Dear Prudence Presents: Taking it Back

This lady's mother-in-law had a stroke a few years back, and with the hospital aftermath and the resulting mobility issues, she gave away a bunch of her jewelry. DIL says that "Although the gesture was sweet, the jewelry was not my taste," because with the very rare exception of classic Tiffany heirloom shit that people call dibs on twenty years before you die, nobody wants funky old lady jewelry. It all just sat in a drawer until this past winter, when she sold a couple earrings and necklaces for some extra scratch. The money supposedly went "for groceries so we could have a little extra money for Christmas and a birthday for our youngest child," which is what you say when you're worried that Prudie is going to yell at you otherwise. The problem here is that MIL has been recovering nicely thanks to modern medicine, and now she's been calling and asking to "borrow" a few of her favorite old pieces – which of course are exactly the ones that got sold. The letter writer's husband doesn't know about her getting cash 4 gold either, though she doubts he'll care, and she wants to know if she ought to confess to his mom or keep making up stories about how the darn clasp broke and can't be worn.

Prudie says to confess, and backs her up with the rock-bottom basis of Gift Law, which is that "a gift is a gift and people are free to do with a gift as they like." That said, there's the recognition that people are going to be upset and get their feelings hurt when you directly exchange their generosity for pure profit. Someone from the peanut gallery chimes in, calling the sale "a very foolish thing," and "a bad and thoughtless decision," because "If I gave you a bottle of wine and you promptly poured it down the drain, one could say, it was a gift and so you could do what you wanted, but your response would be considered rude and ungrateful." That's a lousy metaphor, because the wine's just getting wasted. A better one would be regifting it or selling the bottle on eBay, but the basic point is true, which is that the "polite" thing to do is let shitty wine get dusty on the shelf and ugly jewelry tarnish in a drawer somewhere. Actually getting some use out of an otherwise unwanted gift is like the pinnacle of bad manners.

Paging Candysummers for this next one re: dumping your dog. This guy's been dating his girlfriend to the point that they've had hypothetical discussions about maybe getting married and having kids at some point in the future. They each have a dog, too, and while his lab is apparently an angel of obedience, he describes her little mutt as "super food aggressive," with the lone example of her bad behavior being that "She took food from a 3-year-old at a cafe." Obviously I'm not seeing the whole picture here, but a dog snorgling up some kid's unguarded snack seems mostly like evidence that they are, in fact, a dog.

I mentioned that I'm not sure I would trust her dog with a kid, and she said that if she had to get rid of her dog, my dog has to go as well. She won't take the dog to training, let me discipline the dog or even recognize that this is a problem. She has said that once a kid comes along, the dog will bond and everything will be fine. Any advice?

Prudie says that they're getting ridiculously far ahead of themselves with the hypotheticals here, especially the no-dog nuclear option right off the bat. As for me, this guy just rubs me the wrong way. I have a bad little dog that acts bad, and no, I'm not in the market from some wannabe Cesar Millan to charge in with some corrective discipline. They can fuck right off with that. My advice for the couple is to keep fighting about future shit that may or may not even come close to happening so that they can end things in a huge blowout about circumcising Cesar Jr.

Finally, someone came in to work a little earlier than usual, and when walking by a co-worker's cubicle, observed her just punch the shit out of herself a few times for no apparent reason. Her cheek blew up into a big red lump over the day, and when people noticed, she told them that she ran into a door. The letter writer barely knows her, but does know that she's married, and now the office gossip is that her husband must be smacking her around.

I am concerned both by what she was doing and by what everyone seems to believe about how she got the lump on her face. I don't want to embarrass her by telling co-workers what I saw but I really don't feel comfortable asking her about it. Should I tell someone or is this a time to mind my own business?

On that one, the peanut gallery just jumped directly into conspiracy theory mode.

Obviously, I have no idea what's happening but the first thing that came to mind is "is she planning on or getting divorced"? My neighbor's son was getting divorced and often his wife (while on the phone with him when she was at work) would say loudly "What do you mean you won't let me see my kids?" or something similar when they were discussing something completely different (nor did the husband ever say anything about preventing visits). She was doing this so her co-workers could testify that they heard her arguing over visitation and he was threatening no visits. Could this woman be setting the stage for claiming spousal abuse?

That scenario doesn't seem too likely, as there really have to be much better ways of framing someone for domestic violence. If you're that calculating, why come in to work, sit down, and then start slugging yourself? It makes no sense, so it struck me as a self-harming kind of deal where she's punishing herself. Either way, the first time somebody came to me like "Damn, did you see Cheryl's face?" I'd probably tell them right off the bat that I watched her do it to her own self.