Welcome to The 12 Days of Thatz Not Okay, a special holiday edition of a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Check back tomorrow for our next seasonal installment. As always, please send your questions (max: 200 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "Thatz Not Okay."
My sister suggested that we go in on a Christmas gift for my dad. I am perfectly fine with splitting the cost, as what we decided on is fairly expensive. However, after deciding this she mentioned in passing that she was planning on adding her husband to the "from" line on the gift tag. She still expects me to pay for half, because she sees it as two households giving the gift so it should be split evenly (I am single). I say that I should only be paying for a third of the gift, noting that there are three working adults taking credit for it. I don't want to be perceived as cheap, but I don't think its fair that I should pay for half. Is that okay?
Thatz not okay.
Do you really think it's worse to be perceived as cheap than to be perceived as petty and hostile? At least cheap people have principles. A cheap person would ask to split the cost with the aim of saving money. You want to split it just to be unpleasant.
I would guess that your father would probably recognize the inclusion of your brother-in-law's name on his gift tag for what it is: a perfunctory gesture performed out of politeness by his socially well-adjusted adult daughters.
What exactly is your concern here? That your father will look at the gift tag, look up, look down, look up, look down, and finally, in a near sob, croak out, "I...love you all equally now"? Do you think your dad is going to turn your old room into a timeshare? ("The gift tag paper trail indicates that Doug paid for one-third of the gift, which means he gets to have the room for one-third of the year.") Will you really have a better Christmas if you and your sister ALONE surprise your father with the Ski-Doo of his dreams? ("Oh, and Doug got you a cell phone holster, Dad.")
Your dad does not have a finite quantity of gratitude to be divided up exactly equally among everyone who gives him a gift. Your sister and brother-in-law, however, likely do have a finite amount of patience for your childish tantrums.
Have you thought about how this obsession with accurate attribution will derail the Christmases of your future children? Won't they wonder why Santa Claus brings presents to their classmates, whereas all their gifts from "Mommy—AND MOMMY ONLY!" Will you leave the price tags on so they can watch the price of your love for them rise and fall from year to year?
Even if you "win," this argument, you will have only have saved yourself about 16.7 percent of the cost of the gift (most people would accept "17 percent," but since we've established that precise accounting is important to you, we won't round it off). And you will have bought your sister and brother-in-law an excuse to dismiss you as a crazy person forever.
As it happens, if you really are concerned about your brother-in-law stealing some of your gift-giving shine, forcing him to operate as a free agent is a risky move. The appearance of his name on a gift card with you and your sister will probably be largely ignored. If he has to supply his own gift, you run the risk that he will come up with something even more thoughtful and impressive which, given the personality type suggested by your letter, would probably eat you alive. Plus, your dad will be touched that this man—this man who, unlike his children, was under no particular obligation to get him a gift—went out of his way to choose something special on his own. Wow. What a meaningful present. What a great Doug.
However, if the Toys From Tots injustice threatens to ruin your Christmas (after all, the Magi famously considered saying "This frankincense and stuff is from all of us!" before Balthazar was like, "Honestly, fuck that. Being a shepherd is a job. We are all working adults. We all have jobs. If those guys didn't get their act together enough to bring a present—sorry they're rude, but—not my problem"), you can always go to your father in secret and say "FYI, Dad, through no fault of your own, thanks to a deeply effective disinformation campaign, you may have been led to believe that Doug paid for one-third of your Christmas gift. Just so you know, I paid entirely for one half of that gift."
If the idea of that doesn't appeal to you—if you would be embarrassed to bring up this quibble face-to-face, or if you realize that maybe the worst Christmas gift you could give your father is the knowledge that he raised a child with such a myopic and materialistic view of "FAIR DUES" and "NO PARTIAL CREDIT FOR DOUG"—that's a sign that you should let the issue drop.
Of course, none of this matters anyway, because there's no way in hell your father will look at the gift tag.