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First World Problems: Gift Registries, for the Practical and Impolite

Article Icon - First World ProblemsFirst World Problems is a weekly advice column for India’s first world population. Write to Judy (confidentially!) at if you’ve broken a nail, felt a little blue, yellow or green lately,
or had a strange encounter of the any-numbered kind.


PROBLEM: Dear Judy, I recently received a wedding invitation that includes a gift registry. I’ve noticed this becoming more common — some months ago, I went to a baby shower and the woman put a gift registry on her invitation. I find it rude to be told what gift to give. What do you think?

Fair point, but as a former bride, I have to say that you can only use so many toasters. And cuckoo clocks. And don’t even get me started on the cups and saucers — in psychedelic shades. Also, just so we’re clear: You’re telling me that you’d rather throw your money on something completely useless than get them something they want or need simply because they asked for it, and … you want to know if they are being rude?

But your question is interesting. Mostly because it stems from this messed-up notion that being straightforward about what you want out of something or someone is somehow impolite. And, since I’m not a huge fan of anything but straight talk, you have just become the symbol of everything I loathe about polite society. So, forgive me while I let you have it: You know what I think, Betty? (I’m going to call you Betty because you remind me of Don Draper’s wife with her strong opinions about petty matters. I only watched three seasons, though, so I’m not sure if that character evolved into someone cool. In which case, you still have hope. If not, listen to me.) Life is not supposed to be this endless series of chess moves that you have to figure out. I mean, if you want to play chess, play chess! If you want to relate to people and establish genuine connections, tell them what you want as a wedding gift! And if they can’t handle it, it’s probably because they were never given this option when they got married and have a ton of cuckoo clocks they don’t know what to do with.

It’s true, isn’t it, Betty? You just want to get rid of another one of your cuckoo clocks. Well, looks like you’re going to have to save it for someone polite.

PROBLEM: I live halfway around the world from most of my friends and close family, and I typically only see them once a year when I visit. Last month, I made a trip to the country in which they all live. For one night, I was passing through the city in which one friend lives. We had made plans to meet for dinner and she seemed really excited. I texted her when I arrived to coordinate, but she told me she was too tired after a long day of work. Am I wrong to still be upset about this?

It’s not wrong; it’s pointless. And while I personally think your friend is a bit of a jerk not to meet you, given the circumstances, I think it’s a whole lot weirder that you are upset enough to write to an advice columnist about this. I mean, don’t you have any real problems? Like a faulty broadband connection or annoying family members who want to have a conversation before you’ve had your morning coffee?

Sometimes, you guys make such a big deal about such things as relationships and friendships, it makes me wonder if you live in some sort of trouble-free bubble where all your favourite fictional characters are still alive.

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