What to do if we receive a Christmas present we hate? University of Baltimore MFA student Melinda Cianos gives it to us straight.

Okay, let’s review. This holiday season you are likely to receive, if you’re lucky and people like you, a nifty gift or two. Please do not forget the appropriate reaction to said gifts in order to avoid the severed relationships and tarnished reputation surely to follow you into the New Year if you do. Below: a few reminders to help you stay in good, gracious standing.

Facial Expression

While it is entirely possible that Aunt Mae got your wish list from your mother, perused it, and still chose to buy you a monogrammed can-opener with a sterling silver crank, bear in mind that her intentions were good. It is crucial, when you get your first glance of the packaging that indicates what is to come, that the hopeful smile on your face doesn’t move toward your lap. This will take a bit of work as Mae stares up and into your face with her hands folded, prayer-like, and waits for your response. You will probably have to use the muscles in your cheeks that only see action when the person taking your picture doesn’t really know how to and says stuff like, “Wait a minute, keep smiling, one more time.” Don’t panic. There are more than a few yoga-for-the-face sites out there (google “facial exercises”). Not following through will stop the birthday card with the check (for the amount that matches your age) from ever reaching you again, and this is just plain sad (every year, you earn more!).

Body Language

In this age, with the ADHD diagnosis running rampant, you’d think we’d be used to wild, feverish–sometimes downright seizure-like–gestures, from adults and children alike…but not so with gift unwrapping. It is NEVER–and I repeat, NEVER–acceptable to claw your way through the shiny wrapping paper after tossing the bow to the side of the sofa or the ottoman where you are crouching like you have already had three cups of espresso. Got Scotch tape stuck to your sleeve? You are doing it wrong. Don’t make the mistake of believing, despite what you’ve been told, that this type of fervor reflects well on you and is desired by the gift-giver; it DOES not, and it IS not. Period. Your mother sat on the floor in her bedroom, her back aching and her ass falling asleep, to wrap that gift. Not taking care to UN-wrap it is the same as leaving the toilet seat up or your dirty underwear in the hallway. And if you think just because she handed you the gift and said, “Here, this is from me,” that it is okay not to at least glance at the “to/from” tag that she tied or taped to the package, you are sorely mistaken. She may not say anything, but don’t be surprised when future packages show up with your name scribbled right on the wrapping paper with a black Sharpie.


This is possibly the most important part of gracious receiving. Choose words, and choose them wisely. A simple “nice” does not cut it. And if you precede that “nice” with an “oh,” you’ve really got problems. Draw that “oh” out—like “ohhh, nice”—then you will likely be spending some time in the coming weeks on Facebook or taking out an ad in search of new friends. Stick to sentences like, “Really?! Oh my gosh, guys, how did you know I needed this?!” Sure this is a little lengthier and requires attention to voice inflection, but if you want your friends to continue to put up with your shit, month in and month out, and allow you to stay on their list of who to buy for, start practicing.

Wrapping things up

There is no better gift this holiday season than to be a graceful, gracious receiver. This really is the gift that keeps on giving (and receiving). Uncle Richard will remember the shine in your eyes and the grateful hug long after he’s smoked the cigar you bought him. It is safe to say that nobody likes a sloppy receiver; the damage done by being a careless one is far more extensive than gifting someone with a rainbow assortment of Dollar Store toothbrushes. Be kind. Be gracious. Maintain a gentle smile and offer words to match, and I am willing to bet you’ll please your bow-tying people…and get an even better haul next time around.

4 replies on “Gracious Receiving 101”

  1. I wish I’d read this at my birthday party last year…I need to write How to Become A Gracious Gifter (copyright) Lol!

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