Every week, Daniel Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Unwanted baby gift: Last summer, my brother-in-law broke up with his fiancée, “Anna,” for a number of reasons, chief among them her mental health issues and jealousy over his relationship with his daughter. The relationship wasn’t working out. It wasn’t a horrible breakup, but she took it very hard. He firmly told her that for the time being, they could not remain friends or in contact. Since then, Anna continually posts on social media about how badly she wants to get back together, how she thinks they’re meant to be, etc., and constantly rationalizes the flaws in their relationship and how nothing was her fault. Worse, she’s always commenting and liking everything on our family’s collective social media posts, coming off as desperate to remain in contact with us, and through us, my brother-in-law. She lives in a different state several hundred miles away, so it’s not as if any of us have any friendship or mutual contacts with her. It makes our family uncomfortable. I even unfriended and then blocked her at one point. She proceeded to contact a friend of mine asking her to get in contact with me on her behalf!
I am having a baby in May, and she sent me a handmade blanket out of nowhere. On one hand, I know this was a kind gesture and took a lot of hard work. But I feel like the gift comes with strings attached, and I don’t want it! Should I just give the blanket to a thrift store and not say anything? Would it be appropriate to send it back to her with a note saying I can’t accept it, or is that a jerk move? I know I can’t do anything about her trying to cling to our family or my brother-in-law, and I know their relationship is not my business, but is there anything I can do besides ignoring her? This is driving me crazy!
A: It is not a jerk move to send the gift back. Anna’s behavior is wildly out of line. You had already made it clear that she was being intrusive and making you uncomfortable, and just because she worked hard on the baby blanket doesn’t make it a kind gesture. She “worked so hard” on something you never asked for in an attempt to make you feel guilty and manipulate you into re-establishing contact. This is your business inasmuch as she’s not taking no for an answer. She’s trying to maintain a one-sided relationship with you that’s not motivated by any actual shared interests or mutual enjoyment—rather, it’s an attempt to get his attention.
Send the gift back care of sender and tell your brother-in-law about it, just in case she’s been stalking or harassing him too. You might also ask if there’s anything he needs right now, because I imagine it’s overwhelming trying to manage this level of obsessive targeting from an ex.