G is for Gifts, both given and got
When I was a kid, my maternal grandmother gave my mother striped pastel towels for Christmas. My mom responded politely, and I don’t think I noticed until we got home (Because *I* thought they were awesome) and my dad was ribbing Mom. But Mom didn’t like the towels. “Oh. Thank you. Striped towels.”
In our house, it became code for gifts you didn’t really want.
I remember an earlier situation – two, actually. One year, my maternal family gave me a Raggedy Ann doll for Christmas, and then my father’s family gave me a similar Raggedy Ann doll later in the day. I don’t remember /doing/ it, but I clearly remember being teased about throwing the second doll aside, being completely non-interested.
That’s when I learned you weren’t supposed to be less than enthusiastic about any gift.
A later time – Cabbage Patch Doll time, for those who remember the time and theme – my maternal family gave me a knock off Cabbage Patch. I remember being sort of disappointed by it, because the way the face was molded looked like it had a runny nose. But I remember naming it and trying gamely to love it. And then my paternal family gave me a real Cabbage Patch doll, one my father’s step-father had stood in line for – and the woman in that family gave him shit because it was a boy doll. I didn’t care. I loved it.
Quite some time later: we were helping a friend move, a friend who we’d given quite a few years of New Years’ gifts. Among the “discard” piles were at least two of these gifts. Now… some of his gifts had gotten quietly regifted, too. But it still stuck with me as a bit of a slap, even though I know it hadn’t been intended that way.
When I pick out gifts for people, I am always thinking about striped towels and trying, hard, not to be the person giving tone-deaf gifts. When I get gifts, it’s – well, you know, sometimes people do give you striped towels. Sometimes it’s because they don’t know you, sometimes it just doesn’t hit as well as they expected. But you still smile, and you’re still pleased. They tried, after all.
I wonder how much of this Amazon Wish Lists help mitigate, for everyone involved. It always feels a bit like cheating to me – like you couldn’t Know the Right Gift. On the other hand, it means you’re unlikely to be giving striped towels. Unless, you know, you’ve got pastel striped towels on your wish list.
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