DEAR HARRIETTE: My boyfriend’s family always surprises each other with the gifts they give each other for birthdays and holidays. This is a complete 180-degree switch from my family, who is very transparent in saying what we want and then getting those gifts from one another. After discussing this with my boyfriend, I realized that I wouldn’t just be able to ask him what he wants for Christmas and get him this gift. He thinks my family sucked all of the fun and surprise out of the holidays, while I think leaving mystery in gift-giving leaves room for unwanted presents. I am OK with him surprising me with presents, but I want him to like the presents I get him. I feel like gift-giving is more difficult for men, and he doesn’t want to give me any suggestions because he wants to be surprised. There must be a compromise somewhere, right? – Gift Gamble, Westchester, New York

DEAR GIFT GAMBLE: Consider this a fun challenge. Pay closer attention to what your boyfriend likes. Notice the games he plays, the gadgets he admires, what he enjoys doing. What are his quirks? He is right that if you can discover something about him that would bring him joy, it would be a welcome surprise. Rather than considering this a burden, think of it as a game of getting to know him better. Your gift could be tickets to a ballgame or a concert or the latest music from his favorite band. Get creative – it can be fun!

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DEAR HARRIETTE: My birthday and Christmas are a few days apart, and I always feel like my birthday, which is before Christmas, comes off as a burden to my family. I hate combined presents, and I feel like my birthday may as well not be acknowledged if it will be that much of an afterthought for everyone. I am always on the fence of wanting two gifts and seeming greedy. My sister’s birthday is in July, and she has never had to deal with combined presents, whereas I’ve been given combined presents for most of my life. I did not ask to be born at such an inconvenient time, but I would like to be celebrated at least every few years. It seems like I cannot make anyone have time to celebrate my birthday, or give me a card or present. There are some days where I don’t even care about the material items and just want my family to admit that they don’t care about my birthday because of its proximity to Christmas. When I voice these thoughts to my family, they don’t know what to say. Once my mom said that we’re in the same situation because her birthday is a week after Valentine’s Day. It’s not even similar! Is it time to stop including them in birthday plans and make my own? I hate feeling like an afterthought each year. – Forgotten Christmas Baby, Buffalo, New York

DEAR FORGOTTEN CHRISTMAS BABY: Yes, you should make your own fun. Create a small celebration that you invite your friends and family to attend. Presents should not be as important as their presence. Take control of your celebration. Do not guilt them afterwards. Just enjoy it!

— Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to [email protected] or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.