Not Cheap

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I was recently invited to a 70th birthday party with for someone who
I’ve known casually from synagogue, volunteer work, local politics,
and mutual social. The invitation said “No cards, no gifts” so I wrote a
lovely card and was happy to attend a brunch at supper that turned
out to be more like a dinner. There were piles of political bumper
stickers and window signs to support various causes, which I took to
honor our mutual values. I saw many people I knew, and each one
came in bearing a gift. I was somewhat confused because I felt like I
had followed the rules. This is a community of like-minded souls but I
was surprised that I felt as badly as I did. Should I apologize
retroactively or just let it go?

Not Cheap

Dear Not Cheap:

When a host tells you what to do about gifts, I take them at their
word. There’s a big range in desires: some people make a list of
charities to contribute to while others request gifts from the registry
where they have identified what they want down to the brand, size,
and color. It’s completely at the discretion of the celebratee/host to
ask guests, and of the guest to do what they want and feel is right. I,
for example, loathe giving gift cards, while others think it is the perfect

In this case you should send an email and basically say, I saw a lot of
folks come in with gifts, which I understood was not what you wanted.
I felt badly, because I value our friendship, which has evolved from so
many different strands in our lives. Please let me know which of the
following places you would love me to make a donation to in your
name. Then include a list of organizations that you feel reflect your
mutual values, focusing on the ones that support the signs she had
provided for guests.