How to Deal With Expensive Gifts From Your Friends

Welcome to Friendzone, Jezebel's column devoted to dealing with the valuable people in your life who you're not humping. Got an issue and looking for guidance? Email friendzone@jezebel.com

My friend always buys me really expensive presents (like $200 or even more) for birthdays and holidays. I know this doesn’t sound like a problem, but for me it is – she makes literally three times as much as I do, and I feel my presents just don’t measure up. We’ve known each other since childhood, but we don’t really talk about feelings or anything serious – it’s all light stuff. If we were closer, I might understand why she gets me such lavish gifts, but we’re really not BFF. Should I say something, or would that just make it awkward?

I have some well-to-do friends who bought me a pricey Gucci coin purse. It looks like a ladybug and fits in the palm of my hand. I know they can afford it, and it makes them feel good to spend their money on people they love. You know what I got them? Chocolate. I mean, it was FANCY chocolate, but it wasn’t Gucci-level chocolate. And they seemed to absolutely delight in it, because I chose their favorite kind.

This girl is in a different income bracket and leads a different lifestyle than you and I do. (She probably went to law school, didn’t she?! I went to “itinerant writer-comedian-wanderer” school, aka Emerson College and then Warren Wilson College and then Columbia for grad school and now I'm a professional finger-painter, the end.) In her affluent world, a $200 present may be absolutely normal. Moreover, she may be the type who really likes to spoil her buddies. To her, it’s no big thing. It’s just how she shows affection. And I’d bet you anything that she doesn’t expect the same extravagance from you in return.

Choose her gifts with loving care. Don’t worry about the price tag.

I have a close friend, Anita, with whom I graduated from university. We co-wrote a thesis together and spent practically every waking minute with each other. We called each other "wife" and silly stuff like that. I'm currently unemployed, and about a month ago Anita got a new and better job in another city. I was so happy for her. Then our mutual friend Clara told me that Anita had recommended Clara for Anita's soon-to-be-former job. Clara already has a job and here I am without one. I haven't really talked to Anita since I found out. At first I was mad and now I am just sad because I don’t get it. Maybe she thinks I am too stupid to do the job, even though I feel I'm fully qualified. Am I making too big a deal of this?

I want to give Anita the benefit of the doubt. I really do. There are so many factors that may have been involved in her decision to recommend Clara for her position. But I don't know what they are, and you won't know what they are unless you ask.

I think you need to speak to Anita face to face and say, "Listen, I was so happy when I learned about your new job. I honestly felt hurt – not jealous, but hurt – when you recommended Clara for your old gig, and not me. Can you tell me why you didn't think of me as a candidate for the job?" Go from there. Listen calmly and be careful not to attack her or jump on her words. Let her explain. Be open to the possibility that her decision may have been purely professional and not at all personal.

I have developed a very close friendship with someone over the course of the past year. I really care for her, and our friendship means a lot to me. However, in the past 6 months, she has been bringing a lot of negativity to the table, and it’s starting to affect me badly. Every single time we talk, she complains about someone or something, and she gets really emotional about it. I have a lot going on in my head and sometimes the weight of dealing with her problems on top of mine feels crushing. I feel very selfish and like a bad friend for even having these thoughts, but it is seriously getting me down, and I don’t know how to handle it.

When I was a younger lass, I went on a shit-talking spree for about a month. Every time my BFF Alexandra hung out with me, I mocked somebody, complained about a friend, or just bitched about life in general. Finally, she called me out on it.

“Sara,” Alex said, “I want to talk to you about something. I love you. You are a good person. But you have been really negative lately. It seems like you are always saying something nasty, and it brings me down. I know that’s not the real you. It’s ugly and it doesn’t reflect well on who you are. What is REALLY going on underneath it all?”

I was taken aback, and so impressed. I couldn’t believe someone cared about me enough to notice my behavior, much less realize I was suffering under the surface. I felt like a loser – not smart enough, not pretty enough, not talented enough – so I was spitting garbage about other folks to make myself feel better.

Now I can’t guarantee that your friend is going through the same thing. It may be that after a six-month friendship honeymoon, she is revealing her true Negative Nancy colors. But you might try repeating Alexandra’s speech in order to find out what’s really happening with this girl. And if things don’t get better, I want you to protect your headspace and spend less time with this lady.