Friday, December 03, 2010

Gift Giving 101

My advice on gifts is nearly always to bestow something consumable--not necessarily ingestible, but something that can be used up. The theory behind this is that even if the recipient does not love your choice, it is not permanent. No doubt you have great taste, but nothing is worse than bestowing an antique Limoges teapot on a household that is an altar to Philippe Stark.

My mother-in-law, who has exquisite and expensive taste, was the unfortunate recipient of a life-sized countertop monkey statue with an outstretched hand to hold bananas for optimal ripening. This was particularly awkward because the giver was someone who works nearby and visits almost daily. Every Friday, like some religious ritual, the monkey is stored in the mudroom cupboard for the weekend.

We have all received the equivalent of the banana monkey at some point in our lives. We hope that we have never given one. In order to ensure that your gifting is Gracious, I offer the following tips:

  • Don't buy gifts based on what you like. The giftee might adore you, but your affection for Lladro and marzipan? She doesn't share it.
  • Be wary of wearables. There are too many places to go wrong: size, color, cut...
  • Be doubly wary of anything that might be considered "home decor". Remember the banana monkey! No one wants a table runner as a gift, "art" is the most subjective of all subjects, and a friend who thinks you want (or even need) a paperweight is an odd sort of friend.
  • Gift certificates are not a cop-out. My aunt gave me one recently to Williams Sonoma, and I think of her every time I use my new pepper mill. It's such a kick to walk into a store and buy something without spending any money.
  • Still in doubt? Ask the giftee's spouse/significant other, close friend or sister. They're the ones most likely to suggest something that won't end up re-gifted or in the back of the closet.
  • If you still think she's going to love the banana-monkey, at least make sure she can return it. Just in case she already has one.

Enjoy this clip from Will and Grace on the hazards of giving a handmade objet d'art....

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