Monday, December 17, 2007

Pondering Presents

So I'm thinking about presents. And here's what I'm thinking: I think when you get a present, there's only one response you get to make, and that's this: Thank you.

I read all these letters to Dear Amy and Carolyn Hax complaining about getting crappy—or just the wrong—presents, and asking for advice about how to tell the gifter that their presents suck. You know, in a nice way.

And I don't get it.

I mean, of course I DO actually get it. Everyone hopes that their loved ones will know them well enough to know what would please them. But don't these people get how lucky they are that someone remembered them at all??

I decided—because I'm a saint? um, no—to be happy that someone thought enough to remember me. Period.

I know people will disagree with this philosophy, but really, it saves so much angst. Granted, I don't have a big, extended family, so I don't have anyone to fight with, impress, or feel bad about. And, aside from Number One Daughter, there are no kids awaiting presents from me. So I know I have it easier than most.


I also totally don't get what's bad about re-gifting. I gave a friend of mine a hardcover book that she saw me reading on vacation, and admired. I enjoyed the book, but knew I wouldn't re-read it, so gave it to this person for Christmas. I honestly saw nothing wrong with doing that. Yet she was offended.

I guess it's easy for me to be sanguine about the whole gift-giving experience since there's really only two people who give me gifts (and hey, thanks to both of you!)

Oh, I realize that giving presents often has nothing to do with the actual giving of presents. It's so symbolic—of what I mean to you and vice versa. I guess if year after year I give you presents that seem to imply that I know nothing about you, or have never actually met you—well, I guess that could get on a person's nerves.

To illustrate: One year I came home from work to find a box outside my apartment door, in the hallway, leaking some red fluid. A Christmas present! But what's that it blood? Is this some weird reprise of Se7en???

Oh no, it was just a Christmas present from me mum. She'd sent a box of frozen steaks.

I'm a vegetarian.

So yeah, I get the disappointment that someone who should know you—at least a little!—doesn't. But you can't make that happen.

We all have so much crap already. I mean really. Think about it. Don't you have everything you really need? Who wants more stuff?

Well, unless it's something like this. A girl can't ever have too many of those.


21stCenturyMom said...

I can't for the life of me understand why that woman would be offended that you gave her your book. If you had given it to her on not-Christmas would she have reacted the same way? Were you in any way obligated to give her a gift? Sounds like it was nice gesture to me.

As for the other stuff I'm generally pretty happy if someone remembers me at all so I'm with you there. If someone really does know me and they give me a totally in appropriate gift I just wonder why but life's too short to get your panties in a twist over stuff like that.

Dana said...

I agree w/ 21stcenturymom that your friend really had nothing to be offended about. I am all about the re-gifting. I figure if someone gets more out of it than the original recipient then re-gift away!

W/ that said even though I am happy when someone remembers enough to give me a gift I am not above letting them know in the nicest way possible when their gift is inappropriate for me. To try to cut down on that happening I just give everyone a list of the stores that I would like gift cards from(don't want to take the chance on them trying to buy me something or that item being sold out). My dad is the only that refuses to do that & will get me a gift but will always include the gift receipt(kind of a running joke between us).

m said...

I would love a book. Used, better yet. Then again I'm as low maintenence as they come.

I don't expect Christmas gifts, nor do I want them. My husband and I stopped that years ago.

I decided that our high school nephews no longer need gift cards from us. I'm sure they realize we need a new roof more. Don't they?

peter said...

A wag might say that Christmas is a time when we hope the present is remembered and the past is forgotten.

Anne said...

Start giving goats (, Jeanne, to all those thankless friends and family members. That way you know your gift is appreciated somewhere.

I sometimes get coffee as a gift, and I don't drink coffee. But I've never shown anything but excitement and gratitude. You know what I say, besides thank you? "Oh, I can wait to serve this the next time I have company. I bet everyone loves it!"

And don't even get me started on the ingrates that say they hate getting holiday cards with family photos and updates....

Rae said...

I can't believe someone would be mad about the book! I think that's a neat idea. In a recent bible study the speaker was saying that if someone compliments you on something every once in a while just give it to them and surprise them! I guess that person wouldn't really like that approach, huh!
People are so picky, Christmas has become so overcommercialized. Next year I'd love to do a homemade items only Christmas. This year we did tons of cookie bags and baskets and it's been so much fun.

LBTEPA said...

I think the trick to "re-gifting" is to keep it a secret for birthdays/ christmas; that's what I do anyway. I was a bit staggered that people actually write to the paper asking for help to be RUDE. No-one has to give you a present, and it really is the thought - however misguided - that counts.
I also think people who gripe about getting a family update letter are mean-spirited. Christmas is all about sending love the best way you can manage. So there.
BTW if you'd tell me your address you'd get more than 2 presents so stop bleating ;)

Nancy Toby said...

OK, let me be the lone voice in the wilderness here, but I vote no on the used book, if you were going to get her a gift anyway. A new, unread copy of the book she admired - great. Perfect. But a used, already-read book that you were done with and didn't want any more? Nah.

Unless otherwise you wouldn't have gotten her anything, and in that case, eff her if she can't take a joke.

peter said...

I so give my read, used hardbacks to other people, either as gifts or outright. Why kill more trees? First I set the dust jacket aside so it doesn't get scuffed up during the reading period. This might be a red state/blue state thing (says he from a red state and hating it). Anyway, THANKS NBTR for my present (did you forget my past already?) of a PEACE FELLOWSHIP contribution made in my honor. I love it! (I'm all for peace. I truly thought we worked this out in the early 70s but apparently not. Those dummies who don't know the past are doomed, you know the rest. And don't step in front of the Great Birdhunter while he blasts away (where was he and his quick gun never mind)). Thanks! Really!

Vickie said...

I was just thinking some of the same thoughts. Coming from a large family of givers of many gifts and having a large family who expect many gifts, I have streamlined some of the shopping down from what my mother used to do, but I also know I do more than most people I know. I on the other hand really don't want much, if anything, so its hard when I get gifts I either don't need or don't want. But you know what? I just say thank you and try to make use of them. You never look a gift horse in the mouth.

jtsmooth said...

I'm going to give you the box of steaks that my uncle gave me last year.

Happy Holidays!

IHateToast said...

my mom got us battery-operated s&p shakers. the company accidentally sent 2 sets. i'm giving the second away today. now, the shakers are cylindrical . they vibrate. naturally, i'm giving it to my friend with batts and salt already inside. the other one will be in a box. i just want to give her a vibrating tube at a coffee shop. THAT'S the real gift.

why do people expect gifts? i am all about regifting. it's recycling. i can't say that a gift that has been shoved down my throat by marketers and bought at a mall in the weeks before xmas is really any sweeter.

phukkheads! the lot of 'em!

Anonymous said...

And the winner is........jess!

David said...

I was with you every step of the way on your post (unless the book was all frayed and full of Gatorade and Gu stains). Then you downplayed the gifting thing and finish with the big wish: a garish diamond that is so over the top ridiculous. Is that the real you? Wouldya wear it? THAT we want to know.

Rich said...

Er ... Thank You.

Susan said...

I agree completely. We have too much!

I would have LOVED the regifted hardback book, by the way.

Rhea said...

I would GLADLY and graciously accept a used book as a gift. I'd be happy just to get a present.

Runner Susan said...

Jeanne, just for the record, I would really love a goat. A little baby one with those rectangle pupisis. They are so cute. So anytime you want, you can give me a goat.

I'm trying to give you a custom masthead, that you won, but you don't seem to want that either. But don't worry, I'm not offended or anything.