The XX Factor

These Socks Are the Best Present EVER!

DoubleX is starting a new partnership with The Washington Post Magazine . Each week our contributors will argue over a certain question, and we invite you to join in. This week: How do you react when you get a holiday gift you don’t like?

Amanda Marcotte : Being born and bred in Texas means that I was carefully trained to stifle inconvenient ingratitude under a sea of sunshine and fake gratitude. From the time I could speak, my parents hovered over me at gift-giving time to make sure that my immediate reaction to any present, no matter how stupid, was to grin like it was exactly what I wanted. That reaction is so automatic in me that sometimes I try not to grin too hard when I get a gift I dislike and give away how I really feel. Bad gifts can usually be handled by returning them to the store later, as long as the store tags are left on. There have been times when I returned a gift to a store that had nothing I liked for exchange, and so what I do is use the store credit to buy something the giver would like and keep it on hand for the next birthday or Christmas. After all, I may not like that store, but they clearly do.

Hanna Rosin : Graciously, except when it’s from my mother. If there is even the slightest defect in a gift she’s given me, I use it as an excuse to unload thirtysome years of stored complaints on her. It’s juvenile and unreasonable, and every holiday I swear I’m not going to do it and then … the wrong color scarf comes out of the box and I start. Maybe this year she should give me a therapy session as a present.

Jessica Grose : My family avoids this problem by having a no-gift policy. What can I say, I come from an unsentimental lot. My mom and dad bought us presents for our birthdays and the holidays until we were about 12, at which point they felt we were old enough to dispense with the custom. Since then, we get cold, hard cash or specific requests for information about what we want. Of course, this approach also eliminates the joy and happy surprise that result from opening a thoughtful, carefully purchased present. But I never have to worry about pretending to love a godawful sweater, either.