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How to write a thank you note for an offensive gift: A meat cookbook for a vegan

Meghan, a long time vegan, asks the Thank You Diva's advice on how to respond to the gift of a meat cookbook from her boyfriend's mother.


Dear Thank You Diva,

I am writing this with gritted teeth because I am SO angry and I simply do not know what to do!

For my 21st birthday, which was two days ago, my boyfriend's mother gave me a meat cookbook. I am vegan, which means that I don't eat ANY animal products at all, and certainly not meat. I have been vegan since I was a little kid, and my boyfriend's mother ABSOLUTELY knows this!

I know she doesn't approve (she grew up on a dairy farm), but how can she be soooo disrespectful?

My boyfriend says it's just what his mom's like, and that she didn't mean it in a bad way. He says I should just throw the stupid book in the trash and forget about it. But I'm really upset and I think I need to say something to her.

What should I do?

Please help!

The Thank You Diva responds:

Dear Meghan,

Oh poor you! You don't say what your relationship is like generally with your boyfriend's mother... Is it fairly friendly? Or fraught with difficulties? She certainly seems to be fishing for a strong reaction from you. Looking on the bright side, at least she remembered your birthday and sent you a present!

Seriously though, as you rightly feel very strongly about this, you need to consider your options and what various reciprocal actions may or may not achieve. The options that probably first occurred to you are to get rid of the book and ignore the fact that your ever received it, or to send the book straight back to her, possibly with a note pointing out that it is a completely unacceptable gift. This, however, may be exactly what she had in mind when she sent the book to you, and risks really stirring things up. It will certainly give your boyfriend's mother an excuse if she needs one to consider you ungrateful, closed-minded, rude etc.!

It might be better, therefore, to respond in a way that she's not expecting. You can do this by politely acknowledging the gift, but at the same time making it clear that she can't manipulate you in this way. Personally I would do this by sending a gracious hand-written note... and returning the favor by enclosing a vegan recipe book.

Here's an example of the kind of note I have in mind:

Dear Mrs Jones*,

Thank you very much for remembering my birthday and sending me a cook book. You know how much I love to cook!

I appreciate you trying to broaden my culinary horizons and I looked through the book with interest.

I am enclosing a copy of my favorite cookbook, which I hope you'll take a look at, and accept in the same spirit as I received your gift.

Jon tells me that you're going on vacation next week. I hope you have a great time, and we'll both look forward to seeing your photos.

With best wishes,

* Address her by her first name only if you normal use it this isn't the time to pick a new fight by making her think you are disrespectful!

In your present frame of mind, this may seem like a weak response, stripped of your feelings of hurt and anger. However, the note is both polite and shows that you are no 'push over'.

With luck she'll think more carefully about giving you inappropriate gifts in the future. And as for the meat cookbook once you've sent the note, donate it, re-gift it, or follow your boyfriend's advice and throw it in the trash!

With my best wishes,
The Thank You Diva

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