Dear E. Jean: I had an on-and-off boyfriend of two years whom I loved, but I ultimately realized the relationship was not working. I ended it several months ago and moved on. He now lives in Rome but came to New York this week for work. He suggested we catch up over dinner, which I agreed to do, on the condition that we keep it strictly platonic. He concurred—we met, dined, and had a great time. Afterward, he presented me with a diamond necklace. I flatly told him I could not date or marry him, and he said he didn’t care—he just wanted me to have it.
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Obviously I’m blindsided and completely unsure of what to do. What would you suggest? —In Up to My Neck
Up, My Nectarine: Oh, dear. This is one of those questions where I give you The One Great True Answer, the exact opposite of which is also The One Great True Answer.
In my experience, accepting a gift from a chap is a polite way of saying that he may now introduce you to his erection. In the experience of Miss Lisa Chase, editor of this column, however, refusing a spanking-new Vortex-blue Volkswagen Beetle, presented to her by Peter Kaplan, the fabled New York Observer editor, only increased Mr. Kaplan’s desire. (She told him she couldn’t accept such a big gift unless they were at least living together. So they did cohabitate, she accepted the car, and, reader, she married him…12 years later.)
Then there’s the experience of my good friend, deputy editor of Jezebel Dodai Stewart, a woman who walks around Manhattan with her hands behind her back because so many chaps surprise her with engagement rings, and who says she “never looks a gift diamond in the mouth.”
Dodai emailed me later to say, “I’m a little worried about that [gift-diamond-in-the-mouth] quote. Does it sound avaricious and money-grubbing? I meant it more like: ‘If the dude wants to try bribery with a bauble, who are you to argue?’ That said, the resale value of diamonds is notoriously pathetic. I guess it depends on what it really means. Regardless of the carat weight, the lady in question may find that the emotional weight is far too heavy.”
Upon reflection, it seems both Lisa and Dodai came to the same conclusion: If you accept a big gift, you must accept that it usually comes with consequences. Take the necklace and the lad will go on loving you; refuse it and the lad may go on loving you, so to avoid distress of conscience the next time a chap gives you diamonds, rubies, or emeralds, just FedEx them to me.
This letter is from the Ask E. Jean Archive, 1993-2017. Send questions to E. Jean at E.Jean@AskEJean.com.