Ghosts of Regifting Past
12:30 pm, December 26th | by Colette McIntyre
It was a few days before Christmas and I was face-down on a couch in Long Island, trying to conceal a can of Coors Light from my best friend’s mother. (Long Island mothers have a tendency to storm into houses seconds after you cracked open your first brew. It’s quite a talent, actually.) Carrie (“Don’t call me ‘Mrs!’”) loomed over the couch, a plastic-sheathed wicker basket cradled in her arms. I was discovering that it was nearly impossible to shield an open can of beer with your cheek.
“Would you just look at what he got me?”
Carrie unceremoniously dropped the basket from her arms. The sound of cracking wicker made me jump and a mouthful of beer spilled onto the couch, spreading between my breast and a suede cushion. My best friend was too busy rolling her eyes and scrolling through text messages to fulfill her mother’s request, so I tilted my head and “just looked at what he got her.” I assumed that the “he” being disparaged was Carrie’s boyfriend, a thick-necked New York-native who was seven years her junior and worked in “construction.” The gift was an assortment of chocolates, cookies, and spreads nestled in between bunches of fruit. I didn’t see what the problem was.
“He re-gifted this.”
The way Carrie said the word “re-gifted” made it clear that she found the act to be one of the most despicable things a man could do.
“It was a corporate gift basket,” she snarled. “I can’t believe he just passed it on to me.” I could see how angry Carrie was, but I could also see chocolate-covered pretzels beneath the cellophane. I fingered the basket’s handle lightly.
“So…you don’t want it,” I said.
“No I don’t want it! This is so tacky, it’s offensive. Take it. It’s yours!”
Re-gift? Try best gift,”I thought.
That was my first experience with re-gifting. Perhaps because the practice entered my life in the form of bonbons, or perhaps because I am my mother’s daughter and operate under the hoarder’s mantra of “I could use this/I might need this someday,” I have never received a re-gifted present and been unhappy. In fact, re-gifting was an entirely positive thing in my life, until I tried to do a little re-gifting of my own.
I am a fantastic re-gift-ee and a pathetic re-gift-er. I am an unreformed procrastinator, which means that there have been times when I had mere minutes to find a gift for my Secret Santa/professor/roommate/casual sex partner. Some people are at their best under this kind of yuletide pressure. I, on the otherhand, aggressively paw at my shelves like Frankenstein’s monster. I sweat, I break tchotchkes, I consider giving a friend the remote. Usually, I end up just as surprised as the recipient when my gift is opened since I black out during the gift selecting process. Below are three ghosts of my re-gifting Christmas past; hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and become a better re-gifter for it.
The French Doll; Christmas 2001
My mother is an ebullient French women whose entire side of the family still resides in Cannes. Because of this distance, I have met my mother’s mother, my grand-mère, only a handful of times, resulting in a lot of dicey birthday and Christmas presents. For my eleventh birthday, my grand-mère shipped over an exquisitely made porcelain doll with blinking eyes and hand-lain hair. Unfortunately, I was eleven and a jerk and didn’t play with dolls anymore. So the doll was banished to the back of my closet until Christmastime when I realized that I had forgotten to get my only friend a gift (I told you, I was a jerk).
The doll seemed like the perfect backup plan, despite the fact that my friend was also eleven and probably didn’t want to play with dolls either. My friend opened the gift and gave me a sad smile, as if to say “Seriously? A doll?”, which I was more than pleased to accept. A sad smile is better than no smile, right? My friend pulled the doll out of its satin-lined trunk, perhaps to make a show of how much she liked it, and then I saw for the first time that all of it’s precious, hand-lain amber hair had been butchered. It seemed my older brother had not forgotten where the doll was sequestered and, at some point in the year, had fallen upon her with a pair of scissors. My friend made a sad little scream and I had to spend an hour reassuring her that choppy bobs were très chic in France.
The Leather Jacket, 2009
It was my first year in college and I was broke. Becoming friends with non-New York natives who love brunching and ordering cocktails at Le Bain will do that to a girl. I spent the night before Christmas Eve hiding out at a sweaty dorm-room party, and with all my financial and yuletide anxieties weighing on my mind, I forgot to keep track of my punch consumption.
The next day I came to with an empty Old English 40-ounce bottle in my bag and a leather jacket next to me in bed — a leather jacket that didn’t belong to me. I wrapped the jacket with tissue paper and packed it into an empty box. My sister was ecstatic when she opened my gift on Christmas Day and I felt like the slyest fox in the forest. (…That’s a saying, right?) Then she did something that I had never thought to do in my hungover haze: she stuck her hand in the jacket’s pockets.
“You got me earphones too? You’re the best,” she shouted, pulling out a pair of white earbuds. And then —
“Wait, what is this?” In my sister’s hand was a half-used package of Newport cigarettes. Lesson learned: always check the pockets.
The Corked Bottle of Wine, 2011
Suffice it to say that before you shove a half-heartedly wrapped bottle of wine in your purse and travel across the city to a Secret Santa party, make sure that the wine bottle was never opened. Otherwise, you’ll arrive in the Bronx with a broken cell phone, a Merlot-stained purse, streaks of wine on your legs and no gift. I lived through it, so you don’t have to.
What are your best and worst re-gifting stories? Share them below in the comments.
[Photo via Kitty and Buck]