There is an Art to Gifting

>> Friday, July 30, 2010

I've been thinking about the art of giving gifts the past day or so.  No, I don't have any gifts that I need to buy, or anything like that.  Rather, I've been cleaning out closets, curio cabinets, and random boxes tucked in available basement and garage space, and I periodically find, "It," the wrong gift, at the wrong time, that for whatever reason just cannot be thrown away.

A great many of these gift-mishaps have come to me and my family from the best of love, affection, good intentions, and even effort.  For example, at our wedding, we received several "crafty" presents, such as renditions of our wedding invitations mounted, decorated, framed, and returned to us.  I had never heard of doing anything quite like this as a gift before, so I was intrigued, and yes, grateful.  One of these beautiful crafty gifts involved an intricate paper lace cutout and a poem, all mounted and framed.  Obviously, someone took a great deal of time and effort into making this piece for us.  The problem was, it was beige.  Everything about it was beige, from the frame to the paper, from the outside to the inside -- beige. 

I hate beige.

I won't even allow off-white paint into my house.  The first thing I do when I move in is paint all the walls white, and the last thing I do when I sell a place is paint the walls beige again.

The only truly beige thing in my life is my teeth because I've found better things to do with my money than spend it on teeth whiteners.  I once received a beige and brown striped dress for Christmas when I was a teenager and almost cried.  Thankfully, one of my sisters is in love with beige, and we traded.

This framed piece of artwork was indeed lovely, but in my starch-white home, I had no place to put it.  So, it moved from room to room, from shelf to shelf, until finally it ended up in a box in the closet.  I can't get rid of it, but I can't display it. 

On the flip side, around about that same week, we received a gift card to Wal-Mart for our wedding.  Now, before you email the great Wally-World, and I start receiving tons of hate mail, let me make one thing perfectly clear.  I like Wal-Mart.  It has it's place, and it is a great store ... for certain things.  Nothing about the store says, "wedding," to me, though.  While I guarantee you I spent the gift money, I couldn't help but wonder how the gifter's mind was working that they thought Wal-Mart was a wedding gift while I did not?  I understand some people swear by the Wal-Mart standard -- but for wedding china? 


We had a registry at more than one store so that people had options (and because I couldn't find everything I wanted at one place).  The stores even had varieties of prices, and we had a variety of requests ranging from $10 to ... let's just say we were dreaming.  If you wanted a no-thought gift, we had everyone covered through internet-accessible registries.

On the other hand,I understand not wanting to work exclusively from a registry.  Some people get a charge out of venturing out on their own, but breaking new ground with gift cards?  Really?  What was wrong with a gift card from any of the stores where we did have a registry?  Or a generic gift card from a major credit card company?  I just can't help but think that not a lot of love, caring, or thought went into that gift choice.  Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe that Wal-Mart card was the biggest, most special gift that person could think to send.

Nah.  I'm not buying it.

I could go on and on about stories of knick knacks (and clothing) gone wrong.  I have had many a gift given to me with the line, "I thought of you the minute I saw this."  More than once, I've wanted to ask, "What on EARTH about this statue of a gorilla in a tutu that sings 'Some Enchanted Evening' made you think of me?"  I especially have to wonder about the gifts that involve depictions of naked people.  Sure, I went to Egypt and looked at lots of figures of gods with inflated phaluses, but that doesn't mean I want you to bring me one when you next go to Egypt.  Please.

Of course, I suspect that we in this house have been guilty of great gift errors.  Darling Husband used to be rather fixated on the idea of giving away crystal mantlepiece clocks to friends that were getting married. The idea was certainly appropriate -- crystal, not cheap, wedding-ish, not from Wal-Mart.  Years later I had to wonder whether our generosity was ever viewed as such by the recipients.  Were they, perhaps, sitting in their living room saying, "What in the world are we going to do with a mantlepiece clock when we don't even have a fireplace in our apartment?"  Or maybe the bride was saying, "Crystal?  I HATE crystal.  Didn't they see there was no crystal anything on our registry?"  Yes, I'm sure that must have happened at least once.

The stories of bad gifting are universal, and endless.  One Christmas my sisters and I all opened our presents from a one gift giver.  The gifts were unique, unusual, and absolutely non-returnable, as they came from one small, non-franchised store in another state.  After all three were open, we looked around at each other, and each other's gifts, and passed them one to the right.  With a quick rotation, we were all pleased as punch, and we decided that the gifts must have just had the wrong label on them.  Problem solved. 

Not all poor choices could be explained away by a gifting label though.  Some of them I just had to resort to actually exchanging.  For example, I once got  a terry-cloth wrap-around towel from a rather nice lingerie store.  Right.  One trip to said lingerie store to exchange it for a teddy solved that problem. 

Others?  Well, others were so unique, or so carefully thought out, that they sit in my house, far from the craft booth or mom and pop shop where they were born, waiting for the day that I can figure out what to do with it.


kadiera July 30, 2010 at 4:13 PM  

Worst gift recently: Last week my mother sent my non-verbal toddler a late box of birthday gifts, which included a shirt that says "If I'm quiet, you'd better come find me"


Second worst: MIL's friend insisted same toddler, who barely eats, needed a cheap, hollow, white chocolate Easter bunny. I hate white chocolate. Husband hates it. So, what do we do with this thing?

I will say, toddler had a blast banging the box on the floor, until he tried standing on the's a good thing I don't have carpet.

Karin Kysilka July 31, 2010 at 3:13 PM  

Ooh. Just ... oooh.

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