Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

His Gag Gifts Aren’t Funny

DEAR NATALIE: My brother-in-law loves to give "gag" gifts for birthdays. He thinks it's funny to buy us whoopee cushions and inappropriately shaped pasta noodles. My sister just ignores her husband, but I told her that I'm not buying him gifts anymore because I'm sick of spending time and money to put into thoughtful birthday and holiday gifts for him while I get a $5 joke for a present. This offended her, and she said that he is just trying to be funny. Well, it's annoying and rude. Plus I have all these gifts (this has been going on for YEARS) that are just collecting dust in a corner of my closet that I will never use and am too embarrassed to give away. 

His birthday is coming up next month, and I am tempted to not give him anything. What do you think I should do? He's a nice enough guy, but I'm really annoyed with him and my sister's attitude. -- GAG ME

DEAR GAG ME: I say give him a taste of his own medicine. You have all those "gifts" he gave you in a pile. Why not wrap them back up (or stick them in a big gift bag) and see how "funny" he thinks it is. Sounds a little vindictive, I know, but sometimes people need a taste of what it feels like to be on the receiving end of something that they dish out. 

I would still get him a small "real" gift, such as a gift card, as an olive branch for later if he becomes upset, but maybe if he sees firsthand how ridiculous he has been, he will get the picture and back off the gag gifts in the future. Or, he may think it is the funniest thing ever, in which case, there's no helping you. (Or him, for that matter!) 

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)