Ponderings with Doug – December 16, 2016


“It’s not the gift; it is the thought that counts.” This phrase applies neither to office gift giving nor those white elephant gift giving adventures. The phrase is only used for serious gift givers and receivers, right?

Are people still saying that to each other? I think the phrase is most often whispered to a disappointed child who has received some kind of questionable gift for which a public thank you must be expressed. We adults have learned through the years to express our gratitude and move on. After years of study, reflection and my own terrible gift giving I am ready to reveal the categories of bad Christmas gifts. I hope I have caught you early enough that you can return some things before you give them.

Some of these gifts are so bad, so thoughtless, that it’s clear that the giver didn’t even purchase it at all. If gifts are a kind of relational currency indicating how we really feel about one another, then a bad gift says that you care enough to send the very least. So my loyal readers, be warned!

Here is my list of “bad giver!” gifts:

The “There’s Something Wrong With You But I Won’t Say It Directly” Gift. When I was a teenager I had terrible acne. It was so bad I couldn’t wear white shirts until my mid-20’s. One year a cousin gave me a bar of acne soap as a Christmas gift. The message was, “your face is so ugly that I can’t stand looking at you and I hope this bar of soap helps.” I used the bar of soap to no advantage.

The “I Bought Me This” Gift. This is a gift commonly given by a man. If a man buys his wife a waffle iron, for example, it’s really a way of saying, “Honey, now you can make me waffles! Aren’t you excited?” In fact, any kitchen appliance fits into this category, as does lingerie, which is really a gift for the man. Nothing says, “I bought me this” like a gift bag from Victoria’s Secret! Power tools were once in this category, but they have been replaced by technology, especially large screen televisions.

The Worthless Novelty Gift. How about a wallet that looks like it’s made out of bacon? Or “Handerpants” (underwear for your hands)? This is the stuff you find in the bargain bin at that sketchy store at the mall or the “As Seen On TV” section of some of local stores. The giver thinks, “She’ll get a kick out of this!” No, she won’t. All the Copper Fit braces fit into this category and the “There’s Something Wrong With You But I Won’t Say It Directly” category as well. With Copper Fit you can hit a two for one deal on the bad gift list.

The Cheapskate Gift. This is the gift of things like excess office supplies lifted from work, or the “free gift” that came with the actual gift you purchased for someone else. I like the free samples of pens, mugs, umbrellas and towels that marketing firms send to potential clients. You know you are well esteemed when you get one of these gifts. A sub-category would be the “re-gift” — something the giver once received, hated and decided to transfer to you.

The Passive-Aggressive Mother-in-Law Gift. A young woman once received the “gift” of a flame-throwing weed killer from her mother-in-law. According to her, “The English instructions said it was for killing weeds, but warned that if you didn’t hold it absolutely upright it was liable to back up and explode.” It’s the gift that says, paradoxically, “I love you and I hope you die horribly in a way by which I can blame someone else.”

Our gift giving is supposed to remind us “For God so loved the world that He GAVE His only begotten son….”

Do you think we really get it?

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