Brian writes: Leather and Lace Advice, I got a God-awful gift and I don’t know how to handle it. My girlfriend is fabulous, but she has ZERO talent for knitting. For Christmas, she gave me a hand-made scarf as a gift. It’s a mish-mash of color, it’s lumpy, there are missing stitches, and it’s so long I can step on it. Honestly, it’s just a mess….horrible! I told her I loved it to spare her feelings, but now she keeps asking why I’m not wearing it to work. What should I do? It’s totally inappropriate to wear and worse than that, I don’t’ want to encourage her to give me any more handmade gifts.
Tony’s Take: Well, assuming the woman is worth it in other areas, then you are obligated to appear to wear it until the end of the season, whereupon you can conveniently “lose it” in your Winter clothes.
If she doesn’t work where you work then you need simply remove the scarf someplace between home and work and re-apply it in reverse order. If she does work where you work, you have two choices: wrap the scarf around you before you put on the coat and put up the collar on the coat so you never end up seeing the scarf, and then remove the coat and put the scarf down a sleeve as soon as you arrive at work. Or, the scarf can have an unfortunate encounter with a candle (or meet some other, unfortunate end).
To fix the long term problem you get her a course in advanced knitting before you want her to be able to take her art to the next level and a gift card to a good crafts store for more supplies. Or you can just keep her too busy to think about knitting –get her a kitten or a puppy — she obviously has too much time on her hands! All in all, if you love this woman and care for her, you have to accommodate her failings along with her successes.
Alison’s Take: This is a tough one. I believe in honesty, but when it comes to gifts, it’s the thought that counts. I can imagine if this scarf is as long and messed up as you say it is, that your knittingly-challenged girlfriend knows (at least on some level) that it isn’t very good, but she took a lot of time and effort to make it. So you did the right thing to accept it and not insult it.
As to not wearing it, you have a few choices. Scarves are only worn in the Winter, so you don’t have to wear it for long. If you wear it you encourage her to make more items for you. You can tell her that you will wear it for special occasions only because you tend to lose things, or hang it on your wall or drape it over the couch or somewhere where she can see it, but don’t wear it to the office. Then, as Tony suggests, you can simply “lose” the scarf eventually (Oh the pity!). You could also tell her you are allergic to wool or itchy fabrics, or that your grandmother used to make these kinds of items for you and they bring back some bad memories (risky, but effective).
Meanwhile, start sending hints about the kind of gifts you’d really like to get from her in the future. The next time you’re together, shopping around, point out that book, CD, tech gadget…whatever…and make it clear that if she’s ever shopping around for a special gift for you, that would be something you’d really like.
Of course you can also consider the fact that when someone gives you a gift, it shows a lack of consideration to insist the you wear it or use it. That is just bad manners to dictate to the new owner what s/he does with it! So if you believe honesty is the best policy, you might be somewhat justified to tell her straight out that you appreciate the effort she put into the scarf, but you’d rather not wear it (it’s just too intimate and special). Chances are she’ll get the idea, and won’t knit you anything else, if she doesn’t break up with you!