#808: How do I return unwanted gifts after a breakup?

Hello everyone! Are you reading Ask Bear at Bitch? It is great. So is Ms. Opinionated, especially this one about sexism and the service industry.

O Captain, My Captain,

I searched the archives and came up with nothing that directly addressed my awkward situation, so here it is. A few months ago, I started dating a guy. This was not my idea, but we were really good friends. I let him convince me that we really ought to give it a try. This wasn’t the last instance of pushiness on his end. He’s been dropping hints about us moving in together, looking at random kids in restaurants and comparing them to our own future children, you get the hint. I’m still feeling kind of raw after my last relationship with a super intense guy, so even if I did like this new one as more than a friend, I’d still be hearing the alarms loud and clear. I broke things off this week and blocked him since I’m pretty sure he’s got a moderate to severe case of the “but whyyyyyyys?”

I need to figure out what to do with his stuff. He loaned me a couple books he thought I’d find interesting. I didn’t find them interesting, but I took them anyway, because it seemed important to him, I guess. He’s also given me a bunch of little gifts, like inexpensive jewelry, T-shirts, a recipe book, stuff like that. I want to give all of this back to him without being subjected to a FEELINGSBOMB. This probably means sending it back, but I don’t want to pay for shipping when I know it’ll probably be expensive and the post office will be crowded right now. Can I get away with dropping a box on his front porch when I know he’s at work? Do I have to send him a courtesy text to let him know? Should I suck it up and pay for shipping?

Thanks!

Too gifted

Dear Too Gifted,

Return the books he lent you. Drop them in the mail. Don’t text, just let the Postal Service do its work and return them. Don’t bother including a note; he’ll know exactly what they are and who they are from. My reasoning is 40% “they were lent, not given” and 60% “he will use asking for them as an excuse to contact you, so head him off at the pass.”

Trading favorite books can be a really fun thing to do, but raise your hand if you have had an annoying guy push all his favorite pop culture on you right at the beginning of a relationship but mysteriously doesn’t read or listen to anything you like or ask you for any recommendations?

:raises annoyed hand at past self for putting up with this:

Donate or toss the gifts. If they were like, family heirlooms or could be sold for significant $, giving them back would be a nice thing to do, but they aren’t, and gifts belong solely to you now, so returning them is like an extra “fuck you” at this point. Since you want to disengage from him and not re-engage via hostility, let the gifts go out of your house where neither of you will think about them anymore instead of back to him where he will maybe dramatically throw the jewelry into a nearby body of water like he’s in a student film and smell the shirts to see if they smell like you.

It sounds like you made exactly the right decision to end this, and it sounds like you won’t be talked into a relationship by someone pushy and smothery any time soon, so, good talk everyone.

 

 

217 comments
  1. Mary Sue said:

    If you’re local to the US, LW, you can order free priority shipping boxes here direct from the Post Office if you need them, who deliver them to your house. Then you can use this page to calculate postage, pay, print it out, and schedule a pickup at your convenience.

    • golden peanut said:

      Or you can use your own box and send them library rate. As long as there are just books, no magazines, no other stuff, they qualify.

      • Micearenice said:

        Media mail. You have to mail them from a post office because of the weight. A paperback will cost about $2.88 each, a little more for a hardcover.

        • Micearenice said:

          And you don’t need to box the books–if it is just one or two books, you can wrap them in used magazine pages, or paper bags. Tape all loose edges, and they are good to go.

  2. kbozukova said:

    *winces* Favourite things can be such a trap. Every time I got a crush I’d try so hard to like the things they’d like, so that we’d have something to talk about. I’ve said this to all my friends: crushes come and go, but the damage on my playlist is forever.

    Also, when I got turned down, I would mull over why we couldn’t be “friends” anymore either. In retrospect, I’m so glad that these guys I had a crush on were good enough to give me my space.

    I’m with the Captain here, LW – return the books and donate the rest. And well done on the blocking.

    • Elf Krystal said:

      Yes, any local clothing bin donation box, local church, Women’s Refugee Center, or Salvation Army box would love to have anything you want to get rid of, if you don’t want to toss stuff it . Good call by the Captain, any interaction will prolong the hope and pain to the respective parties.

      Cheers to a clean break.

  3. lizinthelibrary said:

    Swing by the post office for a flat rate box. Choose the one closest in size to your books. Do the shipping thing online. Either hand it to your mail carrier or just pop into the post office and drop it in the drop for packages. No lines! Flat rate boxes and online shipping is awesome. Bonus: free tracking number so you know when it gets delivered if you need to be super unreachable that day.
    This presumes you live in the US.

    • Charlene said:

      If OP is in Canada, s/he will have so many (oh so many) post office outlets to choose from, some open into the wee hours, that lines may not be as much an issue.

    • manybellsdown said:

      Some post offices also have automatic machines that will print the postage if you tell it you’re using a flat-rate box. Whenever I’ve been at a post office that has one, there can be a line out the door and no one ever seems to want to use the machine. So if you know an office near you has one, that’s a great option.

    • For books and DVDs media rate is even better

  4. eselle28 said:

    Definitely go with the mail for the books. Dropping by someone’s house is a personal thing, and a person who either wants to see a chance of reconciliation or who’s looking to take offense is going to notice that. I once had an ex who hoped to make up so much he didn’t retrieve the many things he had at my apartment and eventually left several boxes of clothes and books and CDs outside his door on the theory that it was dumb to mail things to someone who lived a few blocks away. l lived to regret it, because it ended up extending my interactions with him by several months and many more FEELINGSBOMBS.

    Also agree that the t-shirts and jewelry can go right in the trash.

    • Cactus said:

      Yeah, when I broke up with my long-term college boyfriend, we did a big exchange of stuff the following day. He came by my apartment, when one of my friends was present, to give back all of my stuff and get all of his stuff. But he forgot (or “forgot”) one item–and he remembered it before I did. So 3 days later, he texts me asking that I drive it over to his house, and “no one will be home.” Ah, no. First, the main reason I broke up with you is because I don’t trust you, so how can I believe you won’t be home? (Honestly, “my whole extended family will be there having a barbecue” would have made me feel less uncomfortable–I’ve read some really disturbing stories about angry violent exes in empty houses during the immediate post-breakup stage, and my trust was completely broken.) Second, I knew he had been disappointed that my friend had been around on the exchange-of-stuff day, so I figured this was a ploy of some kind. So I waited. He texted me a few more times. I stuck it in the mail. He got angry about that, but it was only via text, so it didn’t have the same effect.

  5. The flat rate shipping suggestions are great. Alternatively: do you have any friends who could just drop them on his porch/in his lobby/etc?

  6. Anna said:

    If you’re in the US, you can send books way cheaper by labelling it “Media Mail” — what used to be called Book Rate. That doesn’t just save you money. It also underlines that you’re returning the books he loaned (or “loaned”!) and in fact you’re not allowed to add any personalized message. It is just for published material. Handy! And yes, the gifts belong to you. Dispose of them however you like. It’s nothing to do with him.

    • Myrin said:

      Something like this exists in Germany, too, and one of the rules for sending this kind of Book Mail is that the envelope mustn’t be sealed shut but needs to be closed with this kind of clips. I don’t know if there are similar rules in the US or other places but I wanted to draw attention to it in case the LW decides to go that route.

      • demosthenes_IF said:

        I mail books a lot (I participate in bookmooch.com) and in the US you can seal the envelope/box/whatever when mailing media mail. The catch is that the item you’re mailing (envelope, package, box, etc) must contain only books, and it’s subject to inspection. So if you want to return any of the gifts he gave you, do those in a separate box.

    • Came down here to say exactly this. I used to ship books as part of my job and if you’re not in a hurry for the package to reach its destination, putting those books in any old box and asking for media mail rates at the post office is 100% the cheapest route.

      And congratulations! You’ll feel so good when you finally get rid of all that stuff. I had a LTR with a guy who was an inveterate garbage-giver. Like he would literally give me stuff he found on the street, like it was a whimsical treasure. I tossed or donated a lot of it when we broke up, but kept a few things I thought I might use eventually. But guess what? I never did. And when I got rid of those, too, it was like one last angry knot was untied.

  7. Magorc said:

    Also, you can use the media mail rate (if in the US) if all you are shipping is books, it’s much cheaper than priority. It takes longer, but doesn’t sound like timeliness is a concern here.

  8. Diane said:

    Let me tell you about the time I broke up with a guy who not only insisted I return every gift he ever gave me, but also insisted that I pay him money for not completing the website I was making for him as a favor. And when I say “insisted,” let me be clear: he called me every minute on the minute, sent me long angry text messages one letter at a time, and harassed me in all possible online spaces. I gave him all his shit back, and he continued until I got a restraining order.

    Nothing in the letter indicates that this guy has any similar stalker-ish tendencies (which I knew about my boyfriend by the time this all went down), so your advice is spot on for this situation. But if anybody is in a situation similar to mine, my advice would be to give everything back ASAP so there can be no room for “oh, but he just wanted his (whatever) back, that’s normal behavior!” And also documenting the shit out of every piece of communication for the eventual police report and/or restraining order.

    But for a fairly normally-functioning adult? Yeah. Gifts are gifts, not “something for you provided you never do anything to upset me, in which case I want it back.”

    • nottakennotavailable said:

      Oy vey, the power of the tentacle-hooks is strong with this sort of dude! In my case, it was a guy who had feelings for me that I could not return (anybody who’s been looking at my SN and/or logo and wondering if this would be the exact same fellow who inspired letter 804, the answer, sadly, is no. I seem to be a magnet for these guys. Mr. Walking Adele Song was Unrequited Luster Number FOUR in the span of under three years. WTF). He lent me a book that I actually did find interesting, but not enough that I wanted to give into his none-too-subtle we-are-totally-perfect-for-each-other pressure (another parenthetical, since I would totally be in a relationship with those, apparently: I’m not sure what else to say to someone who is sitting on my living room and will not fucking leave and says, “Wow. I guess you really weren’t kidding about not wanting sex.” NO FUCKING SHIT, SHERLOCK, I ONLY TOLD YOU THAT ON AT LEAST 53 SEPARATE OCCASIONS. Ahem). This particular guy was actually kind of scary in that he owned guns, knew where I lived, and was a wee bit unhinged, so I spent about a week after I told him to stop contacting me holed up far away from all the windows in my apartment.

      Where this is relevant to Diane and LW is that I had to get the book back to him somehow, so I mailed it off – media mail, I think! – and breathed a sigh of relief that that was all in the past.

      A few weeks later, I got FEELINGSVOMIT from him in text form (way to actually block numbers, phone service). He was so sorry, he didn’t realize how his none-too-veiled threats came off, he and I understood each other sooooo welllllll, and could I please ship back that book that should have arrived at least a week or two before the textual tidal wave. I hadn’t been directed to the wondrousness of CA back then, but fortunately, I was staying with a friend in the city I attended college who had listened to me vent about my unsolicited status as would-be Manic Pixie Dream Girl (I was only on Luster Number Two at the time. I repeat, WTF). My friend shrugged and said, “You already told him not to contact you. It’s no big deal if you don’t respond, even if he never gets his book back.” Which was so awesome and so reasonable that I wonder if CA has a secret male fraternal twin who’s ten years younger and happens to live on the East Coast?

      Anyway, the point of that long, rambling tangent was that even if you give everything back as promptly as possible, the guy (or gal…creepiness knows no gender binaries, after all) might STILL try to use commingled property, even if it’s been as un-commingled as possible, to work his (her/their) way back into your heart like ringworm that somehow survived the full course of antibiotics.

      • Nanners said:

        “You already told him not to contact you. It’s no big deal if you don’t respond, even if he never gets his book back.”

        Very true, and very good.

        Also, holy hell, are you a creep magnet? Sheezus!

        • nottakennotavailable said:

          Apparently so. 😦

          One of my other ex-friends told me that I project an air of “nerd-friendliness,” whatever the hell that means, and there does seem to be an alarming overlap between nerds and Nice Guys (TM). I guess the fact that I have spent a good deal of time working on my Resting Bitch Face is no deterrent for the truly determined would-be White Knights. X(

    • cruelmistress said:

      What a terrible little fungus that guy was! You are well rid of him.

      Conversely, I once screwed up the courage to ask for a box of handwritten stories I had left at my ex’s apartment– they had not been gifts for her, mind you, only left there– and when she sent them back to me, she included in the package a bunch of gifts I’d given her that I had definitely, absolutely, positively not wanted back, which I had both forgotten I’d given her and also, somehow, felt hurt by the return of. (This was a relationship of years, rather than months, so the situation is a bit different from LW’s, but still.)

    • cruelmistress said:

      Wow, that guy sounds like a foot fungus, and congratulations on breaking free of his foul terror!

      My situation was kind of the opposite of this, in that I once screwed up my courage to ask an ex for some of my things back (actually *my* things that had been left at her apartment) and when she mailed them to me, she included in the box some old gifts I’d given her, for which I had not asked back. I hadn’t thought of these things in years, but the pain of seeing them returned to me unasked was yucky. I mean, she mailed me my dried out prom corsage– a piece of garbage I left on her childhood bedroom floor, which she had sentimentally kept– when I was in my twenties!

      This memory no longer makes me feel as sad and hurt and confused as it did then, but it does make me laugh in a still-kind-of-angry way.

  9. B. said:

    I don’t know if it’s possible where you live, but maybe you can send the books as a letter. In my country, any package under 500g can count as a letter, so I just wrap my things up separately, put some stamps on them (which I purchase in the local, always deserted, tobbaco shop), and drop them in a public mailbox. Cheaper and easier than packages ^^ I don’t know where you are located, but maybe it’s worth looking into.
    Hope all goes well, LW 🙂

  10. Theo said:

    If you’re mailing books via USPS, you can send them media mail. Super cheap rate.

  11. Nettle said:

    If you’re in the US, as another commenter mentioned, media mail is the way to go with books. I think that delivery confirmation is now included in media mail, but if not, it’s worth spending the extra 50 cents to get it- the kind that just lets you know that things have been delivered, not the kind that makes anybody sign for anything.

  12. nope octopus said:

    Give Back Box lets you print out a label and ship out donations at no cost to you. Just supply the box and tape, and then drop off at a post office or schedule a UPS pickup.

    https://givebackbox.com/

    Donations are processed through Goodwill, which has its own set of issues, but which is less aggressively evil than some charities which will go unnamed.

    • Rose Fox said:

      Thank you so much for linking to this–I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to get about a dozen boxes of used books to a charity, and this looks ideal.

    • Carolyn said:

      You have no idea how much you helped me by posting that link! I am overwhelmed by clutter AND overwhelmed by boxes and the elbow injury/surgeries that led to the lack of cleaning prevents me from heavy lifting (I can pack these boxes on the porch – no need to lift!!!!) – you are solving 3 of my problems at once, you have removed the “stops” to making my home livable and putting my unneeded but still good possessions in the hands of people who can use them!

      It sounds so dumb and so lame but I am seriously crying right now – I have been working to my elbow’s limit to reclaim my home and I am making very slow but meaningful progress as spoons allow and I have focused on being patient and reminding myself that this cluttery nightmare was 5 years in the making and cannot be solved instantly. But today I got a huge turbo-boost to that process! And I can clean my home and help others at the same time! If I had sat down and wished for the perfect solution, I would have missed a few of the things Givebackbox takes care of! Thank you so much!!!

      • Yay happy endings! May your physical and mental recovery go forward smoothly!

  13. Kathleen said:

    I guess this is a bit of a derail, but does anyone else just find that they have no sentimental feelings attached to things? Like, if I’m dating someone and they bought me something I don’t like, I’ll keep it, and then it goes to donation after we break up. But if I like it, well, I’m keeping it. Like, I have a game controller, a necklace/earring set, a couple of nice dragon prints and more than a few boardgames that were either gifts or joint purchases my ex voluntarily gave up in the break up where it’s just… I like these things, so they’re mine.
    Is that weird?

    • JenniferP said:

      Not weird!

    • B. said:

      Not at all ^^ if I had to throw away every unsolicited gift I received, my jewellery box would be mostly empty, and some of those things are pretty! If you like it, you like it. My reading was that the LW wanted to get rid of the things more because they didn’t like them than because they were gifts from Ex.

    • cruelmistress said:

      Keeping things after a breakup is also really necessary if you don’t have many things. The only pasta strainer and cutting board I have are things I took with me when I moved out of my ex’s apartment.

      • Is it weird if I’m kind of envious that your ex left you usable items? My ex took the toaster but left me with a freezerful of Toaster Strudels. He also left behind the Crock-Pot, which I know is supposed to be a great tool for people like me who need to keep the fire department on speed dial when they attempt anything culinary. It still requires a bunch of shopping and slicing and measurement and timing shit that makes my Executive Order Dysfunction go into red-alert mode, so here’s hoping whoever picked it up from the donation center where I dropped it off can put it to good use.

        Oh, and out of a head-scratchingly extensive collection of the instruments, only my one pair of ambidextrous scissors vanished after the ex cleared out. I’m a lefty. He isn’t.

        • Oh! That reminds me. When my ex husband and I split, he took odd bits of kitchen ware.

          For example he left his good knife, and his beloved cast iron skillet. Neither of which I particularly wanted, and he also emptied the silverware drawer, but not the dishwasher.

          And took a hunting knife my father gave me. Which he had never liked.

          Go figure.

        • Carolyn said:

          When my ex husband left to go live in Texas, he took our snow shovel. The first I knew of the missing shovel was when I woke up with a horrible cold after getting 2 feet of snow dumped on us in the overnight – I had just worked up the courage to dig out to go buy medicine only to discover I had no way of digging out so no way of getting medicine. I don’t believe a jury could have ever convicted me.

          (Happy end to story – I called my folks, my dad came and dug me out, had already stopped for medicine and gave me the shovel he had used so I wouldn’t be left stranded again. And we had a laugh at the idiot who had managed to leave a guitar behind but remembered to take the SNOW shovel to his new home in southern Texas … )

        • ^^ Both of these stories…urgh. One of the other unwanted items my ex left me with was a sense of doubt in my own sanity that persists to this day, almost three years after he collected most of his crap. Because he had a documented history of passive-aggression throughout our relationship, so I will never be totally certain that he didn’t leave the things he did as some last, sniveling sense of sticking it to me for basically forcing him to move back in with his parents. But I also realize he didn’t have very much time to look for every last thing, so maybe it was a simple oversight? The still-open case of the only scissors I could use with any degree of accuracy, though, has me leaning more toward passive-aggression.

          But a snow shovel. In south Texas. THAT sounds deliberately assholish enough that I’d say you did well to lose that guy, Carolyn!

    • manybellsdown said:

      It’s honestly a relief to be able to throw out things you didn’t like, but had to keep because they’d hurt the giver’s feelings if you got rid of them.

      • johann7 said:

        Those aren’t gifts, they’re manipulation tactics (and yes, as far as I can tell, most gifts are not actually gifts). Gifts are things that are freely given for the sake of the recipient’s happiness, with no strings attached, not even emotional ones. With a true gift, one should be RELIEVED or HAPPY if the recipient gives it back or re-gifts it, as the recipient is doing what ze wants with the gift, and that’s the point of an actual gift. Someone who is actually trying to do something nice for someone else wouldn’t want to force that person to keep/use/whatever something they don’t like, right?

        Gifts are yours to use or not as you wish; if not using them (even to the point of getting rid of them) hurts the giver’s feelings, that’s on them (and their expectations about other people’s behavior matching the scenario they have in their head and poor coping strategies concerning disappointment), not on you.

        • This is a really powerful and important comment. It’s one of those things that is completely obvious and sensible reading it out like this, but I never in a million years would have come up with on my own. Thank you!

    • golden peanut said:

      You have no idea how happy I was to get rid of a few things that had been given as gifts once my ex broke up with me. The man had no taste. Not bad taste, just no taste.

    • Not weird to me. In fact, one of the best gifts I ever got from an otherwise very-bad-fit ex was a white noise machine — that my current partner finds indispensable for spending the night at my place.

    • Not weird. In my case, I think that it’s because, for my own preservation, I really needed to be able to sever gifts from any obligations the giver intended (my parents, probably enough said), and when I’d done that, I found it wasn’t restricted to gifts from my parents. If I like something, I like it, and seeing it doesn’t remind me of the giver or whatever.

    • miss_chevious said:

      For me, it depends a LOT on whether I have any specific memories of the thing and what those memories are. For example, I still have jewelry given to my by my ex that I really like and has become “mine” and I would never part with, but I just donated a full set of dishes and silverware because I have such clear (and fond!) memories of us picking them out together. We broke up YEARS ago, but I was reading Marie Kondo’s book and it became clear to me that those dishes were, in some way, haunting me. So as soon and I could justify the expense of replacing them, out they went!

    • Dizzy said:

      Nah, I’m the same way. Of course, having to flee two abusers with only what I had in my rucksack means I think of stuff as “Unless it’s in my hands, it doesn’t exist”…

  14. Ask Cara said:

    Great advice. I am really liking your blog.

    • JenniferP said:

      Thank you!

  15. e_elizabeth said:

    LW, I can understand the desire to return the gifts. They were unsolicited on your end when you were already feeling dubious about the fit of this relationship, so you’re feeling a bit guilty maybe about him having spent the extra money on you. However, hopefully the ending of this relationship can be a lesson learned for him (you know, that relationships require the input of two* people, not just the insistence of one person), and really, what else were you supposed to do but accept them when he was so committed to pushing his view of the relationship/gifts on you? Return the lent books using one of the methods mentioned by other commenters that will avoid any personal interaction with him, and donate the rest.

    During college, I unfortunately found myself on the receiving end of more intense interest than I could reciprocate or observed the same situations going on with my friends (including unwanted gift giving) where it seemed the guys** were oblivious to the lack of interest they were being met with from their intended romantic partners. I think this is one of the many less-than-pleasant side effects of society conditioning girls to consider all male attention positive and worthy of reciprocation, and it can be tricky to navigate when you find yourself having to do the dance of “How Do I Turn This Guy Down While Still Being Nice Above All.” So basically, ugh, I can commiserate with you, and I hope that this blows over as well as possible.

    *or more, if you’re poly.

    **in my experience, it was usually het guys pursuing het women, but it was definitely not exclusive to that dynamic.

    • Dr Sarah said:

      This is reminding me of a great Miss Manners reply that I can’t now find, but which was in response to a woman who’d sent flowers to a man she was attracted to and was then annoyed that he didn’t respond by going out with her. Miss Manners had a delightfully pithy line in her reply that was something like ‘Please stop acting as though you had provided this man with a bill for flowers and a note which he is now obliged to pay.’

      • Dr Sarah said:

        Bother, I think I meant that as a reply to the commenter below you. Oh, well, still relevant to the discussion!

    • thelittlepakeha said:

      I unfortunately found myself on the receiving end of more intense interest than I could reciprocate or observed the same situations going on with my friends (including unwanted gift giving)

      I’d actually venture that unwanted gift giving is a tactic rather than a symptom. They use it to create a sense of obligation. It’s not just oblivious “but I’m so in love with you that I want to shower you with presents!” it’s “but look how much stuff I’ve given you!” with the implication that if you don’t give in to his (usually) fantasies you’re leading him on for your own material gain. The fact that the gifts are totally unwanted is immaterial, the fact that they can guilt you into accepting them and then use that as leverage is the point.

  16. mamacitaconpistoles said:

    I think it’s important to remember that not only do gifts belong to you, *you are not in debt to this guy if he gave you things and you didn’t reciprocate with equal things, gratitude, closeness, or sex.*

    I am not saying this guy is abusive. I am saying it’s instructive to remember that giving things the recipient doesn’t want and acting as if that right there is enough to force a relationship is a thing abusers do.sometimes. If you don’t like that he did this gifting, you don’t have be polite-according-to-him and carry on contact to return those things. Aside from the fact that they are yours, I mean.

    Donate, burn, sell, pitch. Get them out of your place with much haste and no guilt!

    And A++ blocking.

    • Sarah said:

      You know there’s an actual law about that. Anything given to you unsolicited doesn’t have to be paid for or returned and they can’t sic bill collectors on you or mess up your credit either. While that law may only be meant to apply to businesses, I think it can reasonably be applied across the board.

      • MK said:

        It’s not meant to apply to businesses; in fact, it’s not simply a legal rule, it’s an ancient principle of law: if someone gives you something with the understanding that it’s a gift, it becomes your property, end of story.

        • Hannahbelle said:

          Services work the same way. If a guy jumps out in front of your car at a stoplight and squeegees your windows, he can’t then insist you pay him for it. It’s called being an officious interloper.

  17. don't guess said:

    On this note: I am trying to decide what to do with all my Stuff from a 10+ year relationship (friendship, dating and marriage, he was abusive, we are now divorced).

    The most sentimental stuff from toward the end of the relationship I have already tossed: some mix CDs, for example.

    But some of the early stuff, like the first love letter he wrote to me? It feels pretty difficult to part with it. This was my first serious romantic relationship. This was my entire adult life, since age 18. These memories are so wrapped up in all my other memories. Ugh.

    I am a pack rat anyway so I get emotionally attached to stuff. It just seems like – maybe I will regret tossing it some day? I’m not sure how to evaluate this.

    This stuff doesn’t bring me joy, but it feels Important.

    • JenniferP said:

      Photograph it and then toss?

    • Rana said:

      Or put it all in a box, tape it up, and stash it away somewhere you won’t see it unless you make a special effort. Eventually you will either be able to look at it with more distance, or you will run across it and decide that you no longer care about it, and out it goes.

      (At least, this is how things have gone for me with several boxes of stuff that has survived multiple moves unopened. I finally got around to opening them this year, and realized, hey, I’ve lived without this for years, and what the heck was I thinking keeping it in the first place? Tossing was much easier than it would have been when I first boxed it up. And the handful of things I didn’t toss were things I’d been vaguely missing, and was glad to see again.)

      Of course, this does depend on your having the storage space.

    • FlyBy said:

      I’ve found it useful to put stuff in a far back corner and forget about it for a few years (if I have space to do that). When I uncover it then, it’s usually “oh, that thing? Doesn’t mean so much to me now.” *toss*. YMMV, if that feels like setting up a feelings-bomb for your future self, then don’t do it.

    • Put things in a box, in storage. I itemise whats in each box in a book, just in case I do want or need something.

      Then after 6 months or a year, review, and clear out anything you no longer need.

      For other stuff, keep and review again later… Etc.

      • unlurking said:

        Or 2 years, or 3 years, or 5 years, or more. How will you know when? When you look at the stuff in that box, and, without any feeling of sadness or really any emotion at all, can say: “I can throw all this away” “I can do a bonfire and burn all these letters” “I’ll keep this because it’s kinda cool but meh the rest, don’t need ’em.”

        It’s okay to be in the “maybe I will regret tossing this” phase. Just set the stuff aside until the feeling of fear-of-potential-regret fades.

        Definitely, though, gather all the stuff, AAAALLLLLLL the stuff, and put it into a box where you won’t keep tripping over it every day or month. And label it, and don’t open it until that future-time.

    • Feel free to disregard if this isn’t an option for whatever reason, but what helped me with the Persistent Remnants of Ex that were stuffed into odd crevices of my old apartment was waiting to deal with them until I moved out. Having a deadline by which all the crap needs to be removed makes it much easier, in my experience, to remove sentimental attachment from just about anything nonessential. It also kind of builds on FlyBy’s suggestion of leaving it alone until it loses some of its punch.

      My situation wasn’t identical to yours – Ex and I weren’t married, and he wasn’t abusive, just kind of the emotional equivalent of Eeyore and Peter Pan’s lovechild. But he was my first (and hopefully last) serious relationship, so getting temporal distance from the relationship helped me realize that the fewer details I could remember about the relationship, the happier I’d be.

      Best of luck to you going forward.

    • Put the stuff in a box. Put the box somewhere you don’t look at it.

      If in a year you haven’t pulled stuff out of the box, throw the stuff away.

    • ruinousillusion said:

      maybe put the stuff in a box and give it to a friend with the instruction that if you don’t ask for it back after X amount of time, you’d appreciate them tossing it? That way it isn’t staring at you constantly and if you forget about it entirely it isn’t waiting out there like a ticking feelingsbomb in your storage unit

    • Divizna said:

      And why would you have to get rid of it? If you want to keep it, keep it. It’s yours: yours to throw away or yours to hold on to, just as you please.

    • Feelings will hang in there regardless of the physical object we attach the feelings to. Why keep a love letter from someone abusive? This may have been your first serious relationship, but it should like you should leave plenty of room for more, and better ones.

      It’s like me keeping my first cake, which sank and wasn’t that good. Yes, it was the first in a long line of cakes, but the ones I made later were much better 🙂

    • peeta8 said:

      First-love-letter type things I would vote for putting in a box and stashing it. You might want to look at them in literally fifty years, when they are fascinating artifacts of your own life & not connected to harsh emotions.

  18. LW, I want to thank you for writing in. You helped me realize a corollary to my own problem that the Captain was Terrifyingly Amazing enough to take on last week (letter 804), which is that I, too, have some unwanted shit from my own Walking Adele Song (from whom I’ve heard nothing but sweet, sweet silence since I emailed my question, which makes me realize this is an instance of Let’s Just Not Be Friends). In my case, it includes a book AND a coat, which I guess rules out the media-mail option, but I’m reassured that our scenarios are similar enough that I can shove his crap in a box and pass it off to the postal service with nary a second thought.

    Also, I shuddered at the mention of unwanted gifts. Mr. WAS and I were in the same city over the summer, which was when I had to put down my beloved furry companion, Pewter, whom I had adopted as a kitten when I was 11 years old. Mr. WAS’ solution to my problems, in addition to in-person attempts to Cheer Me Up (see 804 for a rough approximation as to how much I enjoyed that), was to continually suggest, “Next time I see you, I should bring you a stuffed cat!” Which I’m sure would have been well-received by someone else, but in my case, I replied, “No, you shouldn’t.” Because I am no longer 11 years old. Also, the idea that cuddling a plush facsimile was in any way a decent approximate of snuggling my lamented hairball made me bristle.

    This conversation repeated a few times, with WAS continuing to say, “I need to bring that stuffed cat next time I see you!” and me saying, “No, you don’t!” Then, one day, I ran into him when I was on my way somewhere else. He had brought not one, but TWO stuffed cats to assuage my grief. “Awww, but look at that adorable little nose!” he begged as I told him, YET AGAIN, that no, I had no need for one stuffed cat, much less two. Eventually, I did manage to get him to understand that what the fuck he was going to do with the stuffed cats that I was absolutely not taking home was his own damn problem, but I have never told anyone else how much the whole scenario irritated me until now, because I knew I would be an extra-special layer of irritated by the inevitable rounds of, “Awww, but he was just trying to be nice!” No. He was being deliberately obtuse and not listening the first twenty or so times I told him I told him I didn’t want a goddamn stuffed cat.

    In short (she snorts, reading ruefully over her novella of a comment whose writing energies could probably be better spent on the actual writing project she’s currently procrastinating), I sympathize with feeling browbeaten into accepting “gifts” you don’t really want because “the giver means well” and other fallacies. Good luck to you in your newfound freedom!

    • Anna Sthetic said:

      Two stuffed cats.

      WHAT.

      No.

      BUT WHAT THE ACTUAL, LIKE WHAT, NO.

      I am sorry to hear of the loss of your cat.

      Congratulations on ditching the dreadful friend.

      • Thank you! Pewter was 18. He was in good spirits and relatively good health right up until he, well, wasn’t, and the more time passes, the more comforting that seems. :/

        The ex-friend was old enough to know better.

    • BeldamSansMerci said:

      Oh my… (I won’t repeat the actual phrase I said out loud upon reading this.)

      People ‘gifting’ me with things (not always just material goods) after I have explicitly, and often repeatedly, stated that I *Do Not Want* that – and then expecting gratitude as well! – is a major peeve of mine. No, they are not trying to be nice. At best they are being incredibly patronising – infantilising, even – by assuming that they know what I think and what I want better than I do myself. Usually I find they’re deliberately trying to craft an image of themselves (whether for the recipient, or for the benefit of their own ego) as the Nice, Giving, Thoughtful One.

      For someone to pull that trick over the death of a pet, of all things? In your place I would have been utterly livid. I’m so sorry you had to put up with that shit while you were grieving.

      • “Usually I find they’re deliberately trying to craft an image of themselves…” And the recipient as well, I believe. I can sadly say I’ve done the Unrequited Love Object dance enough (when I was only wandering in search of a drink and hoped to quietly observe the action from the sidelines with a book in hand, to stretch a metaphor into translucency) that I know exactly how it feels to be a 3D person trying to be flattened to be into a two-dimensional cardboard cutout.

        “Livid” is a good way of describing it. Thank you.

        • Cartimandua said:

          “I know exactly how it feels to be a 3D person trying to be flattened to be into a two-dimensional cardboard cutout.”
          You’ve provided me with the exact words to describe a very long-running problem of mine. Please accept this nugget of purest gratitude.

          • nottakennotavailable said:

            Accepted with both writerly pleasure that my words struck such a chord as well as sadness that you’ve been in such a position for long enough that my words struck such a chord.

          • ntna you have just perfectly encapsulated my entire dating history.

          • Aw, hell. I’m so sorry. I’m not sure if this is actually encouraging, but all the guys who have inspired me into story mode on this thread were guys I met after I dumped the ex and whom I thought would be great friend material, so, uhh, not all potential dates suck and not all potential friends are into friendship? I hope there was some reassurance buried in there somewhere. :/

          • Hannahbelle said:

            No, nottaken, this is a *good* thing you do here. Giving apt words to shitty situations makes one less prone to worrying that one has somehow made it all up. Don’t stop!

      • My husband’s mother kept sending us junky things we did not want and could not return for money. He tried to address the issue with her kindly, suggesting that we already had enough stuff and perhaps we no longer needed to exchange gifts. She got very upset and pissy and we finally gave up and started giving everything to Goodwill.

        Lest you think we overreacted – gifts that she gave us:

        1. A potted Meyer lemon tree that needs a tropical climate – we live in the frozen north in an old house that costs an arm and a leg to heat. If I don’t keep my house at 68 for myself, why would I keep it at 72 for a plant?

        2. Three cheap Chinese pressed wood nesting tables painted with large, colorful hibiscus and hummingbirds. I can assure you that if you were in my house ever – which she was for nine days – that you would never look around and think, “GD would like brightly-painted cheap tables!”

        3. A framed photograph of my husband’s parents.

        4. A ceramic cat of many colors.

        5. A cast-iron cat.

          • College Career Counselor said:

            I would re-cast that as a representation of The Captain Awkward Nopetopus.

            “Would you have this thing in your house?” [shows picture]

            “NOPE!”

          • Hannahbelle said:

            All it needs is an altar.

        • Agnes said:

          I have something of the issue with the over-giving MIL (and have learned over the years that “give us some ideas for your birthday” does not mean “give us some ideas for your birthday”, it means “intuit what I want to give to you and gush wildly over it”.) But a framed family photograph is a pretty standard gift within families. Also, people will really never realize your taste unless they are super tuned in to that kind of thing. People think “Pretty thing! Maybe I could give pretty thing to person I like!”, and don’t take it much further. For instance, there are certain colors I never wear – they make me look jaundiced – yet I am constantly given them.

          Anyway, remember that gifts are a language of love for many people. By telling people you don’t want them, you’re saying you don’t want them to love you (seriously).

          • I feel like when you say you don’t want gifts (specific, infantilizing, patronizing gifts, or the broader category of gifts that are unsuitable and just make work for you), what you’re saying is you don’t want them to love you in a way that is unpleasant and stressful.

            This is 100% a good thing to be able to say, and a horrible thing to have ignored.

            (And it is also perfectly okay to tell people that you don’t want them to love you.)

        • Wut.

          My ex’s mom once gave me a bright pink fleece vest. I hate pastels in general, particularly of the pink variety. XMIL said, “I thought I’d add some variety to your wardrobe. I’ve never seen you wearing anything this color!” Yeah. There was a reason for that.

        • At least she didn’t give you TWO STUFFED CATS

          • Nope! Could have been worse!

          • I FOUND A STUFFED CAT!

            My husband and I are going through boxes of crap he brought from his mom and dad’s house. (They died this summer and he is the executor – even though he was disinherited. Well – never inherited.)

            We already have boxes and boxes of junk that my husband brought into our house eight years ago. It is easier for him to go though those boxes than boxes than his parents’ boxes. We opened one today – and it HAS A STUFFED CAT.

            So if my in-laws had given us stuffed cats, it would totally have been coals to Newcastle.

        • jaynn said:

          Ugh, and I thought my MIL was bad (though things have tapered off–it was really bad in the first few post-divorce years because she moved to a house a third the size, then an even smaller apartment, so she was doing a lot of downsizing.) For us it’s been more volume than actual suitableness of the items, several have been useful and honestly were kind of needed. Some we really just dont’ know what to do with though. Like the train set they bought for DH as a boy (that he never opened) and gave to us a few years back. Or the wine set she passed down because, and I quote, “You’re Smiths too”. Only it turns out it’s not etched with the family name but my husband’s parents’. As my MIL is now remarried, I have NO idea what to do with them. We have no use for it, it feels wrong to give it back, and who wants something etched with a strangers name?

          • Vicki said:

            Try eBay and hope someone of the right name finds it? (That assumes that the name is something fairly common, like “Smith,” rather than one of five families of that name in North America.)

      • In my experience, they’re not trying to craft an image of themselves as The Giving One, it’s way creepier than that: they are deliberately giving you things you don’t want so they can use your lack of gratitude as a way of emotionally blackmailing you into doing things you don’t want. Imagine an entire Bloodsail Buccaneer fleet full of red flags.

        • In fairness to WAS, I think there was some genuine sense of trying to be comforting in his actions, he just blatantly ignored that I was trying to tell him how I wanted to be comforted, or at least what I explicitly would not find comforting. But having ridden in this rodeo before, I would have to agree that there are far too many guys (again, insert gender preference of your choice here–my problems have always been stridently cis-het males) who use their unwanted gifts as seeds for some nefarious behavior later on.

          • No, he was deeply self involved And thoughtless.

            Unless you had indicated a fixation on Victorian hair jewelry, or everyone knows you’re into taxidermy, or you had requested a stuffy, an ordinarily observant person would not give you a toy to remind you of your dead companion.

          • Mrs Morley, I like that interpretation, because it makes me feel like less of an ass after having firmly and definitively cut him off yesterday. I felt pretty good about it for the first few hours, but that might have had more to do with the fact that I drank waayyyyy more than normal thanks to the Broncos game yesterday (we lost. To the Raiders. At home. A not-insignificant quantity of beer was involved.). But considering I have never discussed Victorian hair jewelry or taxidermy with him, you are quite right about the self-involvement.

          • Nottakennotavailable: I’m glad I made sense to you. 🙂 And seriously, he’s bad news, as you knew by naming him the Walking Adele Song.

    • Anna Sthetic said:

      Hoping this is OK, Cap, please feel free to delete if not!

      On the topic of tone-deaf responses to the deaths of beloved cats, my very talented friend Hannah Chutzpah has a poem about the poems the crematorium sent her along with her cat’s ashes. I’m going to post a link here in case you find comfort in solidarity.

      http://hannahchutzpah.com/2015/07/13/necrokitty-comic-sans/

      • Clovenpine said:

        What a talented poet! I love this!

      • “Why the fuck would my cat be in a pond?!” HAHAHAHAHA! I would love to take your friend out for a round of drinks so we could commiserate our losses and I could toast her brilliance.

        Speaking of things I didn’t want or need, what is it with pet crematoria?! My cat’s sent me, in addition to the ashes (which I had and executed plans for): a plantable remnant (I have the necrotic thumb o’ doom with greenery), a lock with his name on a heart-shaped tag (which I wound up attaching to a bridge in my home city that had lots of other locks attached to it), and a paw print plaster, which might have been a nice memento if I weren’t squicked by the fact that they took it AFTER he died. I brought it up to the top of a mountain that had nearly killed me the year before because I didn’t want to simply throw it out, and also, I felt it might be, I dunno, some sort of sacrifice to the nefarious gods that couldn’t afford real estate atop Mount Olympus and so decided Longs Peak would have to do? I had a perfectly uneventful climb that last time, FWIW.

        The crematorium that handled my mother’s remains, however, was way more succinct in that they only sent me the ashes. WTF, pet crematoria?

        • Anna Sthetic said:

          Gosh.

          I think the lesson we can all take away from today is that People Need To Gift Responsibly.

          • Why, o why, can’t there be an ABC Family Christmas special about this?

        • People get…very mawkish about pet death in a way they don’t do about (most) human death. I am partly dreading the deaths of my (18 yr old) kitties because people are going to go all Rainbow Bridge and I’m going to have to refrain from screaming in their faces

          • I wish your kitties longer lives of continued good health, especially as I loathe that poem furiously. If you’re looking for internet permission to channel your inner Hulk at those people, I grant it.

            I do wonder what it is about pet deaths that brings out the depths of maudlin, though. I was more devastated about my cat’s passing than I was about my mom’s, but that was a relationship so complicated that its intricacies could be the subject of my next book. Or series.

          • Emmers said:

            If it helps, I find Gene Weingarten’s essay “old dogs are the best dogs” to be the perfect antidote to Rainbow Bridge stuff.

          • Jane said:

            I think it might be that often pet love feels uncomplicated in a way that people love does not. My old dog was my doggie and I loved him, and there’s not actually a lot more to the story than that. It’s an emotional connection that doesn’t have necessarily a lot of practical or sensible justification behind it. I can explain to you the specific things I loved about my grandfathers or an old friend, but with my dog it was just, “Coexisting in the same room was soothing unto my soul.” It’s the epitome of FEELS (for me).

          • There seems to be something to that. “I’m sad because my 18-year-old cat developed a brain lesion,” that tells the whole story in one sentence. “My mom died eight years ago, but I’m kinda over it…” begs more explanation. Of which there is much.

          • If the Longs Peak reference made you wonder that, I’m thinking you’re right on in your wondering! 😉

          • High five from within the, um, high state! I mean, there might be other Longs Peaks, but I was indeed referring to THE Longs that comes up first in Google search results!

          • Oooh, that’s an awesome place! My residency is currently a complex matter, but I consider myself a true-blue Denverite.

          • I was here like 20 years ago on a visit, so when I had to move back to the US, I was like “uhhhh….sure, there!” But it has turned out pretty freaking awesomely. 😀

          • a third denver person here. maybe there is scope for meetup?

          • That would be fun! Best Boyfriend also lives here in the People’s Republic and reads CA. 🙂

          • awwww yissssss

          • There are three million people in the combined Denver-Boulder Metropolitan area, or so I read recently. Even though I myself will be in other places more than here in months to come, I’m pretty sure numbers like that have to mean a few likeminded individuals in a meeting radius! 😉

      • Myrtle said:

        A Neucrotic Thumb. What on earth. Cremation Doods, a little cedar chest with the ashes is Fine. Stop there.
        Also Hannah sounds righteously awesome.

        • Plants spontaneously desiccate when I walk into the room. I can keep a cat alive, but not a cactus, go figure.

          • Mcat said:

            This is because when cats don’t have their needs met they will climb up on you and start eating your sandwich / poop on your favorite sweater. Plants just die in dignified silence.

          • Truth. Though cats will also eat your sandwich even if you can see the full bowl of food you just put out for them directly across the room.

          • It can be harder than you’d think to keep a cactus alive. The person I know who has had the best results with them (indoors) has a phone alert that tells him any time it rains in Phoenix, Arizona. When it goes off, he’ll water the cactus.

      • FlyBy said:

        “Dear pet crematorium
        It hurts that she chose to communicate
        From beyond the grave
        In Comic Sans”

        Bwahahahaha! Thank you for the link.

      • Jane said:

        That poem is the BEST.

      • ‘fuzzbutt and bastardface’
        Laughed til it hurt

      • John said:

        Dear pet crematorium
        Why is my dead cat writing
        To tell me to be strong?
        She knows I’m strong
        I can open all the doors and tins
        She could only claw at

        ahahaha this is brilliant!

      • miss_chevious said:

        Fuck, that’s a great poem. I mean…damn. DAMN.

    • Oh for goodness’ sake!

      How horrible of him.

      • Thank you for reaffirming that I wasn’t making a mountain out of a molehill of “niceness”!

        • Jenna said:

          People who don’t listen to the actual words that you are actually saying aren’t nice, they are blowing by your boundaries as if they weren’t there.
          I prefer people who like and listen to ME and aren’t just using me as a prop for the story they are making up in their own heads. Really, this has become my number one low bar to meet if I am going to spend any amount of time with someone.

          • “I prefer people who like and listen to ME and aren’t just using me as a prop for the story they are making up in their own heads.” I need this quote. Probably not on a throw pillow, because those tend not to stay on their assigned pieces of furniture very long in my household, but on a shirt? Set as my phone background? Tattooed on the wrist I would ordinarily be using to hold up the phone when I start texting one of these boundary blowers before I recognize him as such? In any event, yes. This, right here.

          • NorahMancer said:

            Whenever I meet someone who won’t take a gentle no for an answer, I always think of this Something Positive strip: http://www.somethingpositive.net/sp04222005.shtml
            Content note: graphic description of gastronomic distress.

          • Davan bears a disturbing resemblance to my life. Only I do like red meat. And (SPOILERS) never did meet the bookstore manager of my dreams.

          • “I prefer people who like and listen to ME and aren’t just using me as a prop for the story they are making up in their own heads.”

            Gaaah! I’ve had people like this in my life too! Boo that you have had to put up with this awful situation, but many thanks for putting the problems so succinctly.

          • ThtreLady said:

            “I prefer people who like and listen to ME and aren’t just using me as a prop for the story they are making up in their own heads.”

            Thank you. Needed that said out loud to me this week. Thank you very much. I will be remembering this one.

    • thelittlepakeha said:

      For half a moment I had this horrible anticipation of you telling us that he got you a kitten. Two stuffed cats is still pretty damn awful though after the repeated “I don’t want a fucking stuffed cat!”

      • A kitten would have been the. hands-down. worst. Not just because I don’t feel like I’m in a place in my life right now where I want to or ought to be adopting pets of any stripe (there’s another long novella of a comment in my rage that one of the first questions people ask after the death of a pet is, “Are you going to get another?” And there’s a sequel in that, after I responded to WAS’ own turn at the question with “No” + outline of reasons given above, he replied, “I guess I’ll have to keep asking until you cave and get another!” HOLY SHIT WHY DID I NOT END THIS FRIENDSHIP MONTHS AGO.), but also because I am just as big a sucker for squirming balls of fluff as I was when I first fell for Pewter when I was 11 years old and he was 12 weeks, so I would have had a MUCH harder time standing firm on turning that “gift” down. Even though there are many things I would like to do now that I don’t need to worry about leaving my cat with a sitter that would be totally pissed on by new worries about having to leave a new cat with a sitter.

      • Holy hell, I cringed when I read your projected ending. Not just because I am in no position right now where I want to be adding a new pet to my life (side note: why is it that as soon as you announce that your little fuzzmeister is no longer among the living, one of the first questions to come out of people’s mouths is, “Are you getting a new one?” SO much gnashing of teeth when I heard that. SO much more when, when WAS himself asked that question and I replied with “No” + reason given above why I will be avoiding the hell out of adoption flyers for possibly a few years, he counteracted, “Well, I guess I need to keep asking you that question until you cave and get another!” Whyyyyyy did I not cut him off months ago?!?), but also because I am just as susceptible to mushpuddling at wriggling balls of fluff now as I was when I was 11 years old and Pewter 12 weeks. I would have had a MUCH harder time holding firm to my “No unwanted gifts” stance.

    • So sorry about the loss of your cat, and such a significant loss it was.

      • Thank you. They sure do stake claim to large and critical important parts of real estate in the heart.

    • Guava said:

      Aaaaggghhh. The stuffed cats! That is horrible, in a Norman Bates sort of way!

      I have had this type of experience with a former friend. After I African Violet-ed her, she parked her car in my neighborhood just out of sight and waited until I left my home to run errands one day. I was home all day; it only took me half an hour to run to the store and back.

      When I returned to my home, there was a planter filled with artfully arranged succulents sitting in my driveway, directly next to where I park my car. No card. No note. I asked my spouse, “Did you stop by a nursery or garden shop? Is this a gift for Mother’s Day?” He came out and we stared at the potted arrangement for awhile. Couldn’t figure out how it got there, but it gave me a bad vibe.

      Two days later – in spite of the fact that I had already emailed her and explicitly asked her to not contact me again – this former friend sent me a note asking how I liked her Mother’s Day gift. The email actually had the words, “Tee-hee-hee” in it.

      ‘No’ means HELL FUCKING NO, lady. Reason 1,064,579 why she’s a “former” friend.

    • kitai said:

      I’m sorry for your loss and how much of a douche he was in not looking past his belief of what would be Best For You to what would actually be best for you – aka, not stuffed cats!

  19. mercutia said:

    raise your hand if you have had an annoying guy push all his favorite pop culture on you right at the beginning of a relationship but mysteriously doesn’t read or listen to anything you like or ask you for any recommendations?

    I have … *kind of* a similarish situation? Except both vaguer and more complicated?

    I have a Facebook friend (who is now more of a “friend”/non-relationshipping flirtyperson/acquaintance with vaguely sexypants overtones, but we’ve never met IRL) who made a point of telling me how smart/funny I was when he initially friend req’d me a few months ago and asked to see examples of my writing. Since I work for a Big Scary Company that won’t let people read stuff online without a subscription, I made copies of a couple things I’d written and emailed them to him (which is not really that big a deal; if he tries to do anything nefarious with them, which I don’t think he ever would, the Big Scary Legal Team will show up with flamethrowers and such).

    Meanwhile, he, who writes in a different field, one where actual books instead of periodicals are the end result, has published things. Both curious about his talent levels/general output, I bought a couple copies of his various works. I let him know I was going to but didn’t ask for freebies, because that’s a whole other beast. And wouldn’t you pay to support a small-scale creative endeavor? ‘Course you would! And I’m not sorry I did; his books are an excellent read and I might not have stumbled over them otherwise.

    But meanwhile, while things took a turn for the flirty, and he’s been so “busy” (he was busy before flirtyness occurred, FYI) … he still hasn’t read a word of my stuff. And like I said, it took a long while for me to even notice, and I don’t even know how to handle this or if I have any business being annoyed. I’m not *out* any money, I got to read some good stuff by someone else, nobody’s in trouble, he’s still perfectly pleasant. I just find my professional ego rankled by this. And then I think, “Well, you got your dumb self into this.” Then I think, “I mean, he’s *kind* of a jerk, yes?” I’ve asked him a couple times and after a while I just dropped it because I don’t like to nag.

    I dunno. LIFE! It’s just full of random nuisances, half of which we bring on ourselves.

    • B said:

      Hmm, hard to say, I am guilty of being on the other end; enthusiastically requesting to read writing then petering out. I think once with someone I was dating? Usually with friends/acquaintances. To be fair I did read my then-BFs story for a bit (there were ongoing installments) but eventually petered out. (I was also drawing comics haphazardly, which he definitely did read, but the volume wasn’t high)
      ANYWAY I can’t say what happened with your guy, like if they wanted to see but looked at the titles and glazed over or if they did just get too busy or if they are just being a “polite jerk” (asks out of feigned interest for Ulterior Motives but never any intent to follow through) – I wouldn’t read much into it (har har) unless it’s a repeating pattern

    • dr_silverware said:

      I think that it is in fact annoying you, and it’s a perfectly fine reason to do whatever it is you kind of want with the relationship, whether that’s stop it or ruthlessly use him or tell him it’s annoying you. I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world for him to do–my eyes are bigger than my stomach when it comes to media, personally.

      But you had the time and energy to read his stuff, and it sounds like you want someone who will really WANT to use their time and energy on your work.

      Additionally, I’d try to separate networking and flirting efforts from each other pretty thoroughly. Sounds like you’re feeling burned on both of those fronts, more so than if it was just the one.

    • Eurekas said:

      Knowing that you’ve put uneven amounts of effort into investigating each other’s interest rankles. It’s the uneven effort thing, mostly, I think, and it isn’t always gendered. But it often is. Well, and in this case, I think there’s some unequal curiosity involved– which lead to the unequal effort. Yes, books vs. periodicals is a thing, but . . . honestly, he doesn’t care enough about your writing to ever read it, and you were interested enough to read his, even though it cost you money and time. The fact that you liked his work was a bonus– it doesn’t make up for the unequal effort.

    • meek-bookworm said:

      Very much agree with dr_silverware, but want to elaborate on my media consumption practices in case it’s helpful to your professional ego:

      My eyes are also bigger than my stomach: even beyond the works people recommended and want to discuss (the Martian, for instance looks like exactly my cup of tea and is sitting on the cedar chest, untouched) I even have books/serials/webcomics/fic by favorite authors that I purchased/found many months ago and still haven’t read. I’m not sure what it is–maybe I need to be in a particular mood to read a particular work, maybe I like having a rainy/sick week’s/month’s worth of literature built up, maybe there is a bit of pressure in the anticipation, IDK–I almost always enjoy the work when I do read it, but my reading pattern is very random and not even close to a FIFO system. I’m terrible at both betaing and book discussion even when I adore the author/concepts/ideas. FWIW when I recommend media to friends/family I’ll usually hear back about it in a 3-12 month time frame if at all.

      The situation you’re in doesn’t feel fair to me, but I’m not sure if its a sexism unfairness or a (his) ego unfairness or a faultless ‘I like your friends/games/media/family/hobby/food but you don’t like mine’ unfairness or even just my ‘I have extreme difficulty happily consuming media in any sort of scheduled fashion’ unfairness. It probably doesn’t matter what it is if it annoys you enough (wanting someone who appreciates your work doesn’t seem an outlandish want), but it might not make sense to talk yourself into being annoyed just because it’s not fair (though you probably do want to watch and see if he’s appreciative of your pop culture/thoughts/opinions in other respects)(if that made any sense).

  20. jennyfreakingwilliamson said:

    I had a breakup where my ex had left a TON of stuff at my (tiiiiny) apartment and then moved out of the country. We’re talking three large suitcases worth. It was way too much for me to mail to him (it would have cost hundreds of dollars, most likely) so I stuffed it all in some bags and hid it in my parents’ attic. I am not proud. But maybe one day, if he is ever in my orbit with enough advance notice, I’ll bring it down from there and give it back to him. After a year (come to think of it, it’s been almost a year) with him not asking about it or trying to get it back, it’s probably okay to give it to charity.

    But if it hadn’t been so MUCH stuff and prohibitively expensive, I’d have mailed it back to him. It would suck to spend the money, but worth it to shut the door on the whole thing.

    As an aside: what is UP with the boys (in my experience it’s always boys) who INSIST that their girlfriends listen to all their music, read all their books, and watch all their movies but refuse to check out the girlfriend’s favorite stuff? I have lots of favorite bands, movies, and books and would never force them on anyone, but in the interest of reciprocity I’ve enthusiastically returned suggestion for suggestion and very rarely saw my boyfriends actually check out things I suggested. Frequently, they’d criticize my tastes. Once in a blue moon they’d actually like something but it was like once or twice in fifteen years of boyfriends.

    • NorahMancer said:

      I had an ex who spent much of our five-year relationship trying to convince me that my musical tastes were adolescent and juvenile. We got together when we were 19, BTW – you know, when we were *actual* adolescents. His musical taste, of course, was far more mature and sophisticated.
      Meanwhile, my academic studies in film did not in the least qualify me to pass judgement on his favourite movies, because film’s not a *real* art form – it’s just theatre without a stage, and nothing good has been written for the stage since like 1900.

  21. jennyfreakingwilliamson said:

    I had a breakup where my ex had left a TON of stuff at my (tiiiiny) apartment and then moved out of the country. We’re talking three large suitcases worth. It was way too much for me to mail to him (it would have cost hundreds of dollars, most likely) so I stuffed it all in some bags and hid it in my parents’ attic. I am not proud. But maybe one day, if he is ever in my orbit with enough advance notice, I’ll bring it down from there and give it back to him.

    But if it hadn’t been so MUCH stuff and prohibitively expensive, I’d have mailed it back to him. It would suck to spend the money, but worth it to shut the door on the whole thing.

    As an aside: what is UP with the boys (in my experience it’s always boys) who INSIST that their girlfriends listen to all their music, read all their books, and watch all their movies but refuse to check out the girlfriend’s favorite stuff? I have lots of favorite bands, movies, and books and would never force them on anyone, but in the interest of reciprocity I’ve enthusiastically returned suggestion for suggestion and very rarely saw my boyfriends actually check out things I suggested. Frequently, they’d criticize my tastes. Once in a blue moon they’d actually like something but it was like once or twice in fifteen years of boyfriends.

  22. “raise your hand if you have had an annoying guy push all his favorite pop culture on you right at the beginning of a relationship”

    *raises hand* So glad to hear this is a Thing and it’s not just me. This happened in my first couple of relationships. I went along with it because I was socialized to be a Nice Girl and because I was insecure about my own interests being interesting enough for anyone else. Then when we broke up I wondered why I was super not interested in being friends.

    • Anandatic said:

      I had that in my first relationship when I was 19, and at the beginning of my friendship with my current romantic partner. I, too, was kind of insecure/unsure about my own interests and felt the need to be a Nice Girl. My first boyfriend overwhelmed me with all of the TV shows and music he loved, going so far as to drag me to concerts for bands he had introduced me to just a week earlier. We also spent a lot of our social time with his friends (granted, it was a social circle I was just getting into and enjoyed spending time with), and I’m pretty sure that some of my good friends never even met him. I honestly didn’t give it much thought, but he showed zero interest in the things I liked. (He was pretty inconsiderate and a bit selfish overall, yet after our 6-month relationship some time after breaking up with me, he had the audacity to give *me* a lecture about my failings as I was giving him a lift home. That still kinda annoys me.)

      With my current partner, I think there was also that uneven sharing of pop culture at the beginning, and it’s probably still a bit uneven to this day, but they’ve made an effort to try the things I like, even going so far as to get into my main fandom and support all of my crazy fandom-related hijinx, which means a lot. It evens out. :>

  23. Dear LW:

    I wanted to add one thing: if you’re getting rid of the gifts, do it in the way that’s easiest for you. So, if it’s easy to drop by Goodwill with a box full of the stuff you don’t want, do that. And yet, if it’s easier still to put it all in a garbage bag out on the curb, do that.

    I suggest this because, well, why put yourself out dealing with his detritus?

  24. I’m firmly with the Captain and also with Miss Manners, here: the only gifts which need to be returned in the event of a breakup are engagement rings.

    Giving someone’s gifts back, which I have done once, is a very clear “I want every trace of your existence out of my life, for good cause” message, and should not be done unless you want to be profoundly insulting.

    Sending lent books back is a courtesy, though. I wish people would send MINE back, and I include many people I’m still fond of.

    • Myrtle said:

      I returned my wedding ring, as it was an heirloom that had been my husband’s mother’s “second ring” like, the one people got after they’d been married a while and had money. Lots of diamonds in that kind of 60’s style. Also, now I get why people have rings like this reset; it was never mine. I did enjoy imagining his bitch sister telling him to get the ring back from me, as I knew he’d then tell her I’d cleaned and polished it and quietly given it back before I moved out.

      • Epiphyta said:

        I did the same: the diamond in it was my ex’s great-grandmother’s. His wife wears it now — I know this because she called it to my attention shortly after their marriage. Um, okay?

        (Stone was cracked, deep in the heart of it; the jeweler pointed it out when we went to get it reset. Universe trying to drop an anvil on my head . . . . )

        • I did something similar with my engagement ring from my ex husband. It was a one carat diamond in a turn of the century platinum setting, and it was gorgeous, but it had been his dead mother’s and I couldn’t keep it. But as the relationship was ending, I noticed that the diamond had visible inclusions and a chip in it that sentiment had always seemed to hide. Irony. He gave it to his new wife a few month before the divorce was final, since they married three months after the ink was dry. Mutual “friends” (who are no longer friends) posted pics on Facebook and tagged me in them, for some reason.

    • Cricket said:

      The only time I’ve returned gifts was when they were previously used items with more personal/sentimental value to my ex than to me – a childhood stuffed animal, a favorite book that she’d annotated, that kind of thing. I mailed them back to her after checking in that that was okay with her, and then she sent me an Amazon gift card of equal value to the amount of shipping I’d paid. This was an simply an awkward and slightly sad breakup between folks who later became friends again, though, so we were able to talk about what would work for both of us rather than worrying about making a decision that might provide an opportunity for creepy behavior on the part of an unpleasant ex.

      • Sleepy said:

        He bought an engagement ring before we broke up, I refused to get engaged or take it as a promise ring. The Valentines day after we broke up, he mailed it to me along with a white dress. I returned it to sender and he sent me a snotty message about it before throwing the ring into the Potomac River.

        • lemonack said:

          I’m sorry, that is so out-there that I can barely even parse it. He mailed it to you with a dress? Like, leaving aside the way that escalates from passive-aggressive into aggressive-aggressive, things get lost in the mail sometimes! (I am also curious: was the dress even your size or a style you liked? Not a full-on wedding dress, I assume?)

          Though the fact that he didn’t (couldn’t?) return it to the store indicates that the ring was, at least to him, a sunk cost anyway…

        • winter said:

          What was that supposed to signify? Feels suuuper creepy.

        • Bloody hell.

          I think you might take the grand prize for Creepy Unwanted Gifts. I’m not entirely sure what, if anything, you win, except maybe the starter kit to your own Lifetime Movie script…?

          • Sleepy said:

            Yuuuuup. The dress was in my size and reasonably pretty but it was, you know, a lacy white dress that came in the mail along with an engagement ring on Valentines Day from my ex, so return to fucking sender. He petulantly informed me that (a I was TOTALLY IMAGINING the bridal overtones of the lacy white dress he sent me with an engagement ring and (b he threw the engagement ring into the Potomac.
            (I win a lifetime supply of anecdotes all over the hilarious/terrifying spectrum and also a free PTSD)

        • unlurking said:

          Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhghh! Holy sh*t.

    • Divizna said:

      Actually, no. An engagement ring is explicitely a kind of insurance. If the man leaves the maiden, the ring is hers to sell and keep the money as a damage payment for the social harm she’s suffered.
      It’s only to be given back if she cancels the engagement.

      • Lou said:

        Actually, no. In most places (at least in the US) the expectation about engagement rings is that they be returned UNLESS they were given on, like, birthdays and Christmas – gift giving occasions. There have been lawsuits about it, and courts typically say that the ring was “an implied condition of marriage; acceptance of the proposal is not the underlying ‘deal'”. (Quote from nolo.com). Basically, they consider the engagement ring a conditional gift; you get to keep the gift (engagement ring) if the condition (marriage) is fulfilled.

        • Divizna said:

          That puts the meaning of an engagement ring and the very reason they even came to be a thing on the head.
          And it strips the woman of her rights even more than the original setting.
          And what’s all this about giving an engagement ring for birthday or Christmas? The fact that gifts can be given any time, regardless of “occasions”, aside – an engagement is a contract, not a present. “We hereby agree that we intend to get married sometime in the future. Signed, bride and groom (or a differently-gendered couple).” If my boyfriend were to “give” me engagement for a birthday, or worse, Christmas, I’d be very upset about how he sees the whole thing. I’d be much more comfortable with him proposing without a ring attached at all.

          • NorahMancer said:

            And it strips the woman of her rights even more than the original setting.
            Uh…times do change. Yes, once, if a lady person were engaged to a dude person and he broke it off, it could have very serious consequences for her socially and thus financially. Nowadays, kind of not really.

          • Divizna said:

            Norah: That’s true, but “If I fail to keep my side of the contract to you then you will have to pay me for it” is super icky. That really turns the woman into an object to be claimed (and branded) and tossed at the man’s whim.

          • Lou said:

            “And what’s all this about giving an engagement ring for birthday or Christmas?”

            Some people do that. They might want to propose in front of all their family/friends. Or they might love Christmas/birthdays and want to make the occasion even more special. Who knows. That you wouldn’t like it if your boyfriend proposed to you on Christmas/your birthday is your prerogative, not everyone likes that idea (I also personally don’t like it), but it doesn’t mean it’s wrong or terrible.

            Also, an engagement is significantly less of a contract than it used to be, like NorahMancer said. It has become, generally, much more symbolic.

        • miss_chevious said:

          Yep. It varies according to state law, but the engagement ring generally belongs to the giver if the engagement is broken, regardless of cause.

      • …or if she wants to be the bigger person and return it because it doesn’t suit her, it has memories attached to it, and it was a family heirloom. Either way. 🙂

        • Divizna said:

          But then it’s a choice, not an obligation.

    • Sin said:

      The thing about people sending back books. Preach.

  25. I agree with the response – give back the lent objects, donate the given ones you don’t want, trash them if your local donation place won’t take them. Even the t-shirts, especially if they’re unworn; at this season, some charities are totally gifting people new garments because they don’t have any and have no other way to get any. Op shop them if they’ve been worn.

  26. Anisoptera said:

    LW you seem to be asking *how* to return things more than whether you should, since post is expensive… Here’s another suggestion.

    If you don’t want to/can’t pay for postage can you have a friend drop them off at his place for you? A mutual friend might be best because that person may well intend to see your ex some time soon and it would be no bother, but any person you know who would be willing to go to his place would do?

    I also see no problem with you leaving the box on his porch (out of sight of the street and out of the rain, somewhere he will see it when he walks to his door so you don’t need to text him). You could leave a written note stuck to his box or in the letterbox to explain if you like.

    I guess this all depends on just how worried you are about his behaviour. If it’s just a feelingsbomb from him then these options should do fine at avoiding it. Your friend may come back and open their mouth and say “oh he was so sad he said…” And you can cut them off and not listen to it. If you drop it off yourself and he’s unexpectedly there, just hand him the box, repeat that you don’t want to talk, and walk away.

    If you’re worried he might be a stalker, or be dangerous, a) definitely don’t go *alone* to his house and b) consider forking out for the post anyway. This is because the post is less personal, feels less like contact, and keeps you and people who know you away from him and his attempts to get to you. They can deliver it to him without any creepy conversations or worry that he might be home. :-/

    As for gifts… You don’t have to return them, but if you want to, throw them in the box with the books. I once dated a dude who asked for *everything he’d ever given me* back. I gave him back some jewellery and a handpainted silk scarf, but kept the jeans that I was actually wearing regularly. Later I heard he asked a different girl who’d never even dated him but who he was hung up on to pay him back for every block of chocolate and takeout meal…? That dude gave the jewellery I returned to him to his next girlfriend too… which tells you how he thought of it.

    Basically, some dudes are very weird. They think they’re buying you with their gifts, and if you don’t give them what they think they’re buying, or if you stop giving it to them, they want a refund. It’s super icky. In those scenarios I’m happy to give back all the stuff I don’t especially care about (or that I don’t want in my life) but see no reason to give them everything if I don’t want to.

    • winter said:

      What the heeeeell @ that dude. Wanting “gifts” back, giving them to the next girl, asking a girl for shit because he couldn’t get in her pants??? Wow.

      • Anisoptera said:

        That dude was pretty feral yes. He also came with hints of actual physical violence so thankfully I only dated him for a few months and then made my escape. Also I was 19 and had no idea what a red flag was even when presented with flashing lights and klaxons. Sadly though it’s not that uncommon, like many shitty dude behaviours. Some guys believe gifts and dinners and whatever are a down payment on sex. 😦

    • Siege said:

      If you do decide to leave his stuff in a box/bag on his porch, please leave note on it or something. I say this only because I left some things behind at my ex’s when I moved out, which he was kind enough to randomly drop off on my porch one day. However, they were in an un-labled black garbage bag, and the only reason they didn’t end up being put out as trash is that one of my roommates happened to see the bag sitting in a pile of melting snow and got curious.

  27. mythbri said:

    Just clearing stuff out helps with the moving on process, LW. Good on you for thinking about returning the books he lent you that you weren’t interested in reading. The one book one of my exes had tried to get me to read went straight into the dumpster after we broke up, and I am not one who throws books away. I donate books when I don’t want them anymore, but I was worried the asshole aura surrounding my ex’s possessions would infect other people.

  28. Gotgingham said:

    Sending the books back proves you care about ideas, just not *his ideas.*

    Amazingly symbolic and an excellent severance of the *idea channel* –the circuit of which is meant as a lasso.

    I’m a dood. Lending a book is right up there with a mixed tape lovingly decorated with personalized cover. And Yeah for sure I was that annoying dood who dropped a whole bunch of *culture* on a woman’s lap as a *favour* … I got outa that habit when I met the woman who stopped my heart: she gave em right back, right away telling me she has no place for them.

    Culture Vultures vesus Culture Bulldozers… Not sure who is harder to handle. I once dated an academic who had read every thing (really exactly like the Portlandia skit) and I had nuffin to give. Even an obscure essay from a NYT Sunday Magazine feature from 15 years ago that mounts to my entire grasp of the topic and in other company make me feel well read with great recall, she’d know the article, the writer and follow-up story… Made me realize we can lead a horse to water or we can go ride the mechanical bull.

    We are responsible for our own culture.

    But back to this story.

    How do friends go from friend into BF mode without the other finking they’ve been covering up harboured feelings? And still dig the guy?

    Sounds like he was just waiting around for intense relationship to end so he could date LW. Hence the advanced nature of his *plans* of children/cohabiting &c. that already have momentum.

    You could also circle the first appearances of the following words in each of the books:

    A

    Super

    Intelligent

    Caring

    Person

    Sees

    This

    Code

    And

    Knows

    To

    Not

    Ever

    Contact

    Me

    Again

    • meek-bookworm said:

      Umm, writing a rather mean message in a book that could well be a favorite does not seem like a reasonable thing to do at all?

      • B. said:

        +1 LW asked about avoiding feelingsbombs, not provoking them.

      • Concurred. Returning loaned books is a decent thing to do. Inking them up to say “never speak to me again” seems obnoxious at best.

  29. Muffin said:

    On a related topic, I hope it’s ok to ask this here… I have Unwanted Jewelry from a long-ago, very terrible ex. It’s probably worth some non-trivial cash, and what I would really like to do is sell it and give the cash to the charity I think would most annoy the ex (local Cat Rescue, here I come!). But I have no idea how to sell the jewelry, and all the places I’ve looked up online come with warnings from customers that say they’ll basically fleece you. Any ideas? Should I just give the jewelry to Goodwill instead?

    • FlyBy said:

      You could get it appraised by someone you will not be selling the jewelry to if you want to find out what it’s worth. That can get expensive, though.

      • Anodyne said:

        Not necessarily? I had some of my jewelry appraised recently (so that I can get it insured later), and I had it done at a local jewelry shop that has an appraiser come by every month or so and do ‘free’ appraisals. (By ‘free’, I mean “there was no charge for the appointment itself, and we were only charged for the pieces that were actually worth over $300, of which there were only two”.) I also got the pearl necklace that my grandmother gave me appraised, to find it was made of synthetic pearls; I’d needed to get it restranded, anyways, and figured I might as well get it appraised at the same time. The total cost for repair and appraisal came out to about $100, if I remember right, and the necklace is worth significantly more than that.

        YMMV, though. Personally, I’d go in and ask how much an appraisal would cost you. They should be able to give you an estimate, or explain how they usually get an estimate.

    • golden peanut said:

      Are you uncomfortable with e-Bay? I would try to get some idea of what they are worth, first, whether by having it appraised, as FlyBy suggests, or by surfing e-Bay for similar objects.

    • You can also have it appraised (as described by other posters) and donate the jewelry plus appraisal.

      • Oh, that’s brilliant.

        • Thanks! 😊

    • glomarization said:

      If you’re just going to donate the money, then it seems to me that it doesn’t much matter if you get fleeced.

      • thelittlepakeha said:

        Well yeah, but if you can donate $200 instead of $100 it’s better for the kitties.

    • If the selling thing seems a bit too hard, the other option is to donate directly to a charity that actually uses decent quality jewelry and accessories. I donated my exboyfriendjewelry and Dressed for Success, which is a charity that provides suits/business attire and accessories to women in need so they can put their best foot forward in job interviews or at court appearances etc. It’s about breaking poverty cycles by removing one of the many obstacles to employment etc. The other charity I donated to is one that provides emergency provisions (clothing, bedding etc) to women and children in emergency housing due to domestic violence, and when these women secure a new safe place to live, they come through and kit out the new place with donated furniture and linen etc, and they like to add little creature comforts like jewelry or makeup or a cute bag or something, because when you’ve been in survival mode, those little luxuries can help you start to feel like yourself again.
      If your ex was douchey, a charity that’s all about empowering people who are breaking free of horrible situations might feel suitably poetic.

      • Muffin said:

        Oh, this is a perfect idea. Thank you! And thank you so much to all the commenters above!

    • Myrtle said:

      Try asking the charity? Surely they’ve had this come up before, and have a friendly appraiser amongst their supporters. -On the chance the piece may have valuable stones, be made with platinum instead of gold, or is the work of a sought-after artist.

  30. seralphia said:

    If you really want to save on postage but don’t want to drop them off personally either, would sending a friend be an option? Because that way you can be sure he actually receives them (so he can’t claim that the box wasn’t there when he came home and you two have to now form a whimsical detective duo trying to unravel the mystery of Where Stuff Gone To) and don’t have to be anxious about him being home.

    And your friend can be in and out in a few minutes, especially if it’s not a mutual friend.

    “But why is she giving this back?!?!” “Don’t know, dude. Didn’t tell me, didn’t ask her.”

    “But why isn’t she coming herself?!?!” “Beats me, man. But as long as the stuff gets here, eh?”

    “But my FEELINGS?!?!?!” “Listen, I don’t even know you and I’m just here as a favor for a friend. This is really not my business and I really have to run now. Bye!” /exit stage left

    • The Other Side said:

      +1 on having a Trusted Friend (preferably yours) drop off the box of things you don’t want anymore.

      Quick Story: I made a similar arrangement because I did not trust my ex at all and I wanted to ensure I had someone who could witness when things were delivered. Plausible deniability on his part nixxed.

      Trusted Friend also agreed not to disclose or pass on any information about me or to me other than to answer my one question: Did he do what we anticipated? The answer was yes.

      Because my ex was *that guy* who would fish (and phish) for information and who couldn’t understand “But whyyyyy” with a side of just about every gendered slur you can think of when it came to me.

      (Thus, the ex part).

    • Myrtle said:

      “Form a whimsical Detective Duo”… A close call with my mug of tea and iPad…

  31. RedCat said:

    “where he will maybe dramatically throw the jewelry into a nearby body of water like he’s in a student film”

    Nodding along here. This is what my (then) boyfriend did with the ring his ex (right before me) had given him. At the time it seemed SO dramatic and intriguing – 25 years later I see him for what he was. He was attractive, insecure, charming, flirtatious, and seemed to drive women crazy. I realise now that the women weren’t crazy – no, it was his behaviour that made them mad. He was the type of guy who wouldn’t break up with you, he’d just get all distant and moody and make you question your own behaviour and deny anything was wrong and flirt with other women and then talk to you about moving in together and getting engaged and, and…. aaaraaaargghhhh!

    I owe an to apology to his ex. I heard his side of the story and thought she was awful – until *I* was on the receiving end of his antics. Suddenly I was the crazy and irrational one!

  32. Alexis said:

    My mother is like the worst ex when it comes to forcing awful “gifts” on me. As in, she’s pushed me to take her used panties (gross!). It got to where every time she tried to give me something like that, I’d tell her “I’m throwing this directly in the garbage, which is what you should do with used panties (and other weird shit) anyway.” Any clothes she “gives” me go into the garbage or to goodwill. I hate pushy presents. If I don’t want it, please believe me when I say that.

    • winter said:

      Ok, the boundary issues are on a whole new plane. I’m sorry you have to deal with that.

    • johann7 said:

      Your throwing-in-the-garbage tactic? I literally had to use this one at Christmas (which I do not celebrate, but for which I am willing to join my family t celebrate becasue it makes them happy) to finally enforce my “I want no part of the gift exchange becasue I think the way it works in our culture is deeply creepy (with a side dose of economic-class-based disparity and shame due to the extremely large range of incomes in our family)” boundary. I gave everyone a full year’s warning that I was truly and finally serious that I would not be accepting any gifts, no matter how much anyone wanted to give them (after several years before that of asserting my boundary and having it ignored), and when I got gifts that next Christmas, I literally took them as they were handed to me and threw them in the trash unopened. Because at the point where you are violating my explicitly-stated wishes over and over, that “gift” is no longer a gift, and it’s not about what I want or doing something actually nice for me at all.

  33. Yeah…the “Let me super-pushily lend you a ton of my stuff indefinitely and whine for it back *when* you decide to cut me off.” is totally an intentional thing I’ve seen clingy people do when they know they have a history of people ghosting on them. Obviously, not every lent object is meant to be relationship insurance but there are things that make it stick out from normal sharing.

    • winter said:

      I experienced that in reverse once. I lent the dude a book, then he kept reminding me periodically that he still had a book from me. I just arranged myself with the fact that I would never see it again and told him “Yes”. If he was so aware of that book he could make to effort to actually bring it back??

      As expected, I do not run into him anymore and that book is gone forever. But at least I didn’t hold on to a pointless back and forth of “where is my book”.

  34. Roadrunner said:

    When you send him his books, you may want to send it registered mail. You may also want to think about paying for insurance. I know that this may cost your more money than you want to spend and it certainly isn’t fun to stand in line during the Holiday Season.

    But if this guy is obsessed with you, he might be the type of person who will claim that he never received the books or that the books were damaged in order to stay in contact with you. Making him sign for the books provides you with some protection.

    • This is an excellent suggestion. One whose excellence I can attest to from wishing I had thought to do it after my encounter with Creepy Gun Enthusiast that I mentioned upthread.

  35. gryphon said:

    raise your hand if you have had an annoying guy push all his favorite pop culture on you right at the beginning of a relationship but mysteriously doesn’t read or listen to anything you like or ask you for any recommendations?

    *raises hand* Story time about my now-long-ex: when we first got together we both shared/swapped the books that changed our lives. I read the one he gave me. Then we ended up making the relationship long-distance and he carried on lending me endless books. I would go to visit over the weekend and he’d give me a book to read, then I’d make the long journey home on the Sunday and go to work on the Monday, and the on the Monday night we would talk on the phone and he’d ask if I’d read the book yet! (In retrospect, the fact that I almost always made the journey to see him and he hardly ever reciprocated should have been a red flag in itself.) Anyway, months after our break-up he finally got round to reading the book that I’d said changed my life. I was in a bar with my new friends when I got a text message saying he couldn’t see what was so good about the book. By that point I didn’t care what he thought about anything and I didn’t feel that excited about the book either!

  36. Amphelise said:

    Raising my hand SO HARD to having dated the “read my stuff OR YOU DON’T LOVE ME but yours is BORING and I just can’t do that” guy. Several times.

    The last one of those, we organised an exchange of stuff while he was out of the house (well, I tried to organise it but he said he’d be out for about an hour right around then so he left my stuff in the carport and asked me to leave his in its place…what’s that, you don’t want to face me after having the new girlfriend move in before you’d actually broken up with the other one? Can’t think why!). I left his stuff (a crappy pottery face he made in high school and several bootleg DVDs that I never wanted in the first place) and took my stuff (four textbooks I’d lent him for his course). About half an hour after I left I got a text which read: “The DVDs were gifts, you didn’t have to give them back. I left those books there for you to sort through, I didn’t think they were all yours?”

    I considered replying for about half a second, then deleted both the text and his number. NOPE.

  37. Feeling you on the ex-boyfriend-gifts-disposal-weirdness so hard. Have you thought about donating to a charity that actively seeks jewels and accessories and the like?
    When I ended my last relationship I wanted everything of his and that he’d given me GONE. Books and things I donated or regifted, but I felt super super weird about the jewellery and handbags and things for some reason. Like I was heartless and awful if I got rid of a sentimental gift, but giving it back to him seemed so pathetic and like I was deliberately trying to get his attention or something.
    In the end I donated the jewellery and handbags and things like that to two charities: one that provides interview-appropriate clothes and accessories to less privileged women to assist them with job hunting and the like, and the other is Assist-A-Sister (based in Australia) that provides assistance to women who have left domestic violence situations – they provide emergency supplies, clothing, bedding, hygene products etc to women in shelter situations, and then when these women and their families get sorted with a safe new place to live, this charity comes in and furnishes it using donated items, fills the fridge with groceries and adds nice little touches when they can, like makeup or jewellery or nice candles – because when you’ve been in survival mode for weeks or months, sometimes those little things are what helps you feel like yourself again.

    It seemed fitting that the gifts from this douchey dude (designed to help him get what he wanted from me) found new lives empowering other women. If throwing this stuff away or dumping it at a thrift shop feels a bit weird, maybe this is the way to go?

  38. I refer to the exchange of stuff as the “exchange of hostages”, and it was never more appropriate than after I stayed in a friendship longer than I wanted to to get a large, expensive instrument back.

    The last time I had to do this, the guy wanted to “catch up, and also give you back your X” so I gathered up the book he’d (probably given, in retrospect, but it was a terrible book) lent me and went along to have brunch with this dude. He asked after the guy that he thought I’d broken up with him for, and I was like “Who?” It was remarkably satisfying, AND I got the books I’d lent him back. Unread.

    In that case, doing it in person was fine, but in general I dislike exchanges of hostages, so I usually try to avoid it by quietly gathering up all my things in the weeks leading up to the breakup. I am very much in favour of the media mail option for the return of this dude’s stuff, and then blocking him on every possible avenue of communication, because he sounds like a jerkface.

  39. SnarkSurvivor said:

    Ok, how about the trophy-shadow-gifter? I had a longtime-I-thought-serious bF who was under-employed and so gave me things from the rummage at the church he was a janitor to. Some handy stuff like set of plates when I had none, it was all groovy and green. So I thought until after we broke up and his new gF snarked “what is she doing in my shirt?” They had been friends before lovers, and in that time she’d given him clothes he gave me and loved to watch me in his friend’s clothes, or earings from another girl — all this stuff that was attached in ways I was not informed of. So I’d be wearing x’s this and next’s that; all a kind of wanna-be-three-way trip. Makes me itchy to remember that (and need I say it? All that stuff is Gone baby Gone!

  40. kitai said:

    “…where he will maybe dramatically throw the jewelry into a nearby body of water like he’s in a student film”

    my sister’s ex-girlfriend did that with a necklace my sister gave her after a fight between them. I’m pretty sure my sister’s still grumpy about that, because she doesn’t have a lot of money and it was quite expensive.

  41. kitai said:

    Also belated and only tangentially related but, I realised towards the end of last academic year that once we’ve all graduated I’d never see a lot of the people I hung out with again, so I asked for my books back.
    You would not believe the insulted looks I got from them, even though I barely spoke to them during school, let alone out of school. Plus they were fairly unreliable, so if I hadn’t gotten on their backs about getting them back, I would’ve never seen them again. And one of them was signed by the author! I queued ages for that!

  42. johann7 said:

    This is possibly my favorite response yet – short, great advice*, and an an appropriately irritated** tone. 🙂

    *gifts are your to do with as you please; if they have strings or expectations attached, they’re not actually gifts, they’re manipulation given material form
    **with the dude, not the LW

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