#1157: The Purple Dildo of Broken Friendship

Dear Captain,

A year ago I (she, 26) made a male friend (25) over OkCupid. We were both just looking for new people to hang out with, I was lonely after  moving to a new city, and also happy to make a male friend because all my other friends are female. We started hanging out pretty regularly, just watching movies at home or going out for coffee or food.

Fast-forward a year, I invited him to my birthday party. At midnight  everyone gave me their gift, but he said that he would only give me his  when he leaves, so he doesn’t have to see me open it. He had done the  same at Christmas, so I wasn’t surprised, but imagine my shock when this  time, instead of a cute plushie, I opened the wrapping to see…a purple dildo. I was so shocked. The card he gave me explained how it was supposed to fit all the things on the list of “things I like” that I mailed to all my friends who weren’t sure what to gift me and I guess it was sort of a clever and funny play of words?

My friends laughed hysterically for like an hour, and I laughed with them, but the more I thought about it, the more disappointed I was. I have, I guess you could say a *thing* with presents, which is that I really really hate things I cannot use. I grew up poor and I like owning things of value and he knew that. I mean, that’s the whole reason of why
I sent that list around. But instead of respecting my wishes (and really, it’s not like they were outlandish, I wrote “stuff for my balcony” on that list so he could’ve literally just gotten me a plant), he chose to make a joke that *he* thought would be funny. Maybe I’m
being selfish, but to me, that’s an insult. It’s not even about the fact that it’s a sex toy (he knows I’m asexual), I wasn’t mad about that. I was mad that he didn’t think about what *I* would want.

I then told him that while it was funny for a while, I would prefer him to take it back and just give me the money. He refused, telling me how “disappointed” he is that I didn’t like his “troll gift” (literal quote), thus making everything about himself again.

Since then I’ve been unable to get myself to like him again. It’s like the floodgates have broken and I’ve started noticing other stuff that has been bothering me for a while but that I’ve overlooked – him never offering to do the dishes when we eat at my place, leaving behind a huge pile of trash when we get takeout, never checking in over Whatsapp how I’m doing, almost never being the one to set up the meeting place and
time for our meetings, never talking about #deep stuff and just joking around when I try…

He’s not a bad person, I know that if I tell him what bothers me, he will probably try to work at it. But why should I be the one to teach him basic manners? I’m not sure I want to take on that emotional labor. I can’t stop comparing him to my female friends, and I work a lot so I have to carefully choose the relationships I want to invest time in. Am
I really going to end a friendship over a dildo? On the other hand, were we really such good friends in the first place, or was I just lonely? Will I like him again if some time passes? Please help?

–Disappointed Birthday Girl

Dear Disappointed Birthday Girl,

I’d personally stop short of trying to get an alternate gift or money instead of the present he got you, but it’s okay to want nothing to do with a sexualized joke gift that makes you so uncomfortable. You can chuck it in the trash, you can give it back to him next time you see him, you can say “Let’s just skip giving gifts from now on, I don’t think it’s our jam” and/or “Hey I know you meant it as a joke, but it really grossed me out and hurt my feelings.”

And it’s okay to re-evaluate the friendship. Like you say, you could talk to him about the areas where you’d like him to be more considerate (cleaning up after himself, taking the initiative with planning, gift-giving) or you could decide that you don’t feel like putting in the effort. Someone doesn’t have to be a bad person to not be great friend material for where you’re at right now. It sounds like you might not hang out at all if you stopped making plans or checking in on him, and it’s okay to let inertia take its course.

I guess what I’d most like to give you by posting this answer is permission to Not Work At This For A While. Instead, ask yourself some questions:

  • Is the other person thinking about this and working at this even a quarter as much as you are? For example, do you think this guy is worried that he really disappointed you and pissed you off, and thinking about how to make amends or make sure you know that your friendship is important to him?
  • What if you didn’t have to make any big decisions about this person right now, or, at all? What if you just gave yourself permission not to worry about it for the rest of 2018, and maybe you’ll check in with yourself and see how you’re feeling in the New Year? If you miss him, that’s your answer. If you don’t, welp, there you go.
  • What would happen if you stopped putting effort into interactions with this person for a good while? Like, if you do happen to run into him you can be a basic amount of polite and friendly, and if he reaches out to you, you can answer in kind (if you want to), but what if you let the rest go?

Sometimes the answer to these questions will be “Nope, gotta talk it through, it’s like a sore tooth!” or “Nope, I’m done with that person forever!” or “Eh, he’s not the best of friends but he is good company on occasion and I’ll put up with some misunderstandings because it’s worth it to have him in my life in smaller doses” and that’s okay! There’s no right or wrong here, just a way of figuring out where you want to put your social energies. Hopefully somewhere in your life are some friends who gives you great, thoughtful presents and who put in as much love and time as you do. Maybe make the rest of the year about celebrating them vs. fixing the one who doesn’t?

 

Comments closed as of 11/15.

380 comments
  1. KayEss said:

    “At midnight everyone gave me their gift, but he said that he would only give me his when he leaves, so he doesn’t have to see me open it.”

    Ah yes, the mark of a person who is confident they have made a good decision with no potential negative reactions or consequences. I would definitely not expend any effort on getting this guy to change–he’s only ever going to double down on avoiding taking any responsibility for his behavior.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      Bingo. If it’s such a great joke, why not hang around for the punchline?

    • goddessoftransitory said:

      Yep. There’s always one thing that gives away a person’s true motivations, and “Leaving before you open my dildo present” is that thing here.

  2. Kim said:

    Ewwww. I get a lot of creep vibes from a man giving his asexual female friend a dildo for her birthday. What a jerk.

    • GreenDoor said:

      Anyone giving anyone with whom they are not already physically intimate a gift of even a remotely sexual nature is a jerk.

      It’s particularly telling that he gives it to be opened after he’s gone. That way, if she’s offended or saddened or shocked or confused or, you know, totally embarassed in front of a whole group of people, he doesn’t have to deal with it. What an ass.

      • B. said:

        Yeah, sexual gifts, like any sexual exchange, depend on the explicit consent of all involved parties.
        For example, when the topic is raised I’m very open about owning sex toys and have shown and explained my collection to close (platonic) friends who were genuinely interested and felt more at ease asking me than a stranger. I’ve even given dildos to platonic friends, not as a joke but as an actual gift. But that was only because they approached me about wanting a dildo, and I asked them if they would like one as a birthday present, and they enthusiastically said yes.
        This jerk didn’t do any of that. He intentionally bought something he knew could hurt the LW’s feelings and then refused to apologise. Off with his friend-status, I say.

        • KO said:

          Honestly, this raises all the red flags of being a giant *ahem” “hint” wrapped in a thin veneer of plausible deniability (“it was a JOKE!”). No, it doesn’t matter that he “knows LW is asexual,” his approach indicates that he believes her needs and clearly-stated boundaries are very very secondary to what he wants / feels entitled to. So yeah, he’s fishing for an indication that he’d be able to “convert” LW to “his team.” Ew.

          I would factor this into my decision-making process.

          • Ess in Tee said:

            Agreed. I read this in exactly the same way.

            It’s Schroedinger’s Gift. It’s totally a funny-funny-ha-ha joke gift… unless it isn’t.

            Add to that the “I’m so disappointed you don’t want to keep the fake wang I’ve weirdly burdened you with!” vibe he’s giving off and we’ve moved from gross to turbo-gross.

          • Something Clever said:

            Yep, they met on OKCupid, and he spent a year being her friend, and now he wants the “benefits.”

          • Neurite said:

            Agreed, Something Clever – I read the part where the LW notes that she met this dude on OkCupid “both just looking for new people to hang out with,” and found myself thinking “…I get the sinking feeling that this isn’t going to be the story of the one dude who *actually fucking meant it* when he said that.”

            (Lest this be taken the wrong way, I am in no way intending this as some form of victim-blaming the LW – “what did you expect, you met him on OkCupid”! Using OkCupid to find people to just hang out with is a totally legitimate use and it fucking *should* be possible to do that. It’s just that I’ve heard one too many story of dudes on OkCupid either saying that’s all they’re looking for, or saying they are cool with the fact that that’s all the other person is looking for, only to turn out to absolutely want to sexualize the situation in the end.)

          • I read it exactly the same way. “Hahaha… unless you’re into it?”

      • Kat G, Ph.D. said:

        I mean, I could imagine a situation in which two platonic friends have an ongoing mutual inside joke about a purple dildo, and one person buys one for the other….but both people need to be in on the joke, which is clearly not what happened here. If you’re going to buy a friend a dildo, you better be DAMN SURE that they’re okay with it.

        • many bells down said:

          My best friend and I have an ongoing joke about buying each other the most weird and useless gifts possible, and I STILL would not send her a dildo. Sometimes, someone does a thing that makes you realize that they never really “got” you, and this guy has done that. Adios, muchacho.

        • Raptor said:

          I was in one of those friend circles where, at every Secret Santa, there was at least one dildo, and it was always considered an inside joke.

          On the other hand, it was always a straight dude giving one to another straight dude. I can’t remember any of the men ever giving one to a woman. And also, it was always a bonus gift and the recipient always got a real present as well.

    • Tabitha said:

      Gross AND weird AND, in its attempt to be “edgy” and a “troll gift,” presumptuous about her relationship with her body.

    • Nanani said:

      THIS.

      and when he himself describes it as a “troll gift?”
      That’s not a friend, that’s an asshole who sometimes wears a bit of a mask.

      He has shown that he doesn’t care about you in a blatant way, that brought all the other ways he showed he didn’t care, which you listed, into focus.

      Ghost him, or put a pause on initiating anything, or tell him you don’t want to hang out anymore as you please, but do not waste time waiting for him to be a good friend to you because he’s not.

      • Nina said:

        Yeah, a lot of people are mentioning how he might have second intentions on this… but to be honest, I interpreted his actions to just be of a completely selfish idiot than necessarily trying to get into her pants. From her description, it does seem like he cares first and only about himself. But still, not an appropriate gift at all.

        (one time a friend of ours had a birthday party and some folks baked and hid a dildo inside the cake — if it was me, I would never have talked to this people again)

    • Light37 said:

      Same. It’s not OK in 90+% of relationships anyway, but as an ace person I’d be seriously uncomfortable with the idea of some dude handing me a sex toy.

    • johann7 said:

      Not necessarily disagreeing with the other responses, but I find it substantially less creepy that he’s getting his friend *who he knows is asexual* a dildo exactly because he knows she won’t use it. I’d get WAY more creepy vibes is she were sexual becasue of the potential that he’d be thinking of her using it or thinking she’d be thinking of him using it.

      The letter implies that he should know she won’t use it: LW considers it to be in the category “things I cannot use” and not in the category “things of value”, despite the fact that dildos can be very expensive (though presumably one bought as a joke gift wouldn’t be) and useful for people who get off on insertive toys, and LW says her frustration is not about the a/sexual split and that he knows about her thoughts on gifts resulting from her background.

      This guy may be a jerk; he definitely appears to have failed to read LW’s likely reaction to his gag gift (though maybe not the room, if her other friends laughed for hours – perhaps this is the kind of joke that would generally go over well with this social group but slammed right into LW’s particular preferences for birthday gifts).

      • aceanon said:

        Idk, ace can mean different things for different people (which runs the gamut of actual sexual activity) – he has no idea if she’d use it or not. To me it reads as “I know you’re ace but I’d like to give you a thing explicitly and exclusively for sex so if you DO use it it’s like sex with me/I can imagine you are using it and thus having sex with me.” I’m ace and occasionally have sex because my partner is not, and occasionally masturbate because it works for my body, even if there’s no sexual attraction to another person driving it.

        • fluffy said:

          Yeah, lots of asexual people masturbate. It’s totally normal. (As it’s totally normal to be ace and to not masturbate. Or to be allosexual and to masturbate, or not.)

          Libido and attraction are largely separate things.

          • Blue said:

            Thanks, fellow aces, for clarifying this! 🙂

      • I’m asexual, a fact I’ve told to guy “friends” who stated that they had feelings for me that I couldn’t reciprocate. They’d say, “Oh, okay,” but they’d spend the rest of the (short-lived) friendship making it clear that they thought my ace-ness was some sort of phase that they could snap me out of via the power of their magic genitals.

        I obviously have no idea what LW’s “friend’s” motives truly were, and for the purposes of this letter and the advice given, it probably doesn’t matter – a creepy, unwanted gift is a creepy, unwanted gift. But if I were her, I’d be disgustedly wondering whether he was really hoping that she’d call him up after the party was over with, “Loved the gift. Wanna help me use it?”

        • “Loved the gift. Wanna help me use It?”

          “Yeah, sure”

          “OK then, take it and go fuck yourself.”

          That works.

          • Clorinda said:

            You are fabulous and this is perfect.

          • DesertRose said:

            You win All The Internets Forever! 😀

            Seriously, that is a fucking epic-level perfect response!

          • viva said:

            LOL. You’re awesome, this is right on.

          • Kim said:

            Best response

      • bats are cute said:

        Being ace myself, the fact that he knows LW is ace makes is MORE “yuck” for me because it adds a new layer to him referring to it as a “troll gift”. Like, oh yeah, sooo funny and edgy, getting a sex gag gift for an sexual person. A gag gift the guy clearly knew would not be well received/appreciated, since he insisted LW open it after he was gone. That right there is a giant red flag this gag gift was not in good faith.

        I have limited context from the letter, but to me it reads like the guy might’ve gotten her a dildo in an attempt to make her uncomfortable specifically because she was ace, or as a specific commentary on her asexuality. I’m basing this off the information that he is one of LW’s few male friends. In my own experience, allosexual dudes have a tendency to approach asexual women as a challenge in sexual boundary testing.

        (And as has been mentioned, some ace people masturbate so if the assumption LW would not use it is the mitigating factor between creepy and less creepy, it’s irrelevant. While “do you masturbate” is 100% one of the obliviously invasive questions allosexual people love to ask asexual people, we don’t know LW’s answer or if she ever disclosed that answer to this guy.)

        • Light37 said:

          I’m thinking the same thing, that he’s deliberately trying to make her uncomfortable because she’s ace. He might also be one of those creepy dudes who think that ace means “dudes need to try harder to get her in bed” and so presents her with a sex toy in the hopes she’ll magically change her mind.

        • Sarah said:

          Huh, I did not know the term ‘allosexual’, so thanks for that!

        • Anne On said:

          Right, the instructions weren’t to “open it when you are alone.” It seems an attempt to publicly shame the LW. Gross, creepy and a little manipulative/threatening.

          • Kaos said:

            Threatening! That’s the word that’s been in the back of my mind and refusing to come forward all day. Thank you. Yes this is threatening.

        • I agree that makes it worse, and other commenters are doing a great job of spelling out why.

          I also think there’s a related piece of ick — I’m heterosexual, but prefer not to marry or live with a man. This drives a certain type of dude nuts — they seem to think a woman they see as attractive simply can’t choose to live her life with that level of independence from men because it offends their fundamental sense of how the universe is supposed to work. I suspect this guy has got some of that going on.

          • Kaos said:

            Oh I so agree with your take on males not thinking women should/can live independently. I’m married (14 years this time, 19 years last time) and I like Husband Dude pretty well but TBH every couple of years when he makes the “yeah you go visit your family in “Your Country of Origin” without me, at my insistence, it’s a very nice break.

            However, the only reason he’s allowed to live with me is because he understands that “you’re not the boss of me” is not a joke even if I’m smiling when I say it. Well…other reasons: he’s hot…I mean way, way, way hot and I’m pretty superficial about looks, he is tall and so he reaches stuff for me, and most importantly when I am between pedicures…he is willing to work on my feet <–(not going to be too graphic here).

            All of that said I doubt any of the myriad males I met after first husband died would have made the cut…ok I know the wouldn’t have made the cut. Nope, nope, nopity, nope, nope, nope, and I would be more than fine with living without a male in my house.

            Unfortunately there is still this pervasive, insidious idea that all women need a male to take care of them. Ick. I can take care of myself just fine TYVM and if I think things through from my life I have done more of the care taking than being cared for.

            Which, I think is really the crux right there. In female/male hetero relationships women actually do on average the lion’s share of care taking (husband/partner/kids/parents/in-laws/etc) than males do and rather than women needing males to take care of them it’s really males needing a woman so that they have someone to take care of them/their stuff so that the males don’t have to…

            Aaannnddd they’ve convinced themselves (and society as a whole) that they are doing it for women because poor little air heads need some big strong penis bearer to protect them.

            /rant

      • Amy said:

        Too many people see ace-ness as not a ‘real’ sexuality for me to agree with this. It feels more like a “You just need to find the right guy (and hint hint maybe it’s me)” style ‘gift’ to me. If he genuinely thought she’d think it was a funny gag, he wouldn’t have asked her to wait until he was gone to open it–after all, jokes are meant to be shared.

      • Kitty said:

        I can see the logic in that perspective, though to me this makes it all the more creepy. If she’s a sex-repulsed ace (not all aces are, but it’s definitely a thing), then he’s deliberately giving her a gift designed to make her uncomfortable.

        • Light37 said:

          Agreed. That adds a whole new layer of ew to this mess.

      • Honestly, I think buying people you don’t have that kind of relationship with sex toys when you know they don’t want sex toys from you is pretty much the definition of creepy. He knew LW didn’t want sex toys from him. Therefore it’s creepy.

    • StarGazer said:

      Me too. It’s so, so icky.

    • Spicy Onion said:

      They can have that kind of joking relationship. Its totally fine. But the PSA here is really two fold:

      1. Only give sexualized gifts if you have a AGREED to relationship surrounding that. And
      2. Understand that gag gifts, or “troll gifts” as he calls them don’t count as actual “gifts” and buy the person something that want!

      And men, dont just assume you have this relationship and that all your female friends are “cool girls”.

      I say listen to the captain and just stop inviting him around. He is sending off boundary alerts and its honestly safer to avoid male boundary violators when a woman.

      • Lily said:

        You forgot the last point:
        3. If your gag gift turns out accidently hurting the other person, apologize sincerely and do what is needed to make it right.
        Don’t “double down on it being a joke and blame the receiving person for not finding it funny”.

        • jude314159 said:

          this, but also more generalised.

          if your “joke” is not funny, it’s a bad joke. it’s a failed joke, and the failure is yours. maybe the teller misread the audience, or maybe it’s just a bad joke, but it doesn’t matter why it wasn’t funny, the teller fucked up.

  3. sofar said:

    If it’s just about not liking the gift, it’s totally fine to tell him at the next gift-giving event that troll gifts are not your thing. Or that opening a dildo in from of all your friends was gross.

    But if a friend came to me and was like, “I didn’t like your gift, please return and give me the money,” I’d be like “Nope! Not gonna! Sorry!”

    It seems the thing that most bothers LW is that this friend struck out on a gift. But that’s the thing about gifts. People (even loved ones) mess those up sometimes. And off to Goodwill it the trash those gifts go. I’d never bring a dildo as a gift but I can see myself misguidedly bringing a gift that someone hates (like a boy band pillow cover — guilty!) and not read between the lines of the gift-recipient’s past poverty and other values that person ties to gift giving.

    Hard to tell from the letter, but would LW have been just as upset by any unwanted gift? Or is this mostly a case of “my new friend has bad judgment, is he worth it?”

    • lasers said:

      I too come from a strong culture of “a gift is a gift.” I never include gift receipts and would be offended to be asked for one. BUT there is a big difference between “I didn’t like your gift” and “your gift upset me.” If I knew my gift to someone had upset them, I would want to make it right in some way. It seems like this guy doesn’t.

      • Allison said:

        Right, this seems a like a special case. A dildo is a weirdly personal gift that would be highly inappropriate to give a friend, unless you knew the person really, really well and genuinely knew they’d see the humor in that kind of gag gift, and even then, you gotta be prepared to admit you were wrong and give them something else if the gift doesn’t go over as planned.

        I’m of two minds here, and I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. On the one hand, you should show gratitude for all gifts, even when you know they won’t be very useful or valuable to you. On the other hand, when you’re giving a gift you should make sure you’re giving something the person will enjoy – it’s not just about consideration for the receiver, but it’s also about making sure your money is well spent!

        • TootsNYC said:

          yes, but in terms of “making sure your money is well spent”–that’s only what you owe YOURSELF. You don’t owe it to the gift recipient.

          I think the dildo is an awful present.

          But the “give me money instead” is some pretty entitled gift-receiving. Nobody owes you a gift. And if their gift turns out to be something you don’t like, they don’t owe you the money for it.

          • StarGazer said:

            Frankly, considering how not ok gifting her a dildo is, I’m willing to forgive any (possible) entitlement. She said she’d prefer he take it back and give her the money, not that she demanded it. In this scenario, I think normal gift-giving etiquette goes out the window, especially since it WASN’T a real gift at all. And it’s not just a “gift she didn’t like” but an incredibly inappropriate troll gift. There’s a really, really big difference.

          • Esme said:

            I would usually agree, but in this case he gave her a ‘troll’ instead of a gift so offering him the chance for a do-over isn’t out of line. It would be if he had tried to get her something she would like and didn’t hit the mark. He seems gross and immature.

          • Traffic_Spiral said:

            Yeah… if she was like “I felt uncomfortable because we really don’t have a sexual-style relationship so this feels very inappropriate” that’d be one thing. But she seems more like “I’m just annoyed that it’s not something I want and he refuses to return it and buy me a plant,” which feels… less of a problem.

            It also seems that her real issue is more that she feels she puts more effort into the relationship than he does, and not that she feels uncomfortably sexualized. In which case, sure, take a break for a bit and stop putting in so much effort, and see what happens.

          • Seeking Second Childhood said:

            Interesting – I put a different inflection on the words actually. I understood it as “this is upsetting, more upsetting than if you’d just given me cash.”

          • Yeah, if someone gives you a gift that you find actively offensive….then personally I would just not invite them to any other gift-exchanging type of events in the future. You aren’t owed any kind of replacement for the original bad gift. You can, however, get rid of the bad gift in any way you see fit.

          • LW said:

            Just want to weigh in on the “owing” thing. Of course everyone does it differently, but in our friend group, it’s always been an unspoken rule of “if I throw a party, I get an elaborate gift”. As in, when I (or the other party-throwing parts of my group) throw a party, everything is accounted for – some sort of group outing (like laser tag), food for everyone, entertainment, basically the whole day is planned.
            I like doing it, but it’s not cheap and a lot of effort. I do it because I want to see my friends have fun and be happy on my very special day. So yes, I do expect to see some amount of effort in the gifts. Not necessarily financially – I love getting handmade stuff, or my writer friend writes things for me, I also got a selfmade recording of a Chuck Tingle novel once, best present ever – but a sign of them thinking about my happiness, as I do theirs.

            So yeah, in that sense I guess I do feel like I’m owed something…But it’s not a bad thing imho.

            By the way, I still give presents to the friends who don’t celebrate their birthday (I give presents quite often even outside of birthdays, when I find sth the friend might like). But then they don’t have the right to complain if they don’t like it haha~~~

        • LW may wish to avoid being alone with this guy ever again. If he gives her dildoes in public, what the fuck is he going to do the next time they’re alone?

        • No. She does not have to show gratitude in this case. Ick.

          • Kaos said:

            Exactly.

        • many bells down said:

          I mean, my husband wouldn’t even buy me a dildo without getting my input. Since it’s for my … input, and all.

        • Kaos said:

          No way I’m showing gratitude for a gift like that. It’s not a gift. It’s a boundary violation.

        • Emmers said:

          Yeah, you know how reasons are for reasonable people?

          Etiquette is for people who don’t give their friends “troll gifts” of A DILDO.

      • sofar said:

        Yes! If I hurt someone with a gift I would want to know —and apologize at the very least. But if someone was like, “Hey useless gifts really bother me can you return yours please,” I’d find that off-putting.

        But yeah, even though the LW did that, he should have apologized for the very gross gift and promised to do better — not gotten defensive.

    • veronica wolfe said:

      I sorta agree you can’t ask someone who gave you a gift to return it and give you the money. It doesnt even really sound like she was upset because it was a dildo more upset it wasn’t useful. Ideally someone should get you something useful that you would like, I am not a huge fan of a gag gift i generally think they are such a waste of money but its still a gift someone thought you might find funny. I mean you can reevaluate your friendship and even ask for no gifts if you want to continue.

      • Lily said:

        I think she goes down the “how useless” and “give me something not useless!” route because thinking/saying “how offensive!” and “did you mean it in the sexual predatory way?” is too scary for her. So, not ideal but also pretty forgivable, given the situation.

        • blurfts said:

          Yeah I’m not meaning to compare the situations but I’m getting kind of a “but our abusive ex-girlfriend who lived on our couch wants to pack the WRONG VIDEO GAME SYSTEM” flashback here. I wonder if focusing in on a weird and, if taken independently, less defensible conflict within the greater “wait, WHAT??” is a common thread with boundary violation situations?

          • Inahc said:

            Kinda like “it’s not about the dishes” but more generalized, eh?

    • MsM said:

      I agree that he doesn’t owe her a do-over, but as KayEss points out above, I think he was well aware there was a solid chance this was not going to go over well. And personally, unless this becomes a pattern of the recipient rejecting gifts and demanding cash or replacements, I’d rather own the mistake and make amends with something the person will enjoy. Especially over something that wasn’t a literal labor of love and doesn’t carry any real emotional investment.

    • Smithy said:

      I am in complete agreement with this.

      About a year ago my brother and sister-in-law went on a trip with her family to a part of the world that is politically complex for some people – including myself. The gift they got me bothered me and was not a gift I felt I could accept. It was also a gift from my brother and his new partner – and the conversation of “your gift bothered me for these ethical reasons and I now need to share exactly how we disagree” did not ultimately seem worth it.

      I vote in favor of the Captain’s response because by giving myself time, the offense of the gift itself dissipated and I was able to think through the best way to proceed going forward. The gift did really bother me and was at discord with my word views – but it was also a gift that I could just quietly leave in a drawer in my parents home and not take into my home or use.

      It also served to highlight that the politics that my brother, sister-in-law and her family will have are different than mine. And while there are going to be stands that I will make personally – I could also begin to think through when I will and won’t make an issue of it.

      I get that a bad gift from a newer friend can perhaps have different stakes than a bad gift from a family member – but in a way a lot of the advice does remain the same. Let some time pass and really think about what exactly is at issue and what needs to change and what doesn’t.

    • I feel like the key to the whole situation is, as the letter writer says, it wasn’t a gift for her, it was a joke for him. So as an act of friendship, it demonstrated a fundamental lack of interest in her experience as a person (as do some of his other actions, honestly).

      But on the other hand, it was his choice to waste his money on a non-gift rather than one of the things on her list. I have a similar feeling, that a gift is the choice of the giver, and isn’t a fungible amount of capital to be exchanged for something “good” if it doesn’t measure up. On the other other hand, though, it sounds like someone who spends money and brings a piece of (to her) useless plastic crap into his friends’ lives for a joke is probably a bad fit for this letter writer, friendship-wise.

      • Anonyish said:

        I feel like the key to the whole situation is, as the letter writer says, it wasn’t a gift for her, it was a joke for him. So as an act of friendship, it demonstrated a fundamental lack of interest in her experience as a person (as do some of his other actions, honestly).

        I think this sums up the issue. If a practical joke gift is irresistible (and some might be) then the loving gift-giver plays the joke and then pulls out the real present that they have also purchased and wrapped. Instead he gave what was a troll gift, a practical joke with no fun for the recipient at all, and with skeevy sexual element to it as well. LW didn’t just get a shit gift, she also got a shit gift that went LOL penis. It’s the gift equivalent of a dick pic.

      • Jenny Islander said:

        I feel like the key to the whole situation is, as the letter writer says, it wasn’t a gift for her, it was a joke for him.

        THIS.

        She loves chocolate and so he bought her some penis-shaped chocolates? Maybe, especially if she and he had had the “penises always look silly” conversation.

        He got her a beefcake birthday card with a gift card inside to her favorite restaurant and a note, “Here, have some actual beef and cake on me?” Maybe.

        Hired somebody to pretend to be a male strippergram and instead whip out a sombrero and sing the Mudka’s Meat Hut Happy Birthday Song from The Emperor’s New Groove before presenting her with cheesecake? Maybe.

        But hyock hyock, she now has an item she cannot possibly use, the presentation of which crosses a personal boundary that she defined, and whose disposal is now her problem. Yay?

        • Mercutia said:

          OMG those are actually great ideas and I’ll be you give awesome gifts!

        • “especially if she and he had had the “penises always look silly” conversation” The way you phrased this struck me as if it were a standardized part of sex ed. Like it’s an important part of The Talk.

          But yes, part of giving a prank gift is getting a real gift too, even if it’s just candies or something. I feel like even an Adam Sandler character would know this, this guy probably knows this. Lol maybe the “I’m secretly romantically interested in you” message is supposed to be the “real gift” portion.

    • bemusedlybespectacled said:

      To me it seems that the problem isn’t that the gift was just not the LW’s thing. It’s that the friend KNEW it wasn’t the LW’s thing (the “trolling” relies on him being aware of this) and was also grossly inappropriate even if sex WAS her thing. And then, when told that the gift wasn’t appreciated, he acted like it was the LW’s fault for not getting the joke, rather than acknowledging how inappropriate it was.

      Like, we can’t act as if it was a novelty tacky Christmas sweater or something. It’s a dildo.

      • Kaos said:

        But she’s “so sensitive” and “can’t take a joke.” Hmmm where have I heard that kind of stuff before?

    • hummingbear said:

      It might be less “I want the money” and more “this should be returned so someone can get use out of this.” It’s a hefty chunk of non-renewable silicone and/or rubber, possibly quite pricey, that could have been put to a good purpose but instead is literally going in the trash after 5 seconds of use as a gag. I HATE wasted resources – if there’s one thing I think is a sin, it’s that – and I get the sense LW feels the same with “I really hate things I cannot use.”

      • azurelunatic said:

        I think she would be justified in dropping it on his doorstep with a note along the lines of “You knew I wouldn’t want this when you got it for me. I never want to see it again.”

        • Because I enjoy concocting plots of harmless “revenge” (a certain raft of Thanksgiving cards to a landlord who called his tenant/my friend a turkey, sent from various points in the country, for a long-ago example), I would want to slap this thing with two googly eyes (or a hundred, for real creep value) and glue it to an outside windowsill of his place. Or find some way to Elf on the Shelf it.

        • Kaos said:

          On his doorstop, unwrapped, visible to one and all.

      • Shannon said:

        I came here to say this – i hate wasting things, and a dildo is such a personal item that it can’t be ongifted, or donated. It makes sense to ask for it to be returned, and it feels like a waste for it to be thrown out – I think LW did the right thing.
        Personally i would have cut contact after this awful gifting.

      • LW said:

        YES!!!!!! Oh my god yes finally someone understands :DDD I recycle, I watch my carbon footprint, I hate throwing things away (I usually donate instead), so yeah, I just couldn’t bring myself to throw it in the trash, considering it was still sterile because I didn’t remove the plastic wrap.
        Mr Purple is in a loving new home now though 😀

    • Amy said:

      Re: “But if a friend came to me and was like, “I didn’t like your gift, please return and give me the money,” I’d be like “Nope! Not gonna! Sorry!””:

      I grew up learning that when you give gifts (at least, store-bought ones), you get a gift receipt and include it with the gift itself. That way, if the person gets duplicates, or there’s a problem with the thing, or they just plain don’t like it that much…they can return it and get something they’ll actually use, without having to have an awkward “Thanks so much for your gift! but actually it’s bad” conversation.

      Now, if someone gave me a bad gift and didn’t include a gift receipt, I would probably just keep it rather than actually have a “Your gift is bad” conversation. (In OP’s case, where the gift was actually offensive to her, that’s worth bringing up…but if it just wasn’t something I was thrilled about, I wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings.) But the fact that gift receipts are a thing that stores will give you tells me that people returning gifts is actually a common and fairly accepted practice. I don’t see what the outrage over the idea is about.

    • Jolly said:

      Yeah, that stuck out to me, too.

      If this question had existed in the realm of a friendship that was otherwise worth saving, the way that OP describes it sounds like there was no issue with WHAT it was (a dildo), but simply the problem is that the gift is not personally useful to her. To return a gag gift to a friend and tell them “this isn’t useful to me, I don’t want it” rather than throwing it away, gag re-gifting it to them, offering it to people at the party who thought it was funny, etc. seems a little out of place, but fair enough. To request a friend actually give you money because they gave you a gag gift is honestly unbelievably rude to me, to the point where I feel like I am maybe not even in a position where I understand this person and their relationships enough to even give meaningful advice??

      If the problem really is that she is upset because he so misread their friendship/her sense of humor and caused her to feel sexualized or bullied, then returning the gift, explaining why it was inappropriate and what the ramifications are to the friendship (being over) in the absence of an apology is absolutely the strongest course of action. But saying “… and please give me money” is just absolutely not acceptable to me.

      Either way, though, since it sounds like OP is just ready to cut the cord on this friendship, which she can do at any time for any reason she wants, then absolutely 100%she should go for it.

      • Yes, this is my read as well. It’s a little unreasonable to expect a replacement gift. But it’s not at all unreasonable to end the friendship, for whatever reason. It sounds like LW hasn’t been super into this friendship for a while, and if a bad gift is what finally ends it, then so be it.

    • GG said:

      If someone used the words “I don’t like this gift, just return it and give me the money”, that would certainly raise an eyebrow and make me reconsider our friendship.

      I don’t give troll gifts.

      I usually like to think about what would bring the other person joy.

      So if I knew my friend cared about the act of gift-giving, AND cared about owning things because she didn’t have many growing up, AND would likely not appreciate the troll gift (I’m side-eyeing that construct so hard right now!) and was then told that the gift upset her and grossed her out, I wouldn’t say: “Well, I’m hurt you didn’t appreciate my humour!” I would be apologizing and asking what I can do to make it better. If my friend then told me to take the gift back and let her choose something for herself, then that is what I would do.

      Gift-giving is about the receiver, not the giver. IMO it sounds like this bloke doesn’t really care about the LW.

      • DesertRose said:

        Also, joke gifts are really funny only if both the giver and the recipient are in on the joke.

        When I was a wee Rosebud in the 1980’s, my oldest brother used to do a spot-on “Valley” fake accent, including, “Gag me with a spoon!” If I’d given him a spoon as a joke gift for Christmas or his birthday (along with an actual gift, mind you), that would have been funny to us both (and to the rest of the family).

        This “gift” is creepy as fuck and it’s not even a funny joke under the circumstances, and I get a strong feeling that Dude knew the LW would not be amused.

    • Magpie said:

      Truthfully, this letter made me uncomfortable. I can see the reasoning behind him giving a “troll gift”, not that I agree with it or think he’s right. If I had been sent an email listing what I wanted for my birthday in my twenties to any of my friends – I’d fully expect them to do something similar. Meet the exacting specifications, but have it be something dumb.

      Honestly, the fact that she doesn’t like the present is secondary to the fact that she a) told him, and b) is considering asking for money back for the present.

      IMO, him giving her a dildo has nothing to do with her being an ace, and is an immature recation to being told to bring a gift and what that gift should be.

      • Bad at screen names said:

        I have to admit I agree. I would be really put off if I received an email with suggestions for gifts unless I specifically asked for it. And “something for my deck” wouldn’t necessarily help me to know you mean a plant. Does that mean chair? What kind? Wind chimes? Bird feeder?

        • Sheelzebub said:

          So what is the problem-that she sent out a list of suggestions or that they weren’t specific enough?

      • NotABot said:

        I have to agree with this. If you replaced “windchimes” in this letter every time dildo appears, it would come off very differently.

        I also–even though I know I might be pelted with tomatoes for this–think that this is an example of how male friendships and female friendships (broadly and generally defined) differ, honestly. The level of emotional labor the OP is expecting really isn’t usual in male friendships (we can argue, certainly, that the lack of emotional intimacy in male friendships is toxic and harmful, but it is a truism nonetheless) and I can all the way see a 20-something dude seeing the gift request list and answering it in a “trolly” way, because that would be acceptable/funny/expected in many all-male friendgroups.

        Frankly, while I absolutely agree the dildo was not a cool gift to give here, being OP’s friend seems like a lot of work. I don’t doubt at all that the Captain is spot on about the imbalance of the emotional labor, and I suspect that’s at least partially because men don’t tend to view friendships as requiring it at this level. I’d bet money dude was patting himself on the back for his hilarious, light-hearted gift because gift-giving between friends is just a lighthearted, fun thing to do and not at all a reflection of your level of care and attention to the person.

        I get that the skeevy factor plays a huge role here, but I believe the OP when she says he’s a decent person, so I’m a little more willing to give *some* benefit of the doubt that there wasn’t malicious or predatory intent here (though I completely understand that read of the situation)

        • Vincaminor said:

          I admit I don’t know that many 20-something dudes… but I don’t think they give each other dildoes.

          If this guy really thought he’d done great with a light-hearted joke gift, he woulda stuck around to see LW open it. That he insisted she open it only after he left indicates he knows it was a (sorry) dick move.

        • k8899 said:

          Thing is, you can’t replace it with something neutral, because the entire point of it is that it isn’t neutral. Why does she seem like a lot of work to be friends with, when she does all the work and has multiple happy friendships, but happens to ask for what she wants more bluntly than some people like (especially in a woman). Why not give her the benefit of the doubt, especially since his reaction to being called out indicated it was malice, not mistake?

        • LW said:

          Actually, I agree with you! Being friends with me IS a lot of work. Is that a bad thing though? Relationships are work. Though I guess, in the end everyone has different expectations of a relationship and if they don’t match up, it means the two are not compatible.

        • Jane said:

          Try replacing “dildo” with “big bag of condoms”, then.

      • Sheelzebub said:

        How is “something for my deck” exacting? And while this may not be how you operate I appreciate knowing what someone would like if I have to get them a present. She may have sent this out because her friends asked her what they could get her.

        As far as her telling him she didn’t like the gift, that was fine in my book. That was not a genuine gift. It was not a fucking set of rhinestone napkin rings or a giant picture of waltzing clowns. It was a sex toy. There’s a whole set of baggage with that, and frankly every complaint folks have about the LW is secondary to that one fact.

    • Kelsi said:

      Yeah like, I don’t want to be hard on the LW because it’s clear that this was just one thing in a whole pile of things that make this guy not great friend material, but the whole “I want things of value and expect him to know that because he knows my history” is definitely putting some unreasonable expectations on gift-givers.

      I LOVE giving gifts–it’s my love language–but even I don’t always get it right. I occasionally give gag gifts that reference some inside joke with the recipient, as a way to reinforce our bond. And I’d MUCH rather hear “your joke gift was uncool and hurt my feelings” over “can you return this and just give me money.” Because the former would give me a chance to apologize, make it right, and be more mindful in the future–whereas the latter would definitely hurt MY feelings and put me on the defensive.

      (Again, I’m not trying to be down on LW–this was still an inappropriate, creepy gift, and LW has every right to be upset with the “friend” and how he handled it)

      • doommachine said:

        Maybe if LW just assumed people would know to give useful gifts, it would be a bit unresonable. But she deliberately sent an email detailing what she wants and he still went away from it.
        If someone messes up a gift, especially as much as he did, I don’t think it’s outlandish at all to ask for the money from it instead. Gift receipts exist for a reason. The whole point of giving a gift is to make the other person happy, you’re doing it for them. So when they come back and don’t like it and instead ask for the money, I think it’s pretty uncool to make it about yourself and your feelings and how you messed up instead of making it up to them in the way that they ask. You can still apologize and make it right and be more mindful…while also fulfilling their request.

    • LW said:

      I guess this is a case of cultural difference, because while I wouldn’t usually say I don’t like a gift, I also don’t really ever get gifts I don’t like. Almost all my friends always ask me for suggestions in advance, and I ask them, there’s nothing shameful about not having the time to agonize for hours what they would like.

    • susanv93 said:

      Yeah it seems to me that this question actually contains two questions: 1) how do I deal with receiving a shitty gag gift? And 2) What do I do about my friend who I may not want as a friend anymore?

      We can’t control what we receive and sometimes gifts are terrible and not what we want at all and we have put on polite smiles and then discreetly donate/regift/throw them out.

      But what you can do LW is make the choice if you want to try to make this friend see things from your POV and strengthen your friendship or just cut him out.

  4. Tabitha said:

    Yeesh. I’m trying to imagine a universe in which giving a friend a gift she openly would have preferred something else to, having her tell you how much she didn’t want it, and then whining about your feelings at how she’s not happy about being the butt of a joke on her birthday is anything but cruel and selfish, but I just can’t. This guy might not be 100% jerk, but he’s being a big bad jerk here. It’s on him to fix this, and if he doesn’t, well… I’m with the Captain here! You’re 1000% Off The Hook to put any sort of work at all into this.

    • Maddie said:

      You know who gives a ‘troll gift’?

      A Troll.

      When someone shows you who they are, believe them. This guy is a troll.

  5. Amtelope said:

    The gift was not funny and not okay. I think you would have been totally in the rights to give it back, or throw it away, and tell him that you did not appreciate a “troll gift.” Asking for a different gift, or for money, is … not something that would be okay to do, by the social rules of my culture, so I’m kind of cringing at that, but I am cringing so much harder at “troll gift of a dildo for you to open in front of all your friends WHEN YOU ARE ASEXUAL.”

    I agree that pulling back from this is a good idea. This guy sounds really rude, and like he does not take this friendship seriously, and then he really screwed up with the present, and then wouldn’t apologize. I would look for someone to hang out with who doesn’t come with so many down sides.

    • piny1 said:

      Nothing about the lw’s sexual identity makes this any more or less appropriate. It would indeed be extra gross if he chose it on the assumption that it would be especially humiliating to her as an asexual person. However, this gift is skeevy and harassing regardless of her identity or preferences. Anyone, including a woman who is not asexual, including a woman who has lots of sex with lots of people, including a woman who has her very own Erika Moen esque dildo hutch, would have every right to see this as a gross incursion on her sexual privacy. Because friends don’t gift each other with things to stick up each other for fun! That is a Personal Gift, Gross Hopefully Soon to be Former Friend! Like you didn’t know that! Also, some asexual people are sexually active, and some of them own and use sex toys; asexual doesn’t mean devoid of sexuality or disgusted by sexuality.

      • Amtelope said:

        I’m not sure what exactly you are disagreeing with in my comment? It would have been an unfunny and uncool gift regardless of the LW’s sexual orientation. I thought I made that very clear. I think that there is an extra bonus layer of unfunny and uncool in the possibility that this was chosen as a joke about the LW’s sexual orientation, the same way that I think there would be an extra bonus layer of unfunny and uncool if the LW were a lesbian and this inappropriate gift were potentially a joke about that. But that doesn’t mean I think it would be fine and great if the LW were straight.

    • TootsNYC said:

      I think you could ask for the receipt if a gift isn’t useful. This one probably can’t be returned, but a person could ask.

      • Amy said:

        If the packaging hasn’t been opened, it might be returnable.

  6. Given the context you describe LW, I’d find the gift and the giver a bit creepy.

    I’d probably back away from him.

    I’d throw out the dildo.

  7. It seems like the PDBF is just the straw on the LW’s back of things guy does that are lazy and self centered. Leaving a mess behind with take out? Never offering to help clean up after home made dinner? Plus the other stuff?

    I’d say the friendship isn’t working for LW. Doesn’t need examining as to cause, doesn’t need fixing, just needs moving on from. In my deeply personal opinion.

  8. It is an inappropriate gift, which apparently even the giver called a troll gift. Say, “This is gross and offensive.” Give it back to him, not expecting money or another gift.

    • GG said:

      Yep. Followed by muting/blocking him on social media and ceasing any invites to further hang out. He’ll tell some story to his next friend about how you were shrill or had no sense of humour and she might believe him, until he does the same to her.

      Look at it this way, you’re not obliged to save a friendship with someone who clearly doesn’t care about your feelings.

    • bats are cute said:

      Normally I’d agree, but LW being asexual makes the phrase “this is gross and offensive” very, very loaded.

      This is why I think LW is doing a weird logic dance that so many people are criticizing (exchanging it for the money, commenting that it’s “not useful”, etc.) There is a pressure on asexual people to be super cool and chill about sex, even in situations where the boundary pushing would be inappropriate no matter what. And unfortunately, ace people can’t always tell the difference between “I’m skeeved because I’m ace, and I’m over-reacting because sex is normal. I should be more accepting of people’s sexual natures” and “I’ve skeeved because this is objectively not okay.”. So everything gets filed under “I’m being unreasonable” and possibly “I am always wrong when I feel this way.”

      Unless you have a really great social group, admitting you are grossed out (or even not amused) by anything sex-related makes you a target.

      You’re a prude
      You’re frigid
      You’re repressed
      You’re so uptight and humorless, fucking lighten up.
      You’re so judgmental of people’s sexuality. Stop acting so morally superior
      It’s just a dildo, god, can’t you take a joke? Stop being so sensitive. Etc…

      I genuinely don’t know if LW is grossed out/offended (and she might not be! Asexuality can work in the other direction where gross sex stuff doesn’t bother you because you’re brain doesn’t put it in the ‘correct’ context). But I do think she’s focusing on other logical options in an effort to avoid being targeted for feeling uncomfortable — or even perceived as being uncomfortable.

  9. Noopnope said:

    I would say you’re not ending a friendship over a dildo, but ending a friendship over ever-widening expectations about how the other person in the friendship is supposed to behave.

    Personally, my rule is that the host cleans up–whether it’s dishes or trash–although the guest may offer. I hate social media contacts. They’re just ways for friends or acquaintances to demand I entertain them whenever they’re bored. I don’t go in for gag gifts–who wants more useless crap cluttering up their house–but I also would never accept a friend telling me to return my gift and come back with the money. I could probably negotiate on any one of those individually, but would I want to negotiate on all of them? Would the other person?

    I agree with the Captain that you should just let contact peter out naturally and see if you miss it. My instinct is that you’d be better off finding a friend whose standards match your own.

  10. e271828 said:

    This dude is not your friend.

    Toss the dildo in the trash and don’t bother contacting him, checking in on WhatsApp, or inviting him. You list a lot of red-flag problematic behaviors you’ve tolerated in the leadup to him deciding the lulz of a troll gift are more important than the friendship. I get a bad vibe off this man, and I think you do too. Captain suggests making him do the work, but why give him a chance to troll you again—or worse? There are plenty of genuinely nice people to make friends with.

    Looking out for yourself is not selfish. It’s smart.

  11. Emdashing said:

    I have to admit that I finished this letter wondering if it was a question about “what to do if your friend gives you an unsolicited DILDO” or “what to do if your friend gives you a gift of which you are not fond.”

    The former = EWWW. NOPE the F Out!
    The latter = life?

    I’m grossed out by the specific gift and it crosses all kinds of boundaries that I would consider disqualifying in a potentially scary way. The Captain’s advice is spot on and I join everyone in saying that if you want to be done with this guy, be done. Ew.

    That said, I’m also pretty grossed out by the premise of someone handing a gift I’d gotten them back and asking for cash. To be completely honest, the gift-giving culture I was raised in would consider much of what is described here (dictating a list of wants to friends as if they are Santa, a designated present-opening time for anyone over 12, the presumption that everyone coming to a party is bringing a present) so gauche as to be disqualifying in its own right (though not remotely threatening). LW, I would skip your bday, is what I’m saying. Everything about this makes me uncomfortable–what if I failed your “usefulness” test and got shamed for being bad at buying presents?

    Draw whatever lines in the sand with Dildo Boy you want. It’s deserved and warranted.

    RE Presents in general: In the future, if someone (or multiple someones) says they don’t know what to get you as a present consider any of the following:

    1) “You don’t need to get me a present! I’m just happy you can celebrate with me.”
    2) “I’m kind of particular about presents. Why don’t you just get dinner/drinks the next time we go out?”
    3) Choose a service you use a lot (starbucks, amazon, barnes & noble?) and suggest gift cards.
    4) If presents are nonnegotiable, maybe designate a friend who will help vet concerned givers? “Thanks for asking! I’ve made Courtney my designated present-advice-giver this year. She can help you out!”

    And then, when people give you (non-Dildo) presents, you say “Thank you! It was kind of you to think of me!” and you keep it/donate it/return it *TO THE STORE* if you have a gift receipt or whatever you feel like doing with it and marvel at the wide array of tastes humans are capable of having despite all our shared genetics.

    I know I sound bossy here, and obviously, you know your friend group and culture better than I do, so YMMV, but even so, if this is something you’re in the habit of doing with regular, run-of-the-mill so-so gifts that you don’t want, returning a gift to the giver is considered deeply insulting by many people.

    You are entitled to call out assholes when they troll you. You are not entitled to (good) presents.

    • piny1 said:

      You know, I don’t want to put words in the LW’s mouth, but I will note that this kind of deflection is very common in response to gross, harassing, boundary-violating behavior when it doesn’t feel like there’s secure ground to call it out. This Dildo of Plausible Deniability reminds me very much of the Photobombing Dong of Plausible Deniability from some few letters back. This guy knows perfectly well that he is doing something really bad, something that very much rises t the level of sexual harassment. And he is hoping that he can play on his victim’s feelings of shame and humiliation ( don’t make a scene, don’t be hysterical, don’t be humorless) to carve out impunity for himself.

      In her shoes, I wouldn’t want to have a serious conversation with my friend about his sexual bullying that is not funny but rather upsetting, I’d try to denature the conflict into an “unwanted gift,” or “not listening to what I said.” Anything but “hey, ‘friend,’ you gave me a tastefully wrapped toy peen, what, and may I say, the fuck?!” There’s no outcome here where he has a good answer to that question.

      Also, I think it’s okay, within a circle of friends, to have the expectation of gift exchanges, as well as to have a set time to open presents. That can be a way to show appreciation. I think your suggestions are good ones, but the LW doesn’t have a communication problem. She has a “friend” who is trying to harass her, for reasons that range from hurtful and insensitive to sinister and damaging.

      • human said:

        Thank you piny, your comments are always so wise and kind.

      • Emdashing said:

        You’re absolutely right, piny, that Dildo guy was not an example of a miscommunication. Nothing LW said or didn’t say excuses his behavior. I apologize if anything I said above suggests that. It was not my intention and I will say unilaterally he sounds like an asshole and she owes him nothing, least of all more time or thought.

        I was trying to address something a few other commenters mentioned: that it was perhaps unclear whether the LW was most upset about the “dildo” portion of the present or that it was “not useful.” I was focused on the latter. This is basically the definition of splitting hairs, I realize, but if I was under the impression that giving non-trolling “not-useful” gifts back and asking for money was considered widely socially acceptable, I would want someone to tell me otherwise just so I could, with that knowledge, decide for myself whether it’s a good idea to tell Aunt Ida she knits ugly scarves and I’d rather have that sweet sweet wool $$.

        As I said above, LW knows her friends/circumstances best, but speaking generally, I thought it was worth pointing out that returning a gift to the giver is not a neutral act for many people.

        I genuinely believe that the primary response to presents from well-intentioned gift givers (e.g. not trolls, not guilt-mongering family, not quid-pro-quo score keepers, etc.) should be gratitude. Take away that important qualifier and all bets are off.

        • Not Australian said:

          “decide for myself whether it’s a good idea to tell Aunt Ida she knits ugly scarves and I’d rather have that sweet sweet wool”

          Oh, that brought back memories! My ex-mother-in-law, even before I’d married her son, knitted me a sweater as a surprise. It wasn’t my colour, but I’d have been politely enthusiastic if it hadn’t been impossible to try on because she’d made the neck too tight. “Oh, don’t worry,” she said, “I’ll re-do that for you.” She took it back, and I never saw it again…

      • Sheelzebub said:

        THANK YOU. I’m seeing people focus on her reaction and decide it’s because she just didn’t like the gift and go off on that, and that reaction is what keeps people accepting inappropriate behavior. It’s gaslighting bullshit. This wasn’t an ugly planter or a painting of dog zombies (which, if anyone gets those PLEASE SEND THEM TO ME KTHANXBAI).

        This was a fucking dildo. Ew.

        • TO_On said:

          I think it’s a gross gift, but to be fair, the LW says they don’t care that it’s a sexual gift and are only upset because it was useless.

          Yes, people aren’t always honest with themselves, but to me it seems fair enough that many commenters are accepting what the LW herself says she feels.

          • Sheelzebub said:

            I disagree.

            I have been harassed, laughed it off while it happened, and as I was thinking it over, realized I didn’t like it but didn’t call it harassment for many reasons–social conditioning, second guessing myself, being fair and frankly, the censures of Not Having A Sense Of Humor are pretty strong. nd all of the garbage people used to ignore the actual issue and focus on the LW went through my head: oh, he didn’t mean it! men are stupid! let’s use lots of our time and energy to figure out what he really meant! maybe my behavior was bad and I deserved this..

            Also, this wasn’t an ugly planter. This was a dildo. He could have gotten her a gag gift that wasn’t sexualized and that technically fit her suggestions (since that was supposed to be part of the ‘joke’ though I’m not sure how a dildo could be used on a deck). This is a sexualized gift and the context is very different than from a fucking regular gag gift. Especially to an asexual woman from a platonic male friend.

            People here have dragged her for having the nerve to send her friends suggestions (OH NO! SOMEONE WITH A DIFFERENT GIFT GIVING CULTURE!), for not reacting perfectly in the moment (‘she laughed along with them and changed her mind after. . .’ huh, where have I heard THAT shit before?), and for not reacting perfectly after (how DARE she suggest he return it and give her the money?).

            He gives her a fucking dildo and folks here are focusing on what SHE did that they don’t like. That’s gross as fuck.

          • NotABot said:

            Thank you for saying this. There’s an awful lot of projecting and editorializing going on in the comments here.

          • TO_On said:

            To be clear I don’t actually think it’s unreasonable to suggest that _perhaps_ she actually is uncomfortable with the sexual nature of the gift but doesn’t feel OK saying that, or to suggest that it’s an unkind gift.

            I just don’t think it’s wrong either to take her at her word if she says that’s not it.

          • Kaos said:

            @ Sheelzebub
            Nesting ended so…

            “…she laughed along with them and changed her mind after. . .’ huh, where have I heard THAT shit before?”
            —Right?

            “He gives her a fucking dildo and folks here are focusing on what SHE did that they don’t like.”
            —But what was she wearing? Was she drinking? Why was she outside, in public, as a female human? Etc…

          • Emdashing said:

            @Sheelzebub So…I waited a day to write this and I’m still not sure I should, but I’ve never had this experience in Awkward land before and I don’t think I can let it lie. This feels like a really extreme reaction to what I and others wrote above. Many of us repeatedly state that the dildo-of-it-all is 100% unacceptable and gross and the LW should cut this guy out if that’s what she wants to do. I’m not gaslighting the LW and I don’t appreciate the implication that I am.

            You are correct that I decided to focus on the LW’s description of her gift-giving habits and culture. I did so in part because, as @TO_On points out, she herself said she wasn’t that mad about the specific gift but rather because it did not meet her standards of “usefulness.” The other reason I focused on gift-giving in general was because it is so patently obvious that a surprise dildo is horrible. The Captain had already addressed this very clearly and thoroughly. It didn’t feel like there was a lot to add on that topic.

            I have understood this space to be a communal one, where we come to learn things we didn’t know before and, basically, how to navigate the universe while being kind to ourselves and others. I have read your comments many times and apply the Sheelzebub principle in my daily life. I respect you. I get that you disagree with the choice I and others have made to focus on a different aspect of the letter.

            For me, unpacking things like differences across cultures re: gift-giving is one of the reasons I come to Captain Awkward. I know your comments were not directed exclusively at me, but they are nested under a thread I began and that makes it hard not to take your declaration that this topic is “gross as fuck” pretty personally. I’ve read through the comments nested under my original one again and I don’t see anyone who commented saying that the LW owes Dildo guy anything or that what he did was okay because of how the LW reacted. The limited nesting makes all of this difficult to navigate, and perhaps I’ve missed something, but I’m quite taken aback by the vitriol here for what amounts to a self-identified tangent. It makes me uncomfortable and less likely to participate in future discussions, which is not something I’ve ever felt in this space.

            I was prepared for a lot of disagreement around gift-giving culture (and it has appeared!), but I really take issue with the idea that discussing it at all is equivalent to saying that the LW deserves what she got. That’s not what I said and it’s not what I believe (and I think that’s true of many others in this thread).

    • JenniferP said:

      I was wondering when/how people would dive into the “expecting/asking for presents, in general” discussion so, thanks!

      Invitations are not commands. So if an invitation has information like “if you’re looking for present ideas, I’m trying to deck out my balcony” or “black tie only!” or “everyone bring $10 for pizza, I’ll cover the rest” or “please bring a dish to share” or “there will be a brief prayer service followed by cake & punch” or “we’re collecting $ for the local food bank, please throw in whatever you can” or “no gifts please!” or “no kids under 12” or “I know it’s a public park, but please don’t bring your dogs this time, the kid is afraid of them” or “no smoking of anything in or near the house” or “this can of cream of mushroom soup is your invitation, please convert it to casserole form and I’ll see you on the 23rd” or “the venue has a flight of stairs to get in” and that’s a deal-breaker for whatever reason, everybody can make a good decision about whether they want to attend and what the social risks are of complying/not complying with instructions. There are Guess Culture vs. Ask Culture rules galore about this stuff, and I’m gonna assume that since the LW and Dildo Guy exchanged holiday presents in the past and he brought a gift to the birthday party he was theoretically down for gifts.

      • Smithy said:

        I think when it comes to gifts, Guess vs Ask culture still leaves lots of room for “appropriate variances”. Something I’m constantly reminded of whenever my mother sees a wedding registry that involves an ask for cash. If she receives a wedding gift registry with only tangible gifts, she’ll buy something off the registry without any editorializing. If there’s a registry that involves any ask for cash – even along with gifts – she’ll both complain about it being rude/inappropriate make a donation to a nonprofit in the name of the couple instead. (No amount of conversations about other cultures/countries/changing norms is budging her)

        This guy clearly missed a number of appropriateness marks, but even had he bought the OP a giant purple stuffed elephant – it may still have been done with the intention to be a joke. And perhaps one that still would have felt like it was at the OP’s expense. While there are certainly people who are happy for gift guidance – I think that noting that there are others very down with birthday/holiday gift giving, but not for receiving a list from their adult friends/family.

    • Smithy said:

      I think this is really well teased out.

      While I’ve never gone the novelty sex toy route – I have 100% given gifts to friends in the past that were more on the joke side. And might have been interpreted as trolly….. I had hoped the ultimate result of the gift would be a mutal giggle. And if any of them miss the mark – then yup – I would have spent money on a giggle just for me. Like there is the illustrated book A Die Hard Christmas – do any of my friends need it – probably not. But I hope the one who I’ve given it to understand that it was meant with jovial friendship.

      On the flip side, I had a boyfriend who for years was a bad gift giver. And while we didn’t break up because he gave bad gifts – it often served as a barometer of other issues wrong in the relationship.

      • Yes, but you hoped for a mutual giggle. This guy bailed out on the mutual part.

        • Smithy said:

          I always aim for a mutual giggle – but I know that I haven’t always made it. A few years ago near the holidays – Jezebel/Gawker/Something Like That featured the Guzzle Buddy. Basically a glass that you could screw into an open wine bottle. Teehee, we’re all lushes who love wine, isn’t this fun!

          Well, from what I heard later – the Guzzle Buddy didn’t really work and basically leaked even if you tried to use it as designed. So all I had bought my friend was a sight gag – and while we were never in the habit of giving each other lavish gifts – what he got me was definitely more thoughtful.

          I wouldn’t say that gift ultimately defined our friendship or that he felt I was laughing at him (we’ve known each other for years and never been regular gift givers at that). But it was a moment where I can admit – that while the gift heartily amused me – it wasn’t truly mutual.

          • Right — but you were there when he opened it? You didn’t ask him NOT to open it until he was gone or say you wouldn’t give it to him until you were leaving?

            Because that’s what I meant by mutual giggle.

          • Kaos said:

            Yes but a “Guzzle Buddy” between friends, not being a mutual giggle is far and away in a whole other universe than a sexual explicit item given to an asexual woman by a male who holds himself out as a platonic friend.

            Particularly the “isn’t this fun we’re all lushes…” part as opposed to “woman who doesn’t want to have sex with anyone” <—(assuming based on personal preference) getting a DILDO from "dude who has pretended to be a friend for a year hoping she will take the 'hint' and let him get into her pants."

          • TZ said:

            Yeah, I would say this situation would be more akin to if you had given a Guzzle Buddy to your friend who you knew was an alcoholic in recovery because it made you laugh. A ‘joke’ gift but one given to make the receiver uncomfortable and maybe humiliated, not just ‘oh that wasn’t as thoughtful as it could have been’.

        • Kaos said:

          He didn’t just bail, he intentionally set her up. Full stop. Yeah I admit I kinda hate this guy.

      • Darlingpants said:

        If my friends (who I have funny/joke dildo histories with) did this, I would think that actually the funny gift is the list of all the ways that the dildo perfectly fits the list of gift requirements she wrote. It’s weird because he seems to have put a ton of thought into his troll argument that this is indeed the perfect gift, and totally neglected to think at all about if LW is the correct person to pull this prank on. And it seems like her friends though it was hilarious?
        Disclaimer that if she doesn’t want to be friends with him, for any reason, she can decide that even if he wasn’t trying to be creepy and just gave a trolling gift to the wrong person.

        • Neurite said:

          Well, the guy sure tried to claim/imply that the *true* joke was the way the dildo perfectly fit everything on her list of gift suggestions. (And under different circumstances – with friends who have clearly established that bawdy presents are a-okay – that may have even been funny!)

          Except we *know* that that’s complete BS on the part of that dude. Even knowing what little we know, we do know one item on the list, and it was “stuff for my balcony.” I’m sorry, but it would take some serious pretzel logic to claim that a dildo qualifies even vaguely as “stuff for LW’s balcony.” It sure as hell doesn’t “fit perfectly.”

          So no, this isn’t a guy reading the list of gift suggestions, realizing that a purple dildo would unexpectedly fit every item perfectly, thinking “actually, that’s hilarious!”, and thus buying it as a gag gift. This is a guy who really wanted to gift the LW a dildo, and cobbled together a flimsy excuse for it.

          • Kaos said:

            Exactly this. Dude is getting way too much of a pass here. He’s a creeper who creeped on his friend and is tying himself in knots trying to make OP think she is somehow wrong. OP is trying to be cool saying a dildo doesn’t bother her as much as him ignoring her gift suggestions, but I firmly believe she is coming from a place of social conditioning where women are supposed to be “good sports” and not say what we really think/feel.

        • neverjaunty said:

          “And it seems like her friends though it was hilarious?”

          So, she has more than one asshole friend? Surely you didn’t mean to suggest that all the cool kids think this is funny.

      • AndTheRest said:

        OMG, I would looooooove to get “A Die Hard Christmas” as gift! Truly! I had no idea that this book existed. If nothing else, I am grateful for this discussion pointing me toward more weird, fun, pop culture stuff that people like me actually would like to receive. (I’m not a good recipient of gag gifts, because either I don’t get it or I would rather have the gag gift than a “normal” gift.)

    • slythwolf said:

      I mean, I also was raised never to return gifts, and not to tell someone what to give me unless pressed. But the LW is asking about a situation in which a gift that we can all agree is fairly creepy, unless given within the context of a relationship where both/all parties know everyone would be okay with it, upset her, and that feeling of upset served as a catalyst for some uncomfortable realizations about the friendship; and a bunch of people are piling on in the comments basically saying, “Well, LW, what you did was rude, too.” I’m just not sure that’s helping anything.

    • songofstorms said:

      Just because something isn’t appropriate in your gift-giving culture doesn’t mean it’s inappropriate in LW’s. Personally, I would think it was great if a friend sent out a list of gift ideas, because then I would feel more confident that I could get them something they actually liked instead of something they end up not wanting. And I don’t know if I’ve ever been to a birthday party that DIDN’T have a dedicated present-opening time.

      And I kind of feel like if someone gives a deliberate “troll gift” that is THIS obviously unwanted, he forfeits the normal social conventions that say that the giftee shouldn’t complain about a present to the gifter. Basically, he transgressed present norms first and much worse, so in that light I don’t see her reaction as rude at all.

      • SqueakyHammer said:

        *Basically, he transgressed present norms first and much worse, so in that light I don’t see her reaction as rude at all.*

        Yep. I saw LW’s request for a gift do-over less as entitlement and more as giving him a mulligan on his screw up (which he declined).

    • Magpie said:

      I agree completely. This letter made me uncomfortable. I wouldn’t go to a party if I was given a list of what I could and couldn’t buy.

      • TO_On said:

        I have literally never been to an adult birthday party outside of family where someone expected presents from their friends at all.

      • TO_On said:

        That said, in my family I often find myself begging people for Christmas lists. It’s quite possible that the LW and her circle of friends have a birthday gift giving tradition, and it’s quite possible that birthday lists are part of that tradition. Or that some of her friends asked her for suggestions.

      • TO_On said:

        I might not go to the party either. But would I go and deliberately bring a gift that I thought would annoy the person, as a joke? Probably not!

        Some friendships have more teasing than others, and pranks can be part of a good friendship. But this doesn’t seem like a mutual fun thing they do that’s part of their relationship.

        Worse case, he’s being a jerk, best case, they are really really not on the same wavelength and have totally different senses of humour and things they enjoy from friends.

      • Sheelzebub said:

        She sent out an email with suggestions like “something for my balcony” to friends who didn’t know what to get her. This may be the thing among her friend group. Certainly I appreciate guidance like this and think the dildo was a fucking gross gift.

    • NotABot said:

      I said something similar upthread, but thank you, this was much better than mine.

  12. Clarry said:

    He’s not a bad person, he just:

    -Made you butt of his joke in front of your friends.
    -Made fun of your asexuality.
    -Did those things from a cover of being absent so he could snigger from a remote location.
    -Refused to honor your wish on how he could make his mistake right even after it was pointed out to him.
    -Never cleans up when you eat at your place.
    -Leaves trash around.
    -Doesn’t care about checking in on how you’re doing.
    -Lets you do all the labor, emotional and otherwise, to keep your friendship going.

    This doesn’t sound like a good guy or a good friend. Also, you have other friends who treat you well and you have something in common with and who don’t have to be taught basic manners. So if you did get together with him because you were lonely, you’re not that lonely anymore.

    Really, I’m trying to imagine a circumstance where setting someone up to open a gift of a purple dildo in front of their friends could be okay and truly funny and something that both the giver and receiver appreciated, and I’m just not seeing it. I can, if I try, imagine circumstances where it might not be too awful, but I can’t imagine circumstances where it’s actually good. I just can’t. Let me compare it to someone throwing a punch with the intent to hurt an opponent badly in a fight. I can imagine maybe it’s not that bad if the punch misses or if maybe the resulting black eye isn’t too bad or if there was a misunderstanding and the two are able to make it up after a heart to heart in the principal’s office. All those possibilities make it maybe not so bad, but I can’t imagine a circumstance where the punch is actually good.

    • Jenny Islander said:

      Also THIS. Because LW, you think you’ve got a friend, and he thinks he’s got a straight man in his personal comedy act. Everybody laff!

    • Fiona said:

      I would find it hilarious if one of my friends bought me a giant purple dildo. I can totally understand this as a reaction to a list of gift demands. It seems like something a guy would do to poke fun at another guy to mock him for being so picky and demanding. I can imagine some of my guy friends from college doing this.

      But that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that LW didn’t appreciate the joke. There’s a pretty big disconnect between these two when it comes to this gift, and it’s there with other stuff too. Even if the guy had good intentions, even if he’s an awesome guy, he can be someone LW doesn’t want as a friend.

      My husband and I always give each other troll gifts (along with real gifts) and it’s hilarious and awesome. But you really need to know someone well to make a troll present work and you still want to get them a real present.

  13. Mirea said:

    Oh, I’m having a hard time being sympathetic to the LW on this one. Has she ever told her friend that she has a “thing” about presents or any of her annoyances? She admits that her friends found it hilarious and that she did too until she thought about it for awhile so that suggests that he didn’t entirely miss the mark in thinking she’d get a kick out of it. She did. Until she changed her mind and didn’t.

    Now her change of mind coupled with his unwillingness to give her money instead (who asks that?) and she’s backstaining a year of friendship over what sounds like a misstep? Come on.

    There are a number of things in this letter that put me off so perhaps I’m leaning too hard toward Team Not-LW but whole of it sounds like she expects a lot from her friends (including the token male. Sheesh) but is not terribly willing to give the benefit of the doubt, a mulligan, whatever. Obviously she’s not obligated to do so but it’s what we do for people we care about. We all fuck up, annoy, exasperate, and offend sometimes.

    • Giving a dildo to someone with whom you are not on intimate terms is very likely a jerk move.

      • MsM said:

        Yeah, it might just be my friends circles, but it would seriously never have occurred to me that the possibility of receiving sex toys would be great enough that I’d have to preemptively put them on the “do not want” gift list. And I’m not even aesexual.

    • k8899 said:

      Wow.
      You think that laughing when under social pressure to laugh, then realising it’s not ok later, is an invalid thing that renders any later realisations void? You think that she has few male friends because she’s treating him as a ‘token male’ and not because asexual women are more likely to be sexually harassed/assaulted by men? You think that giving a sexual ‘gift’ to someone who doesn’t want you (in a mean way at that) is ok? You think that her having a gift culture different to yours makes her so terrible she has to put up with mistreatment? Why does she have to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially when he reacted so badly to her saying he hurt her, and the many other imbalances in the friendship (again, differences in host culture doesn’t make her’s bad)?

      We all offend sometimes, but this wasn’t a mistake, it happened just the way he wanted it too, and it’s sexual harassment.

      I didn’t think *this* would be a letter where people would split hairs to make what a creep did ok.

    • thebewilderness said:

      Embarrassment triggers laughter in humans more often than anything else.

      • I seem to recall that almost all laughter is about discomfort — whether that’s embarrassment, cognitive dissonance, or something else.

    • Ixolite said:

      To me it sounded less like the LW changed her mind about the gift and more like she reflected on the situation and realized there were gross implications that weren’t necessarily obvious at first. This works especially since she opened it with other people who might have started laughing before she did – that sort of things influences you, and she didn’t necessarily have the possibility right then and there to put the gift in the context of your sexual identity and friendship history and all that.

      And like… it also sounds like this dude does a lot of other things that LW doesn’t enjoy. Ending a friendship over one bad gift does seem rather rigid and unforgiving, but one bad gift + one year of one-sided emotional labor and multiple other annoyances starts to add up to the conclusion that those two just don’t fit terribly well as friends. The fact he’s a man when her other friends are women doesn’t mean the LW should change what she wants from her friends.

      (As a slightly unrelated aside: anyone else feel that giving someone a purple penis after knowing them for only a year seems outlandish? I totally get that different people have different wishes and expectations around gag gifts but to me I would be like, dude, I barely know you, you should be getting me candles and scented bath bombs, not sex toys! Even as a joke!)

      • Traffic_Spiral said:

        “To me it sounded less like the LW ….realized there were gross implications that weren’t necessarily obvious at first.”

        You might want to re-read what she said then.

        “I laughed with them, but the more I thought about it, the more disappointed I was. I have, I guess you could say a *thing* with presents, which is that I really really hate things I cannot use. I grew up poor and I like owning things of value and he knew that.”

        “It’s not even about the fact that it’s a sex toy (he knows I’m asexual), I wasn’t mad about that. I was mad that he didn’t think about what *I* would want.”

        She very much doesn’t have a problem with the fact that it’s a sex toy, but does have a problem with the fact that it’s not something she wants or has a use for. I think for most of us, getting a sex toy would be creepy so we read this from that POV, but you really do need to pay attention to what she’s saying, as opposed to what you’re feeling.

        • k8899 said:

          Thing is, it kind of doesn’t change how we evaluate his behaviour how it landed. He was acting in bad faith doing something creepy, if the attempt failed that doesn’t exonerate him.
          Also, there’s a lot of people on this thread treating the LW poorly solely due to how they feel about gift-giving, and not what she’s saying.

        • CC said:

          Yeah, totally agreed. If the sexual part of it doesn’t bother her (and guys – it’s ok if it doesn’t! not all unwanted things related to sex are inherently and unequivocally Sexual Harrassment, especially if the person receiving it doesn’t think so!), then we’re left with the fact that she’s mad she can’t use it, which is (as someone who never expects gifts) frankly a little annoying. I think some people are really glossing over that second quote with no regard to the nuance with which OP phrased this whole thing.

          Also a dildo as a joke isn’t like, the most unheard of thing between good friends. It would be one thing if it was a stranger or acquaintance, which many are acting like it is, but it’s not.

      • Saturn said:

        To your aside: one year the Bad Dragon company came out with a set of “teeny weenies”, a set of mini versions of their very… interesting selection of products. Back then I thought it was hilarious, and in December posted on Tumblr that I wished someone would get a set for me for Christmas/my birthday (which is in Jan). A little while later, someone I had met at an anime convention a couple weeks prior- who I was getting some odd vibes from but he was friends with some other friends so I was trying to stick to being friendly- said he wanted to get me a gift & asked for my address. I had been posting & linking gift ideas on Tumblr throughout the month, so I figured it could be anything. I ignored the odd vibes and gave him my mom’s address, as I was home from college for the winter. A few weeks later… my mom hands me a small, unmarked box we got in the mail. I opened it and my heart sunk. Y’all know what he got me. I still can’t believe my mom never tried to open it or ask me what was in it.

        I didn’t really know what to do… I have life-long social anxiety, and I wasn’t very self aware of my avoidance tenancies, so after freaking out about all the bad vibes bubbling up, I think I just sent him a “haha omg these are hilarious, thanks!” kind of message & started stonewalling the heck out of him until he stopped trying to make conversation with me anymore… Obviously not the ideal way to handle a situation, but it was so uncomfortable! I can occasionally form fast friendships, and I love goofy gifts, so I could see someone I’d only been friends with for 6 months sending me a gift like that with a positive response from me, but I hardly knew this guy!

    • Glittering Girl said:

      So, in other words, the LW was asking for it? That she liked it but changed her mind about it the next morning? And blames the man to cover her embarrassment?

      Okay then…

    • I get a lot of oddly transactional messages from the way the letter writer describes these things and if this literal dildo of a friend has a problem with that aspect of her personality that’s entirely okay for him friend to have a problem with. I would. Maybe you’re not good friend material for each other, and that’s fine. But it’s not okay to respond to that with really shitty behavior that he’s not even willing to be a part of and just lob like a purple silicone grenade on his way out the door. This was some jerky shit. LW doesn’t have to be a perfect movie protagonist here for captain dildo to be firmly in the wrong.

      And all of that, of course, ignores the reality that we just get this filtered through a letter and description that maybe reflects how bothered LW is by this or is trying to make some sense of or who the hell knows. But “gave me grossly inappropriate gift” is loud and clear as day, so maybe that’s the proper thing to focus on?

    • Strawberry Sunrise said:

      The great thing about these letters is that you don’t actually have to be “Team” anyone. The LW wrote in to Captain Awkward for advice. There isn’t a scorecard.

      • TO_On said:

        Especially when the Teams aren’t actually on opposite sides. The question isn’t ‘who has the most blame for this conflict’, the question is ‘is this a healthy positive friendship?’, and the answer to that doesn’t depend on which person is asking it.

        • Sheelzebub said:

          I don’t know about that. I’m seeing people see the LW’s mention of an email she sent to friends who didn’t know what to get her as a list of demands, signs that she’s picky, orders about what they can and cannot buy, etc. and focusing on that (and assume that her ‘friend’ got the dildo as a reaction to that). It’s a fucking email with suggestions like ‘something for my deck’ and people are making her out to be one of the Trumps. I’m seeing people say that she liked it at first and changed her mind after. I’m seeing people focus solely on the LW’s behavior so much that the actual gross thing–the gift of a fucking dildo–is buried.

          • TO_On said:

            And what I’m saying is there’s no need for that or point for that, whether you think the friend sounds nice or the LW sounds annoying or the other way around or both or neither.

            There’s no actual point to ‘picking sides’ when the actual question is ‘are these two good friends’.

    • I kinda got that at first too– the logical reasons in this letter seem slightly off, though hardly outlandish– but it’s very possible that she’s trying to find logical reasons for her real, valid feelings and/or subconscious observations which her logical mind hasn’t caught up with yet (it’s a thing, it happens, quite often to me and most people). Sometimes people feel that they MUST have a logical reason for their feelings. If –IF– that rings true for the LW, I’d suggest that she pay more attention to her emotions and gut feelings around him and the situation, and be ok with not knowing why, logically. Chances are good that the real reason will occur to her logical brain at some random point in the future. Perhaps the sexual nature of the gift really DID upset her, and eventually she’ll give herself rational permission to feel put off by it. Or not. It could be that this guy felt comfortable crashing this woman’s bday with what is essentially an analog dick pic because he’s spent the last year sneakily testing the waters under the radar with what he can “get away with,” romantically or socially or dudeishly, and she’s left with the feeling that something has been off that she can’t quite put her finger on. So I would just remind the LW that lots of situations come and go where you can never put your finger on just what was off about it, but feeling that way is enough of a justification. You don’t actually HAVE to know why, although the why does often occur to you at a random later date.

      I say this not because leaving a mess in the kitchen, being inconsiderate over social media and gifting sexual put-downs aren’t legitimate gripes for ending friendship– they can be– but because the LW doesn’t seem to trust the logical reasons she has settled upon (“am I really going to break up a friendship over a purple dildo? did I really not feel as good about our friendship all along?”). And she knows the logical reasons are fixable (she says if she brings it up with him he’ll work on it) but fixing her list of logical concerns doesn’t seem to fix the issue for her. It’s ok for her to not trust those specific reasons listed for breaking it off, AND to feel justified in breaking it off without having “good reasons.” It’s also ok for certain friendships to be short instead of forever. Friendships that end don’t even have to be seen as failures, rather a short-lived friendship that got you through a tough time could be viewed as a success, and it ended when it was meant to and you’re allowed to move on and occasionally look back fondly at the good times and just not worry about it.

      • LW said:

        This is such a thoughtful reply, thanks a lot! I’ll have a good think on what you said.

    • Magpie said:

      Thank you!! I thought there was something wrong with me here.

    • JenniferP said:

      What if I told you that you could laugh at something that was intended as a joke (esp. when other people are laughing) but then later you could have more complex feelings about it and not find it funny at all? Especially when it’s a sex toy “troll gift” from a dude that you realize maybe isn’t really a good friend?

      • Sheelzebub said:

        Thank you. I’m creeped out by the apologetics around this guy’s behavior, and the focus on the LW for not reacting perfectly in the moment, giving her friends an idea of what she’d like for her birthday, and basically nitpicking her to death.

        I have laughed off harassment and it took me a while to call it that to myself, let alone out loud. And when I realized I was uncomfortable or even felt threatened in hindsight, I didn’t say anything because I was afraid I’d be dragged for it. Some of the posts here are perfect examples as to why that is.

    • I didn’t read her reaction as changing her mind. She laughed because everybody else was laughing, maybe even because she could see the humor her friend intended, but that doesn’t mean she was totally comfortable with it at the time.

  14. Blue Meeple said:

    I had a friend who, while he never gave me such wildly inappropriate gifts (wtf even who gives a sex toy to someone who they don’t know for sure wants it from them?), he did ignore my “no gifts please” request on my birthday party invitations. Repeatedly. This eventually made me notice a lot of other selfish, thoughtless, and boundary-crossing things he did, and I realized he was not such a good friend after all, and I gradually let the friendship die. We still see each other from time to time and it’s friendly enough, but its nice that I don’t have to deal with his crap anymore.

  15. Allison said:

    I do agree with some of the comments here that it’s probably not a good idea to ask for a replacement gift in this case, but you should be able to say “I’m sure this was meant to be a joke, but your gift made me feel really uncomfortable and I don’t want it, I’m giving you a chance to take it back for a refund if that’s possible, otherwise I’m throwing it away.” You can also make a point of telling this person that you’ve been thinking about the friendship overall and you’re not sure it’s working for you anymore, and you’d like to be more like acquaintances, but you can also accomplish this by not inviting him to stuff, not engaging much on social media, and not chatting with him that much at events where you happen to be in the same space. If he asks why you’re not treating him like your bestest buddy anymore, you can explain it then.

  16. bemusedlybespectacled said:

    I’m just going to say that there is no Tribunal of Relationships to whom one must state their case should they desire to terminate friendships. You can end a friendship for any reason you want. Though, to be perfectly honest, “giving an asexual friend a dildo and then getting offended when they don’t appreciate it despite the point of the ‘joke’ being that they wouldn’t like it or need it” seems to be a pretty good reason to me.

  17. At the end of the day I think the dildo is just the latest, most visible example of a mismatch in expectations. He doesn’t sound like a very thoughtful person, or at least, in this relationship he’s not putting in the effort to be present emotionally. “trolling” is not something you do to a dear friend, it’s a very clear example of making YOU the object and him the subject. He’s the joke-teller you’re the joke, he’s the eater you’re the mess-haver.

    Though I would caution this, when you’re hurt suddenly your brain goes back into the files to look for reasons to justify your new conclusions. It’s just how a brain works– it wants patterns, we’re pattern-recognition machines. So if suddenly you’re hurt by someone, you will, inevitably go back through the files looking for reasons you should have seen this coming. It’s human nature. You might have momentarily reached saturation point where things that you were okay with at the time suddenly look like a big problem.

    The problem with that is sometimes it’s not your brain looking for evidence to fit a pattern, it’s you becoming aware of a pattern that you missed, that’s been bugging you on some level deep down for a long time but you never articulated to yourself. Only time and contemplation can tell and that’s why the Captain’s advice to take some time not to put out so much effort is a good one. In time you will either come to realize you were upset and hurt and the problems you noticed aren’t big ones– or alternately you’ll realize he’s always showed signs of making this all about him.

    As far as the big purple elephant in the room?

    There’s so much here we don’t know that it makes it hard to pin down the intention. I mean, is this dildo comically gigantic and made of cheap material and obviously a joke? If *I* were giving a dildo, for joke purposes, I would definitely go over-the-top to make sure that it’s fairly clear there’s no implication this should be considered a gift “for use”! Of course that has a huge backfire chance too (“Are you trying to SAY something with the fact it’s 18″ long?! Or is the fact it’s a dragon supposed to say something?!”) Body image and insecurities, sex insecurities, there’s SO much layered into the situation that hurt feelings on some level is a very likely outcome no matter the intentions!

    So suffice to say this “friend” has poor taste. There’s a lot going on in here, was he hoping being asexual would act as a shield against presumptions of serious intention? Was the fact they met on a dating site relevant to his intentions? Is the fact he left rather than stick around indication he realized his plan was poor? or an indication he didn’t want to deal with the immediate impact but was hoping that “well I threw a dildo into the mutual-shared-idea-space so now masturbation is a topic up for discussion”? We don’t know what this jerk was thinking, nor can we, I think, make an educated guess. But ultimately that doesn’t matter. The impact is the impact, you feel how you feel.

    • piny1 said:

      It’s also a sex toy, as in, he gave her a sex toy, he gave her a sex toy to unwrap in front of her friends without warning her, and maybe it isn’t helpful to do a bunch of niggling back and forth about how much and how clearly and how exclusively this was a sex toy. Sexual harassment case law is full of this kind of deeply unproductive excuse manufacture (“Maybe he left a pubic hair on her coke because he knew that fiber is the key to a healthy diet!”) and like…he knew that he was being inappropriate. He also knows that her response (discomfort, offense, confusion) is way more in accordance with social norms than giving a friend a sex toy. He knows that what he did bothered her, his friend. He definitely has some idea why. I don’t think he deserves the benefit of the doubt at all, and I don’t see any reason to treat his potential excuses like they’re significant. He is not acting like someone who accidentally messed up and made a crass joke that landed wrong. And I think that, while the letter writer has every right to gong this guy for whatever reason, she is also right to see this as bad behavior on his part, and to take his insensitivity or worse personally.

      • I think you did a really good job unpacking the real truth: “he is not acting like someone who accidentally messed up[…]”

        I suppose my point was whether or not it was intended as a way to inject sex as a topic into their friendship is kind of a sideline: he has poor taste, and his actions were hurtful. It’s a potential example of a pattern of behavior where he doesn’t treat her well. The MOST GENEROUS POSSIBLE INTERPRETATION is that he was crude and hurtful and he doesn’t seem to care overly much about that.

        It absolutely is bad behavior, no matter how it’s interpreted. When you make a bad joke or a “prank” that’s hurtful, you apologize, earnestly, sincerely, you show empathy, and he’s not doing that. Maybe he doesn’t know how, but it smacks of him thinking she SHOULDN’T have been upset and that’s a big red flag.

        • Shannon said:

          I have known men in the past to give public gifts or make public innuendo of a sexual nature towards women that they desire but can’t have.
          This feels a lot like that to me – a tragic, completely unwanted mating call from a man trying to establish a sexual relationship, or a public perception of a sexual relationship, where there is none.

          • Anne On said:

            “Trying to establish a sexual relationship” – or establish control. So much of his behavior seems to be fulfilling a traditional male role, like not cleaning up and shirking emotional labor. Now this public sexual shaming.

      • Sheelzebub said:

        “I mean, is this dildo comically gigantic and made of cheap material and obviously a joke?”

        I don’t use dildos so I couldn’t tell you if one is made of cheap material or comically gigantic. I can tell you that such a gift to me–even as a gag gift–would be highly inappropriate and creepy AF.

  18. Elizabeth said:

    If LW has a “thing” about presents and their potential to be useless junk, why did she ask for presents? [think-y face emoji]

    I did a quick google for “donating unused sex toys” and didn’t find anything useful, but if the dildo is of reasonably decent quality then I recommend LW perhaps ask Erica Moen of Oh Joy Sex Toy if she has any suggestions for how to get the dildo to someone who can’t afford one.

    • JenniferP said:

      She could do a whole bunch of annoying work to find a “good” home for it, but “Hey bro, you left this at my house” works JUST fine.

      • Elizabeth said:

        Of course she could do that! My suggestion was in consideration of her feelings about wastefulness, though.

        • neverjaunty said:

          How is that wasteful? Troll Dude now has a pristine dildo to stick up his ass. Win-win.

    • Smithy said:

      In no way does this help – but depending on the exact nature of this gift – it may well just be an adult novelty item. A lot of the super big ones sold at places like a Spencer’s Gifts (provided they’re still even open…..) are not meant for use and made of plastic you shouldn’t put in the body.

      I don’t know which way this one goes – but it may literally be an item produced just for “joke” purposes.

    • k8899 said:

      She gave guidance on what gifts people *who genuinely want to gift* could get (including very inexpensive options) *because* she wants to avoid useless junk.

    • Saurs said:

      Here are the answers to your question, emboldened to make it clear the LW articulated her needs just fine:

      I have, I guess you could say a *thing* with presents, which is that I really really hate things I cannot use. I grew up poor and I like owning things of value and he knew that. I mean, that’s the whole reason of why I sent that list around. But instead of respecting my wishes (and really, it’s not like they were outlandish, I wrote “stuff for my balcony” on that list so he could’ve literally just gotten me a plant), he chose to make a joke that *he* thought would be funny.

      You’re welcome!

    • College-age art students would probably also find a use for it and not be offended. But also it’s not the end of the world to just… throw it away.

    • Megan_NJ said:

      suggestions for how to get the dildo to someone who can’t afford one. —- I do find the idea of this to be awesome though! Lemons into Lemonade.

    • blurfts said:

      Your best bet is to get a silicone setting kit, cut it into slices, and make a set of heat-resistant coasters and trivettes.

      There’s also a fun story in my town history about just throwing it out the car window on a curvy mountain road. It’s pretty inert and bulky, so the chance that an animal will eat it is very small.

    • F as in Frank said:

      With regards to unwanted presents and waste… my kids have grandparents who love to give them lots of cheap plastic crap. I try my best to find good homes for stuff however some items are just garbage and if others give them (with full knowledge of my ethical concerns with over consumption) it is not my waste.
      LW, it is soul crushing to keep terrible, no good presents in your home. I encourage you to get rid of the dildo in the easiest manner possible; it is not your responsibility and not your waste.

  19. I see a whole lot of nope here, for me anyway; add me to the “asking for the money is not how I would have done things” side (with an understanding that sometimes when we’re more upset than we realize by something that really isn’t funny we behave in weird ways, too).

    I mean, we (the women) once bought one of the guys in our gaming group a raccoon penis bone as a “gag gift” but a) there was a mutual in-joke that involved raccoons; b) we knew him well enough to know he’d find the bone itself fascinating; c) it wasn’t bought for a major gift-giving occasion; and d) we didn’t say “oh, we want you to open this after we leave” but instead sat right there watching him open it. Plus also Not A Dildo.

    So, if you’re going to give a gag gift I guess I’m saying know your audience. And it’s pretty clear this guy did know his audience and knew the gift wouldn’t come across as funny ha-ha but creepy and why would you do that even?

  20. H.Regalis said:

    Is the purple dildo related to the African Violet? 😀 Like a corollary or something?

    • piny1 said:

      Yes, if you ever want to end a friendship with immediate effect, just give your friend a plastic schlong.

    • piny1 said:

      The purple just makes it fancy. Like a bottle of Crown Royal. Sort of.

      • Aren’t African violets also purple? Asking for a friend.

        • It depends. I’ve seen them in the range from light pink to really deep purple.

          • piny1 said:

            Here now, this is a family-friendly – oh, you meant violets. Carry on!

          • Turn out the lights. Thread over.

          • I, uh.

            So.

            Like.

            I’m oblivious to some things (like most double-entendres).

            And now I’m blushing.

  21. StarGazer said:

    I think of myself as a fairly sex-postive person, with a decent sense of humor… but I draw the line at being gifted a dildo (especially from a man) as a “joke”. It’s gross. Add in the other things… I personally don’t think I would bother with some like this.

  22. This is a total side track, but I am curious about the social etiquette around this part of the letter:

    “him never offering to do the dishes when we eat at my place, leaving behind a huge pile of trash when we get takeout.”

    When I eat at someone else’s house, I absolutely never help with the dishes (or really clean-up unless there’s a mutually-thrown party, or they are cleaning up right in front of me.) In the occasional times I have offered, hosts always insist it’s not necessary, and once in a blue moon get a little offended, as if I’m suggesting they are awful at housework or can’t adequately clean their own space. Since not a single person has ever taken me up on offering to clean the dishes/take out the trash, I don’t often offer (and I absolutely never start doing cleaning up an area without them agreeing.)

    I’ve also never expected friends to help me clean dishes after they’ve eaten at my place, and collecting trash after they leave is… just kind of assumed to fall under the category of “post hang-out clean up”? (If I don’t feel like cleaning up, I don’t host.)

    This particular complaint makes sense to me if they never eat at his place, and don’t go out, but now I’m afraid that I’ve been committing huge friendship faux pas by not picking up take out boxes or cleaning my dishes when I hang out at friends’ places. Is this a usual expectation that I’ve missed?

    • Oranges said:

      I think the LW has a very… rigid…? way of looking at life. I immediately thought of one of my friends reading this and there IS a mis-match in our friendship. One that we’ve made peace with however, it’s a bit like emulsification. Water and fat can mix if you do it just right, but do you really want to do the work?

      • Noopnope said:

        Oranges, I think you have it right here. We could pick apart the things that the LW did wrong (to us) and that the guy did wrong (he was just wrong with that gift), or we could just say that they’re incompatible as friends unless one of them hugely changes their standards. And is either of them really up for that kind of work or that kind of adjustment? When a potential new friend is just a couple of conversations about the Witcher Netflix series away?

        • TO_On said:

          Quite. You don’t enjoy his company, don’t have the same sense of humour, and find him annoying. That’s plenty.

      • blurfts said:

        – water
        – oil
        – the purple dong of weirdly sexualized unwelcome gifts

        never the thwain shall mix

    • I think there’s a whole bunch of cultural mismatch here.
      For housework: Some of my friends I let help with my dishes; others I always decline and/or they don’t offer. It’s not a reflection of the quality of our friendship; it’s about the cultural exchanges that dictate whether or not I feel comfortable letting them help out.
      I would appreciate people not leaving a trail of trash but most of my friends pile their stuff when they’re finished eating and I’ll then take it to the trash can. Only my very closest of friends would be expected to take care of their own trash – and both of those people I lived with for years, so we have a dynamic where housework is shared anyways.

      On that note – being given a list of what to buy for a non-family/non-wedding gift would be extremely off-putting to me. Mind you, my friends and I are of the “we do experiences, not gifts” type for birthdays – but being given a list would take it from “oh, okay, LW does things differently” to “What on earth? How do I even deal with this?” for me. Could be a cultural thing! But if the LW is in the US, then it’s different enough that it warrants a discussion to prep them for the birthday list/expectations (perhaps you did this?). And n’thing the request for money from the return of the gift – that’s just not something that is done in USA culture. You get bad gifts sometimes; you can donate, return for store credit discretely, or trash, but you are not entitled to the value of the gift instead. And asking for money in a lot of the USA is considered on the crasser side, so that is a request that should be done with a good understanding of how your audience would take it.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the purple dildo – which met all of the LW’s list requirements – was a very ill-thought out (and rude/inappropriate!) response to the WTH? feeling of getting a wish list. Doesn’t make it okay at all! But it sounds like a response to an intense cultural mismatch; if someone sent me a birthday gift requirement list, my first response would be to get something that matched all the requirements but was still clearly a gag gift. My second response – and what I would actually do now – would be to excuse myself from the festivities, recognizing that we weren’t a good friend match.

      Again, I think this comes down to a huge cultural and expectation mismatch. And while the purple dildo thing can be addressed head-on as “not appropriate, not okay”, I think it’s connected, at this point, to a whole bunch of other issues that, to resolve, would require a fair amount of compromise on both people’s ends. Which may not be what either of them want from a friendship.

      • El said:

        Thing is, the gift was NOT well thought out – LW is asexual and doesn’t use sex toys. Plus the fact her “friend” told he he wouldn’t stay and she had to open the gift after he left. I agree on the “replace the unwanted gift with money” though – that’s not cool.

        • Well, I said ‘ill-thought out’ 🙂
          Personally, I would find a sex toy I never used funny and would appreciate the warning to not open it in public – the LW clearly doesn’t fall along those lines so this was not okay. It’s a very know-your-audience thing and the gift-giver clearly didn’t, so the fault is on him for either being creepy or clueless or a combination of both.

      • Vicki said:

        I think it’s relevant that she sent that list to “all my friends who weren’t sure what to gift me”: if someone says “I want to get you something for your birthday but I’m not sure what,” sending an email that includes “things for my balcony” or “I like purple” is reasonable. Yes, there are social groups where the expected answer is “I don’t need gifts, I just want to see you” but it doesn’t sound like LW’s social circle is one of them.

        Reasonable people who don’t want to be asked for specific gifts don’t ask “what do you want for your birthday?” It’s an easy thing not to ask–which it sounds like you won’t, and that this guy did.

        • I think it’s a cultural thing, because unless I specifically asked for a list, using some combination of “Hey, please send me a list or link to registry”, I would find it really, really off-putting to receive an email like the LW describes. If I asked someone “what do you want for gift?” I would expect the only communication about it to be the one conversation.

          And it’s okay if you’re different, but it is going to be a criteria on which you and your friends are going to have to be compatible.

      • StarGazer said:

        …it’s a sex toy.  That’s so massively inappropriate it boggles the mind. It doesn’t even count as a gag gift, that’s how awful it is. It’s a huge boundry violation. So this is not just “getting a bad gift” at all.

        The LW admits she has a mental hang up about having been poor and having an issue with useless things- and it sounds like she let her friends know that. I don’t think putting a list out there is actually that terrible, so long as you aren’t demanding gifts or unreasonable gifts. (It sounds like she may mot have even been super specific, since one thing she wrote on the list was “things for my balcony” but that’s speculation.) I personally would be totally ok with a friend giving out a list of ideas because I’m honestly terrible at finding gifts. Once in a blue moon I may score something, but not often. Is it really that different from a wedding registry? (You don’t *have* to buy off a registry, and nothing indicates the LW was insisting on only things from the list. And again, I mean reasonable things with reasonable prices.) Why is it acceptable for a wedding and only a wedding? Why is it different if it’s family? Some of this really will come down to culture, but also individual friend groups. You seem to basing this off the dynamic of your group, not taking into account hers may well be quite different. No two groups are alike and what works for her and her group may not work for another.

        I really feel like the LW is getting more crap than she deserves in a number of comments, especially in light of what the actual problem is and it’s really bothering me.

        • JenniferP said:

          It’s bothering me, too. If you’re close friends with this letter writer, presumably you’re cool with giving & receiving gifts on birthdays and receiving a “Hey, if you’re trying to think of a good present, I’m looking for stuff for my balcony” suggestion. I bet the Letter Writer gives GREAT, thoughtful, lovely presents to her friends. Someone not doing gifts the exact way you would do it doesn’t deserve to get a creepy dick from a person she thought was a friend.

          • The LW and the dude have only been friends for a year, though. So it’s quite possible this hasn’t come up before between LW and Dude, because there are friend groups that do small gift exchanges around Christmas – the plushie would fit into that – (or ask, “Hey do you want to exchange Christmas presents?”) and not around birthdays.

            I’m guessing LW’s friend group is all good with this but the Dude could quite possibly have been blindsided by it, especially if he’s not a big birthday person. And honestly, the fact that he is not close enough to know the birthday routine is a point against him in the dildo thing as well. But I think there are multiple issues in this letter; one of which is he gave her a dildo (which isn’t ‘made better’ by the other issues) and she’s super not cool with it and another is that they seem to have very different expectations around gifts and hospitality.

        • I said the whole gift giving thing was probably a cultural mismatch. It’s not the the LW is wrong; it’s just that her expectations around birthdays and gift-giving seem very specific and not everyone is going to mesh with them. And if someone doesn’t, they’re probably not compatible friends.

          Because this question involves a (super inappropriate) gift, I think dealing with the (super inappropriate) gift is going to involve also addressing all the cultural mismatches going on here. Which may not be worth it for the LW.

      • Idon'trecallmyname said:

        See, because I and my friends often want to be sure we are getting something the person will like, I and they have (for a solid ten years) either explicitly said “no gifts” or discussed what gifts are a good idea, and when it’s large parties general guidelines have been given via mass email. It just clarifies things. And I’m from the U.S. so I think it’s either a regional or a “circle of friends” gift culture difference.

        Also, I read the money thing as a “Jeeze, if you were going to give me a (really uncomfortable, selfish, and sexually charged) gag gift just hand me the cash next time or don’t bother.” Which is much more blunt than a lot of people like to be, but a valid sentiment IMO.

    • B. said:

      I think this varies wildly between cultures, regions, subcultures, and particular people. In my case, if I trust you enough to invite you into my house, the relationship is close enough that I will cheerfully ask you to help me pick up/clean up (my guests usually ask to help out, too).

      I value people helping with meals and chores, so I always offer to help out when I’m a guest, as well.

      That said, my culture often revolves around preparing meals and eating together, so it’s very normal (and part of the social activity) for everybody to pitch in.

    • Darlingpants said:

      I would expect/appreciate people carrying things from the room we are eating in to the kitchen counter and throwing away their empty takeout containers into the trash, especially if it’s a standing date or we only ever hang out at my house. However, I don’t want people doing dishes and the one time someone insisted felt really awkward for me. So for me it’s somewhere in between: stack your plates/trash, carry it closer to the garbage can/sink, but anything with soap and running water is probably a step too far.

      • Cassandra said:

        Yeah I’d be mortified if guests did the dishes in my house

        • TO_On said:

          I’ve personally never been to an adult birthday party where gifts were given unless it was one group gift for a special teacher, but perhaps it’s more common in some social circles than others.

          • TO_On said:

            Oops, meant to be a reply to a different comment!

        • TO_On said:

          Regarding dishes, I wouldn’t be mortified necessarily, but I might be annoyed if someone wanted to spend the time they were visiting me washing dishes instead of visiting. I guess it would depend if we kept chatting at the same time though, and if there were only a few things that could be done quickly.

          Also some people are clearly just trying to be friendly, and others really do seem to be trying to make some kind of point about your housekeeping.

    • Lumen said:

      I think it’s good manners to at least offer to stay and clean up, like after a party or if my friend and I cooked and made a larger-than-average mess. But I don’t even ask/offer about doing things like “taking my dishes over by the sink” or “throwing away my own trash”. I think of it as a way to show respect and appreciation for my host and their home, even if it’s just a casual hang.

      • When I’m hosting, I try to bus plates and trash before anyone else can get to it, even though I will absolutely do it for myself when being a guest. My philosophy is that you should be relaxing and enjoying yourself. I definitely will apologize if I see someone busing their own stuff!

        I don’t at all get upset if people bus their own stuff or if they don’t (either is fine), just don’t make a huge big mess and completely ignore it. Stacking trash or leaving it on the table is absolutely okay; leaving pieces of trash scattered all over the place is rude.

      • TO_On said:

        Trash is just something you throw out as you create it, surely. If necessary you ask where the garbage can is, but what are you going to do, leave a bunch of garbage sitting on a table somewhere?

    • Dishes is one way or the other–I can see how folks can go either way. But everyone should scoop up their McDonald’s wrappers and get them into the trash can.

    • Tea Rocket said:

      I think it’s nice to offer to help clean up, especially if it’s just the two of you—and I also think it’s fine to jump in without asking when it comes to quick tasks, like taking stuff through to the kitchen or collecting take-out boxes to throw away. It’s also fine for the friend who’s hosting to ask for help with clean up, especially when it’s a very casual hang-out: “Could you collect the plates and bring them to the kitchen for me, please?” I’m not sure if the LW has done this and the friend has refused, in which case, yeah, he is entitled and rude even before the dildo fiasco (the correct thing to do is acquiesce and then accept or decline all future invitations based on the knowledge that they come with the caveat that you need to help clean up).

      However, my suspicion is that the LW hasn’t communicated a lot of this stuff and her other friends have similar expectations, intuited it, or learned by mirroring the LW’s behavior. I would bet good money that the LW probably always jumps in and helps with clean up at other people’s houses and that she also makes sure to give gifts at birthdays and holidays to people from whom she would like to receive them. The friend in the letter may be less sensitive to imbalances in reciprocity and need more direct communication of expectations.

      • LW said:

        Ok funny story – I did actually have a conversation about this with him already. I’m really not one to mince words and am pretty upfront about what I like or want.

        So one time we got to my place (we almost never go to his because it’s never clean…), put the takeout down in the kitchen, I start preparing plates, cutlery, glasses etc. He… Only takes his own glass and the juice he bought and goes into the living room. And like…stays there. I was speechless, standing alone in the kitchen with all that stuff. So I just…kept standing. Checked my phone.
        About 3 minutes later, he shouts from the living – “Do you need help?” “Uh YEAH?!” He then came and we carried everything together. He then asks me, “You look kinda mad, everything okay?” Maaaaajor eye roll.

        So then we had a conversation. But by now I’m at the point where it’s like, how many conversations is it going to take, geez!

        Other instances that didn’t make it into the letter:
        He didn’t know how to cut a paprika. Idk why that bothers me so much, I just can’t get over how an adult person cannot cut a PAPRIKA. He didn’t even try to figure it out, I had to show him because he looked like he’d stab himself.
        He asked me if I had any chocolate, I said no and to ask my roommate. He goes to her, she offers him a chocolate bar, and instead of breaking off a piece and eating it like a normal person, he ate the entire thing?! All 200gramm?? And never got her a new one. And it’s not like they’re friends or anything. At the time I didn’t really mind, but the more I think about it, the more ridiculous it gets.

        Anyway, sorry about rambling. It’s not fair for me to only show his bad points, he also has good points and can actually be thoughtful. Which is why it’s so much harder to decide. ^^

        • Marthooh said:

          I am a full-grown adult who can cook and I’ve never even seen a paprika, let alone know how to cut one how to cut one.

          • Anon said:

            This may be a “varieties of English” problem – I’m pretty sure that Australian English, for example, uses “paprika” for what a North American English speaker would call a “bell pepper”

    • Birdie Bee said:

      I suspect those norms are more common among twenty-something mostly women friend groups who are used to frequent, casual gatherings.
      It reminds me a lot of my own friend group. 🙂

    • Allison said:

      I often offer to help clean up, or take my stuff to the kitchen if I see the host do it (especially if other guests do it as well), and I appreciate when my guests take dirty dishes into the kitchen and throw away trash, but I’d never expect a guest to actually help wash dishes, and I probably wouldn’t accept that help if it was offered unless I was relatively close with that person. I certainly wouldn’t fault someone for not helping, or question my friendship with them if they didn’t help, or offer help, with cleanup. It probably wouldn’t even register with me that someone wasn’t helping, unless we were at a party where everyone was pitching in with the cleanup except one person.

      It’s possible for a task to be good manners to do, or offer to do, but not so morally mandatory that someone is a garbage person for not doing it.

    • Mel said:

      In my entourage leaving trash from take-out for other people to dispose of or at least not offering to do it (and not expecting the host to accept your offer) would be seen as bad manners. The same goes for clearing the table.

      Washing the dishes is another story. Depends on the person. If LW offers to do it when they eat at his place and he doesn’t reciprocate I understand LW’s complaint.

  23. H said:

    Am I the only reader here who is icked out at even the idea of a dildo being returned for resale? Underwear & swimsuits can’t be returned (at least where I live) but dildos can?

    I’m wondering if maybe this guy gave it as a present in the hope that LW would draw back? Some of the other things she’s mentioned (particularly not wanting to talk about #deep stuff) make it sound like maybe he’s in for a lighthearted easy banter type of friendship but not a deep/close one. If he’s poor at using his words then maybe this action (& some if the others) is designed to put a brake on something that’s getting closer than he enjoys without him needing to say anything?

    There’s no particular solution if so. Just feel your way forward doing what feels right/comfortable & see where things fall in the future. (& if he did give you an icky present to make you do the drawing back work – as well as the cleaning work etc – well that might be another reason to draw back in itself)

    • Anon, Goodnight said:

      If it’s unpackaged, it probably can’t be returned. But if it’s in a sealed package of some sort, it might be, depending on local laws and store policies.

    • Marthooh said:

      If so, he’s still an asshole.

  24. Snickerdoodle said:

    100% this dude is sexualizing her, only going to eacalate, and absolutely would have behaved much more inappropriately already if she didn’t identify as asexual. See also: Above comments about how “He’s not a bad person, BUT [list of shitty behaviors].” I also bet the LW will in time think of a lot of other inappropriate things he’s said/done besides those listed. Never mind ceasing to initiate contact for a while; I say cut him out altogether and maybe take a second look at those other “friends” laughing at her discomfort, too.

    • valentine said:

      I think he’s either wooing her or, in his mind, dating her: (1) cleaning and emotions are women’s work (2) escalating gifts she can’t respond to in the moment, when she might tell him what’s what. She only gets to discuss it when she’s second-guessed herself and considered his feelings.

    • CC said:

      God, this is weird to me though. How can you know someone is “only going to escalate” based on a gift of a dildo? Would you say this if it were a female friend? I know the context is different when it’s a male, but not so different that it would warrant these absolutes. I have been sexually assaulted myself, so I get being uncomfortable about a gift like that, but hitting everything with the same hammer here is not helping anybody.

  25. Lumen said:

    “It’s not even about the fact that it’s a sex toy (he knows I’m asexual), I wasn’t mad about that.”

    Okay, so as someone who is also on the asexual spectrum, allow me to be angry on your behalf that your male friend “trolled” you in a highly sexualized way, in front of other people, without your consent. That wasn’t okay.

    And given that he knows you’re ace, it just makes this worse. Remember how we have an increased likelihood of being subjected to “corrective” sexual assault? This is the “dildo as a joke gift” version of that. Gross.

    Oh, and THEN. You talk to him about it, because he’s your friend, right? And he doesn’t. Give. A f#@k. How you feel. Geez, what a catch! What a great guy! Let’s bend over backwards to force ourselves to like him again.

    OP, I subscribe to the philosophy that there aren’t “good people” and “bad people”. There are people who consistently do good things and people who consistently do bad things. And right now, this dude is consistently doing bad things. To you. No, it’s not your job or responsibility to teach him how to be a decent person. Women are not rehab centers for men.

    Take your good qualities and your energy and go put them towards relationships with people who don’t trash your apartment, ignore you, and shame you for having totally reasonable reactions to mean-spirited “gifts”.

    • Birdie Bee said:

      I’m also on the asexual spectrum (grey), and I suspect that a lot of asexual-identifying people have difficult relationship with their sexuality (and sex toys- I tend to go through periods where I try to explore being sexual before getting bored and emotionally exhausted, so sex toys are not a fun topic for me). There is definitely that narrative of being broken, and of course, some people, even friends or lovers, would like to ‘fix’ us.

      Was he fantasizing that she’d put it on a shelf until one fateful night and -poof!- she’s no longer asexual and she’s interested in having sex with him?

    • bats are cute said:

      I also got vibes of him waiting for her to act weird about it, so he’d have an opening to call her a prude / repressed / otherwise take cheap shots at how she needs to ~lighten up~ and not get so ~upset~ about sex stuff.

  26. Lapis Lazuli said:

    My friends and I do “gag gifts” too:
    1. Put the present in multiple boxes
    2. Wrap present in multuple wrappings
    3. Gift dispised trading cards
    4. Drawn silly art
    5. Put presents in silly boxes
    6. Gift people shitty DVD’s and such

    The difference? We also include a legit gift, because we know “pranks” are only funny if both parties have a good time and leaving it off on such a shitty gift makes the recipient mad.

    Your friend gave you a dildo, left so that you take the brunt of the laughter (we NEVER leave the pranked high and dry), and then got mad when you didn’t like the prank. That is douchebag, not a prankster.

    • JenniferP said:

      My older brother and I gave each other identical $35.00 Borders Gift Cards wrapped in increasingly ridiculous packaging for a decade. But it was a mutual thing, mutually funny to us (and infuriating to my mom).

      • I now have this image:

        Captain Awkward, opening gift card with duct tape wrapping: HeeHeeHeeHee

        Lieutenant Awkward, watching sister open duct-tape wrapped gift card: HeeHeeHeeHee

        General Awkward: OH FOR GOD’S SAKE YOU TWO

        • JenniferP said:

          We did it for a solid decade. RIP, Borders!

          • Pam said:

            Was it the same gift card each year, or did you spend them and buy new ones?

          • JenniferP said:

            New ones each time! The present was “here, go pick out some books or something.”

          • The ridiculous packaging was the gift that keeps on giving.

        • Sarah said:

          My siblings and I did ridiculous hats until our family switched gift-giving methodologies (we now pick names from a hat instead of buying gifts for everybody). We all cracked up and it was a great time – the search for truly absurd hats was one of my greatest holiday joys.

      • vanadiumoxide said:

        An acquaintance of mine has a gift-wrapping contest with his brother every Christmas. They each construct an elaborate themed scene with the wrapping, requiring photos from multiple angles to present to facebook (for facebook friends to vote for the winner). I’ve no idea what the gifts themselves are, but there’s no way they can top the presentation.

        • Sarah said:

          My ex’s family and another family did a white elephant exchange every year and had been passing around the same gift for 20+ years in increasingly complex and deceptive wrapping. I always loved seeing how it was wrapped, and the “gift” itself was hilarious (a framed cross stitch of vultures that said, “The family that preys together stays together”).

      • thathat said:

        One of my favorite gags a friend did (for another friend) was to give her a gift card…in a huge box. She taped it to the top and put a potato in it for weight. She was very confused when she saw the potato and thought that was the gift.

        My best friend once had no wrapping paper so he just wrapped my gift in layers and layers of grocery bags.

        • Drew said:

          I once realized the day of a birthday party that I had no wrapping paper AND I couldn’t find my tape. So I wrapped the present in an old Sunday funnies section and used a sheet of 5.25″ floppy write-protect tabs to hold it together. Barely – the glue on those had mostly given up by then (this was in the mid-1990s).

          It says something about me and my nerdy friends that this was widely considered the best gift-wrapping job of the party.

          • MuddieMae said:

            When my spouse and I were first dating, he was flat broke but did have various forms of tape, being in the trades. So the first Christmas present I got was in a box wrapped by being absolutely covered in blue painters tape and with a “ribbon” made of electrical tape.

      • Lapis Lazuli said:

        One year, I gave my friend trading cards (TCHamer is AMAZING for singles). I got her something she loved, and that one fucking card that featured a character she dispises (Kyosuke from Madoka Magica). The former was an actual gift, the latter was a gag gift.

        And yes, she ripped up and torched Kyosuke. It was HILARIOUS!

        (Ps: Kyosuke was also super weak and I had like… dozen of him because super common too)

    • Lapis Lazuli said:

      Also, we don’t give each other sex toys. At all.
      1) Gag gifts are often given when oyr friend has friends and FAMILY (including kids) over
      2) Gross
      3) Fucking gross
      4) Did I mention gross?

    • My Dad once glued two bricks together, the kind with a shallow dip in them, after placing a gift card in the shallow dip bit. The bricks were wrapped in layers of packaging, and packed in a very large box 😛

      The year that Dad complained far too many times about not being able to find any of his socks, the entire family independently got him many pairs of identical black socks, and wrapped them all separately. There was a sock-shower’s worth of small packages under the tree that year 😛

    • jude314159 said:

      2 years ago, we started doing lists for christmas in my family. last year, one of the items on my list was socks. I’d asked for a thick, cosy pair and “many” normal (ie not so thick) pairs

      reader, I got 41 pairs of socks. 35 of them were from my brother. it was wonderful/terrible. I sat on the floor, feigning curiosity, delicately peeling back tape and exclaiming “socks!” with increasing enthusiasm & giggles with package after package. then I de-packaged and lined them up like the autistic stereotype I am.

      it was on the borderline of real/gag gifts (I mean, I *did* want socks), but this year my list will NOT involve the word “many”

      • vanadiumoxide said:

        This story has brought me delight; thank you 🙂

  27. the neighborhood autist said:

    I’m seeing a lot of comments saying “this guy is a jerk/creep, don’t spend time with him anymore,” but it isn’t always that simple. LW, only you know the ins and outs of this relationship. It’s like the captain said at the end: Sometimes you have to drop someone from your social circle. Other times you might decide it’s worth it to just heavily redraw boundaries.

    I have a dudefriend, and the stuff he’s said and done could fill about 8 advice column letters. Highlights include grabbing my arm to try and keep me from leaving, asking me if I was sure I’m not. asexual because of my medication (because he keeps wanting to have sex idk how straight guys even function), and saying that I need to “pull it together” every time my jerkbrain is acting up. In spite of how bad this looks on paper, he’s still a good friend. I keep iron-clad boundaries , and never bring up certain topics, but we have a great time together. Now if I were neurotypical with a wide social circle, the calculus would be different. It all depends on your circumstances and what you are and are not willing to put up with.

    But for what it’s worth, LW, you are a busy woman and it sounds like there are others in your life who might deserve your time more than this guy. Only you have enough information to decide.

    At the very least don’t take any more gifts from him.

    • Liz said:

      This is such a level-headed and realistic take on situations like this. I see people telling others to dump the friend already and I am thinking that everyone must have a shitload of friends and can be super-picky. I know I have done and said some shit things so I just can’t believe that anyone who has ever evidenced any problematic behavior must be shunned for eternity.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Maybe this guy is a creep or maybe he thought it would be funny as it technically fit her list of requirements for a birthday present (and frankly the idea of sending out a list of shit for people to buy you gives me a case of the vapors). Her friends seemed to find it funny and she wasn’t offended that it was a dildo so I can’t really find his gift super-problematic. It sounds like it may have been a passive-aggressive way to object to receiving a list of presents for an adult birthday.

      • Sheelzebub said:

        That sounds like it was an email of suggestions she sent out to her friends who said they didn’t know what to get her.

      • k8899 said:

        Unsolicited sexual objects from someone you have no sexual relationship with an no wish for one are always unacceptable. Which is what this is. The fact this social group works differently to yours doesn’t mean that she has to put up with being harassed.

    • CC said:

      Agreed! Only OP knows the nuances of their relationship, and it seems like she is more upset about the usefulness of the gift than the content of it, so I think it’d behoove everyone to take her at her word.

    • LW said:

      Thank you for your very nuanced reply. I met him at a time when I didn’t have many friends, but since then I’ve put a lot of effort into meeting new people and there are many I would like to get to know better. I don’t think he’s a bad person (I had to shorten my letter a lot so that it doesn’t get too long, so only the bad stuff made it in, but we’ve had some good times too), and I don’t think he’s a creep or Nice Guy TM, but maybe we’re not as compatible as I thought we were.
      It feels cold to say this but in the end, it all comes down to time. I work full-time and have a time consuming hobby. I have to be very selective about which relationships I maintain or pursue. I think he might not be making the cut, but I still need some time to process my feelings around that.

      Anyway sorry for babbling ^^ I’m glad it works out for you and your friend though! 🙂

  28. azurelunatic said:

    Recently my daughter was asking me if this or that social misstep on the part of one of her social group was “enough” to justify her cutting ties. Sometimes the fact you have to ask the question is the answer. I told her that it didn’t work quite that way. An ex-friend doesn’t have to have committed a social crime for the friendship to be over.

    Though for the record, I think the unwelcome gift of a sex toy, and allowing the hamster to run around and poop on the food preparation surface, are both sufficient to tip the balance over into African Violet territory.

    • TO_On said:

      Yeah, I am wondering if the LW is asking if these things are ‘objectively bad enough’ that she can stop hanging around with this guy.

      Friendship is voluntary, LW. If you don’t feel like hanging around someone as much as you used to, that’s literally all the justification you need. They can be the loveliest most considerate person on the planet, and if you don’t feel like spending time with them, you don’t need to!

  29. Amy said:

    This shit is why I’m gay.

    Ok, ok, of course that’s a joke. But so many guys (especially guys in their 20s? hopefully this eventually gets better?) seem to struggle so hard with basic how-to-be-decent-to-the-people-you-like behavior.

    People who care about you should get you gifts that you’ll like. People who care about you should apologize when you let them know that they’ve hurt you. People who care about you shouldn’t be pushing all the burden of making plans onto your shoulders. People who care about you shouldn’t be leaving you with all the cleanup when you spend time together. People who care about you absolutely shouldn’t be trolling you for the lols.

    Those are pretty basic, fundamental what-not-to-do’s. At this point in my life–at every point in my life, really, but I’ve gotten better at standing my ground on that over the course of my 20s–I don’t have time for people who haven’t figured them out. I’m not going to prioritize someone who isn’t both able and willing to prioritize me in return; I’ll try to get to know you if you seem cool, but if you’re not reciprocating after a couple hangouts or if you’re a jerk to me, I’m going to assume you’re not all that interested in being friends after all.

    Funnily enough, I don’t have very many close friends who are straight cis men. Somehow I doubt that’s a coincidence.

    • Jane said:

      I mean OP is ace and made no mention of being interested in men romantically either and that didn’t seem to help…

      • doommachine said:

        I think you misunderstand Amy’s post. They’re saying that cishet guys often pull this kind of shit because they haven’t had to undertake the same amounts of emotional labor that any other gender or sexuality have. And it’s kind of a thing that non cishet people group together and rarely have a cishet male friend because of this.

  30. EllenS said:

    I think the question is less “am I going to end a friendship over a dildo?” And more, “do I want to keep cultivating a friendship with someone who is thoughtless, rude, not emotionally invested, and offends me by doing things that are, at best, tone-deaf and unfunny?”

    As another commenter put it, there is no Relationship Tribunal. There’s also no requirement for an Official Notice or even an African Violet. You don’t have to dramatically cut ties or refuse to communicate with him.

    You could simply have other (better) things to do than be the cruise director for the SS Gross Pseudofriend.

  31. Anon, Goodnight said:

    There is a lot of creepy/uncool stuff in this guy’s behavior that others have touched on, but the one that jumps out at me is the doubling down / “Oh c’mon it was a JOKE” response followed by trying to make himself into the aggrieved party when the LW spoke to him. That is not what friends do when they are told that they hurt and or disappointed a friend. That is manipulative bullshit bordering on gaslighting. Not a good trait in a friend.

    But LW, let me ask you this: would you want to continue the friendship if you knew he would always be like this? (h/t Sheelzebub)

    • Lapis Lazuli said:

      Not to mention he DITCHED her prior to giving her the gift.

      It is one thing to prank your biddy and go, “Ha ha,” when the prank has happened…

      But this is like cloggin their toilet and leaving before the massive flood happens, leaving trbe poor victim to litterally clean their shit and possibly pay expensive water and plumbing repairs… and then having the gall to never pay them for shitting their toilet big time.

  32. ChocolateForBreakfast said:

    I was struck by the part where he previously asked her to not open a gift until he left, but it was an innocuous gift. Is it just me? It feels to me like there was some serious long term planning behind this. Which, if so, triples the creep factor.

    • B. said:

      Not just you *shudders*

  33. zipzap said:

    LW – Your “friend” sounds like kind of a jerk. WHO gives a dildo to a friend as a gift unless that friend has specifically indicated they want one from you? (And I’ve never heard of anyone indicating this but I’m sure it happens.) Toss the dildo out and put a little distance between yourself and this guy while you decide if it’s worth hanging onto your friendship with him. Sound like you’re doing most of the work to keep the friendship going and that’s got to get old after a while.

  34. Zebra said:

    I am honestly really put off by the focus on all the ways various respondents are complaining that the letter writer Does Gifts Wrong, and the really fucked up victim blaming implicit within these responses. And with that, all the efforts to justify his actions (this is a reasonable response to being given guidance on gift buying) AND taking his excuses at face value (yes, it was definitely all a joke and that is not a face saving game of plausible deniability by someone who is engaging in sexually aggressive and harassing behavior).

    It’s not what I expect of this community, and I am finding myself deeply distressed by it. Why is this being permitted?

    • JenniferP said:

      I’m not okay with it, either, but it’s coming in faster than I can knock each comment back. Presumably, the Letter Writer’s friends are cool with a “hey, if you’re looking for a good present, I’m trying to deck out my balcony” communication. I bet the Letter Writer gives LOVELY, thoughtful, wonderful gifts tailored to what her friends would most like. People don’t have to bring gifts at all, or do gift-giving the same way, and I do think it’s not a good idea to ask to exchange a bad gift for money, but the LW was just living her life, throwing herself a birthday party, and someone she thought was a friend gave her a “troll gift.”

      (Because he’s a troll).

      • Zebra said:

        I’m glad to know that this isn’t approved. It’s really upsetting to see the victim dragged so hard and so much effort put into justifying his actions. Thank you for trying to hold the line.

        • CC said:

          I mean, she clearly is more upset about the usefulness of the gift than the content of it, so is it right to go around calling people victims for something they don’t feel victimized by? Can we not take OP at her word here, that she’s not mad about the content of the gift? Does it benefit anyone to steamroll over her feelings and just tell her she was a victim and was sexually harrassed, if it doesn’t seem like that was *necessarily* how she experienced it?

          I’ve been a victim of both sexual harrassment and straight up assault so for me it’s pretty frustrating to see others go to town on this like they were there and can unequivocally label it as harrassment/assault, rather than letting OP speak for themselves on it, and trusting them to judge the situation appropriately for themselves.

          • Sheelzebub said:

            Sure, let’s ALSO take her word on her email to her friends to be accurate then. Because I’m seeing people burst into flames of rage over her ‘demands’ ‘exacting list’ and orders for people to buy her gifts and telling them ‘what they can and cannot buy’ and how it’s weird to buy gifts for an adult on their birthday. And that her friend probably just reacted to that. When in reality, according to the LW’s own words, she sent that email around to friends who wanted guidance on what to get her.

            I mean if you’re going to exhort us to take the LW’s words as true, how about we extend that to the folks who are taking something she said and blowing it up into some sort of bridezilla on steroids boogeywoman?

            Also–people here are acting like because she laughed along with her friends in the moment and was uncomfortable later, she was full of it. And I am also (as a survivor of assault and harassment) going to push back on the idea that because she wasn’t offended by the fact it was a dildo, it wasn’t a sexualized or harassing gesture on his part. Look at that–I’m calling his actions how I see them and not telling you what she’s feeling. It’s pretty frustrating for ME to see everyone devote so much bandwidth to how terrible she is and bury the fact that her ‘friend’ gave her an inappropriate and gross gag gift.

            That’s what people here are reacting to. That she’s being dragged for not behaving in ways that commenters approve of and that the inappropriateness of the gift and the cruelty behind it was buried. The LW realized she didn’t like the dildo in retrospect. She gave reasons why and I haven’t said those reasons aren’t valid. But I am seeing people I used to respect bury this under outrage over the LW’s behavior, which, if you actually read the fucking letter, was fine. Might not be someone’s MO around birthdays but it wasn’t anything to get outraged about.

          • I think it’s appropriate for people to point out when something could be seen as sexual harassment, given that there’s a LOT of social pressure to not acknowledge this stuff when it happens. I’ve been sexually assaulted too and I was CONVINCED it was a misunderstanding, and didn’t fully understand that it was sexual assault until years later when I was dating again after a long-term exclusive relationship, and trying to figure out how I could have communicated better and finally realized oh wait, there was nothing wrong with my communication. Part of that process was lurking on online situations where someone else was talking about being assaulted, and didn’t call it assault, and other people did. People get to name their own experiences…and also, there can be a lot of pressure preventing people from naming what happened to them accurately, and it can be worth shining a light on that pressure.

            I think whether the friend could have reasonably anticipated that LW might have been bothered by the dildo is very important, and that’s not dependent on whether LW WAS bothered by it.

            And regardless…what point exactly are you trying to make? That dildo gag gifts are OK? That LW shouldn’t be upset about the gift? That she should stop giving her friends gift-buying suggestions? What?

        • Inahc said:

          Yeah, I’m glad I’m not reading all the comments right now. Quite a few comments I *have* read suggest there’s a lot I’m better off not reading.

  35. Mercutia said:

    Dude sounds like a bona-fide Nice Guy (TM). I’m willing to bet he perceives her asexuality as his being unfairly put in the “friend zone” despite the fact that it’s a legit orientation. I’m also fairly sure all the niceness up to this point was him making his case (including leaving messes for her to clean up because why not? She *should* clean up after him, the man she doesn’t know she loves yet!) and he was too chickenshit to be direct so he wrapped all that up (literally) into a “joke.” What an ass.

  36. Jers said:

    So this guy knows you are asexual and you don’t have that kind of relationship but he bought you a dildo. Either he’s really clueless and made a mistake or he’s being a creep. I’m leaning toward creep bc he elected to run away before you got it. That stands out as some type of test. Like he likes you romantically but was worried about facing rejection. This is uncool either way. I’d talk to him. Tell him your feelings. If he looks mortified and apologizes and corrects course, then maybe it’s salvageable. If he doubles down and tries to play it off even when you insist this is a big deal, you have learned that he will not listen or course correct. And you can decide what to do accordingly. I’m sorry that really was tacky. And I have this boggling feeling that he’s after you for sexy times.

    • What? No. She’s already TOLD him she’s upset about the gift. He knows that. He’s already declined to own up to what he did wrong. If he’s did it on purpose to bother her, telling him her feelings is going to make it WORSE, not better. This is past “talk through your feelings.”

  37. onamission5 said:

    Consider the gender dynamic here of male friend who consistently leaves his messes behind for female LW to clean up. Kind of like he did with the “troll gift” dildo. What a mess he made! It’s yours now, LW, because he left it behind for you to discover after he was gone, he literally left his garbage in your house for you to deal with. Again.

  38. Shan said:

    I think “do I want to be friends with this person?” can be answered without deciding that person is bad or dangerous or a total creep. It doesn’t matter if he committed an egregious faux pas by gifting the dildo or it was just a case of different gifting styles and expectations – gift aside, it doesn’t sound like he’s providing LW with the friendship she wants.

    • Clarry said:

      Yes. Thanks. I’m imagining a letter where Friend did everything right. Friend respected boundaries, cleaned up when at LW’s house, did his part of the emotional labor, gave appropriate gifts or no gift as requested, really was a gem in every way. And let’s say LW wanted to end the friendship for vague reasons, just something made her uncomfortable. And let’s say the whole commentariate here thought he was right and she was wrong. It’s STILL LW’s right to exit the friendship if she doesn’t want to be in it any more. She still gets to stop contacting him, stop inviting him over, and just generally back out. She can have the it’s-not-you-it’s-me conversation or not. There’s no need to come to general conclusion about purple dildos (though I’m certainly glad for the discussion) or anything else. No score card. No deciding who’s the villain or who deserves more sympathy. It’s just over.

  39. Mima said:

    Bad gift, not funny (I also got a dildo once and just put it away, I mean – yawn). But I have a child who will point at wrapped gifts and say ‘I want it to be X’, to which I have said that they can wish for things and hope to get them, but the giver decides. And some givers are just crap, but that’s how it is.

  40. Feminist BI-tch said:

    LW, as someone who stopped trying to salvage a friendship of many years just this week, I agree heartily with the Captain’s advice. You don’t have to rush this. You KNOW he’s not spending 1/100th of the energy you’re putting in to make things right because if he did you wouldn’t have this type of problem in the first place. You also know that you’re in no hurry, except if you feel “nopetynope, cannot see his face one more second” (which is a complete answer and a complete reason to drop him forever). I’ve been trying with my own (non dildo giving, but nevertheless painfully clueless) friend for years, and the answer went from “but he’s such a close friend, how COULD HE do this to me, I have to explain why that was hurtful until he gets it (spoiler alert: he pretends he did but he never truly Got It)” to “I guess I can forget ever talking to him about intimate or serious stuff, since all he does is making me sad and angry” to “welp, HE keeps bringing up the ONE SUBJECT I begged him to drop, so I guess we cannot hang casually, either. Have a good life.”
    I know in my friend’s case privilege and entitlement played a part (the subject he had to drop was about a minority I belong to but he doesn’t), in your case it definitely seems that way too, but the beauty of this approach is that IT DOESN’T MATTER. Free yourself from the constant pain which is trying to understand the how and why he does what he does and says what he says and treat all this stuff as useful info for the future. Maybe he’s not invited to the big present giving party, and you’ll see him alone another day. Maybe you hang out at his place half the time so he has to clean up too. Maybe you see him less often because this is too much work. In any case, I know you’re going to be perfectly, 100%, dildo-free fine.

  41. PterosaurParty said:

    There are only four situations where it is appropriate to buy someone else a sex toy:

    1. You are in a romantic/sexual relationship and have asked “How would you feel about me buying you sex toys” and the other person has expressed enthusiastic consent;

    2. You have a close nonsexual / nonromantic friendship which includes conversations about sex, and your friend has mentioned that they would really like [type of sex toy] but that they can’t afford it, and you’ve said “Would you feel comfortable with me buying it for you?” and they’ve said “that would be completely fine with me”;

    3. Someone is a sex worker / cam show host and has an online wishlist for patrons to buy them gifts from which includes sex toys.

    4. You are the carer or support worker for a Disabled/chronically ill person and they have specifically asked you to buy [type of sex toy] on their behalf, just as they might ask you to buy groceries on their behalf.

    • Smellanie17 said:

      I think this list is a liiiiiittle bit restrictive. I’ve definitely seen dildos given as a gag/joke gift between close/nonsexual/nonromantic friends where the joke lands as it’s supposed to. Usually in a bachelorette-party situation where phallic humor / pushing those kinds of boundaries is somewhat expected. With that in mind, though, there was still a sense of like, “Great Aunt Matilda won’t be there” or some other indicator of knowing the audience.

      The thing that separates that from OP’s situation is that it was not the kind scenario where a dildo was in any way expected, and the dude didn’t even stick around to see her reaction. To me, that is the whole point of giving someone a dildo as a joke gift… to be around for the punchline. Not giving it in front of others and not staying while she opened it suggests other motives to me.

      So maybe what I mean is there’s a 5th one to add to your list: A party/gift-giving situation where there is some knowledge or implied consent around receiving sexually-oriented items. But it doesn’t sound like OP’s party fits into any of those categories!

    • Zebra said:

      This.

      Though other situations that involve the appropriate introduction of the topic, an offer/request that is contextualized by a relationship that includes space for that offer/request, AND explicit consent may exist.

  42. Lily said:

    You could put some needles into it, put it into a pot and gift it back to him. As a cactus. For his balcony.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      I love this!

      Or put googly eyes, a top hat, and a bow tie on it, and send it back to him on his birthday (instead of an African violet).

    • LW said:

      Omg why didn’t I think of this!!! :0
      I have already given it away though, someone is now using it as table decoration (it had one of these suction thingies at the bottom and you can make it wiggle, apparently. It has found a loving home. I have video footage.)

    • Spektrioe said:

      Then again it might backfire if the guy falls more on the side of a clueless prankster and actually likes it and takes that to mean that they are on the same page about gifts.

  43. Anybody who unironically describes themselves as a “troll” gets serious side-eye from me. Trolling is literally making mean-spirited jokes to purposely upset someone and then getting annoyed when that person is like “hey, that’s not cool actually”.

    I also deeply relate to the noticing that you’re doing all the emotional labour of initiating and organising hangouts. As the good captain suggested, I have found great freedom in simply stopping doing that and seeing what happens. Almost every time it’s resulted in me never hearing from that person again, which is sad but also very telling. I don’t believe in putting huge amounts of emotional labour into a friendship (or any kind of relationship) where that effort is not being reciprocated. Your needs and time have value too!

    • TO_On said:

      It’s a weird description, yeah. Not ‘it was so silly I thought it might make you laugh’ but rather ‘I’m trolling you’, i.e., I bought this to annoy you on purpose because I thought it would annoy you?

      • Exactly! The sheer mental gymnastics of “You can’t be annoyed with me because I was TRYING to annoy you! Checkmate!” is astounding. Like, of course people are going to be upset when you do upsetting things? At best this person has some maturing to do before they can behave decently enough to be a good friend.

    • Kaos said:

      I don’t do other peoples’ emotional labor anymore.

      For example Husband is having a (way justified) Very Bad Day today. Fortunately most times he doesn’t stay in a bad mood for long but today is not one of those times.

      I let him complain for a while, made sootjing noises, etc. and then said “what is/are (a) concrete thing(s) I can do to help you process/feel better?” He said “…I dont knowwww…” pfffttt.

      I went to Statbucks.

    • CC said:

      Yeah, “trolling” as a concept especially in 2018 is so dumb, and really only works if you know the person will genuinely find it funny.

  44. Monica said:

    Trying/wanting to pursue a closer or more emotional relationship with someone than they’re interested in isn’t “emotional labour.”

    If he never checks to see how you’re doing, never arranges meetings, and actively avoids personal conversation, it sounds like he’s just not as into you as you want him to be.

  45. aspen said:

    I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush, but I had a similar dynamic with a male friend and I concluded that in my case, a lot of the problem was gendered dynamics and possibly this perspective will help, LW. I had a partner and was totally unavailable as a girlfriend. Our friendship started much like LW’s first paragraph describes.

    Female cleans up dishes? Female does social planning? Female would prefer more respect and conversation while male jokes around (and it’s not even funny)? Female wonders if she has to teach manners, if she is over-reacting, if she has to put in all the emotional labor? These were all present and are common enough in male/female relationships.

    But then I also noticed these, specific to a male/female friendship: Male friend pushes boundaries with unavailable woman friend in a weird, sexual-ish, random way once in awhile? Male does things that seem surprisingly insulting and self-aggrandizing once in awhile, thinking more about himself than what female would want, even if she has clearly stated her wishes? At least with my friend, I thought these were 1. more guy-to-guy ways of relating (jokes, insults, status competition) and 2. some weird thing about hanging out so much with a woman he could not woo.

    As much as we liked each other, I think his ideas of masculinity and my ideas of friendship did not mesh.

    • LW said:

      Though I’m glad to know I’m not the only one with this problem, it’s also really sad that this happened to you as well 😦 I honestly don’t want to be an “uuuugh MEN” feminist (make no mistake, I am a feminist in general), but why do men make it so hard to like them?
      So sorry about your friendship, and thank you for sharing.

  46. Maddie said:

    FANTASTIC idea! Combine this with amberexbi’s script and attach a decorative little card that reads, “Go Fuck Yourself!” in lovely metallic ink calligraphy, and I think we have a brilliant solution here!

    • Maddie said:

      This was supposed to be a reply to Lily, above. Oops!

  47. ccrow said:

    Ok, I agree the gift was weird/creepy… but LW made a list and sent it to her friends? “Here’s a list of the things you can give me for my birthday”?? Seriously?

    • In my social circle, most people have a lot of anxiety about potentially giving bad gifts, but also many of us enjoy giving people gifts. So we ask what kind of thing people want, and get something like the described list. This solves the problem. Nobody has to give gifts this way, but I don’t understand why so many people are acting like it’s bizarre and terrible to do this, to the point of ignoring what the letter is actually about.

      • Idon'trecallmyname said:

        Exactly this!

      • michelle said:

        100% cosigned.

        Especially since it sounds like the list included stuff like “I’d like stuff for my balcony” and “my favorite color is purple.” That’s establishing a set of parameters, not providing a list of specific items.

      • Ev said:

        Right? This is completely normal and accepted within my family/social circle and I’m honestly really confused that so many people seem deeply offended by the concept. It’s not a list of demands or anything – it’s suggested things that I might like, given to people who request said suggestions.

    • like an angry apple tree said:

      I would not do this either, though People And Social Groups Are Different and it may be totally typical for LW’s crew. I’d climb the walls if someone tried to wash dishes in my house, but it’s so common as to be assumed for LW.

      It does make me wonder whether there’s a good Amazon wishlist alternative for folks who don’t want to use Amazon. I used to depend on wishlists with family who didn’t actually give a flying pig’s tail about my life or what I wanted, but insisted on buying gifts anyway. Wishlists were perfect for that. I’m guessing that not using them is a function of not being down with the infamous behemoth, which leads me to wonder about alternatives.

      Down the rabbit hole I go!

      • LW said:

        Just jumping in to comment on the dishwashing part:
        My friends (and I, before I got a dishwasher) are constantly plagued by the Dish Mountain of Doom. And idk who started it, but when we visit each other and have the energy to do it, we wash each other’s Dish Mountain (for some reason it’s easier than your own dish mountain???? Brains, man).
        Honestly the nicest thing you can do for your friend, I really really recommend it to every friend group. Wash their dishes. Take out their trash. You’ll feel good about yourself and they’ll love you. One time my best friend stayed overnight and when I woke up and went into the kitchen, she was there washing the dishes. Almost proposed on the spot haha

    • Elsajeni said:

      I’m surprised at how surprised people are at this — like, this is the whole idea of having, say, an Amazon wishlist. Lots of my friends, especially those who have a lot of online or long-distance friends, have a link to their wishlist somewhere public in their online presence, or point it out to people around Christmas or birthdays. And it sounds like the LW’s list was even less specific than that, if “stuff for my balcony” was on it. Giving guidance about gifts is not part of everyone’s gift culture, obviously! But “giftee provides wishlist” is a pretty common gifting culture, and not a weird thing unique to the LW.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      OK serioiusly, I LOVE that. It’s stressful as hell for me to figure out what to get someone.

      I’m not part of a crew that buys birthday gifts (and I won’t do it TBH as I don’t have the money or the time) but for any gift giving occasion I appreciate knowing what the person actually wants. If I was into giving gifts on birthdays and my friends were, I would ask them what they wanted. And if I got “Eh, I don’t know, whatever” I’d tear my hair out. I am not a psychic.

      I love gift registries and wishlists. I know I’m getting you want you want. Perfect! I will not second guess that.

      • Sarah said:

        My family keeps Pinterest boards for holiday/birthday gift giving. I cannot stress enough how much I love it – I want to give gifts that the recipient enjoys, not that they tolerate. (It’s also why I include gift receipts and make sure people know I will never, ever be upset if they use them to return it for something they actually like! It’s far more important that the people in my life have something they enjoy than that they have something that I picked out for them.) Having some accepted form of listing things the people in my life want is an A+ move for me and I appreciate everyone in my life that feels comfortable doing it.

        • Sheelzebub said:

          That’s a great idea!

    • onamission5 said:

      More, “Here’s a general theme (stuff for my balcony) if you want to engage in gifting.”

      It wasn’t an itemized list, not that there’s anything wrong with itemized lists, if that’s a cultural or subcultural norm.

      No different than invites which state “no gifts please but here are some charities you can donate to in my name if you want” or “we have more than enough fancy napkins, thanks, but the birthday person is really into watercolors right now so gifts in that vein would be awesome.” Certainly better than just guessing at what someone might like and then expecting them to feign joy over things they find disappointing.

      Once upon a time I was the only person at a kid’s 4th birthday party who didn’t get her a Barbie. She’d asked for *a* Barbie, a specific one, that her (previously anti-Barbie) mother told everyone she was going to buy as a special treat, but the rest of the attendees bought her different Barbies anyway. First one was exciting, second one was like “but it’s not my Barbie” third was “yay, the Barbie I asked for” fourth was “ok, but its also a Barbie?” and by the sixth Barbie she was in tears. What a relief for her when she discovered a package that was not Barbie shaped and contained coloring materials!

      People are allowed to want things. Specifically, women and girls are allowed to want things. We’re also allowed to state our preferences and feel *and express* disappointment when ignored.

  48. Hi I'm New Here said:

    The phrase “troll gift” really puts me off. Maybe he is confusing it with gag gift, but to me a gag gift is meant to be funny while a troll gift aims to upset, shock or needle the recipient. A gag gift can accidentally miss the mark, but the intention can still be good. Not troll gifts. I would pull back in a big way from someone who admitted they were trolling me because in my eyes they will deliberately hurt me.

    • TO_On said:

      Yeah, troll gift means ‘I got this to annoy you on purpose because that’s funny’…

  49. Cheryl said:

    Did he mean for you to open his gift alone? It sounds a bit like he meant for you to open the gift after everyone left. I think ‘men are stupid’ and I mean this in an endearing way. I think the guy likes you and that he would be interested in a sexual friendship. This is a dumb way to tell you that. I would try not to end the friendship over this. People make dumb mistakes . Maybe see how your heart feels after some time has passed. On its face, I would feel the same as you . Your gut will know once you aren’t reacting anymore. I so often have to come back to ‘men are stupid’
    I’m order to remain a soft place to land. If just ‘done’ on all levels, just organically disconnect while it is not too difficult . Sorry you went through this.

    • TO_On said:

      Men generally aren’t actually stupid, in my experience. 99% of men I know would never dream of giving a female friend a dildo as a gift, and the other 1% are assholes.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      Yes, and NOPE to the nopeth degree.

      Yes: I think it’s pretty obvious he’s interested in a sexual relationship with LW. Sex toy gift to be opened only after he left? Yeah, that’s trying to establish “it was only a joke” plausible deniability.

      NOPE: Even if he didn’t *know* LW is asexual – he does – giving any female friend a dildo as a way to express sexual interest is not “dumb” –
      it’s gross and creepy. This is not a mistake. It’s a strategic attempt to force his sexuality onto her.
      Assuming for sake of argument, it really is merely “dumb” then this guy is too “dumb” to be in a relationship.

      “Men are stupid” because they are allowed to get away with crap like this. “Men are stupid” is “boys will be boys” – institutionalized sexism that excuses shitty behavior as unavoidable hijinks. It’s rape culture.
      Every person who dismisses shitty behavior as “men are stupid” or “boys will be boys” is contributing to the perpetuation of rape culture.

    • Vicki said:

      “Men are stupid” “in an endearing way” sounds like another way to say “male people shouldn’t be expected to learn how to be decent adults.”

      This isn’t a mismatch like “I’m looking for sympathy and a chance to vent a bit, not for you to jump straight to trying to solve my problems for me.”

      It seems likely the guy would be interested in a sexual relationship with LW. It’s much less clear that he likes her as a human being. He knows she’s asexual, and has pulled this troll maneuver rather than having the courage to say (or email) something like “I’d like a sexual relationship with you. Are you interested?” rather than embarrass her in front of her friends. It’s not just about the LW being asexual: I’m allosexual, and that kind of maneuver might make me think Troll wanted a sexual relationship with me, but it would also make me like him rather less, and I don’t have sex with people I dislike.

    • onamission5 said:

      Less “men are stupid” and more “men habitually bank on ‘men are stupid’ as a way to deliberately cross social boundaries or impose on women without being called out for doing so.”

      • Kaos said:

        Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!!!

        • cheryl brash said:

          I didn’t mean it as a ‘pass’ for the guy. He definitely needs to be educated. He is 25. I just wouldn’t necessarily end a friendship over it without more.

          • Mmmm…ehhh….ok depends on the friendship. Although, I’m not sure I can think of any situation I know of where 1. a guy wants a sexual relationship with a female friend and 2. has crossed a boundary to indicate that, and not apologized about it when it’s clear it was unwelcome and 3. a happy long-term friendship ensues and totally doesn’t implode due to the guy’s unsatisfied pantsfeelings. Can you?

          • neverjaunty said:

            1) 25 is a grown-ass man.
            2) One important way people learn not to be assholes is, there are social consequences for being an asshole! Like friends choosing not to hang with them, instead of playing the role of Patient Grownup and coddling them along until they decide to act their age.

    • Kaos said:

      Nope. He is not stupid, he is an asshole who intended to make her uncomfortable, embarrass her, and push her boundaries He’s put in his time and is now “owed” his sex from the female sex vending machine. Sure she says she is asexual but he knows better so “hey here’s a giant purple, plastic dick to prove you wrong.”

  50. Smellanie17 said:

    Captain I really appreciate your advice to “give yourself permission not to work on this.” I have a holiday-related family drama playing out in my life right now where I’m having to redraw some boundaries and then I’m told that my boundaries are wrong or inappropriate because of increasingly ridiculous reasons. I want so badly to think of just the right words to magically get my boundaries across, and your advice today reminded me I can give myself permission to stop working on this for now. I’ve redrawn the boundary, said all I can say in a language my family member speaks fluently, and…that’s all I need to do. I don’t need to make him agree with me or even respect that boundary. I don’t need to reply to every email to clarify what he’s deliberately misunderstanding. I can set this down like the bag of bricks it is!

    OP, I’m all for following your gut on this one. Personally, I think a person who wasn’t trying to violate your boundaries would not be “offended” that you didn’t like the gift. A healthy reaction to being told you didn’t like a gift is “OMG I’m so sorry! I thought it would be funny, but this joke didn’t land well. Let me return it and get you something you’ll like!”

    • Sarah said:

      A healthy reaction to being told you didn’t like a gift is “OMG I’m so sorry! I thought it would be funny, but this joke didn’t land well. Let me return it and get you something you’ll like!”

      Heck, I feel like LW would even take “I am so sorry, it clearly didn’t land well and I won’t do something like that again!” With or without a replacement gift, it’s the acknowledgement that the gift was Wrong for a whole host of reasons and that the friend now understands that and respects it that the LW needs and that the friend has failed to give.

      • Smellanie17 said:

        Absolutely! I didn’t mean the replacement gift piece as much as the “I am so sorry! I meant this to be funny but it clearly wasn’t for you” piece. If you tell someone “Ouch you stepped on my foot” they should jerk their knee up and say “Are you ok? I’m so sorry” and not “No I didn’t.”

        • Sarah said:

          Oh gosh, I’m sorry – I didn’t mean it to sound like I was correcting you! More that I was kind of building on it, like yes, a replacement would be nice, but the acknowledgement is the key (and missing!) piece here.

          • Smellanie17 said:

            Oh not at all! You totally didn’t come off like you were correcting me! I read what I said and then what you said and realized that interpretation exists. So I was just clarifying and kind of building off what YOU said!

            BTW, ya see this OP? This is what it looks like when fairly-healthy people think they’ve crossed a line, whether they meant to or not. See how Sarah responded with an obvious show of good faith? She thought she stepped on my foot so she wanted to make it right, not convince me that I got it all wrong, or turning it around where now I have to make HER feel better–which is more along the lines of what I think OP’s friend is doing.

  51. Kaos said:

    “…were we really such good friends in the first place, or was I just lonely?”

    I’d put my money on “lonely” TBH.

    Disclaimer: I haven’t read any other comments yet, or even the Captain’s response, this is just my initial reaction that I wanted to get down before I have to jet out of the house for a while, so caveat emptor and all that…

    I’m sorry OP but this guy makes my shoulders go up around my ears. Bad enough he didn’t get you something you could use —knowing that about you, but then this “friend” gave you, an **asexual person a sexualized gift. That’s not funny IMO. It’s aggressive, suggestive but with plausible deniability, unfunny, offensive, and generally in just poor taste to give to someone in front of everyone else while he leaves the scene in order to not face any kind of reaction(s).

    Add to that never doing a load of dishes, leaving take out trash, not talking about your stuffs/feelings, etc. this guy is not a friend in any real sense. He is just some guy you’ve spent/wasted time on for a while. There are way better people out there to spend your precious time with.

    **To one asexual person from the POV of another asexual person…FWIW. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  52. Sheelzebub said:

    If you’re in a friend group where giving birthday gifts is the norm, I think it’s a good and wise thing to let people know what you want. It saves them time and stress.

    A purple dildo is a gross gift. The ONLY way that would have worked is if it was an in-joke with the LW, her friend, and other friends. Even then, it’s iffy.

    The friend did not act like a friend when the LW said she didn’t like the gift. You cannot be surprised that someone is uncomfortable with a gift like that, and making it about his feelings was a shitty thing to do.

    Honestly, women are so socialized to doubt our own feelings and to go along to get along that I’m not surprised she’s saying “It’s not so much about the dildo. . .” Heaven forbid we are not good sports!

    LW, it’s okay to just let inertia take care of this.

    • JenniferP said:

      Listen, I was raised that if your great aunt gave you a literal turd for Christmas, you were to say “thank you!” and act like you loved it until you got home. And someone I was sexually involved with once upon a time gave me a sex toy as a holiday present and I FUCKING RECOILED. I wrapped it back up in the paper as fast as I could, said “Oh no, this is not for me” or some version of that – I’m sure I was babbling – and left it at his house. It’s not a normal, routine, gift with no baggage, even as a joke. I didn’t ask for another gift in its place, but it did affect how I saw him and that relationship, for sure. This dude is over the line.

      • Sheelzebub said:

        YES. Jesus, I. . .Surprise Dildo is maybe a decent band name but a TERRIBLE FUCKING GIFT.

      • Kaos said:

        Yes. That’s the thing, if your aunt does give you a literal turd you thank her and act like it’s a wonderful gift. That’s just standard operating procedure for default social behavior…someone gives you a present, you thank them and act like you like it. A sex gift however is way, way, way out of line —even from an intimate partner unless it’s your “couple thing” to do stuff like that.

        I keep trying to find a word to describe the behavior of the OP’s friend but it’s just kind of sitting there in the back of my brain and not making it to the front. It’s not violent exactly, not really abusive, definitely aggressive, but more. Any better word suggestions are welcome. Regardless of any descriptors, the whole thing is making me feel pretty fluffy on OP’s behalf, and not in a good type way. Fluffy like when you piss off a swan and it’s feathers all stand up making it look bigger, fluffy like pissing off the cat and all its hair standing on end while it snarls at you…that “fluffy.”

        • Thanksforallthefish said:

          I kinda love that imagery “fluffy and not in a good way” Fluffed with rage

          • Kaos said:

            LOL right? Honestly IDK how I cane to use it as a “thing” but I’ve come to like it better than something like “salty” so I thtow it out whenever I get an opportunity.

        • Anon, Goodnight said:

          The guy used his supposed friend’s birthday as an opportunity to be a trolling edgelord. “Asshole” just doesn’t quite cut it, and the words springing to mind for me are a little too close to internet diagnosis land.

    • Beth said:

      I am monumentally tired of being expected to lie about my feelings when I get horrible gifts. I’ve done my best, as an adult, to avoid ever being given gifts, because I have long since burned out on processing the negative messages that come with gifts that scream “I don’t give a f*ck who you are or what you like” or “You don’t matter” or “You aren’t worth any effort or thought.”

      Telling people what you want does not prevent these messages. Writing literal lists does not prevent it. Spending hours carefully choosing gifts for other people does not prevent it. The only thing that prevents it is curating the hell out of the very small group of people from whom I will accept presents.

    • Kaos said:

      The whole thing was about him right from the moment he decided to buy a purple dildo and give it to her, in front of other people at her birthday party.

      He intended her discomfort but didn’t have enough courage to stick around just in case it landed badly (duh?) and OP and/or her friends were inclined to call him out in the moment.

      It was all about him except for him getting any negative response. I’d bet all the money I will never have that he counted on her polite lady manners to never say anything negative to him at all. Personally I think OP should DTMFA.

  53. Sarah said:

    LW, I have a thing about gifts, too – for me it’s less about usefulness than about hating gifts that feel impersonal. If you get the same candle + “I got this on sale at Kohls’ Black Friday event” necklace and earring set for literally all your friends for birthdays/gift-giving holidays, it really irks me. I feel like it’s impersonal and I’d rather you just not get me anything. (Gross as the show is, these kinds of gifts make me feel a bit like Sheldon Cooper every time he talks about gifts creating an obligation – like, great, you’ve given me something I literally don’t care at all about and now I have to get you something or be seen as a jerk, but I put a lot of thought into gifts so it creates massive amounts of stress and I haaaaaate it.)

    I believe you that this kind of gift really upsets you, not because of the sexual nature of it (though that is all kinds of gross) and more because it doesn’t fit your idea of what a good gift is and you feel like your friend is being selfish by taking his feelings about the gift and making them more important than yours – and he is! It’s selfish to give a troll gift to somebody who won’t appreciate it because the thought of it makes you laugh. If that bugs you enough to end the friendship over, that’s totally okay. But I also think that when you put a lot of emotional energy into thinking about What Gifts Mean, a gift that falls flat can be easily taken as “This person doesn’t really care about me or what would make me happy at all” instead of “This person just got it wrong this time.” My friends that give generic gifts give them because it makes them happy to get something for everybody and they love having tons of gifts under the tree/at their party so they do the same for everybody like a kind of Golden Rule gift giving. It makes me happy to receive gifts that are really personalized to me and my taste and I’d rather not receive something than get something generic, so that’s what I do for people. Maybe it would make your friend happy to receive a troll gift where a person came up with something truly unexpected that they feel meets all the stated requirements. It’s very easy in a friendship (especially a comfortable one) to think that you and your friends are alike so OF COURSE they would want the same things we want.

    You’re not obligated to do any emotional work you don’t want to, but if I were in your shoes I might give it one try if this wasn’t a part of the discussion you already had around this gift. “Hey, Friend, I wanted to let you know this really fell flat for me for x reasons. Being given gifts that you know I won’t use honestly really hurts – because of x and y reasons, being given a gift you know I won’t use is much harder for me than it probably is for most people. I laughed at first, but I’d honestly so much rather not get a gift than have something you know I won’t use.” Personally, I’ve opted not to have this conversation with my friends, and I just smile, say thank you, and put it in the “to be donated” pile, but that’s based on my friendship calculus. Your emotional math may be different and you get to decide what that equation looks like.

    I wish you all the best with this, and I’m with the Captain – you can just Not Deal With This for a while and I hope you take some time and let yourself figure out what is most important to you.

  54. Audrey said:

    With the right friendship, this could have been hilarious.
    Imagine he was there, you opened the gift, everyone laughed at the card and the gift including you, then he says (because he’s THERE wtf?) “Ok ok LW now we’ve all calmed down here’s your real present.” Then the joke of the night becomes who’s going to take home the dildo.

    But instead you opened a weird gift in front of everyone with uncomfortable laughter because he wasn’t there. I’m sorry it went down like that LW, and I think it’s about the friendship not the dildo.

    • This. +1 to all of this.

  55. Indie said:

    *starts to read letter* ‘You can make male platonic friends on OKCupid nowadays who won’t end up creeping on you? Wow!’
    *Finishes reading letter* ‘OK, so they are still being lying liars about that platonic thing!’

    Unless you have some kind of a (mutual!) running joke going on purple cocks…giving a dildo is not funny, it’s a boundary test.

    LW, you know him better than I do, but is it possible he *knows* you are assexual and yet has just completely (and arrogantly) dismissed it?

    It’s hard to believe, I know. Yet….there are a LOT of guys out there who believe they understand your sexuality better than you do. Who don’t see women as friendship material, who believe they, as men, are the ones who ‘lead’ (pressure, neg, engage your senses with the magic, ahem, wand) women to sexual awakening. Always the straight kind.

    Does he behave like a friend who cares about you? And who knows what you find funny? Or who responds to YOUR dissapointment? Or more like someone who is tiring of putting in effort with the sexual vending machine he bought online; which is not paying out in the style of a romantic comedy?

    The question is either; a) Has his platonic mask slipped over time? Or b) has it just taken YOU some time to realise you don’t like this guy’s immature, selfish humour or casual slapdash/non existent approach to thoughtfulness?

    If it is the former, you’re not alone….

    • Kaos said:

      Exactly allll of this. He’s a liar. He is testing her boundaries. He knows she is asexual but doesn’t (want to) believe it and figures he can “joke” her out of it so he can get some of that sweet sweet lovin’. After all he’s put int he time right? Time to get his “due.”

  56. Koala dreams said:

    You can end a friendship over anything or nothing, nobody has the right to your friendship. As for the specific situation with this guy, to end the friendship over a sex toy gift is very justified. That’s not just a generic bad gift, that’s an inappropriate gift if there ever was one! You can also end the friendship over all the minor things that make him not a good fit as a friend for you. I have friendships with people that work much the same as your friendships when it comes to dishes, trash, gift giving and so on, so these expectations feel very familiar and realistic to me. If you spend less time on this guy, you will have more time to find friends who share your idea of friendship.

  57. Sheelzebub said:

    LW, I want to reiterate that I think giving guidance to your friends about what they can get you for a gift-giving occasion is helpful! I wish more people did that instead of expecting me to be psychic. (Though I don’t tend to give or accept gifts from non family members these days, for Reasons.)

    Also, your ‘friend’s’ gift was gross and creepy and it’s very normal to laugh along to get through it, second guess yourself, and be uncomfortable in hindsight with such a gift. And yes, you can end the friendship. Captain gives some great advice to you, I’d take it for sure.

    Please know that it’s okay to not like this gift or want to be friends with him. And please disregard some of the blamey and gross comments in this thread. They are 100% out of line.

    • LW said:

      That’s so kind of you, thank you 🙂 I haven’t read all the comments, but I guess every friend group has different rules so I can understand how to some it might seem superficial. In our friend group though it’s totally common, in fact most of my friends just went up to me and asked me what I wanted and I gave them a smaller list to choose from. Less stress for everybody 🙂 I guess this also made me upset all the more, that my male friend wouldn’t even bother to ask.

      • It does sound like, apart from the dildo thing, you’re pretty mismatched. Like, your sense of being a good friend involves doing your friend’s dishes and planning fun events and picking out great gifts (that are maybe exactly what your friend asked you to get them), and his sense is…what? Showing up to eat takeout and not even throwing out the wrappers? Not everyone is a do each other’s dishes type friend, but if YOU are there’s a lot of sense in selecting for other people who are that kind of friend. Those people will value your friendship, you’ll value theirs, you’ll do each others dishes a lot and take care of each other during health crises and whatnot, it’ll be good. It’s OK to kick people who don’t do that kind of friendship back to acquaintance status.

      • Indie said:

        I have started making Pintrest pages so people know what to get me. That’s an awesome tip I got from the Captain herself.

        Maybe you could pin a link to ‘why gag gifts are lame’…..

  58. BigDogLittleCat said:

    LW, I would cut this guy out of my life, including blocking him on all social media. Be “socially friendly” if you meet him at parties or on the street, but he’s not your friend.

    My take is, he wants to have sex with you, but he knows you’re not interested, so he gave you a dildo because in a dark corner of his tiny brain a surprise purple dildo will make you realize you want him, and in an even darker corner, it will embarrass and hurt you because how dare you not welcome his penis.
    Hiding behind the “it’s only a joke” shows he’s a coward as well as a creep.

    I don’t think he’s safe for you. Not that I think he’s physically dangerous, but that “gift” is so aggressively obnoxious that I would expect him to be constantly testing your boundaries and trying to erode your sense of self until he can get in your pants. He’s already got you doubting whether or not you’re allowed to decide who your friends are.

  59. Thanksforallthefish said:

    True sorta related story: I made it clear to my high school boyfriend that I wasn’t going to have potentially procreative sex with him (or anyone) until I was at least 18/graduated from hs. For Christmas I bought him a movie poster of his favorite movie and a box-set of dvds of his favorite movie series…things I thought he would be able to enjoy with or without me. He bought me $86 of black lacy lingerie from Victoria’s Secret (ask me how I know the cost) with a message something along the lines of…these would look great on you and better on the floor. I was flummoxed. It was obviously an attempt to gift-bomb past my boundaries I had explicitly stated. I never wore them for him.

    Differences: we were actually dating and sexually involved
    Similarities: It was still totally not cool of him to do that. It was really uncool of your “friend” to joke-gift a thing you would not find funny or appealing or useful in any way.

    • Marthooh said:

      Another similarity: the gift was obviously for his enjoyment, not yours.

    • My first boyfriend (when I was 20, at least) responded to me telling him I didn’t want PIV sex by deciding that I really did and just didn’t want to say so, and that it was easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission, and now I don’t have sex with guys I’m not willing to have PIV sex with any more, at least not for more than the first couple dates, because I don’t trust them. (He pulled out when I yelled at him. But still.) What I’m saying is, FUCK (metaphorically) guys who don’t respect women’s sexual boundaries. And FUCK (metaphorically) all the commenters on this site who are acting like the “friend” ignoring LW’s sexual boundaries isn’t a big deal because she said her being upset wasn’t about it being a sex toy. Regardless of what’s going on with HER, what’s going on with HIM is the exact same thing as your high school boyfriend and my when-I-was-20 boyfriend. Some differences in degree.

    • neverjaunty said:

      Loving “gift-bomb”. It is such an accurate observation.

  60. Clarry said:

    Being in an impish mood, I googled on “non-sexual uses for dildo” and found actual pages devoted to alternate uses for sex toys. I’m sure our Captain will thank me for not retyping the ideas here, but if the image of a dildo book end gives you a giggle, have a look at unexpected uses for sex toys and funniest non-sexual use for sex toys. Some (certainly not all) are pretty funny, and it solves the problem of what to do with an unwanted purple dildo gift. What’s the saying? Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth? Don’t do that with purple dildos either.

  61. PintsizeBro said:

    LW, as I read your letter, every line practically screamed to me “this person is looking for reasons to be upset.”

    That’s usually interpreted to mean that the upset person doesn’t have a good reason and is inventing a problem where none exists. But that’s not the case. It happens when the person is upset, but doesn’t think they have a good enough reason (or the people around them won’t accept their reason), so they’re grasping for justifications. You’re trying to come up with a detailed, logical reason of why what this dude did wasn’t okay. And in the process, you’ve realized there are a bunch of other little things he does that get under your skin. Maybe each thing taken individually wouldn’t be so bad, but in aggregate it grinds you down.

    The Captain’s advice is good. Give yourself permission to not care about this dude and his drama for a while.

    • Smellanie17 said:

      Ohhhh this is good. And to build off what you’re saying, I think you’re saying OP is looking for other reasons to not-like this friend because she doesn’t think the dildo is enough… but I also think it could work the other way too. Sometimes the tiny reasons build and build and then one big purple dildo comes along and just fucks the whole thing up (pun intended). I’m not sure which is going on here, but let me echo what I think PintsizeBro is saying: The dildo is big enough (pun intended) to end the friendship over. It doesn’t need a bunch of other tiny dildos (aka not washing the dishes/otherwise being inconsiderate) around it to make it enough.

      • BigDogLittleCat said:

        I thinking the same thing.

        LW says “It’s not about the dildo,” as if the dildo isn’t enough, as if that would be petty.
        Awkward Army says: “It’s allowed to be about the dildo. It’s allowed to be about anything you want it to be about, including it can be about nothing. You are not obligated to keep him in your life if you don’t want to.”

    • LW said:

      Thank you, really needed to hear this^^ (no sarcasm) I was really surprised by my own feelings, how suddenly some things he did annoyed me when they didn’t before, causing me to doubt myself.
      @Smellanie love the puns 😀

  62. AndTheRest said:

    Thanks to Thanksforallthefish for the description of gift-bombing past boundaries. It doesn’t have to be sexual either; my mother is constantly gift-bombing people. Sometimes with tangible items, sometimes with different “surprises” like “Surprise, I reorganized your kitchen while you were on traveling for work! I know I was only supposed to care for the pets and plants, but….”

    For some people — too many people — gift giving is a means of trying control a situation or person, advance an agenda, cross boundaries, test the recipient to confirm/deny the giver’s suspicions, draw attention and praise to the giver (often the case when people insist the gift must be opened in front of them and any others present), and basically use it as a manipulation tool. The gift-giving is all about what the giver wants, not the recipient. And because etiquette conventionally demands polite expressions of gratitude and nothing more, gift-bombing so very often lets the giver get away with boundary crossing behavior.

    Ugh, sorry for the essay. But back to LW’s situation… yeah, I agree that this was a gift-bomb meant for purposes entirely beyond simply giving the LW a gag gift. I suspect that this dude actually wanted to wait to give it to the LW after all her other friends had left, and probably had a whole fantasy concocted about how that night was going to go. That’s pure speculation, but if I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen that situation, I would be very, very wealthy.

    Anyway, LW, Captain’s advice is probably the best way to go. Put less work into this friendship for now. And keep in mind that his motives for the friendship so far may have not been the same as yours. Good luck!

  63. Nina said:

    LW, you have every right to not like this gift, or the joke. Ending a friendship over it seemed to be a little extreme to me, but after reading your letter to the end I got the sense that this episode actually made you think about other things that had happened that you might consider red flags but that you had ignored. Maybe even things you haven’t mentioned in this letter. I personally think it’s ok to downgrade friends, or even cut them out. Ultimately I think it’s all your choice on how you want to proceed, and if you think that his flaws are worth keeping him around. Good luck!

  64. songofstorms said:

    The multiple comments claiming that LW is being gauche by sending out gift ideas make me wonder if the friend felt the same way and his “troll gift” with its explanation of how it fits her list was a passive-aggressive jab at that. Which would be a serious jerk move. It’s also hard for me to ignore that he gave a sex toy to someone he knows is asexual – it feels like it could easily be a gross commentary on her asexuality.

    Basically, it’s really hard for me to read this “gift” as something that wasn’t a deliberate jab at the LW – a joke at her expense instead of a joke that she would appreciate. And I think that even “just” this gift alone would be a good enough reason to not want to deal with this dude anymore.

  65. LW said:

    LW here. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question!! I guess what I really needed was “permission”, as you’ve suggested, to not think about it so much anymore.
    It’s been almost 3 months since my birthday and we haven’t had much contact except for a meeting we both cancelled for time reasons (and because this time, I refused to do any planning and he decided everything last minute haha…). I told him to contact me when he has time again and we haven’t spoken since then, which is honestly fine by me because I still haven’t decided whether to let this go or have a conversation. I’ll do as you suggested and wait till 2019 🙂
    Again thank you so much, and I wish you and Mr. Awkward all the best!

  66. Scarlet said:

    “What would happen if you stopped putting effort into interactions with this person for a good while?”

    I really like this suggestion. Getting away from gifts/nature-of-gifts and all that, LW, from the rest of your letter it sounds like as things have been, you’ve been putting in a bit more of the effort. It’s always possible you each have different interpretations of the nature of the friendship, and hey, perhaps you rated it closer than he does, and that is a thing that happens for sure.

    You note that you’re usually the one who reaches out, so you could just, not do that for a period of time, and see how you feel about it. Does your life go along just fine without hanging out with this person? And if he makes contact to try to arrange something social, well, you can check in with your feelings there – does it feel like “oh cool, that’s something I look forward to” or “ugh, exhausting thinking about hanging out with this guy right now” – and decide if you’re available, or not.

    This can be easier to say than do, of course – I don’t *miss* people when life takes us out of each other’s orbit, so haven’t been bothered by things like friendships drifting to a natural end, or year-plus breaks in the middle of good relationships that pick up again once we’re back in the same country or whatever, and perhaps it’s harder for you to “lose” a person, but still, it sounds like you’re at least a little over this one right now and there’s nothing wrong with taking a break to see if you even *want* to pick it back up again, or if it feels more like a relief to let it slide.

  67. coffeepenguin said:

    As an asexual person, this entire thread is just incredibly upsetting to me. Yes, asexuality comes in all kinds of different shapes. Yes, some aces have sex. Yes, some aces masturbate. But having a friend who very clearly KNOWS that you are asexual give you and INCREDIBLY sexual gift (and it not being some kind of in-joke that he KNOWS FOR SURE you would be okay with)—I’m sorry, but there’s NO WAY this is NOT, at least on some level, related to your asexuality. And (presumably) non-ace people deciding that it isn’t? That’s, uhhhhh, how do I put it—not y’alls call???

    Another incredibly upsetting thing is how so many people here decide to hold LW up to THEIR subjective gift-giving standards, and when LW doesn’t meet them, turn that around on her to try and justify this extremely inappropriate, gross and hurtful thing that happened to her. Sorry to break it to you all, but NOTHING LW did justifies the behaviour of her so-called “friend”.

    Also, since when has it become UNACCEPTABLE to tell your friends what you would like as a birthday gift? NOWHERE in her letter did LW say she DEMANDED or EXPECTED gifts. She wrote about giving some IDEAS to people who wanted to get her something but didn’t know what exactly. Because she’d presumably rather not have them spend money on something she won’t like and has no use for. Instead people are seemingly getting angry at the mere existence of birthday gifts and about not having the right to give someone a shitty useless gift because someone might have told them they liked books? Scented candles? “Stuff for my balcony?” “How dare someone let me know what they might enjoy getting, now I will get them something I know they will not like ON PURPOSE?” What is going ON here? What is this whole thing about “I can’t believe an ADULT would want gifts in the first place”??? LW mentioned they exchanged Christmas gifts. Gift giving on special occasions seems to be an established concept in their friend group, even if it isn’t in yours. What is the damn issue here?

    And to everyone who’s saying they would be so outraged about a mere list of gift ideas being sent to them? To everyone who tries to drag LW because she’d like for someone to at least OFFER helping with the dishes once in a while (just for the record, that is absolutely a GIVEN where I come from. Don’t even try and smear LW for that.)? Or literally just ask how she’s DOING? Congratulations! You are most likely not part of LW’s friend group! Nor mine! And never will be! And that is FINE. What’s not fine is giving LW A LITERAL DILDO SHE DID NOT ASK FOR.

    And as for the “I would prefer him to take it back and just give me the money”, I honestly just see it as LW’s practical suggestion? He ALREADY got her something she didn’t like/want, so I just read it as, “Hey, if you still like to give me something and avoid another possible disaster, you could just gift me the money if you like.” In any case: STILL DOESN’T EXCUSE THE DILDO.

    I’m just honestly very upset on LW’s behalf, both because of that terrible “gift” and the terrible discussion that ensued. LW, you have every right to be hurt or offended or insulted or simply CREEPED OUT by him and to reevaluate your friendship. Bottom line is: you are right—he did NOT think about what you wanted. He did not take the VERY gracious chance to apologize. You have every right to not want to call him a friend any more. I’d personally give it time and see if he does anything to rectify the situation, and if he doesn’t, well, it seems like you have a lovely existing friend group to turn to already.

    Hugs from me if you want them ❤

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