Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Gift of Books Should Come From the Heart

DEAR HARRIETTE: A friend of mine said she wanted to receive books on her birthday. I am an avid reader, so I gifted her three of my favorite books. Later, she told me that these books were incredibly up my alley, but she didn’t particularly enjoy them. Is there any etiquette rule that you are supposed to gift books based on the recipient’s tastes instead of your favorites? I wanted us to bond over these books, yet I realize I maybe should have given her books that she would have liked. -- Bookworm, Detroit

DEAR BOOKWORM: The going wisdom for any gift that you offer to another person is that you think about that person’s interests and give a gift accordingly. While it could have been right if your favorites had matched your friend’s, it sounds like you didn’t consider that when you chose them for her. This is something that many people get wrong when they are buying gifts for loved ones. You must step outside of yourself and focus your attention on the other person. What does she or he like to do? Hobbies? Interests? Creative pursuits? Take the time to reflect on that person before you buy or make anything.

Another good idea is to get a gift receipt for any purchase. This way, if your recipient does not like the item, it can easily be returned or exchanged without engaging you.

DEAR HARRIETTE: Whenever my husband and I are entertaining, "Jill" and her husband "Jeff" come over. Jeff makes me very uncomfortable because he likes to reference me being in the kitchen as where I should be. If I leave the kitchen, he jokes that my sink will miss me. These jokes are sexist, and Jill does nothing to stop them. I have been friends with Jill for only a few months, so I don’t feel comfortable confronting her about her husband’s behavior. Should I just ask my husband to speak to him man-to-man? I don’t know how else to resolve Jeff’s blatant sexism. -- Kitchen Has the Knives, Jackson, Mississippi

DEAR KITCHEN HAS THE KNIVES: Given the history of this behavior, my top recommendation is to sever ties with them. Talk to your husband and agree that Jill and Jeff are no longer welcome in your home. Clearly, Jeff is consistently disrespectful and thinks nothing of it.

If, for some reason, you are not ready to take back your invitation, you should speak up -- with your husband’s support. The next time Jeff speaks out of turn, defend yourself. Tell him you do not appreciate his rude commentary. Ask him to stop. Be sure your husband is in the room when you respond so that you have a witness and a support. He likely will have to ask Jeff to stop, too.

Honestly, is their friendship worth this confrontation? If not, just stop inviting them over to your house.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)