Holidays with the gift of gab

A personal glimpse into the seamy underbelly of gift culture during the holidays.

by Ashley Dresser

One can only assume that with the recession still at large, weâÄôre going to experience a notable spike in the popular holiday pastime of âÄúregifting.âÄù In fact, most major newspapers and fashion magazines are already making this prediction âÄî if not encouraging it âÄî with chintzy idiotâÄôs guides to regifting that highlight its hallowed codes of etiquette. I prefer just to tell people. âÄúHere, I found this on the ground on the way to your house,âÄù handing my cousin the rearview mirror of a car. âÄúSo you can always look back and remember the good times.âÄù It sounds poetic enough that heâÄôs convinced it comes from the heart, despite of my obvious lack of preparation. Just to be sure, I follow up with a six-pack of beer. When regifting, this is an excellent strategy. Later, when weâÄôre drunk, IâÄôll feed him the same line and heâÄôll likely gush, âÄúGosh Ashley, youâÄôre so creative. IâÄôve never thought of a review mirror like this before. IâÄôll cherish it forever.âÄù It started when I was 10. I wrapped up a box of nothing and gave it to my Grandma with some cutesy little poem about it being a box filled with love and she was immediately brought to tears. From then on, I knew I had a very special gift. I was a step above the regifters: I had a way with words. If youâÄôre appalled by my insensitivity, you have to meet my mother. Her gift methodology involves something far more graphic than your standard âÄúregifterâÄù or me, âÄúthe charming little liar.âÄù My mother has two chronic Christmas deficiencies: She is both a present poser and a sales sap. The latter is easy to figure out. If my mother sees anything on sale, she buys it up and calculates whom to give it to later. Once, she came home from Walgreens with 150 bottles of Arizona Iced Tea and exclaimed, âÄúThey were on sale, so I thought, letâÄôs throw a party!âÄù Indeed, her lack of oversight also applies to salesmen. If they so much as breathe in her direction, she will buy whatever it is they have up their sleeves and take them out for dinner afterward. After a vacation in Florida, the sketchy salesman capital of the United States, she came home with a pink flannel fanny pack and a so-called âÄúunbreakable combâÄù for me. âÄúMom, this comb is exactly like the free ones they give you when they take your picture for school,âÄù I say, amazed by her ignorance. âÄúYeah, but itâÄôs unbreakable!âÄù she insists. âÄúHow do you know?âÄù I ask. âÄúHenry told me.âÄù They had even exchanged pictures of their kids. âÄúAnd it says right here,âÄù she says, pointing to where it reads âÄúunbreakable combâÄù in flaking gold. I sigh. All I can do is be thankful she only came home with that and not a suitcase full of kinky massage tools and Mayan worry dolls, although I am concerned about what IâÄôm getting for Christmas. Usually, itâÄôs easy to tell. I can just look at my motherâÄôs wish list and inevitably, my gift will be on it. This is because my mother is also a present poser. She buys gifts for herself and tries to pass them off as presents for someone else, preferably in her immediate family so that she can have full use of it later. Over the years, I have received a six-speed juice processor, a bed frame that didnâÄôt fit my bed (coincidentally, it fit hers) and a plethora of clothing perfect for a 45-year-old working woman. The best part about the process is that my mother pretends to be genuinely befuddled when we express our lack of enthusiasm for our brand new Penzeys Spices kit. âÄúWhat do you mean you donâÄôt like it?âÄù she sniffles. âÄúI thought you said thatâÄôs what you wanted!âÄù âÄúWhen did I ever say I needed a Penzeys Spices kit, Mom?âÄù ItâÄôs frustrating. âÄúI probably asked for more pepper at the dinner table.âÄù Another prime example of maternal memory transfiguration; it happens a lot. But my poor brothers have it far worse, I must admit. Imagine what itâÄôs like to unravel your stash of Christmas booty only to reveal an electric eyelash curler, a new Tupperware set and a free one-month membership to Curves. Anticlimatic is an understatement. So really, regifting isnâÄôt that bad. It could be worse; you could be âÄî or know âÄî my mother. If youâÄôre unsure of where to begin, MSN Money offers a script of tips on how to politely regift, but I disagree with most of them. Here are a few of my addendums: 1. âÄúBuy a new card.âÄù ThatâÄôs like putting lipstick on a bulldog. DonâÄôt bother. 2. âÄúDonâÄôt regift soap, cologne or hair products.âÄù Who regifts basic hygienic necessities? DonâÄôt we all need them? 3. âÄúDonâÄôt give partially-used gift cards.âÄù I disagree. ItâÄôs like a scavenger hunt. What can you find at Barnes and Noble for exactly $10.17? If you find it, it just might be your destiny. 4. âÄúDonâÄôt regift picture frames.âÄù This makes absolutely no sense. Picture frames are the perfect regift, especially if you add that classy photo of the embarrassing night your friend hardly remembers. Pay no mind the frame says, âÄúCongratulations on your New Baby!âÄù It will eventually be relevant. 5. âÄúDo keep track of what you give to whom and try not to leave that list on your brother-in-lawâÄôs kitchen table.âÄù Nothing spells sincerity like cold-hearted regifting premeditation. If you still canâÄôt quite figure out what new information IâÄôve given you, let me sum it up by reminding you that the holidays are one of the best chances to spend time with your loved ones. Students, catch up with your parents; they miss you. If you donâÄôt have the money to buy dazzling new gifts for those you care about, donâÄôt fret. When all else fails, do what IâÄôve been doing since the age of 10 and give the gift of gab. Ashley Dresser welcomes comments at [email protected]