What’s the worst gift you ever received? Is it hard for everyone to open a bad Christmas gift and pretend to be excited? I’ll never win an Oscar for acting because the moment I unwrap a bad gift, my facial features alter. As I try to smile, a smirk tugs down the corners of my mouth. My pleasant “Oh, how lovely!” sounds hollow and now everyone in the room is watching!
What defines a bad gift? You tell me. When I was in my twenties, my mother-in-law gave me big beige underwear (‘old-lady panties’ according to my husband) three Christmases in a row. Each year it was the same thing; after Xmas I’d trade in the 6-pack for something sexy.
After years of nervous anticipation during tense moments around the tree, I’ve devised a few logical suggestions to sail us through the giving and receiving:
1) Avoid buying the ‘practical’ gift. An ear and nose hair trimmer is the ideal choice for Uncle Louie, but he didn’t know he had a hair issue until you came along;
2) If you’re bold/foolish/uncaring enough to pawn off a previous bad gift, remove all evidence. My friend received a present from her aunt, a glass punch bowl with 12 cups. When she broke down the box for recycling, she discovered a gift tag addressed TO the aunt from someone else. FYI my friend doesn’t have a dozen friends to share punch, so this gift was both recycled and kind of sad;
3) Before the dreaded day, I mean Christmas, do some practicing: “Thank you, how kind, it’s just what I always wanted” in front of the bathroom mirror. Do you look sincere? If you can’t fool yourself, you won’t fool your holiday crowd;
4) Reserve comment UNTIL you’ve unwrapped the inside tissue. Just because there’s a picture of a can opener on the box doesn’t mean there’s a can opener inside. It could be a diamond tennis bracelet and here you’ve already gone and gasped, “How wonderful, I really need a can opener!” Chances are, if you already own two can openers, it’ll be a third;
5) Apply a generous coating of lip balm before the festivities begin. When your mouth dries at the sight of a poorly knit sweater in a shade of orange not found on nature’s palette, the extra lubrication will prevent your lips from sticking to your teeth;
6) At the first sight of a bad gift, visualize a favorite day at the beach. If that doesn’t make you smile when you open the gift certificate for an hour of electrolysis, nothing will. (Now you know how Uncle Louie feels);
7) And finally, suggest that next Christmas be gift-free for adults. Why put ourselves through this stress year after year? Wait a minute . . . who says I haven’t given MY share of bad gifts? My mother had a suspiciously cheerful voice when she opened my childhood creations of melted crayon-covered jars and Popsicle stick pen holders. So much glitter . . . the horror.
Forget the angst of receiving bad gifts. Now I’m too paranoid to shop. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!