And you politely say: "Oh, great, Aunt Viv! It's a holiday tradition!"
In the workplace, this festive season is brimming with Aunt Vivians offering up an array of different metaphorical fruitcakes. There's the bubbly organizer of the annual Secret Santa gift exchange, the holiday party planners, the charity-donation requesters and the folks pooling money to buy the boss a token of their faux appreciation.
An astute reader sent me a question last week that gets to the heart of this: "How does one gracefully decline participation in holiday stuff at the office — Secret Santa, Holiday Happy Hour, Christmas Potluck — without offending one's co-workers?"
Allow me first to quote Mahatma Gandhi, whose thriftiness made him the least popular Secret Santa among spiritual leaders: "A 'No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble."
That statement is profound and, around the office during the holidays, largely ignored.
We are a "no"-averse culture. We aim to please, we want people to like us, we eschew things that might hurt another's feelings.
And so we chip in more money than we want to toward the boss's charity of choice. And we go to the holiday party when we'd rather be elsewhere.
"For a lot of us, 'no' has been drummed out of us," said Susan Newman, a social psychologist and author of "The Book of No." "A lot of people just agree to say 'yes' because we want to avoid confrontation. It's just easier to go with the program. We're lemmings, and we buy into all the traditions."
But it's a ruse, fellow workers. While it's certainly good to be engaged with your colleagues and take part in some office activities or events, you simply don't have to be part of everything.
"Most people are afraid to turn someone down because they're afraid they won't like them or that they're going to be on the outs," Newman said. "But what really happens is, when you say, for example, 'I have my favorite charities and I give to them and I just can't afford any more this year,' the person asking moves on to the next person. That person's not really thinking about you. What they want is a 'yes' for their favorite charity or event, and when they don't get it, you're forgotten."
If someone wants you to take part in the annual office gift exchange, and you would rather sleep with a half-starved ferret in your bed, just politely decline. If that person is going to hold a grudge over that, well, that person's the one with the problem, not you.
"The fallout from a 'no' is never as great or as bad as we think it's going to be," Newman said. "We think somebody's going to be furious with us or not talk to us, but that rarely happens."
She suggests asking yourself a series of questions when considering whether to participate in or avoid something:
•Will I feel pressured to get it done?
•Will I be upset with myself?
•Will I resent the person who's asking?