Friday, December 12, 2014

Brother's Gift Selection Appears To Have A Hidden Message

Dear Tazi-Kat:

My birthday falls the day after Christmas, so I am one of those people who get all of their gifts at once. Growing up, my older brother was always jealous that I got more gifts than he did at this time of year, forgetting that he got a pile of birthday gifts every summer while I went without. I think this is why he buys me the worst gifts every Christmas! I don’t mean gifts that lack thought; but gifts that truly make me wonder if he hates me – things like gas station coffee mugs, Girls Gone Wild DVD’s, and other items of questionable taste.

Last year, after giving me a particularly offensive gift (a subscription to a political magazine that goes against my every belief), I politely and privately told him to please return the purchase and keep the money; that I would rather he save his cash than spend it on something I could not use or would not enjoy. I thought he was okay with things until this Thanksgiving. We were all gathered around the table as a family when he announced that he would not be buying me a gift this year since I was "such a spoiled ingrate" who is "unable to appreciate the spirit in which a gift is given". This led to my mother leaping to my defense (she, too, found his gift to me to be in poor taste), and a huge argument between the two of them ensued, with my brother accusing both of my parents of favoring me over him.

It has been over a week, and my brother has not called, emailed, or communicated in any way with my parents or me. He is not returning phone calls or emails, either. My mother wants to apologize for hurting his feelings; my father feels that my brother is the one who should be apologizing; and I am feeling stuck in the middle of all this. I don't even feel like celebrating Christmas or my birthday this year because of all the hurt feelings everyone is experiencing, but I will be turning 30 this year and a big family party has been planned in my honor, with family coming in from out-of-state to celebrate with us. Do you have any suggestions on how to get things back on track with my family, Tazi-Kat?

"Little" Brother With A Big Problem

Dear Little Brother:

It sounds to me as if your older brother is carrying around several years’ worth of aggression towards you. As the older of the two, it seems that he feels the need to offer you guidance and direction onto what he feels is the correct path in life - thus the gift of political materials (although I am not sure what message he was trying to send with the Girls Gone Wild DVD). In his eyes, your rejection of his gift was also a rejection of his personal beliefs; which stings coming from anybody, but especially from a younger sibling. Combine this sense of rejection with a lifetime of feeling short-changed around the holidays, and your brother's sad attempt to embarrass you at the Thanksgiving dinner table makes much more sense.

If you want to heal this rift between your brother and your family, you will have to take a more direct approach, since indirect messages are not getting a response. I suggest that you request a face-to-face meeting with him in order to air the issues that are obviously upsetting him. Once accepted, explain to him that you did not mean to come off as unappreciative of his gift; but that you truly found it to be in poor taste, and thought it to be more of a personal jab than a sincere gift of the season. Let the conversation, however difficult, flow from there. If your brother is unable to see things from any point of view other than his own; then know that you at least tried to mend the rift between the two of you. It is not fair of him to expect you to deny your beliefs in order to satisfy his ego.

As for the rift between your brother and your parents, that is for them to resolve. You cannot be responsible for the dynamic between them, which appears to be very complicated. Although it is my hope that your brother will show up to Christmas dinner and/or your birthday party (if only for the sake of keeping up appearances), if he chooses to exclude himself from this year's celebrations, this is his choice to make. You - or your parents - do not need to make excuses for him. If the rest of your family asks about him, simply smile and tell them that you will let him know that they were asking about him, then change the subject to a blatantly neutral topic of conversation, like the weather. People will get the hint that your brother's absence is a sore subject, and will hopefully let it drop.

Family is so very important in life. They are all we truly have when all else is gone; so I urge you not to give up on your brother – even if it means giving him some space through the holiday season and trying again in the New Year. Family counseling with a licensed social worker might be just the thing to help, since it is obvious that your brother is desperate to be heard.

-- Tazi-Kat


  1. Tazi what a wonderful response. I say the same, she should have fun at her big 30th Birthday Party and just focus on herself. If her brother is not mature enough to join, then shame on him. He will be the one to regret it when something comes up. I say "have fun".
    I wish "Little" a Happy 30th Birthday. I hope she enjoys the day to the fullest. She is queen for the day.

  2. Thank you, Miss Maya! (P.S. the writer was a man! Most of my letters are from women, though, so it was an easy mistake to make!).