Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Be Grateful for More Than Just Gifts

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am teaching my children how to write and send thank-you cards for gifts they receive on occasions such as birthdays. One question came up that I did not know how to answer, so I wanted to ask you.

When a kid attends my son's birthday party but does not bring a gift, should my son send a card to thank that kid for coming to his party? What is the etiquette for that? -- Mom, Silver Spring, Md.

DEAR MOM: The kindest, most inclusive thing you can do is to write a thank-you note to each child who attended the party. Those who came bearing gifts should be thanked for their specific gifts. If a guest's gift was his or her presence, write a note that thanks him or her for being there and sharing the special time.

While etiquette does not require that you write that extra thank-you note, I recommend it, because it is being offered in the true spirit of gratitude. The gift of a person's company is more precious than a thing, even if the object given is expensive.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My roommate and I get along pretty well, but sometimes when he's stressed or in a bad mood, he takes it out on me. Recently, because my textbook for a class we share never came, I asked to borrow his textbook for a couple of hours. I didn't even take it out of the room, but he made it sound like he was making such a huge sacrifice by letting me borrow it.

How can I deal with his annoying moments? -- Frustrated Student, Memphis, Tenn.

DEAR FRUSTRATED STUDENT: You are understandably sensitive about needing your textbook and not having it. That your roommate has the same book and that you asked to borrow it briefly makes logical sense. Where logic stops, in my estimation, is with your feeling that he is annoying because he is not as eager to let you borrow the book as you would like him to be.

People can be protective of their valuables. For a student, a textbook is at the top of the valuables list. Rather than assume that your roommate is being rude, mean or stressed out, consider that he may simply be reluctant to let anyone borrow his book, including you.

Rather than reacting negatively to him, be completely forthcoming. Acknowledge that you realize you are asking a lot to request borrowing his book. Tell him the status of your book, including when you expect to receive it. Suggest using his book when he is working on other assignments. If he remains highly irritated, go to the library and see if you can use a copy there until yours arrives.

Do your best not to get a chip on your shoulder about this. Your roommate may be temperamental. If so, you will need to figure out how to deal with him during those times. Work on setting boundaries that take both of your personalities into consideration.