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 Texas : Features : Humor : Column - "A Balloon In Cactus"

The Art of Re-Gifting

by Maggie Van Ostrand
Maggie Van Ostrand
Every time my kids ask what I want for Christmas (or birthday or Mother's Day), I now tell them "nothing." Last year, I told them "Nothing I have to dust," but that didn't work and I got a bunch of nice presents I have to dust. Thanks, kids. They must get their gift ideas from their grandmother, who continued to send me a pair of white gloves every single Easter, even though I moved to Los Angeles where nobody wears gloves except the coroner.

Last Mother's Day, when my son asked what I wanted, I described a knee-length, white terry cloth robe with belt. Nothing fancy. I just wanted a robe like the one that had literally worn through; small wonder, I had it since I was about 18. In fact, there was a robe exactly like the one I wanted hanging on the back of his guest bathroom door. I showed it to him. "Get me one just like this! This is it!!"

What did I get? I got a robe all right, but it wasn't knee-length it was floor length; it wasn't white, it was dark blue; it wasn't terry cloth, it was velvet. My son had done it again. He got the robe he thought I should have and not the one I wanted.

Even before that, when he and his sister were teenagers without much money to spend, they asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I said, "A sharp knife to replace the dull one in the kitchen drawer." I added, "If you haven't got the money, then please take this old-but-good knife to the sharpener man who comes to this area every Tuesday." You probably already guessed that I did not ever get either a new knife, or a sharpened old one. What they bought me was a juicer. That very same juicer is still in the original box, and sitting on the top pantry shelf.

Why should a perfectly good, new juicer go unused? Why should a beautiful velvet robe go unworn? Why should a dozen pair of white gloves sit in the drawer and turn yellow when there are so many people with cold hands? That brings me to today's topic: regifting.

Emily Post's granddaughter, Peggy, says she has no qualms about regifting "when done properly" and supplies some regifting tips:

  • Keep quiet about it being a regift
    Well, Ms. Post may advise silence, but she doesn't know my family. They'd all be right there yelling, "Say, that's the same thing I gave you last year. How could you give it to somebody else."

  • No Used Gifts
    What, Peggy Post thinks we'd give somebody not only a gift we received before, but one that we've worn? Just remind yourself to wash off the dried pieces of potato from that ricer you're rewrapping.

  • Keep Track of Who Gave It to You
    Well, of course, or you might end up giving the same gift back to the person who gave it to you in the first place. It's all right to regift surreptitiously, it's not all right to get caught.

  • Never Regift Certain Items
    Peggy Post is talking about soaps, candles, and popcorn poppers, reasoning that it will be too obvious that it's something you don't want and didn't take the time to actually go shopping. I disagree. As long as the soap doesn't have the name washed off it, the wick of the candles isn't blackened with use, and there's no unpopped corn in the popper, you're ahead of the game. She does advise you to clean the lipstick off the rim of the glasses you're regifting.

    Regifting is an art, easily learned using Ms. Post's tips. Or you can take my way out, sometimes called The Coward's Solution. I just put a blue velvet robe, a juicer, and a dozen pair of white gloves on eBay. Just don't tell my kids.


    Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
    "A Balloon In Cactus"
    December 19, 2009column

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