... is my term for the occasion when you receive something that is really not 'you', but you think you are obliged to wear, display or serve. I have a drawer stuffed with Giftwhacks.
Some are real head-scratchers. How is it that my in-laws see me as someone who would wear gauze harem pants? Others are clearly something that the giver thought was nice, but not remotely something I'd wear: oversized, lifelike bird earrings. (What bird, I am not sure, maybe a condor?)
Then there are the simply badly-made items, like a necklace that always turns itself wrong side out, and scratches so badly that my chest looks like a TB test site.
The answer of course is Goodwill. But what if they visit, and look eagerly for the tole-paper cat collage? My illogical solution has been to keep some of these items, but not display. That way, if SIL asks about the cats, I can say, "Oh, it's right here..." But SIL has not visited in the 15 years since she gave me that gift (she lives far away; we meet in Florida) and has in fact forgotten it. I've also offered a few jewelry items to my sons to re-gift, because, though appealing, they are simply too young for me.
How to avoid Giftwhacking?
1. Give the right thing
The simplest way is to tune your ears like a bat and listen for what the recipient longs for. Your sister may mention, leafing through a Garnet Hill catalog, that she "loves that Simon Pearce". Never mind if you find the designs bland; this is for her.
For more thoughts on attuned and artful gifting, read my series of posts under the label "There Will be Gifts".
2. When in doubt, give comestibles
It helps to know if the person loves Grand Marnier, is allergic to nuts, or mad for milk chocolate, but not dark. They'll enjoy a treat, and won't be subjected to your scanning gaze as you clock their kitchen for that cute cookie jar.
3. Give an experience
A manicure/pedicure, theatre tickets, dinner for two, a river raft trip... endless possiblities. My office mates gave me a cut at my salon.
Just be sure they can swap a service if, say, they'd rather have a facial at the spa, and that there's a long enough window for booking; a year is good.
4. Desperate times call for desperate gift cards
The bottom-feeder of the gifting world, use these only if, for example, your opera-lover craves more CDs but you don't know what's in his collection.
If I absolutely have to give a GC, I will write a very personal note to accompany it. Teens are enthusiastic recipients of GCs, but anyone over 25 should learn conscious gift-giving.
Whoops, I Whacked
I gave a friend a set of bath products, and saw that a year later, she gave them to her mother. Turns out she only showers. Le Duc has a petrified bag of Starbucks chocolate-covered espresso beans in his sock drawer, from me. Apparently there are some things a wife does not know. Live, learn and do not take it personally.
Make gifting a guilt-free zone
The Whackee is free to do whatever with your gift, which is another way of stating my mother's advice, "Give with an open hand".
I gave my SIL an exquisite hand-bound journal. She told me later that she had given it to one of her students, to support the girl's writing. I was initially irritated, but then accepted that it was hers to do with as she wished.
In some cultures the recipient is obliged to display a gift, wanted or not. (One of my friends said she was grateful for the small house fire that destroyed her former mother in law's gifts of her sculpture.) I'm happy to see this rule melt away along with not taking the last cookie on the plate.
As we vow to decrease clutter and "more" becomes a questionable goal, guilt-free disposal of Giftwhacks is finally coming out of the overstuffed closet.