To ask an etiquette question, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
YOU ASK! WE ANSWER! YOU DECIDE!
By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace
QUESTION: I just celebrated my birthday and my best friend brought me a box of candy to celebrate. I have been on a diet for the last several months and am having a hard time losing 20 pounds. My friend knows this. What should I have said when she brought me the chocolates?
CALLIE’S ANSWER: I wouldn’t read too much into this. Simply say thank you and give yourself a pat on the back for NOT eating the candy. Happy Birthday!
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: Maybe your friend thought you “deserved” to celebrate with candy and take a break after your hard work losing weight or maybe she wanted to acknowledge your birthday but couldn’t think of anything to get you. Or maybe her intentions were more sinister than that and secretly they included trying to derail your efforts to make yourself healthier. I don’t think that you have to probe deeper into the meaning behind her gift, unless you have ongoing, additional concerns about your friendship that you need to sort out. The proper response to the gift was an enthusiastic “thank you” or, if you have to say more, “Thank you! This looks yummy. I’ll have to share with my family later.” There’s no need for an explanation. Enjoy your weight-loss success personally, give the candy away secretly later and thank your friend with a note for the gift and for thinking of you on your birthday. Celebrate the friendship, but overlook the gift. Even a best friend misfires sometimes. Congratulations on the weight loss.
HELEN’S ANSWER: Candy has lots of calories, but most people don’t consider them when buying a gift. A simple thank you would be in order for this one. You probably don’t need to go into a long explanation of why you don’t want candy or how rude it is of her to give you something that she knows you should not have. Give the box away to someone else very quickly so you won’t be tempted.
GUEST’S ANSWER: Hilarie Blaney, etiquette and international protocol consultant: I would say thank you and re-gift or put it in the trash. Then I would revisit my friendship!
Callie Gordon is twenty-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus.