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A relative gives me the same gift every year but I don’t use it. How do I stop it?

While I appreciate the thought and love the tradition, I’ve recently wondered if I could share my concern with her.

I have a family member whom I think really highly of, but we’re not as close as I’d like to be. Since I was born, she has given me the same gift every year for my birthday (a pearl to theoretically create a pearl necklace one day). While I appreciate the thought and love the tradition, I have never and will never be a person who wears a pearl necklace. I’ve recently wondered if I could talk with her to share my concern and give her another option that is more aligned with me and maybe something we both like. How would you recommend I broach the conversation?

Anonymous / Boston


Start with the getting-to-know you part! I can’t imagine anything nicer than finding out a younger family member admires you and would like a closer relationship. You’ll make her day, possibly her year. Take her out for coffee or a meal, and tell her that you’d like to establish a relationship on a more mutual footing, getting to know her as a person and not just Aunt or Cousin So-and-So. If she’s not local, message her those sentiments and start communicating more frequently.

As you get closer, you’ll get more of a sense of how to talk about the pearls. She may be a terribly practical and straightforward person who wouldn’t mind at all if you sold them for something you’d like better—or not. (I feel like there is a “pearls of wisdom” joke to be made at some point, but it isn’t coming to me and perhaps that is for the best.) You have two separate issues, which are how to stop her from giving more of them, and what to do with the ones you’ve already got. You’ll want to come up with some ideas on this latter question before talking to her—don’t necessarily lead with those ideas, but have them ready for the conversation. Is there something you truly, truly want that they could be sold for? Could you make some other form of jewelry/art out of your current stock? I suppose “broach the conversation” wasn’t a Freudian slip, but still, there are some very cool modern pearl necklace designs that aren’t the classic strand and use fewer pearls.


In these days of heightened awareness of global warming, I am continually amazed at the number of people I see in parked cars idling their engines. It really bothers me, and it is in fact illegal in some states. I hesitate to confront strangers in general, but feel this might be an issue that demands more from us all. Any advice on how to approach this?

S.N. / Merrimac

If you’re somewhere where it’s illegal, you can call the police. Otherwise, you’re better off working for the environmental cause in other ways and not confronting people, which can be unsafe and is usually ineffective. Would you stop engaging in a convenient habit if you were scolded by a stranger?

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.