This woman has not received a good gift in 22 years. Not that anyone would guess!
An important part of not growing up is learning not to be an unbearable little brat when receiving a gift that doesn't particularly impress you. However, even though most people have a handle on the basic skills of not crying and throwing the item against the wall, not everone has mastered the subtle art of actually convincing the other person that you appreciate what they're giving you and aren't baffled by their idiotic and disappointing choices. Here are a few tips to really sell the idea that you don't think a mildly sentient petri dish could have picked you out a better present.
1. If possible, arrange for the present's immediate and grisly destruction.
The most effective way to graciously respond to a crappy present is to have it annihilated before you even finish faking a surprised and happy smile. Simply put, if you don't already have a large attack dog trained to rip apart uninspired presents when you use a special keyword, it's going to be hard to avoid having to actually respond to the gift. (A trained circus bear is also good, if you have the resources.)
Useful attack dog signals include things that make sense but you don't say often, like "Jeez Louise!", "Another weight-loss device, hooray!", "Starbucks has such great CDs", "I love Kiss Me, I'm Irish shirts!" or "Thanks, Uncle Steve." With any luck, the dog will absorb all the blame for ending this misguided present's pointless existence, while you can pretend you are really disappointed not to get that...whatever that was.
2. Otherwise, open with a frontal assault of praise.
If you don't have a highly-trained animal to dispose of this abomination of generosity, it's time for a blitzkrieg of fake happiness. The perfect recipe is about 32 Thank Yous, 15 Oh My Goshes, 14 Thank You So Muches, 10 Wow This Is So Greats, 4 You're Such A Great Friend/Cousin/Wifes, 4 I Can't Believe Its and 2 We Gotta Take A Picture With Thises.
This should kill 3-4 minutes of time without having to actually comment on the gift or say what it actually is, which may or may not be clear. Use this time wisely to figure out something, anything to praise about the useless figurine/outdated video game/tool you will never use/unspecified woolen thingy/condescending "man gift"/patently offensive "woman gift" you've just received.
3. Do not, under any circumstances, admit ignorance or take a risky guess.
There's a good chance you have no clue what it is you just unwrapped. It doesn't seem to turn on or have a screen and there are no clearly labeled brands on it for you to covertly Google under the table. I once got a gift that I thought was a crappy Japanese sculpture of some sort. Without ever saying the words "Japanese sculpture," I complemented its clean lines, sense of balance, and how nice it would look near a small patch of sand and miniature tree.
Three years later I realized it was a napkin holder. I threw it out and for the first time it gave me a profound sense of serenity.
4. Choose your tactic wisely.
If your vague compliments weren't enough to move the focus onto the next present, you must create a sense of closure for the gift-giver before they notice that you just put their Spaghetti Warehouse gift card next to last year's Cheesecake Factory gift card in your wallet. Explaining that you're not a fan of wholesale outlets of single types of foods would only hurt their feelings, so it's time to choose your ruse:
- "That's So Thoughtful!" - This is a great tactic for items for which you recognize, but have no logical explanation. The key here is to act completely opposite to how you feel. If you can't for the life of you understand why you've been given boob mugs from Spencers' Gifts, begin talking about how this gift clearly represents the bond between you and your friend (in that you have no clue why it exists). If you have received an insulting gift, this is a good tactic as well (especially for the ladies). Passive-aggressive mother-in-law gives you a gift card to get resized at Victoria's Secret? Thank her for including you in her quest to update her wardrobe for the next stage of her life. That was really thoughtful.
- "Hey, Isn't This Great, Everyone?" - You still have no idea what it is, do you? They're starting to suspect. This is your last chance. Appeal to the crowd. While they are doing this, take a photo and upload it to social media, praying that some loser who is spending their holidays commenting on people's Facebook photos will be there to save you. Thank God for Facebook losers.
- "This Is The Best Present I Have Ever Received" - You have nothing to say. Hit the panic button, pull the rip cord, and start singing hallelujah. If you've just been staring slackjawed at the wool socks you got from a family member who asked you to rewrite (or just write) all their dumb kid's college essays five times this year, the only way to avoid unleashing a holiday-ruining dose of honesty is to double down on step 2 and tell everyone they have to leave because George's socks were so amazing there's no point to having Christmas anymore.
Not hard enough that your anger comes through, but hard enough that they can't ask you any follow-up questions. If they keep trying to talk, just hold them and sway gently until they accept your dominance and relax. Repeat as many times as necessary.
7. Arrange for the present's slightly delayed and grisly destruction.
With all of our movements and transactions being made public online, you can't just return a gift anymore. Anything you bring back to the mall will be seen by at least 5 US intelligence agencies, a cashier's snarky blog about customers returning things, and 7-10 tweens who are simply walking around the mall with their phones held out, livestreaming.
So, how do you make it so you don't have to keep these awful gifts around the house, making a mess and reminding you how little your family and friends understand or appreciate you? Sure, you could just throw them out, but how do you know the Google Street View car isn't going to come by and update your block right as you toss some William and Kate memorabilia into the recycling bin?
You go down to the local animal shelter and find the biggest, cuddliest, most teeth-having rescue dog down there and bring him/her home with a big bow on their forehead. Give it a home, give it love, and most of all train it to chew up whatever you are holding when you give the proper signal. Because that's the greatest gift of all; the simple love of an animal who will turn a Snuggie into stuffing just because you looked at it funny.
(by Johnny McNulty)