7 Types of Crappy Gift Givers & Receivers

veruca salt willy wonka animated gifBrace yourselves: the holidays are coming. That means many of us will be thinking about gifts soon. The thought makes some people groan, others rub their hands with glee. Whatever your attitude, this post may insult you, possibly in multiple ways. It’s meant to.

Here’s the thing: I think we as a society have some terrible attitudes about gifts, and we hurt each other’s feelings all the time over something that’s supposed to be joyous. We need an adjustment. We’ve got a variety of different crappy ideas going on, so I want to shed some light on them. I’m guilty of almost all of these myself, so in no way am I trying to say that I’m a model gift receiver or giver. But I’m trying to get better. Here’s what to watch out for:

Crappy Receivers

1. The Expecter – Expects to receive gifts on certain occasions. Yes, most of us do this, and yes, it’s kinda crappy. Unless it’s for a shower event, of course, since gifts are the point of a shower. (And, by the way, this is why you can’t throw a shower for yourself.)

2. The Princess – Even though you put money, time, effort, or thought into the gift, it isn’t the “right” thing, so the princess is ungrateful.

3. The Guilt Tripper – Feels bad and consequently makes you feel bad because you gave her a nice gift.

4. The Mute – Never acknowledges that a gift was received.

5. The Refuser – Preemptively requests No Gifts, or refuses gifts that people try to give. This is usually meant to be kind, but it counts as being an Expecter and/or a Princess.

6. The Veruca – Requests a specific gift from you without being prompted.

7. The Victim – Views a gift as an act of aggression. Sometimes this attitude is the result of having previously received a gift from The Gangster (see below).

Crappy Givers

1. The Grinch – Hates giving gifts. Sees it as an obligation instead of an opportunity to make someone they care about smile. This attitude is sometimes the result of having to give to a crappy receiver.

2. The True Love – Gives mass quantities of gifts. …And a partridge in a pear tree.

3. The Poor Planner – Forgets to leave room in his budget or schedule to give gifts.

4. The Clueless – Has no idea what to give, even if she knows you intimately. This person sometimes imagines that anything she might give will be somehow wrong.

5. The Puppeteer – expects you to keep every gift he gives you for the rest of your life. Feels personally insulted if you part with something he gave you.

6. The Genie – Asks you what you want as your gift. Depending on the situation this can work, but often it puts undue pressure on the receiver.

7. The Gangster – Gives a gift with an ulterior motive. May intend to make you (or someone related to you) feel inferior, obligated to reciprocate, or otherwise bad.

Now, here’s what I think is the correct attitude to have when it comes to gifts:

Giving: if you choose to give a gift—and yes, you do have a choice—do it with love. Do it because you want to make the receiver smile. Go forth and choose something that you think they might like. Then give it to them. The moment the gift has been received, understand that the receiver has the right to do whatever she wants with the gift, including give it away immediately, and don’t take such behavior as a sign of ingratitude.

If you don’t know what to get, gift cards are perfectly good gifts. The receiver gets to go to a shop she likes and pick out something she might not have gotten for herself otherwise. Just don’t judge her for what she picks! Alternatively, you can give gift cards for movie theaters or restaurants. Who doesn’t love going out on someone else’s dime? Spa treatment gift cards are also awesome and usually appreciated.

Another great gift for the right person is a charitable donation in that person’s name. I’ve done this a couple of times and it was well received. It’s easy, and it makes everyone feel good—as a gift should.

Gifts don’t have to be expensive. If you just can’t afford to buy or make gifts, you can probably still write a nice note on a card and give that instead. And that’s perfectly acceptable.

Receiving: don’t expect to receive a gift. From anyone, ever. (That said, it’s wise not to buy too much for yourself in the couple of months preceding your birthday and major gifting holidays.) If you do receive a gift, lucky you! Someone cares a lot about you. Be grateful, no matter what it is or how much money you suspect was spent on it. Say thank you. It would be especially kind if you tried to put the gift to use, but you have the right to do whatever you want with it and not feel guilty.

Look—when someone offers you a gift, they’re not just giving you the thing itself. They’re offering you their love. That’s the whole point. So even as the receiver, you have a job to do. You need to accept the gift with grace and gratitude, especially if you know that a sacrifice was made when this gift was acquired for you.

I think it’s okay to keep a Pinterest board of things you’d like to receive as gifts. That way, nobody has to directly ask you, and you’re more likely to receive things you actually want. Keep it up-to-date, otherwise you might receive things you don’t really want anymore. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see someone’s Pinterest board if you don’t have a Pinterest account yourself, but it’s still the best option I’ve encountered. You can also create wish lists on many e-commerce websites, and those are usually easier for your friends and family to view. You can add absolutely anything to your Amazon registry, even if it isn’t sold on Amazon.

Most importantly, whether you’re the giver or the receiver, remember this: the moment a gift is received, it has served its purpose. The true purpose of any gift is to make both the receiver and the giver smile for a moment. If the thing happens to be useful and/or desirable to the receiver, great! If not, that’s okay, too. In this society where we all have hundreds of possessions and everyone has unique taste, the thing itself is not essential to your relationship. It really is the thought that counts.

Agree? Disagree? Did I forget any distinct types? Tell me in the comments.

Why It’s Great To Have a Doctor for a Dad

My dad is retiring this week from his long career as an ER doctor, and so i’d like to take a moment to reflect on what it was like growing up with a doctor for a dad. I still think it sounds pretty awesome, and in reality it was even better than that.


I’ve always been pretty healthy and not prone to terrible accidents, so the obvious benefit of having someone at home who could take care of me physically was something i only had to take advantage of for minor incidents. Whether i had an earache or a stomach bug, though, dad always had something for it in our vast medicine cabinet at home. Chances were that the mysterious remedy in its brown or orange bottle was older than i was, but my dad reassured me that its effectiveness was not hindered by its age. For example, there was one time when i was waking up in the mornings with gunky eyelids that i couldn’t open, and so dad flipped them inside-out for me and applied something that magically had the problem cleared up within a day or two. Dad also had some nifty doctor gadgets at home, like the big gray magnifying goggle things he would put on when he pulled splinters out of my fingers for me, and heavy-duty tweezers that also proved effective for extracting my tiny earring when it started sinking into my freshly-pierced earlobe when i was eight years old. He was handy with ordinary household items, too, and once had to vacuum little wads of kleenex out of my nose with a turkey baster after i lodged them up out of reach in a vain attempt to assuage my own head cold.

Sometimes i probably caused my dad undue alarm by informing him of some ill i was experiencing long before i felt it was serious enough to actually go to a hospital for; like the time i emailed and called to leave a voicemail for Dad from Rome while i was studying abroad to inform him that i was experiencing some sort of horrible throbbing stomach pain. Later that evening i received a call from my grandmother, whom my dad had contacted and asked to make the international call to check on me (and this was probably the second time in my life that she has ever called me, by the way, so i was quite surprised to hear her voice on the other end of the line). I told her that the problem had finally gone away; probably just gas or something. She sternly told me, “well, don’t do that again. Your dad was worried sick about you,” and promptly got off the line.

My doctor dad taught me some important medical things while i was growing up, like the time i dropped a little toy ballerina into the toilet and he had me fish it out, explaining that “urine—which is what doctors call pee—is sterile, which means it won’t make you sick to touch it.” Or the morning of his wedding to Mary when i was hung over from a night on the town in Portland with my brother Dustin and nauseous as hell, when he informed me that there’s a drug that quickly and effectively relieves nausea for patients of chemotherapy and, biting his lip, got me a one-dose prescription for it from the hospital pharmacy. He was right; it worked.

Having a dad who’s a doctor has always been a source of pride for me. I remember in fourth or fifth grade my class was studying the nervous system and Dad came in with his doctor’s models of a brain and an eyeball and taught us about the brain for a day. I thought it was so fun that all my friends had to listen to my dad because he was the expert. It became especially cool when the TV show ER rose to popularity in the mid-nineties, and everyone thought they knew exactly what i was talking about when i told them “my dad is an ER doctor” (and, actually, so did i).

I think Dad wasn’t really allowed to talk about work at the dinner table, so i didn’t hear a lot of gruesome stories from him. Every once in a while when he took me and Dustin out, though, we’d hear some work stories about people coming into the ER who had been struck by lightning or had somehow had their toes severed. I remember hearing one story in particular about a man whose finger had been bitten almost clean off by a woman at a bar when the man had drunkenly grabbed the woman’s face, and i was amazed to think that such a thing was even physically possible.

When it came time for me to choose a career path for myself and head into college, i had no desire to follow in my father’s footsteps, enamored as i was at the time with the arts. I have a much greater appreciation now for the sciences, and my admiration for my dad has only grown with time; understanding as i do now how hard he worked to get where he is now, and the kind of dedication, perseverance and intelligence it takes to get there. Still, i don’t have a strong enough stomach to ever do what he has done, and i’m a little ashamed to say that last time i had my eyelid flipped i very nearly passed out.

I may never have a doctorate like my dad does, and i’ll never quite know what it was like to walk in his shoes, but it’s still an honor for me to be directly descended from that kind of human being. My father has saved lives. That’s something that not a lot of people can say. Dad, i hope you enjoy a long and very happy retirement, because you most definitely deserve it. I’m extremely proud of you, always have been, and always will be.

Pizza, anyone?

Goth Pizza

I had a pretty funny episode yesterday where i tried to re-heat some pizza and ended up setting off the smoke detectors and running around turning on fans and opening doors in a panick. I do something along these lines about once a year, and i sincerely hope it never results in an actual fire. Smart people do dumb things sometimes, right?

Best Christmas Card Ever

Mom gave me this Christmas card the other day:

Christmas Card

Christmas Card - Interior

I laughed a lot. I don’t think there’s a card out there better suited to me. My recent English tip blog posts have been so popular that i’m thinking of starting a new blog dedicated entirely to finding English misuse and correcting it. Each post will have a photo or screenshot, i may have multiple contributors eventually, and i’ll post the correction along with the error. It will feature common errors, in hopes that someone who makes such errors will read it and learn a thing or two. And we who use English flawlessly (*cough*) will get a good chuckle every day.