Woman Wonders If She Overstepped By Buying Male Friend His Dream Birthday Gift

She unknowingly created conflict by giving her friend a very expensive birthday gift.

three people celebrating a birthday Tima Miroshnichenko / Pexels 

A woman wrote to Reddit asking for advice about gift-giving etiquette after being called out for the way she celebrated a close friend’s birthday.

As she explained on the subreddit r/AmITheA--hole, she’s been friends with a man named Tom since college. She made sure to point out that she’s never had feelings for Tom and he’s never had feelings for her. Both she and Tom are in “committed relationships with long-term partners.”


The woman wondered if she overstepped a boundary by buying her male friend his dream birthday gift.

She explained that Tom is a “huge watch fanatic.” Months before his 25th birthday, he showed her “this stunning vintage watch and made an off-handed comment about how he would die of joy if he somehow got his hands on one.”

As the woman told it, “very coincidentally, I was in NYC a few weeks ago and stumbled upon this watch store that just so happened to have the exact one Tom wanted.”

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The watch was expensive, costing her $2,500, yet she explained “my boyfriend and I do very well financially, so this was something that I could personally afford and wanted to buy for Tom, especially knowing how happy it'd make him.”


“To me, it was basically fate,” she exclaimed, after finding what she deemed was “his dream gift” at a vintage store. She explained that Tom always celebrates his birthday by hosting a dinner party, followed by cake and gifts.

woman wonders if she overstepped boundaries by buying male friend his dream giftPhoto: mister mister / Pexels

“I told him before the dinner that my gift was a huge surprise and asked if he could save it for last and he agreed,” she said. “His girlfriend ends up going first and she gets him this gorgeous sweater that she crocheted for him and a book that he's been wanting, which I thought was super thoughtful and lovely.”


When Tom opened her gift, he “literally screamed, hopped over a bunch of people, and squeezed me in this huge bear hug.”

“I was SO happy to see him happy,” she stated. “It genuinely filled me with so much joy. He even got emotional and I saw him swipe a few tears. He also said that it was the ‘best gift he'd ever received.’” Tom’s girlfriend stayed quiet, and “was only slightly smiling” after he opened the gift.

The following morning, the woman got a text from Tom’s girlfriend, saying that “although she appreciated my thoughtful gift, she thought that it was a bit out of touch and lacking awareness.”

It turns out Tom had told his girlfriend about the watch, too, and while she’d wanted to get it for him, it was out of her price range. The woman said that “she accused me of knowing this (I had NO idea) and still getting it to rub it in her face and to ‘outshine’ her.”


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Tom’s girlfriend felt like the woman ‘overstepped a boundary by getting the gift’ and asked her not to do anything similar in the future.

The woman told her that she understood her perspective, yet she was “just trying to do a nice thing for a close friend.”

“I asked her, ‘Wouldn't you rather he got the gift and seen the happiness that it brought him than him not getting it at all?’ She responded that that happiness was ‘only shared between [me] and Tom’ and no one else, and that she felt hurt by my actions.”

The woman told her own boyfriend about the conflict, and he didn’t think she’d done anything wrong. She said that after thinking it all over, she sees how her gift could have crossed a boundary, though her boyfriend maintains that it’s “not [her] job to apologize for [the girlfriend’s] insecurities.”


The Reddit community was fairly divided on whether the woman had overstepped as a friend. Some people declared that she wasn’t the a–hole for giving her friend a generous gift, and that Tom's girlfriend “should just be happy for him that he was able to get something he really wanted rather than envious she couldn’t provide it.”

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woman wonders if she overstepped boundaries by buying male friend his dream giftPhoto: cottonbro studio / Pexels


Some people declared that she was the a–hole, and that her gift was “overstepping even if the intent was good,” as “this is an insane amount to spend on a platonic friend.”

“That was a completely inappropriate gift to give a friend,” someone else commented. “It is far too expensive and far too intimate.”

Others saw the nuance of the situation, and wondered if she could have presented the gift in a different way. “​​Giving him something you knew he really wanted was certainly thoughtful, but telling him to save it for last was attention-seeking... He would have loved it just as much if you hadn’t showcased it like that,” explained one person.

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Another person agreed, stating, “This should have been given to him in private, not in front of everyone. You knew it would be a better gift than everyone else and you wanted to get all the credit for it.”

Yet someone else called out Tom, himself, as the a–hole of the birthday party. “Why is no one talking about the fact that the guy made his girlfriend feel inadequate? I think the person who did the most wrong is the guy who gets a handmade gift that took hours to make from his girlfriend and then completely blows her off in front of a room full of people,” they commented.

While debate rages on as to whether men and women can maintain platonic friendships, it seems clear that despite the woman’s good intentions, her actions caused Tom’s girlfriend harm. His girlfriend set a solid boundary and advocated for her needs.


Sometimes, we act in ways that inadvertently hurt others, even if we’re not being purposefully malicious. Nurturing friendships takes many forms, and not all those forms can be quantified with a price. Holding space for other people’s emotions is challenging, but it’s also a valuable way to offer care in community with others.

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers relationship issues, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.