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Restaurant Dinner Party - Uninvited Guest

I am hosting a birthday dinner party for my SO at a restaurant for 20 close friends and family. I have reserved a private room, arranged for open bar and am covering the entire cost of the event, which is running about $110/pp.

Most guests have dutifully RSVP'ed, but I received a separate response from a friend's girlfriend asking if she could bring her cousin (who will be in town that weekend visiting friends). I asked whether this would be a "stop by" or whether she's asking if the cousin can join for dinner. She asked if she could come for dinner.

Now, I know this person is aware that this is a somewhat intimate event and I assume that she is aware I'm hosting (because of how I roll generally).

I haven't responded yet - how should I handle? At the end of the day, it's not going to break the bank given the already significant cost, but do people truly have no manners?

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  1. I think you can simply apologise and say that given the arrangements that have been made, this additional guest won't be possible. She asked if it were possible and from what you have told us, it is not possible.

    I appreciate your frustration, but this doesn't seem like an absence of manners: an absence of manners would involve fighting against the 'no' (meaning she had not been asking, but demanding) or bringing someone without any kind of notice.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Lizard

      I'd say it's completely rude. The cousin wasn't invited and the question puts the host in an awkward situation.

    2. "I'm sorry, we can't. (if you prefer the passive voice, which can be such a useful tool in cases like this, substitute 'It's just not possible.') And if you can't make it, I understand...we can get together with you some other time." This sends the clear message that your preference is that the invited guest not attend rather than bring an uninvited guest.

      Even if cost is not the point, it's really about control of your dinner party. You do not want to lose that control, or it could change how you 'roll' in the future....your other guests will see that you tolerate uninvited guests, and at future parties, you'll be inundated with uninvited friends, cousins, mothers, kids, fraternity brothers, etc.

      1. I don't think it's "no manners." You were asked a question and it is your option to say yes or no. I would have said, right then, something akin to what ricepad said. "Oh, gee, that really wouldn't be possible. I'm so sorry." and leave it at that. The hard part about going away and thinking aobut it leaves the door open to might be possible. This is one case when the answer is "Just say no."

        2 Replies
        1. re: escondido123

          I agree - I don't see it as a rude question. What would of been rude is the friend bringing her cousin without asking. or lied about it being a "stop by". She was upfront with her question. You can be upfront with your answer.

          1. re: lbs

            And sometimes, "upfront" means "awfully tactless/clueless".

        2. I don't see it as rude, either, since it was a question, not a statement. If the cousin is visiting friends, he/she can spend that evening with them and your friend can come to your event, right?

          1. Just say no. I wouldn't want to be a stranger or uninvited guest at a small birthday party, let alone a very nice hosted dinner party. In fact assuming I didn't realize beforehand, I'd be rather humiliated to discover what I'd gotten myself into (strangers paying my bill at their intimate event? Can you say awkward?). So really you are doing the cousin a favour. Even if the friend's gf and cousin don't realize it ;)

            7 Replies
            1. re: julesrules

              Sorry - I realized I should have provided more info. The GF initially said "mind if she stops by?" to which I said of course - it sounded like the cousin would be in town and just would be swinging by for a drink to see GF. She then wrote that actually the cousin would be staying for dinner; hope that's ok.

              I totally agree that the kneejerk reaction should be "just say no" - but the GF is the GF of a very, very close friend and I wouldn't want to upset the relationship in any way. I also respectfully disagree with the above responses that it's not rude to ask - you don't ask to invite someone that the host has never met, unsolicited (particularly when you yourself are the +1).

              I guess what I was hoping for is some guidance on how to handle given that I don't want to create any problems. But I totally agree that if I were the cousin, I would feel COMPLETELY awkward.

              1. re: ellamac79

                I think the +1 knows she is pushing the line, by even asking: "hope that's ok". Because of that - I see NO reason why you can't say no!

                Since she's the +1 of the friend - you know that the actual guest and the +1 have had the conversation (do you think it's ok if I bring cousin?)! If I were the actual guest and my date did that, I would be ticked!

                Stop feeling awkward and bite the bullet! (See my response below for a verbatim response, which I think is still appropriate).... actually - I'm editing the beginning, with your updated info: "Sorry, I didn't understand what you meant at first. Unfortunately, I would ask that your cousin not attend. I am intentionally keeping the guest list small. I hope you understand and are still able to join us."

                  1. re: ellamac79

                    Yup, the added explanation does change it for me, and I agree with The Oracle...it's NOT ok even to ask since it's putting a burden on the OP to give in & say yes.

                1. re: ellamac79

                  The relationships here--GF of GF of very, very close friend really muddies the waters for me. I guess given the tangled relationships the answer would depend on who you wanted to, or felt you needed to make happy. Not sure the rest of us can sort that out.

                  1. re: ellamac79

                    I agree ellamac, it was Definately Rude to ask, only an idiot would not know that it is fairly expensive PP, I mean it's not like you were hosting the party at Burger King.

                    1. re: ellamac79

                      i think you're totally set, but wanted to echo ricepad and The Oracle in suggested response...

                      as a side note, if it were not clear the type of event (intimate, private room, dinner (not hors d'oeuvres or passed apps or cocktails), then *maybe* just *maybe* i would be okay with an *invited* guest asking for clarification on the evening's rundown. once i noted the type of event, as you do above, then i would never think it appropriate for my invitee to ask to bring an extra guest / extra mouth to feed. If I were the plus one, I'd never in a million years ask. But think of it this way -- I bet your friend said no, and she put up a stink and said just ask. And he said - YOU ask. And so she did.

                      my suggested response:
                      "I'm sorry if I may have given the wrong impression about the type of evening we're planning... It's actually a small, intimate sit-down plated dinner in a private room. Unfortunately space is limited, and we are doing seating arrangements. I would also not want your cousin to feel awkwardly. I completely understand if you (and INVITED FRIEND) would rather spend the evening with your out-of-towner. You will be missed at the party, but we will definitely schedule a make-up dinner when you guys are free. Thank you for asking (and not just showing up with an extra guest ;) )"

                      (I added the last bit for humor and sort of just to point out the wrong)

                  2. Here's how I would respond (assuming it's via email): Sorry, but I have to say no. I am intentionally keeping the guest list small and limited to just family and close friends. I hope you understand and are still able to join us.

                    I don't see the question as particularly rude (although, after recently planning my wedding, I understand how every little question (about a special and well-thought out event) can send you over the edge!).

                    Generally speaking, I'm from the camp of: it's ok to politely ask questions you are unsure of - and it's ok for the one being asked to respond with a polite "no" (if that's your preference).

                    The cousin will survive on his or her own for an evening and it gives the one invited time to either decide if they will attend or not and/or give the cousin time to come up with an alternative plan for the evening.

                    One other note - if you are not willing to get a 'no' RSVP from this guest (which could happen, if they don't want the cousin to be alone or without other plans) - then invite the cousin.

                    1. Think how lovely it would have been had the girlfriend simply declined your invitation saying, "I'm sorry I won't be able to attend. My cousin is in town". Easy and elegant. You would have the option of extending the invitation to include the cousin or accept her "no" with grace.

                      Unfortunately, the girlfriend fell a bit short in the etiquette department. One never asks to include another person in an invitation (perhaps an exception could be made for a large 'Open House" etc) but since you state "....I know this person is aware that this is a somewhat intimate event ....." her question was out of line.

                      I must respectfully disagree with all who suggest that it is OK to ask. Asking puts the hostess/host in an awkward position.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: Sherri

                        I agree. At first I was of the "it's not rude to ask" category, but after thinking it over, yeah, it kinda is rude to put the hostess in the situation of having to deny a request. I would feel differently if it was a casual party, but not a sit-down dinner at a restaurant when you know someone else is picking up the (considerable) bill.

                        1. re: Sherri

                          Yes, yes, yes!

                          I suppose that a lot of people are willing to give the GF credit: "At least she asked." It would have been more rude to bring the cousin unannounced and expect you to be the gracious host, to be sure, but it's never ok for a guest to suggest additions (or deletions, but that's for another thread) to the guest list.

                          1. re: ricepad

                            I'm barely into my 30s and I already see this etiquette falling away from society in general. You don't ask your host for extras or special treatment (I'm not talking about allergies...)! You graciously accept what is offered, period, or you'll need to decline. You never know the budget, the guest-list-reasoning, the size of the room... It's just CHEEKY to ask to bring an in-town relative. Good lord, what's next, offering to bring the host/ess cash to cover the plate?

                          2. re: Sherri

                            Thank you for this post. I agree, and it's actually some nice guidance for how such a situation should be handled by the invitee.

                            1. re: Sherri

                              This is exactly correct. All of it. I will add that people should get over being ten years old, and the "can I bring a friend" mentality. Your cousin, your problem. Putting anyone on the spot is rude.

                              1. re: Sherri

                                LeoLioness mentioned the "it's not rude to ask" department... there's times this applies and times it doesn't.
                                "is it possible to substitute scallops for the shrimp?"
                                "do you need me to bring dessert or anything else?"
                                "do you happen to know somewhere in the area that does sell that spice?"
                                all "you never know unless you ask" questions, with the understanding that you accept whichever way the chip falls in response.

                                In this case, it is rude to ask. one, she's not even the invitee. she's the plus one. and two, you don't ask to "bring a friend (or cousin)" to the sit down dinner of your BF's friend. you just don't. unless you're a co-dependent 14 year old girl.... in which case, the larger question is why your friend is dating a minor...

                                good luck!

                                1. re: Sherri

                                  Sherri - You've nailed it!

                                  Etiquette is about keeping everyone comfortable. If the gf had declined explaining about her cousin the host could have easily extended an invitation at that point.

                                  So simple and no one is put in a position of feeling manipulated or resentful.

                                2. Aside from the awkwardness, it might become evident to your other guests that one guest was allowed to bring along a plus one. Could set you up in the future for other mishaps if you are willing this time.

                                  Depending on your relationship and comfort to speak honestly with this guest I would either say no and explain your hesitation or ask if they are willing to cover the cost for their company in order to attend the party and that either way you're more comfortable with those choices.

                                  1. Yes, I see this as "oh I didn't know we could bring other people" kind of thing which might cause problems in the future. I agree to nicely say no!

                                    1. but do people truly have no manners?

                                      Have you considered this person is going to have to decline so that s/he does not disappoint their cousin who is town visiting? How much do you want this couple to share in your * Intimate * festivities? Given your last sentence, what's the big deal if you can afford to include one more.

                                      BTW...the invited couple probably have no idea what you are spending per person, or what the party format is., i.e., casual buffet or more formal sit down..

                                      1. Note that OP said the cousin was in "visiting friends" so she certainly had other things she could be doing.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Linda VH

                                          but then again......her friends could be busy on this particular night....and that's why the request was made.

                                        2. I'm curious -- how did this work out?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. What I would do is consider the possible responses of the close friend who has the girlfriend that made the request. If the guy really is a close friend, maybe you could reach out to him and find out what his thoughts are on the matter. If the cousin is back in a town where she has other family and friends it's not as if she would have to sit home alone that evening (although that should not be your problem). If the friend would be offended by not accommodating his GF's request, well then there's your answer, make arrangements to add the cousin to the list/cost of the evening.

                                            1. The classic Emily Post response, which functions as the universal widget of invitations etiquette, is to say "I am sorry. It's simply not possible." And the key is to stick solely to that line. No explanation, express or implied; no implied opening for negotiation. You are the host; there is no negotiation. Period. Rinse and repeat until the end of the discussion. Like a broken record, if the issue is forced (the forcing would be rude, not your response). Don't feel a speck of guilt or shame over this.

                                              1. Just to cover all the angles, There could be the possibility that the GF feels guilty/embarassed about telling the cousin that she has to go to a party and can't bring the cousin along.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                  So that makes it okay to put the party host on the spot? Sorry, I don't buy that nonsense. GF has to be told "Sorry, but no", & then has to grow a set & tell her cousin the news. And there's no reason for the GF to feel guilty/embarassed. All she needs to do is decline the invitation if she feels that way. End of problem. Geesh.

                                                  1. re: Bacardi1

                                                    I didn't give an opinion either way, I simply spoke to the GF's motivation.

                                                2. Hey guys. I really appreciate everyone's perspective and wanted to give you all an update.

                                                  At the outset, I want to clear up something that was mentioned above. I have been saving for this for months, so the comment I made about the extra cost "not being that big of a deal" was more in the context of the total cost. This event is significant to me, both emotionally and financially, and I hope I didn't come across as too "whatever" about the price. And trust me when I say that everyone invited knows the format of the party - based on the restaurant where it is being held and the fact that the invitation was 100% clear that it is a seated dinner with open bar.

                                                  Against all of your good judgment (and that of my mom) I told her that the cousin could come. Here' s how the exchange went: I told the GF "I just want to make sure you guys know that it will be quite a small party, but if she will otherwise be alone that night then she is welcome to come." GF replied immediately and said, "OK, great, plan on her being there." My decision was based on the fact that I decided nothing was worth [potentially] ruining the party - I was worried GF would be miffed and by extension pass it on to one of my boyfriend's best friends. The actual party hasn't happened yet, so I am really curious as to how it will all shake out. I have a feeling that GF hasn't told the cousin how small the party really will be (and I truly am concerned about her being embarrased - but that can't be my problem at this point), and I am fairly certain she hasn't shared with her boyfriend (our good friend) that she asked me - I've spoken to him a couple of times and he hasn't said ANYTHING to me, which would be really unusual for him (i.e., "Thanks so much for including Cousin Jane" or anything to that effect). Perhaps she will be lovely and will really add to the group. If not, I've decided that I can't let it ruin my night. I'm close enough with the other attendees (family and close friends) that if anyone says, "How come Cousin Jane came?" it will be in the context of "I can't believe she came" - not "I can't believe you didn't let us invite other people." Long story short - I think that I probably need to learn to put my money where my mouth is, but I honestly didn't want to cause any issues. Thanks everyone :)

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: ellamac79

                                                    Both kind and classy, ellamac79. Have a wonderful party!

                                                    1. re: ellamac79

                                                      I think you are incrediblely gracious and generous. I hope that this gathering will be an unqualified success.

                                                      1. re: roxlet

                                                        +1. Very big of you, and I hope good karma comes your way.

                                                      2. re: ellamac79

                                                        I agree with the others about your choice. I also look forward to reading, of course in great detail, all about the great birthday party you are throwing for your boyfriend.

                                                        1. re: ellamac79

                                                          I invited one couple to my wedding on a similar basis... it wasn't worth my own self-doubt about NOT inviting them (I wasn't close with them but they were part of my circle of friends which I had a feeling they wouldn't be for long... and I was right about that). No regrets.

                                                          1. re: ellamac79

                                                            What everyone else said: you're very kind, very classy, and very gracious.

                                                            I hope your boyfriend has a great birthday!

                                                            1. re: ellamac79

                                                              Don't leave us hanging please ellamac. Hope you had a great time. The GF sounds super manipulative, but manipulative people can be very charming.

                                                              1. re: givemecarbs

                                                                +1 to givemecarbs above and Kater below.

                                                                The fact that her cousin is in town ("all weekend") < your intentions/planning/cost. Give 'em an inch....

                                                            2. It is very rude. The only possible explanation is that she does not realize that you are hosting the event. It has become fairly common to invite groups of people to birthday dinners and share the cost. It is far more gracious of you to host but even if that is how you normally operate she may not realize that.

                                                              1. Am I the only one that's curious as to how the event went over? Did the cousin come? Was there awkwardness? Did she turn out to be awesome? Did she table dance?

                                                                1. So I meant to update this a long time ago, and in case anyone at all is interested...here goes.

                                                                  So the party itself was an unqualified success, mostly because the restaurant comped me an extra hour of open bar. The cousin came, and probably the most hilarious part of the night was when my boyfriend came into the room, saw her first, and turned to leave because he didn't recognize her (it was a surprise party).

                                                                  Now for the not-so-hilarious part...turns out the cousin had her friends (friends from college or something who lived in the area) waiting at the restaurant bar until we finished dinner...so definitely not as though she had nothing else to do that night. She and the offending girlfriend called the friends as soon as we had finished eating and invited them to the room for drinks and dessert (I'm not kidding). I was about 4 bourbons deep at that point, so I didn't care too much at the time, although I thought my mom was going to implode with anger.

                                                                  Lesson learned - just because a dear friend is a generally awesome person doesn't mean he will chose a great girlfriend. Whoever called her out in the comments as manipulative is either clairvoyant or more astute than me at reading the signs. Since the birthday dinner, we've hung out with her a few more times and she is The Worst.

                                                                  Anyway thanks everyone for your thoughts - they really did help me frame my decision - and for those of you who disagreed with me turns out YOU WERE RIGHT!!

                                                                  9 Replies
                                                                  1. re: ellamac79

                                                                    First of all, thanks for the update! Scenarios like this will never stop fascinating me.

                                                                    So Cousin's social agenda was so full that night, she had party #2 waiting in the wings? Let us speculate about GF's motivation for pushing her into your party? Is GF so emotionally immature she needed a buddy for the party?

                                                                    Cousin is as much to blame, inviting strangers to party on your dime! Freeloaders are the worst.

                                                                    Sounds like GF has shown you her true colors. Please report on her behavior at the first wedding where you are in joint attendance.

                                                                    1. re: ellamac79

                                                                      Very impressive that you kept your cool and didn't threaten to implode with anger. That would've just ruined your party for you. I don't think I could've been such a big person...I would've been in the corner fuming with your mom!

                                                                      Great thread. I didn't see this one in June. So, I just got the read the whole story from beginning to end!

                                                                      1. re: ellamac79

                                                                        Thanks for the update!

                                                                        I'm glad you were able to remain cool in the face of even worse adversity than you originally thought (but at the same time, I do feel vindicated having been one of the folks who disagreed with you ;) ).

                                                                        1. re: ellamac79

                                                                          Thank you for the update!

                                                                          It made me smile to see you were able to maintain your cool and be a gracious host throughout the unfortunate turn events (I think my mouth dropped open when the cousin invited her friends to join for drinks/dessert!)! Unreal!

                                                                          Hope your friend has a light-bulb moment and the GF is history!

                                                                          1. re: ellamac79

                                                                            Glad you were 4 bourbons deep. And as rude as the GF, cousin and their two friends were, I'd bask in the glow of that extra hour of open bar! Bourbon and whiskey make up for so many of life's aggravations.

                                                                            1. re: ellamac79

                                                                              I'm reading this thread WAY after the party, and thanks for the update. But my jaw just DROPPED against my desk at the fact that this cousin had friends at the bar AND that the girlfriend invited the cousin and friends into the party! I'm sorry she is such an asshat, but I'm glad you didn't let it ruin your party. Have to say, I would have been right there alongside your mother.

                                                                              1. re: ellamac79

                                                                                I'm glad you weren't upset and enjoyed the party. Think of it as good party karma - giving them the benefit of the doubt and going with your own best instinct - that led to an open bar :)

                                                                                1. re: ellamac79

                                                                                  Thanks for the update! I gotta tell you, it made me laugh. Good for you, good for your boy friend, and nananananana to to your dear friend who when he discovers what a prize the girlfriend is. I might have been tempted to just let your mother follow the GF & cousin to the ladies' room with a friend and make several comments about "those rude girls" while they were in the stalls.

                                                                                  1. re: ellamac79

                                                                                    I believe you have just illustrated the saying "give them an inch and they'll take a mile".

                                                                                    Except in this case, it was more, "they begged for a mile, and I gave it to them, and then they decided that what they had really wanted was a marathon, so they just took that."

                                                                                    Your friends are unfortunately even more clueless than they first appeared, but I'm glad you were able to act with class and equanimity, even if the equanimity was mostly a result of the liberal application of bourbon.

                                                                                  2. I don't think it's rude but certainly not rude to decline by simply saying: "Sorry, blah, blah blah."
                                                                                    When we got married we had an uninvited couple ask if they could come to our wedding and reception.
                                                                                    One couple (non family) asked if they could bring their kids because their kids had never been to a wedding and it sounded like fun.
                                                                                    One woman brought her two adult kids without asking.
                                                                                    One family brought along their mother in law without asking.
                                                                                    There was a buffet and no assigned seating but it still was bizarre.
                                                                                    We did pay for all of those extras.

                                                                                    26 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Motosport

                                                                                      I don't know if I have ever posted the story about one of my brother's SIL's wedding. The wedding was in February in a town of about 500. There was a blizzard and more than half of the invited guests could not make it. The bride called the local radio station and among the weather information and store closings, they announced that anybody who can safely get to the American Legion (in the small town) should get there at 4pm for a free dinner. It helped out that the bride and groom were both in their 30s and generally went with the flow.

                                                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                                                          Straight out of the bible! Remeber the story about no one showing up at a wedding and then the host asking his servant to go down to the crossroads and ask anyone who was there to attend? It has that really enigmatic ending line, "For many are called but few are chosen."

                                                                                        2. re: Motosport

                                                                                          We had the opposite, a bunch of people who didn't show up and we still had to pay for them. My ILs wailed and cried about not knowing anyone so we invited a bunch of their friends, none of which showed up.

                                                                                          On my side, there were a few that had various reasons for not attending after they RSVPed. (softball games, fishing, etc.)

                                                                                          The older I get, the more I endorse eloping.

                                                                                          1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                            Or do as quite a number of gay/lesbian couples do: throw a party as a regular party, and then have the JP show up in the middle as a surprise and have the wedding without the sturm und drang of the wedding planning.

                                                                                            1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                              The older I get, the more I endorse eloping.
                                                                                              me too! Except....we had a recent experience where the couple told everyone they were eloping, then changed it to a private-just 4 people outdoor ceremony and no one needed to come, no invites, then changed it to come, join us have fun...and seemed insulted when a few of us took them at their original word...and didn't make it.

                                                                                              Is it so hard to say what you mean?

                                                                                              1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                My son got married in September. There were several no shows. All close friends of the couple. I was baffled by that.
                                                                                                There were also a few close friends and family who canceled within 3 days for the following reasons:
                                                                                                Sick dog near death
                                                                                                Had to babysit grandchild
                                                                                                Fortunately we had a "B" list of close friends who were not originally invited due to $$$ constraints. They were invited and totally understanding of the circumstances. Everyone had a blast.
                                                                                                Our daughter just eloped in January!!! They are very happy. We wrote them a nice check.

                                                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                                                    The traditional wedding worked for my son and eloping worked for my daughter. It's all good.

                                                                                              2. re: Motosport

                                                                                                My uncle did this at my wedding. He showed up with 2 of his random friends who neither I nor anyone else had ever met. It was very bizarre.

                                                                                                1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                  Did all three give a generous gift?

                                                                                                  1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                    Funny, I thought this but you typed it!

                                                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                      HillJ: Great minds think alike!
                                                                                                      We invited aunts, uncles and their children (cousins) to our wedding. Some of those cousins are adults in their 30's and 40's.
                                                                                                      Not one of the adult cousins (and their guests) gave a gift.
                                                                                                      I guess they all felt that the casserole set mommy and daddy gave was more than enough.
                                                                                                      Go figure? Grow up already!

                                                                                                      1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                        The grow up already is what we are experiencing in our own family right now. Two of the "kids" who have graduated, landed great jobs (god bless them) still look to our siblings to pick up the tab for even minor purchases....we shake our heads and wonder when lordy when is this hovering going to end.

                                                                                                    2. re: Motosport

                                                                                                      Ha. Nope. The 2 randoms gave us a card. My uncle gave us a bottle of rum. I despise rum and my husband hasn't touched alcohol in years. I gave it to my brother, so at least somebody benefited. I suspect he was just clearing out the liquor cabinet.

                                                                                                      1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                        Hobbert, it takes all kinds. One year my mother in law gave me an electric knife for Christmas......I've gotten more mileage out of that Freudian story than anyone could have imagined. When she passes away I'm going to carve a turkey with it in her honor. For now it's resting in the pantry.

                                                                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                          I must be missing something. What's wrong with receiving an electric knife for Christmas?

                                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                                            Looks like you missed the reference to freudian.

                                                                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                              No, I know about the references to penis envy and a 'Freudian Slip', but I still don't get why it would occur to apply it to a gift of an electric knife from a family member.

                                                                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                Now you've lost me. penis envy and a slip never came out of my keyboard. So how about this.. in 1970 my MIL would rather communicate her disdain for me and her son by wrapping a cheap dollar store electric knife as a Christmas gift while the rest of her children and their spouses received trips. We haven't spent a major holiday with his family since 1970. We go on holiday each year. Dh is a pilot-ironic that. My MIL was a very difficult lady to understand and my FIL never opened his mouth in her company. Difficult relationship. And, thankfully the only one I've ever had that was truly awful start to finish.

                                                                                                                I hope my reply helped make it much clearer for you John E. I left out detail didn't I.

                                                                                                                And my understanding of Freudian is when one says something aloud that they did not mean to say.

                                                                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                  What a wretched holiday. I get it completely. My recent ex's mother was cut from the same cloth. She is a very intelligent woman and many of her actions seem innocuous on their own. After a few years the pattern was clear and she became bolder in her actions.
                                                                                                                  So, so glad I never have to deal with her again!

                                                                                                                  1. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                    Those days are long behind me but the lessons will never leave. You def. get it. Those blessed with reasonable in laws are the luckier ones. Relationships that are built on mistakes repeated over and over (especially in a family) can hinder things for everyone and every generation. Like I said, lesson learned. About the only worthwhile gift my MIL left me was to be her opposite and never leave communication with the people I care about misunderstood.

                                                                                                                  2. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                    What happened is that I got my Freud references mixed up and could not get what was wrong with the gift because you did not mention anything about a faulty relationship being a part of the gift selection. A few years ago we received a good electric knife as a gift and thought it was wonderful. Of course, we have a good relationship with the gift giver. Now I'm beginning to wonder.

                                                                                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                      No problem John E. Since I brought it up I did feel I should better explain what I meant.