laplumeDear Ms. Plume,

I don’t know how to handle unexpected gift giving during the holidays. Last year I was caught off-guard when my boss gave me a gift and I didn’t have one in return. What do you do? Just say thank you and smile? Go out and buy something and then give it later, which pretty clearly indicates that you didn’t think of it or have one to begin with. I don’t really have the money to buy extra gifts. What do you suggest?


Dear Connie,

I have a couple of suggestions. First, buy an extra gift that is reasonably thoughtful, yet generic. For instance, a nice scented candle, a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine or champagne, any of which can be wrapped nicely and don’t have to be expensive. If you’re going somewhere, put the gift in your car with a note card to which you just have to add the name. That way you can always say – “Oh, I have a gift for you, too, I must have left it out in my car.” Or, another option is to just say “Thank you, I will bring you your gift on ___, I just haven’t finished my shopping yet.” It’s not a bad idea to make the extra gift something you wouldn’t mind keeping for yourself in case you don’t need it, or you don’t have as many friends giving you gifts as you would like to think.

L.A. Plume

Dear Ms. Plume,

My brother has always been very involved with our family-at-large, which has been a benefit to us all. Lately he has begun to distance himself from us, renege on his promises, and generally disappoint our inner circle. He has always been regarded as a man of his word but these days he certainly can’t look in the mirror and see a Clark Kent. The holidays won’t be the same if his family doesn’t join ours – should we reach out to him or just let it be?

Soft Spoken

Dear Soft Spoken,

Sometimes every super-hero has to wear a disguise. Let him be and see if he finds a phone booth and his cape again. If not, perhaps he is just tired of being special and is ready to settle into ordinary.

L.A. Plume


Dear L.A. Plume,

Help! Is there any way, at all, to ask someone to not talk while they are eating and have a mouthful of food? I have a “friend” whose conversation is equally animated with a cheek full of calamari, as not. It’s disgusting to watch. I find that I not only have to look away but sometimes shield my face when food comes flying. Otherwise, I enjoy his company but this could be a deal-breaker, especially as I know I will be invited to several holiday parties that will involve food. I don’t want to be embarrassed by his (lack of) manners.


Dear Nelle,

I think I’ve had dinner with that person. I can’t help you – I had to put my sunglasses on in a restaurant to protect my eyes.  You’re right – it is disgusting and it seems so obvious when someone is speaking to you and you are looking everywhere but at him/her. I suppose you could say something along the lines of, “I really enjoy our conversation and what you’re saying is fascinating but I’m a bit distracted by food in your mouth,” or “Let’s eat now and talk later because one of us doesn’t seem to be able to do both at once.”  If you find a solution, please let me know!