“I saw this, and I thought of you.”
Shiver. Whenever someone use those words, I now assume that I will dislike whatever that person is about to give me.
“Don’t look the gift horse in the mouth.”
Whoever engineered this drivel never had to fake gratitude. Opening a gift in front of someone is bad enough without having to participate in that exhausting charade of protecting the giver’s feelings and honoring her good intentions. The gift giver’s bright, eager eyes, that expectant smile, the enthusiastic nodding of the head as the wrapping falls away—we’ve all been there.
“Oh, thank you.” You cock your head to one side and push up your bottom lip into that frown which is supposed to convey how deeply you are touched. “That was so thoughtful of you!”
You’re thinking something else entirely:
I hope she didn’t notice that I used the word “thoughtful” and never said that I liked or even appreciated the gift. This terrible present is yet another indication that you do not, in fact, “get” me, know me, or understand my likes or tastes in the least. You wasted your money, and now I remember why I get ulcers and diarrhea over the holidays.
“It’s the thought that counts.”
Oh, you thought of me, did you? Well, try not to think so much in the future. Keep your mind to yourself.
Insensitive? I think not. Holding onto junk that you dislike for the sole purpose of deceiving your friends, relatives, and acquaintances is like cleaning your plate because the kids in Africa are starving. Who really benefits? My garage sale? My weight problem?
When am I going to find the time to put this piece of crap on eBay?
Anyone who knows me well knows that I love books. I do not, however, love every book. This qualification is important.
Anyone who knows me well also knows that I’m not a flag-waving patriot. Red, white, and blue are not running through my veins. They’re not running much of anywhere these days, what with their strict diet of Diet Coke, hamburgers, and channel surfing.
I’ve traveled to enough places outside the contiguous forty-eight and have had enough conversations with people in other countries to gain perspective on our politics and culture. The good ole U.S. of A. won’t be winning any beauty pageants this year. Our country, history, government, and culture have attractive attributes, but I’m not blind to their blemishes.
So when I was working at a church and Christmas rolled around, I should have seen it coming:
“I saw this, and I thought of you. I know how much you love books.”
“You shouldn’t have!”
[Really, I wish you wouldn’t have.]
“Right now? I don’t want to make the other kids jealous. HA Ha ha…”
[Use joke to disguise mounting tension. Did she hear the fear leaking into my laughter?]
“Go ahead. I want to see what you think.” A beatific smile spreads across her face. She lifts her chin to better relish my reaction.
I was cornered. I had no choice but to unwrap the rectangular package.
When we are backed into this uncomfortable situation, we work slowly. We have never before taken so long to pick at the tape. We have never before gone to such lengths to keep the wrapping paper intact. When have we ever reused wrapping paper? Never. That’s irrelevant. We’re buying ourselves time. We’re taking a crash course in method acting. We’re summoning everything we learned in previous experiences with crappy presents:
Crinkle the skin around the eyes. This has to look sincere or she’s gonna know I plan on selling it or throwing it away. I probably won’t even be able to regift this turd. If she cries, I could lose my job. Inhale. Deep breath now. Exhale. I must convince her that this is the best gift I have ever received. How could she have possibly known? Fake, incredulous laughter. Has she been reading my journal again? You’re sneaky. Give her a wink. Beat a hasty retreat. Recuperate on the weird bed in the bathroom.
As I tore the paper away, I saw that I had my work cut out for me:
· Bald Eagle.
· American Flag.
· Terrible book cover design.
· Glossy finish.
· Smaller than normal size suggesting purchase at discount store.
If I fooled her into thinking I liked this, I was a dramatic genius. The next Keanu Reeves.
Wait a second…what’s this? Could it be? Yes, it is! She’s been distracted by another conversation, Mrs. Temple’s recipe for green bean casserole.
I’m saved. Hallelujah!
Already on the move, I say, “Thank you so much! I’ll see you later.”
Half listening, she responds, “Oh, okay. You’re welcome. Glad you liked it.”
Never said I liked it, but what she doesn’t know can’t hurt her.
The crappiest gift that I’ve ever received?
Date: 3-4 years ago
Gift: 1) a miniature of the Parthenon; 2) a pair of cuticle scissors.
Please share the crappiest gift you ever got in the Comments section below.