I approach this subject with a certain degree of fear and trepidation. Not just because I’ve had numerous requests for me to address the most-sensitive-of-holiday-topics, but because today, I turned on the ‘anonymous comments’ capability. For non-authors, this is like an Amish streaking naked in Times Square. So please, be kind. Keep in mind this is one woman’s opinion, and that deep, deep, down, I’m a good person. Really.
On one hand, I have Roger, who is obsessively opposed to re-gifting. Or, rather, he was for the first ten years of our marriage. During that time, he insisted we keep every set of Chinese balls, homemade candles, hallucenagenic incense, odd-shaped paperweights and every type of knick-knack, (Not the Brazilian thong supplier, thanks very much!)
His points were valid. The giver went to the time and effort of finding, purchasing and/or making the item especially for us. It’s his contention that to not use the item, or worse, place it out of site, insults the giver of the gift. No matter what, appreciation should be shown to the giver by keeping and displaying said gift.
Fair points all. Appreciation and gratitude should absolutely be expressed. It’s always sincere, even if the pilgrim shaped Thanksgiving soap holder doesn’t quite work with my bathroom. It was a nice thought, cost money to purchase and send. A receiver could have it worse, and receive no gift at all.
That said, I apply some rules to gifts, gift usage and re-gifting.
Rule number one. Never, ever, EVER lie.
Just tonight, Rog and I were discussing the joys of honesty.
“Honesty is attractive,” he told me. I’d never thought of it that way, but I agreed. He then went on to tell me that “honesty is persistent.” In other words, the truth will catch up with you.
Let me give you an example. One year, when I was in my early twenties, I attended a holiday white elephant party. I’d never done so before, and was asked to bring an item worth less than five bucks. I looked in my cupboard, found a glass vegetable platter still in it’s box, and figured its was just the ticket. Proud of my item, I wrapped it and took it to the party.
The party planner put us in a circle and we played a game that required the participants to open and “pass around” the gift. The rules are not-important; the outcome is. Suffice it to say that my plate was opened, and a man in the room recognized the plate. In front of the entire room, he asked where I got it, and I was caught off-guard. Instead of saying it was a gift I never used, I said I purchased it the year before. With a red face, he told me that was interesting, since he purchased a plate in Germany for his wife, just like the one I held in my hands.
The room went silent. Shuffles, laughter, odd looks. It was horrid. The reality was the gift had been given to me as a birthday present the year before. I lost five pounds from sweaty armpits. All I could do was shrug my shoulders and say “what a coincidence!” and move on.
All was not lost. A few days later, the same guy told me he was mortally wounded his wife had given me the plate HE gave HER as an “I love you” gift. The anger he showed toward me was redirected hurt stemming from his wife’s re-gifting. This leads to rule number 2.
Rule number two. If you are going to regift, do it in another state.
Oh. My. Lands. This one was classic. Last year, we had a Christmas party where many guests brought gifts. A good many were plants, some that needed immediate planting, a few that gave us allergic reactions, and one that we were morally opposed to keeping.
The latter plant in this case, an ivy, is plant-non-gratta in this household. It’s an invasive species in Washington, and takes over, kills and consumes everything in its path like the borg ship from h–l. In this case, the plant had no tag on it telling us the person who gave the gift.
The following week, I had a business-client event to go to, and wanted to bring a gift. The ivy! we both thought. We were pleased that we could re-use and regift the item. No sooner did I enter the room and drop the gift off when my good friend (a client turned friend actually) came up to me and commented on the plant. She asked where I got it, and I said in hushed tones, that it was a gift, but didn’t have a tag on it.
“That was my gift to you!” she exclaimed. This moment of mortification (MOM) gave me a flashback to the time I ran in to a former co-worker at the mall. She was shopping with the new husband (I with a boyfriend) and she had a huge pooch in her belly. The rest of her was as thin as I remembered, but her tummy looked six or seven months pregnant.
I patted it, and asked when she was due.
“I’m not pregnant,” she said. “I’m happily married and must have put on weight.”
Fortunately, my friend was more good natured about my clueness-ness than my former co-worker. However, I will never, ever make that mistake again.
Rule number three. Don’t regift in-family.
This is akin to the ‘don’t marry your cousin policy.’ I’m not just talking immediate family members. I’m talking your family to his family (spouses) or cousin to cousin. For example, if I received a seashell-inspired turnip peeler from my mother-in-law (never have btw) and gave it to my own sister, and she mentioned it at a birthday party for my daughter (that they both attended), the re-gifting would be obvious. Not good. (note my requirement to change the names and items of the innocent to protect the guilty?)
Rule number four. Use the gift at least once.
See rule number one. This ensures you satisfy the inevitable question of “how did you like the gift?” You can honestly respond, “we used the macrame towel in our guest bathroom!” while looking the gift-giver squarely in the eye. However, make sure you don’t receive another unwanted towel by identifying your style of decor, what you really need, then drop hints throughout the year about things you “simply can’t find!” This last year, I went so far as to send relatives links to $9 dollar lip gloss that makes me as nearly as happy as driving a clean car, and a lot cheaper than a macrame towel!
Rule number five. Tell/ask the giver if you can regift.
This last summer, my neighbor told me she was going to hold her annual garage sale. As is our custom, I went over early to check out the goods, and she came up, holding a hand-made rug I’d purchased for her in Mexico six or seven years earlier.
“I’ve had this, and never really used it,” she said. “Do you want it back or can I sell it?” I’ll admit, I was a little hurt. Rog and I had picked it out, hauled it back, and heck, it was cool looking. But truly, it wasn’t her style, nor that of her home. I respected the fact she held on to it, and she had even placed it over her living room couch for the first year.
I took it back. Now it sits in our laundry room, on top of other things I can’t really use but don’t want to discard.
Honesty hurts. But I like honesty. I can deal with honesty. It would have been far worse to see the blanket at a friend’s home, and learn she bought it at my neighbor’s garage sale!
The other day, I was asked if gifts have a shelf-life. Sure. What that shelf-life is, I have no clue. Two years? Five. Don’t know. Don’t want to find out. I recently justified it’s ok to regift after someone dies, moves, or is no longer a part of my life. That said, I’m still going to give it another year, just in case.