Last month, I wrote about my rules for gift giving. Alas, these rules are not universally followed. In the coming days, there is a strong possibility that you will receive a gift that is less than desirable.
So what do you do if you receive a crappy present that makes you want to bang your head against the floor? Do you start to cry if someone gives you an itchy sweater? Do you stomp your feet if your mother gives you a cat even though you are allergic to anything with four legs? Should you wail with frustration if your best friend gives your toddler a chainsaw? Is it okay to throw a tantrum if your in-laws give you a beanbag chair that smells like dead skunk?
You may not bang your head against the floor, cry, stomp your feet, wail with frustration or throw a tantrum. (At least, not in the gift giver's presence.)
You must pretend you like the gift and graciously thank the giver. (Unless the gift was obviously given with malice, e.g. if your demented neighbor gives you a dead squirrel, any negative reaction is acceptable. I recommend whacking said neighbor in the head with the dead squirrel, but first put on gloves, and then burn the gloves.)
But 99.99% of the time, you must pretend you like the gift and graciously thank the giver. I repeat: you must draw upon all of your acting skills and pretend you like the gift. In this instance, lying is acceptable.
What if you receive a present that duplicates something you already own? Well, then you need to use your judgment. If the gift giver is particularly sensitive, pretend you have been wanting this item for a long time. You can then secretly return or regift it. But if the gift giver has a sense of humor about these sorts of things, then you can laugh cheerfully and say something like, You know me too well, I already own this. When in doubt, I recommend Strategy No. 1.
If someone in your life is a notoriously bad gift giver, then maybe you should print my my rules for gift giving and display it in a conspicuous place, like on your fridge or tattooed across your forehead. But not this week. And not next week. This is something that needs to be done at a neutral time when you are not expecting any gifts for Christmas/birthdays/weddings/graduations/etc.
And at the end of the day, who cares if you receive a lousy present? It truly is the thought that counts. Although you do have my permission to take any unwanted pets to a no-kill shelter and please, banish the beanbag chair that smells like skunk to the dumpster. If anyone asks about the beanbag chair, just say "the damn cat shredded it." And if anyone asks about the cat, just say, "the poor cat could not handle the smell of the beanbag chair and ran away."