Dear Annie: Gift-giving woes

Dear Annie: As the holidays draw near, I like to be prepared and buy my gifts early. Every year, I get stuck when it comes to thinking of a gift for my younger brother “Henry.” Henry is a teenager whose only interest is playing video games. For Christmas, the only things he ever asks for are video games and money. I have made very clear to him that I don’t want to get him electronics or money for Christmas, but he never tells me anything else that he would like.

I have given him gifts that I thought he would like, but the books go unread, and the hobbies go untouched. I am to the point where I may just buy him socks for Christmas this year. Do you have any advice for how to shop for video game-playing teenagers? — Stumped Santa

Dear Stumped Santa: The decision not to get your brother any more electronics sounds like a great one. Gift-giving is tricky in this situation because you love your brother yet don’t want to encourage his passion for video games.

However, seeing as he loves games, what about a board game? That way, you could play with the whole family and engage with one another while at least temporarily avoiding the dreaded “screen time.” Another possibility is to get tickets for a game or theater performance that might interest him.

Dear Annie: Could you please say something about people who want to stay with a friend or relative and want to have their pet with them? I am an animal lover and have two dogs and a cat, but I worry about having strange pets in my home — especially if the visit is more than a day or two.

Pet owners insist their pets are friendly and very well-behaved. I believe them, but when their pets come to my home, my dogs can be possessive and my cat unpredictable. It seems that their pets may be nervous in strange surroundings and not be the perfect pets they are at home. I’d feel awful if anyone’s pet were injured. I hate to sound unwelcoming to people who want to visit me, but when people bring pets into my home, I’m distracted and worried, and I can’t enjoy their visits. — Marilyn

Dear Marilyn: I’m happy to print your letter to encourage more thoughtfulness around this issue — but I hope you’re also vocalizing these thoughts to your visitors. Everything you said in your letter would be appropriate and helpful to explain to would-be guests. I don’t think anyone ought to take offense to your perfectly reasonable explanation.

Dear Annie: This is a response to “Upset Employee,” who is bothered that a supervisor’s friend was hired over other employees. Employment law is rather tricky. If the supervisor’s friend was qualified, then it was legal. Nothing in the rules says an employer has to take the most qualified candidate.

And someone in the position of “Upset Employee” is not supposed to know what anyone else’s score was. That’s a violation of employment law. So, “Upset Employee,” if you like actually working there, you just need to let it go. Life isn’t fair. If it were, then this would be heaven and not life. — Christopher

Dear Christopher: Thank you for the insights on employment law — and the nature of life.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now. Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Go to http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.