It is this stage of the gift giving process that most fail at. Nobody wants to admit that the gift is horrible. Our eyes may give away the disappointment we feel as we look at our new Chia Pet, but we don't want to make it too obvious. What I want to talk about, this fine December evening, is the art of receiving gifts and pretending the socks you got were just what you always wanted.
I am the worst gift-receiver ever. I'm rarely one to show excitement. The most you'll get out of me is mild amusement. I do however, know how to fake it. Or at least, fake it enough not to hurt your aunt's feelings. Really it's all in the smiles. Do not try to overcompensate and constantly smile, for that will give away just how forced it is. The best way to carry out this smile, is to act as though you are trying your best to hide it. Nobody will you believe you if it's constant, it's all about the smile breaks that sell it.
Even if the gift-giver keeps reassuring you that it can be returned, never take them up on the offer. It's a trap. They may have legitimately kept the receipt in case you didn't like it, but you will only be playing into their hands if you take them up on their offer. Always keep the gift, even if you plan on cramming it into your closet and forgetting about it for years. Who knows maybe one day you'll appreciate the gift for what it is, or the thought behind it is enough to warrant the keeping.
Never try and oversell the appreciation of the gift. If you're not the hugging sort than don't start now. Just accept it for what it is, thank the person as sincerely as you can, and drop it in a corner of the room till you leave. It's not the person's fault the gift sucks. People don't realize how hard it is to buy presents. Truly, the best kind of present is the one that the person doesn't even realize they want. Anybody can give a list of things they want, the list cheapens the whole gift giving experience. And worse yet, there's no surprise. That's what it all comes down to, the surprise.
Few gifts ever ever reach this mark though. It's hard to know what that person wants without them even knowing what they want. One of the things that makes me a horrible gift-receiver is I never know what I want. The best gift I've ever gotten however, was something I didn't even know I wanted. It was senior year of high school and I was swapping gifts with my girlfriend at the time. She handed me a flat piece of cardboard wrapped up in reindeer wrapping paper. I was prepared to be disappointed, already having the fake smile ready to go. No awesome present has ever been flat. I was wrong though, it was the best present I've ever gotten. It was a poster for my favorite movie of all time, The Third Man. I never even thought about getting a poster for it, but once I saw it I was shaking with excitement (to be fair I shake a lot anyway). I even hugged the girl for the gift, a sign of affection that I'm not normally known for.
You have no idea how happy this made me.
I still have the poster hanging on my bedroom wall. It broke my heart to have to put tacks through it, but it still remains one of my favorite presents. I've had some winners since, but nothing compares to that. So I guess it goes to show, even with the pseudo-grimaces and the faux-validation given to the gift-giver, you really can be surprised once in awhile. And be shown what true appreciation is, even if you didn't feel yourself capable of such a feeling. A lifetime of tepid gift-receiving can be overturned with just one unwrapping, and you can gain faith once again.