Illustration by Sofia Bews.

Illustration by Sofia Bews.

At this time of year, the probability of receiving gifts skyrockets from “meh, unlikely” to “hellooo who put this darling origami miniature snowman in my locker?” Even if you don’t celebrate or are ambivalent about the whole idea of ::the holidays::, the chances are still pretty high that someone will give you a present. Today we’re focusing on receiving a certain kind of present: disappointing ones.

Graciously receiving disappointing presents can be a tricky skill to master—especially when you have very little money of your own (and thus little control over purchases for yourself), and you’re still so, so hopeful and thrilled about presents. (Because who isn’t? They are FUN.)

You know this, but it’s still worth mentioning: No one is ever really owed a present (not on Christmas morning, not during Hanukkah, not even on birthdays). The other thing is, people are allowed to give the presents they want to give. They are not required to give what someone is really, really hoping to get. (Even if the intended recipient has been been hinting HARD about a certain item.) So when your great-aunt gifts you another mini porcelain doll (even though you haven’t collected them since you were seven), you don’t want to hurt her feelings or show her how not-jazzed you are. But you also don’t want to lie. She’s happily watching you examine the doll and says, “Isn’t it cute! I saw it and immediately thought of you.” WHAT DO YOU DOOOO, SUGAR PLUM?

Easy! You smile a genuine smile, look her in the eyes, and say:

“Oh! This is so thoughtful. Thank you so much.”

See that? No one is lying here—you’re not saying, “Wow, I love it! Yay, so excited!” (You’re also not muttering, “Um, thanks, I guess,” even if that’s how you really feel.) You’re acknowledging how nice it is that someone gave you a present, regardless of whether it’s something you actually like/want.

It can help to mentally prep for the moment. For instance, when I am handed a present by a ~certain~ close relative, I say to myself, “I am ready for this present to be literally anything. It could be a box of Kleenex. I do not care. She has purchased and wrapped a present for me because she loves me, and this is a token of that love, and nothing more. I am ready for whatever is in this box.”

***BONUS*** If you’re reliably thoughtful about present-getting, people will continue to want to give you presents! And sometimes, somehow: someone will nail it. ♦