Dear Abby: I recently went in on a gift with my friend "Ali" for our other friend, "Gena." Ali offered to purchase and wrap the gift, a nice wallet from an inexpensive store. Imagine my surprise when Ali turned up at Gena's birthday party with the wallet elaborately wrapped in expensive designer paper.
At first, I thought she had spent more of her money and upgraded our gift, but when Gena unwrapped the designer packaging to reveal the original wallet we had selected, I was taken aback. It turned out that Ali had reused the wrapping paper from a gift her husband had given her, disguising our present as something it wasn't.
Gena was clearly disappointed. Other guests who had been eyeing it looked excited at first, then confused. I felt our gift wasn't appreciated and we ended up looking cheap. I was at a loss for words. What would have been the appropriate way to handle the situation? Is this normal gift-wrapping practice, or did Ali cross the line? – Flabbergasted in Florida
Dear Flabbergasted: Reusing wrapping paper isn't unusual. Gena's reaction to the gift was inappropriate. Instead of letting her disappointment show, Gena should have smiled and graciously thanked you and Ali for her gift. (Remember the phrase, "It's the thought that counts"?) As for you, all you needed to say was "Happy Birthday!"
Dear Abby: With Mother's Day nearly upon us, would you remind your readers that stepmothers are worthy of recognition, too? If one has any regard for the feelings of his or her stepmom, PLEASE make her day by calling or visiting her and telling her how much she means to you. And I don't mean a phone call at 9 p.m.
I married my husband when his sons were in their late teens. Every Mother's Day for 14 years I have been reminded that his sons choose not to recognize me, even though our relationships are very good. (One of them is a stepfather himself.) It's a real heartbreaker, believe me. – Giving Up On Waiting in Oregon
Dear Giving Up On Waiting: If you think you are the only stepmother who feels unappreciated on Mother's Day, think again. I have heard from many stepmothers who have written letters that are variations on this theme. There can be reasons for it -- the fact that you didn't raise them, fear that it would be somehow disloyal to their birth mother, unresolved relationship issues or just being preoccupied.
If you haven't discussed this with your stepsons, perhaps you should. Or better yet, your husband should. But if that doesn't solve the problem, for your own sake, stop brooding about it and direct your attention elsewhere.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.