Look. It’s the thought that counts.
The thought counts so much, in fact, that some of us would prefer to keep it wrapped ... just until you’re gone. Then we’ll open the thought when we’re alone and away from the punishing glare of The Expectation of A Reaction.
But we’ll send you a thank-you note to let you know what you missed.
It’s weird, I know. I like giving gifts, but sometimes I don’t like opening the gifts given to me in front of the gift-giver. Not always. Just sometimes.
I get nervous.
I want the gift-giver to feel the genuine joy of the transaction, but let’s face it, I’m not 10, and it’s highly unlikely there’s a Red Ryder BB Gun in this box.
Or a Roomba. I might jump up and down and scream my head off for a Roomba.
What’s in the box doesn’t matter, though. It’s not about the gift. It’s about the feeling of having my reaction read. I don’t like it. I don’t want someone watching every nuance of my facial expression as the paper tears and the item beneath it is revealed. And then gauging whether I already have this book or body lotion or scarf and, if not, whether I love this one.
To be clear, I’m perfectly aware that most people aren’t scrutinizing the gift-opener’s face. But there are enough who do it. And they ask questions. And sometimes follow-up questions.
So, if you’re like me, I will give you some tips, including a few I learned from a retired CIA agent, on opening a gift in front of the gift-giver when you’d prefer to not be watched while doing so.
1. De-escalate. As soon as the gift is opened, hug the person so they can no longer see your face. Hug them tightly. No, tighter. Tighter than that. Like really, really tight. When their body goes heavy, gently bring them down to the ground while whispering “Thank you so much. I love it!” in their ear. Now get the heck out of there before they come to. But check on them as soon as you’re out of sight. Send a nonchalant text saying “Thanks again.” It’s Christmas, man. We’ve got to look out for each other.
2. Deflect. Accuse the gift-giver of being too thoughtful. Accuse her of always being so wonderful. Accuse her of knowing just what you like. Then get suspicious. “Did you look at my web browser history? Wait. That night I told you the bush outside my window was moving and you laughed ... that wasn’t ... you? Was it? No really, is this an apron and a jar of chutney? Who told you I love aprons and jars of chutney? Look at me. WHO TOLD YOU?”
3. Deny. Put the gift behind your back and pivot when the gift-giver goes left and then right and left and then right to see behind your back. Reply “Lol. Gift? Say what?” to everything they say until they leave. In the thank-you note write, “Sorry about that.”
4. Re-direct. Thank the person for the wrapped gift. When they inevitably tell you to open it, tear a small piece of paper away but then stop and say “I forgot to tell you. (Name of someone real) is getting plastic surgery to look like Kit Kittredge, the American Girl doll. I swear to you, she’s even changing her hairline.” Then discuss. Discuss for as long as you can go without food, water or the bathroom. Discuss until one of you collapses or until Christmas is over, whichever comes first.
5. Exhaust. Accept the wrapped gift graciously. Then ask every question you can think of about it. “Did you get this wrapping paper from Walmart? Walgreens? Target? Ikea? Online? Did you save it from last year? Would you call this red or maroon? What is Santa doing here? What kind of cookies are on the little plate in this picture? Merry ... I can’t see what this says ... Merry Christm? Is that Christmas? It’s hard to read. It’s so confusing. What scissors did you use to cut this? Fiskar? This is Scotch tape or generic?” Beg the person with your eyes to make this stop by hugging you and leaving.
6. Deceive. After exchanging gifts, hold onto the one you were just given as if you have no thumbs and say “Oh no.” When the gift-giver asks what’s wrong tell them you were recently diagnosed with Spastic Cat Hand. “When it strikes, I lose all opposability so I’m not going to be able to open this right now. I’ve been evolutionarily set back, but I bet this gift is just lovely. Thank you so much. Now pardon me, I have to get home to my scratching post immediately.”