends you flowers might be a guy who is simply making the least imaginative gesture, or he might be a guy who is trying very hard to romance you.
You obviously choose the most negative spin, but when I read your narrative, I think about his efforts to connect with you. He is also asking you for direction, and you are refusing to provide any. This is not at all fair to him.
Do you want a card, a spa visit, a movie-date or a divorce? Is there any gift you won't consider too frivolous or wasteful?
Of course, this isn't really about gifts offered and received ungraciously. This is about connection. Your husband is trying. And if the thing you want most of all is to have a conversation about connection, then tag — you're it. You should start by acknowledging his efforts, and apologizing for your own behavior.
DEAR AMY: I'm thinking about hosting a Christmas party with some old college friends this holiday season. I'm planning for about 10 people, with food, beer and wine, but no hard liquor. We don't plan on getting crazy, or anything. However, one of my friends, "Brian," is a recovering alcoholic who has been "sober" for the past two years. I'm debating if I should not invite Brian, or whether we should not serve alcohol at this particular party. Would it be rude of me to not invite him? Should I invite him but inform him that there will be beer and wine present for others at the party? Should I not serve alcohol based on one person who is attending?
DEAR BARTENDER: If "Brian" is a good friend of yours (and others in the group), then yes, it would be rude not to invite him to this gathering, where mutual friends will be present. If he were an actively drinking alcoholic, you wouldn't hesitate inviting him (I assume). And so don't exclude him for being in recovery. He has an illness, and through lots of hard work and treatment, his alcoholism is in remission.
After two years in recovery, he knows that the holiday season presents lots of triggers and challenges to his sobriety. Invite him and say, "We'll be offering lots of nonalcoholic beverages, but we are also planning to serve beer and wine. I just want to make sure you're comfortable with that, and of course we understand if you decide you can't make it."
DEAR AMY: I have a suggested comeback for "Not So Fat," the guy whose elderly mother fat shamed him. The next time she does this, he should say, "Mom, why are you shrinking? Your skin is so wrinkled and your hair is thinning!" She would probably say, "That's just the way I am, and don't make fun of me for growing older." And he could say, "Well, this is the way I am."
DEAR BEEN THERE: It's worth a try. Thank you.