Advice columnist

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

A girlfriend gave me a sunflower for my birthday. I appreciated the sentiment but the flower was huge and the stalk as thick as a broom handle. I had no idea on the next steps, and I didn’t have a large vase.

She was irate a few days later when it was still in a pot in the kitchen. What was she thinking? Why is any woman giving a man flowers?

Flowers for a Guy?

Flowers are a fine idea if Guy likes flowers.

However, expecting Guy (or anyone else for that matter) to follow some unwritten rules in enjoying said gift is out of line, and would be with any gift. Once a gift is given, the giver’s job is to let go.

Re: Flowers for a Guy:

I’m a woman and I’d be similarly flummoxed if someone gave me a large plant that required a lot of special care that I might not know how to provide and equipment that I might not have.

But surely you’ve met at least one old war veteran with prize rose bushes? This doesn’t sound like a “flowers are stupid gifts” issue; it sounds like a “my partner gave me a gift that reflects her preferences but not mine” issue. Have you tried just asking her why she thought it would be a good gift for you?


Agreed on the preferences, but — it was a sunflower! No special care required besides a pot of water. Even if it were high-maintenance, I’d still advise him against asking why she thought he’d like it.

I also still see the bigger problem as her taking offense when he didn’t appreciate the gift to her specifications. That’s in violation of Item 1 in the Gift Giving Code: If it has strings attached, then don’t call it a gift.

Hi, Carolyn:

I’m in my first relationship since my divorce and am feeling . . . remedial. I want to break up with him for no bigger reason than it doesn’t feel right. I can’t quite find the words to say. Any suggestions? And yes, some of this is a lack of [spine].

Remedial Breakup

“I thought I was ready to date, but I’m not, I’m sorry” — because you did, and you aren’t, and you are.

Dear Carolyn:

My live-in boyfriend of three years is currently saving for an engagement ring. We are in our late 30s. I am debating about offering to take on a little more of the household bills in order to help him save for this purchase.

How incredibly selfish would this be? I know part of this comes from my eagerness to move forward and start a family. But I don’t want to offend him. Should I just chalk this up to a crazy idea and let it go?

Engagement Ring Help?

You’re poised to help buy your own ring, but not to say, “I want the marriage more than I do the ring, if that’s okay with you”? That makes no sense. If you want to be unselfish, then forsake the hardware.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Subscribe at