Metatalktail Hour: wad some power the giftie gie us ... December 3, 2022 1:57 AM   Subscribe

Hello, and happy weekend, everyone! Many of us have gifting on our minds at the moment, so maybe it's a good time to ask: What's the best gift you ever got? What's the best gift you ever gave? How about the worst? 👹

Or just let us know what you've been up to, what's on your mind ... but no politics, please!
posted by taz (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 1:57 AM (56 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Worst gift I ever got was an exercise device made of rope and pulleys, that was meant to be attached to a doorknob. Then you were supposed to lie down, hook the ropes around your ankles and pull the handles with your arms to lift your legs up in a scissor motion (heh). My dad bought it for my 10th birthday. I had not asked for it nor indicated any particular interest in losing weight at that point in my life.

In a similar vein, the worst gift I ever gave was a homemade coupon book to my dad for Christmas, probably that same year. I had included coupons for things like washing the car, a shoulder massage, etc. In a spectacularly not-well-thought-out move, I included a coupon for "anything you want". On Christmas morning, he looked through the coupon book, promptly tore that one out and handed it to me saying "lose weight." When I got upset, he tossed the booklet on his dresser in disgust and never asked to redeem another of the coupons.

Why yes, I am making some therapist's house payment, how did you know?

I'm sure there are many great gifts I've received that are not coming to mind right now, but my most favorite gift I've received in recent years is the rubber chicken my daughter bought me at a gas station. It's loud, obnoxious and hilarious, and it lives on the end table near my chair in the living room. The cats hate it 😄
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:45 AM on December 3, 2022 [20 favorites]

Worst gift: One Christmas my then-boyfriend gave me a beautifully wrapped box and watched with glee as I opened it. It was... a pair of men's running shoes (I am not a man). The "gift" was that he was going to start running with me (I had not asked for that). TL;DR that never happened, and he is no longer my boyfriend.

Best gift: When I was little I really wanted a cat, but my dad was allergic so it was a no-go. I came down one Christmas morning to a kitten under the tree! Turns out my dad wasn't allergic, he just didn't think he wanted a cat and changed his mind. The cat ended up being his best friend and constant, happy shadow. The gift was not just the cat -- it was also the realization that, as adults, we can change our minds about things and be happier for it.
posted by kinsey at 5:03 AM on December 3, 2022 [21 favorites]

The gift I got which I think used the most thought -

I share(d) a birthday with George Harrison. And so when I was in high school, a guy from our gang made me a mix tape of George Harrison songs that was an amazing retrospective of his whole career - starting with his early Beatles stuff like "Roll Over Beethoven", moving on through the later Beatles stuff like "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Something", a whole lot of stuff off All Things Must Pass and his later solo stuff, and then ending with a couple things off the Travelling Wilburys' first album (which had just come out).

It was an amazingly well-curated selection, and as music-playback technology has evolved, I've adapted it for CD and then Spotify playlist formats.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:08 AM on December 3, 2022 [15 favorites]

In the Netherlands, there's a tradition that employers give their staff a gift package in the period before Christmas. The packages used to mostly contain luxury(ish) food items, but in later years also other stuff was given. Some of the packages that I got given were great; others contained items that were pretty inexplicable.

2 city walk guide books and a Senz foldable umbrella;
a stovetop espresso maker with ground coffee and two cups and saucers.

a chocolate fountain (which may have been a chocolate fondue thingy, I never took it out of the wrapping paper it came in);
artisinal wool socks that were so big that they didn't fit anyone who worked at the company (I even won an extra pair in a pub quiz, I wear them in bed when it's really cold);
included with other stuff: kiwi liqueur, whiskey-flavored coffee creamer.
posted by rjs at 6:07 AM on December 3, 2022 [5 favorites]

The best gifts I ever got were a very nice ride cymbal for my drum kit and a Blu-ray player with streaming abilities. In both cases the gifts were things I couldn't justify getting for myself but would really enjoy. The year I got the cymbal I hadn't been drumming for very long and couldn't justify buying nice equipment yet, so the cymbal was a huge upgrade. And the year I got the Blu-ray player they were still pretty expensive and streaming services were very new, so I couldn't justify spending that much on electronics especially since It wasn't clear whether streaming video was going to be a big deal or not.

Come to think of it, I still own and use both of those things.
posted by Tehhund at 6:24 AM on December 3, 2022 [4 favorites]

Worst? For Christmas, a partner on his way out gave me a gift subscription to my then-favorite magazine, but in his haste had somehow ordered it in his own name. When he moved out that spring, the post office automatically forwarded his mail and my subscription with it.

So... Three issues of Cook's Illustrated.
posted by mochapickle at 6:34 AM on December 3, 2022 [12 favorites]

Neither the best or the worst, but the most memorable:

My mom was an uneducated housewife and receptionist. Growing up I knew of very few skills she possessed. She was pretty good at sewing, she made what I thought were decent birthday cakes, and although Irish she could make a good tomato sauce. That was about all I knew she could do, typical 1970s housewife stuff.

I was a lazy kid. Always procrastinating and trying to get out of doing things. One of those things was replacing the toilet paper after I finished a roll. I can still hear my mom screaming up the stairs, shaking her fist, "Jimmy! You never lost it! You always make me have to go to the closet when I need toilet paper!"

One Christmas, after I was a bit older, and after both my brothers moved out of the house, it was just me and her in the morning exchanging gifts. I don't remember what I got her and I don't remember what she got me except for one thing.

She gave me my final package. I opened it up to find a six pack of toilet paper. Attached to the package was a hand drawn diagram, very detailed technical drawings with circles and arrows and dotted lines, explaining how to properly replace a roll of toilet paper on a toilet paper holder. Apparently one skill she possessed, which I was unaware of, was technical drawing.
posted by bondcliff at 6:37 AM on December 3, 2022 [31 favorites]

When I was almost 11 years old and the kind of small town southern kid who had New Yorker covers and maps of Manhattan tacked to my bedroom walls, I spent years begging my parents to take me with them when they went (my dad had to travel there for work a lot). One night, just before my birthday, after my sister had gone to sleep, and told me that they were finally taking me with them to New York for a long weekend.

Reader: I happy cried so hard my mother was worried I might hyperventilate.

(The trip was great, sublime even, despite the fact that I was tragically unable to execute my brilliant plan of my plan of somehow slipping away from my parents, finding great happiness in the city and never having to come back to Western North Carolina for middle school.)
posted by thivaia at 7:24 AM on December 3, 2022 [16 favorites]

Worst gift: I have received no less than two dozen diet books, kid nutrition workbooks, exercise videos, gym memberships, nutritionist/bariatric appointments, offers for weight loss camps/wilderness programs that might "get me in shape," and self-help books about overeating from supposedly well meaning family/friends since I was about seven years old.
posted by thivaia at 7:27 AM on December 3, 2022 [14 favorites]

Worst gift was of course from my ex-MiL (getting rid of her was a strong plus in the divorce of said ex) which was a coverall in a shade that matched her coloring (natural redhead/warm undertones) and not mine (cool undertones). Of course it also did not fit. She was also the sort of person who bragged every year about how cheaply she'd gotten our gifts AND served me the broken cinnamon roll on Christmas morning after making a big deal about how her son and son-in-law had to get the ones from the middle of the pan because they were the best. Christmas was always an issue with her because my dad collapsed and died of a heart attack a few days before Christmas the year she wanted to have the Last Family Christmas with my ex FiL and the adult kids, and I selfishly kept my ex from attending this important ritual by arranging for my own father's heart attack to inconvenience her or something.

My husband's mother has been a real blessing after dealing with ex-MiL. She's been in and out of the hospital recently but remains gracious even when other things are slipping.
posted by gentlyepigrams at 9:25 AM on December 3, 2022 [9 favorites]

My former inlaws used to have a December gift swap for adults where a lot of the gifting was fairly passive-aggressive. I was always paired with a sister-in-law who wouldn't give me anything at the family celebration, but would loudly say something about how a gift was coming, and repeat that periodically about ten times and finally in the summer come up with a desk planner for the current year, or something like that. I still don't know whether the hostility was about me, or about her brother who was the black sheep of the family. Probably both.

My most successful gifts are all-- really random? Like I sent someone a book by Jeanette Winterson and she proceeded to read everything by her and write to me about it. I do love getting books as gifts; I always feel like the person who gives me a book is telling me something about themself so I will read it at least once. Oh, right, my favorite Christmas ritual was that my father and I would each give the other a book. We didn't discuss it ahead of time but it was always the same book. Easier in the olden days when there were fewer big Christmas books and easier to figure out what it should be, but it was still pretty amazing. We would open them at the big gift opening and laugh and laugh but not tell people what it was about. We didn't normally get along very well, so I enjoy thinking about that.
posted by BibiRose at 10:30 AM on December 3, 2022 [8 favorites]

Worst gift—first year of marriage, my husband gave me a vacuum cleaner.
Best gift—2nd year of marriage, my husband gave me emerald earrings.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:35 AM on December 3, 2022 [8 favorites]

Gifting makes me so anxious! Mr. eirias sent me a link this week to a supposed-to-be-funny sketch comedy song about how moms always get the shaft at Christmas, and it made me want to hibernate until mid-February, ugh.

The best gift I've ever received was the year my mom scrounged up the money to sign me up for private music lessons. I'd been asking for them for years. I remained terrible at practicing until college, when I went ahead and majored in music, and semesterly juried performances forced me to acquire some discipline. I still was never very good compared to my classmates, but that was a valuable way to spend college, working to get better at something for which my love exceeded my talent. And it would have been out of reach without that Christmas gift.
posted by eirias at 10:56 AM on December 3, 2022 [5 favorites]

Worst set of gifts: about five years ago, the year my husband and I were finally feeling really on our feet and took a lot of time picking out just the right gifts for everybody (not that we didn't give proper gifts in earlier years before, but this year, we could really enjoy the purchasing process because we weren't as worried about $$). It was just a really lovely, stress-free holiday gift-giving time for us, for once. His fam included a sibling and partner who were working in some sort of odd arrangement as clerks/models/web designers/building managers for a little boutique that seemed to be stocked with everything overpriced. (I get the idea of spending $100 on a really awesome T-shirt, but the T-shirts were baaad.) Anyway. The gifts we got back from his entire family, all gone in together on, were all trinkets from this boutique and they were the cheapest thing the store sold (and we know this because FIL linked the boutique webpage to us over and over to show off the sibling and partner's work) but they had been bought at cost (again info from FIL), along with a poorly made wooden box whose 'craftmanship' my FIL could not stop gushing about. There wasn't so much wrong with the gifts (except the weird box) like if we'd received them in a secret santa or whatever, just that they were soooo generic and had nothing to do with us. Anyway, we were gracious of course and weren't so bothered by it back then because gosh, not every year's gift can be perfect, but then that was the last year we got anything from them, I guess because the sibling and partner no longer work for a retail source? So, that combined with the fact that the branch of the family has stopped involving us in things along the same time line, has really gotten pinned together in my mind as worst gift ever.

Best present - an aunt and uncle have begun giving us regular Christmas checks and then also hounding us about what we're actually doing with the $$. [On one hand, that's a bit nosy and weird and would be probably 'worst gift' category except that my aunt and uncle are fully aware and accurate that we are fine without this money, that it's completely 'extra'.] I've come to appreciate the fact that my uncle poo poos the idea of saving it at all and kept suggesting frivolous things to do with it. So I bought new sporting equipment and paid for a bunch of coaching with it - every time I have a pang that it's a silly expense, I can tell myself it wasn't my money anyway!

2nd best - our first year living far away, a friend that I don't normally exchange gifts with randomly mailed me the Lego Wegmans truck set, thinking I'd be a little homesick. Such a silly little thing to make me feel 'remembered' in the world.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 10:58 AM on December 3, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best I ever got? Not the shiny new bike I got for Christmas when I was eleven (the year my parents divorced) but a six-foot-tall ficus I got a few years back. Best I ever gave: business cards for a business someone was scared to launch.
posted by scratch at 11:13 AM on December 3, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best gift I ever got? Telepathy.

Wanna guess what the worst gift was?

No, you guessed wrong.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:16 PM on December 3, 2022 [6 favorites]

The worst gift I've ever received (from my late Aunt and Uncle Who Always Gave Bad Gifts) was a shaving kit for Christmas, when I was like 11. Knowing what I know now about my uncle I wonder if he had stolen it.

This isn't entirely a physical gift, but I think the best gift I've ever gotten for my wife (to date) was for our 10th wedding anniversary; ten cards presented to her throughout the day as I took her to different spots around the city we lived in at the time which had some sort of significance to us and our history as a couple. Each of the cards had a brief write up about the spot and why I had chosen it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:31 PM on December 3, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best gift: it was my 50th birthday. It was February and we had a massive snowstorm. I couldn’t go out .But one of my dear friend waited for the roads to be little cleaned came to my house to give me the most beautiful hoop earring . Very thoughtful of her to buy , come and give it to me in person on a snowy birthday. Even though I was little mad at her driving in that snow, she really made me so happy and special.
posted by SunPower at 3:24 PM on December 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

Worst: For my 50th birthday, my ex-husband gave me, a lifelong gym hater, a punch card for 10 visits to the gym. And handed it to me in the car. I mean, you have to laugh. It wasn't even insulting in the way you might think, because I'm not overweight or out of shape. It was just a giant middle finger of indifference.

Best: My girlfriend gave me, a dog-loving bourbon drinker who loves hiking and foraging, a bottle into which to decant my bourbon, as if it were my own distillery, with a label she had designed that brilliantly incorporated the lore of my dog's breed in the name, a portrait of my dog, the mountain where I do most of my hiking, a sprig of huckleberries, etc. It was so incredibly thoughtful and well executed, especially since she doesn't know anything about dogs or ordinarily take any interest in them. Everyone I show it to is blown away by what a great gift it was.
posted by HotToddy at 4:17 PM on December 3, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best: Two. Both from spouse. Gift 1 was all but one of Mary Stewart’s non-Arthurian Saga novels. Gift 2 was a replacement for a glass pendant we had purchased in Paris that I wore almost every day until I dropped and broke on one morning.

Worst: Spouse’s parents gave us an IOU for a Catholic marriage retreat.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 4:36 PM on December 3, 2022 [4 favorites]

Not sure best or worst, but one year at Xmas I sent to my dad (who lives three time zones away) the newest hardcover from an author whose work we both enjoy. At the same time, he sent me the same book. In this gift-giving situation, technically only Canada Post came out ahead.

Arguably the best I have ever received in the sense of most memorable: when I was in my early twenties, my youngest siblings -- then aged maybe six and eight -- gave me for Christmas a coffee mug with a picture of them on it. It was nice enough, but I was first intrigued by the wrapping: it was a little cubical box wrapped in semi-gloss paper, which I thought a very stylish choice for a couple of grade schoolers. Actually, they had wrapped the box in several layers of electrical tape. It took me until about March to unwrap it.

I am not sure what the best gift I have ever given was, but a contender comes to mind: my closest and dearest friend for much of my life asked me once to put something together for her. For a decade or so she was on a medication which, as a side effect, inhibited memory formation. She occasionally spoke ruefully of having little recollection of her young adulthood and asked me once if I could write something down for her to remind her what she had done in the nineties. We are Gen-X sorts, so this was basically our early twenties to our early thirties.

I initially began jotting down my own recollections of things we had done, trips we had taken, the housewarming party when we moved into a lovely little house together, the time she had moved across the country with her boyfriend (and moved back a month later, without him). Then to fill in the gaps, I reread old journals*, dug out old letters we had exchanged, worked out things that I wasn't initially sure of the date of but could work out**, and so forth.

At some point, this thing was getting unwieldy as I worked out what went where, so I began typing it up in probably WordPerfect. Much easier to relocate blocks of text to their proper point in time that way.

At the end of a week's work, during which I learned I can write 40,000 words in six days without trying, it seemed weirdly clinical to just send her a text file. I went out and bought a nice leather-bound blank book and spent another week or two writing it all out. I then gave this to her as a gift.

*If you ever feel the need to cringe, look back decades later at what 22-year-old you thought was important and worth recording your thoughts about.

**There was the time we had taken off to Montreal for a week without informing either my girlfriend or her boyfriend, both of whom refused to believe she and I were not secretly fucking***. She and I both needed a break and we reckoned there was no one in Montreal that we both knew, so word was unlikely to make its way back to the Toronto area. As it turns out. there was one person we knew us both, and he was sitting directly behind us when we went to see Total Recall... so June 1, 1990! "Oh, hi, Tom!"

***We were not.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:11 PM on December 3, 2022 [10 favorites]

When I was eight, my aunt Colleen gave me their old (1963) set of World Book Encyclopedias, they had gotten a new set.

I was entranced. I could just open any volume and read some thing interesting, and the entry's all had that "See Also" suggestion at the end, which would send me to another volume.

I think my parents thought I was a little weird, I heard them tell some neighbors "He reads that encyclopedia like a book" with just a little sigh.

Best gift.
posted by Marky at 12:14 AM on December 4, 2022 [13 favorites]

The bike I was given when I was a child and learning to ride was a BMX (then the absolute in thing); hot pink with white tyres, because that was the way we did things in the 1980s. Hot pink? Girl's bike? It's a bike.

It was later stolen, which told me then, and tells me now, all I need to know about the desirability of a hot pink BMX bike.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 2:26 AM on December 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

On Christmas morning, he looked through the coupon book, promptly tore that one out and handed it to me saying "lose weight."

Ugh, I have a similiar story. It's slightly less grim, I guess, because at least it was my own idea. I knew that my mum wanted me to lose weight, so for Mother's Day I gave her coupons for me spending half an hour on the exercise bike. It kinda worked - mum was super-happy, and I did lose weight (for a while). But I probably didn't do myself any favours here, because it set me on a path of weight-cycling, which never led to any longterm weight loss and was presumably a bit hard on my heart (bioglogically and metaphorically).

Best gifts - there are a lot to choose from. My parents sure have spent a lot of money on me over the years, and I would be lying if I claimed that didn't often improve my life in rather significant ways eg. they paid my way through college, for two master degrees, for the better part of my twenties, leaving me with no student debt, and they paid for half of my house. I remember when mum first told me about her real estate plans, I was almost worried, because I somehow couldn't quite match her excitement. I thought it would feel super weird, to get something so big, having done basically nothing to earn it. But surprise, surprise, as soon as that house stood, I forgot all my scruples. I moved in two years ago and not a day passes without me thinking at least once "Wow, I really love my house".

Another great gift was when my friends threw me a surprise birthday party for my 18th birthday and invited all of our class and everyone actually came, even my crush. It was a bit of gamble on my friend's part - I'm not usually much of a party girl and teenage-me often felt rather disconnected and out of sync with other people (my age, but honestly, also in general); I might have easily been the type to completely hate that sort of thing. But turns out, I'm not; I was completely floored by that gesture in the best way, utterly beside myself, too overwhelmed to process much of anything that was happening. I don't remember much about that night, only a moment in the morning, among the leaving guests and the empty bottels, when I wished I could rewind the clock and go through that door again, and be completely floored all over.

My favourite gift from brother is a mixtape (the only mixtape I ever got). I don't listen much to music, but there's one song on it that will always make me sentimental, it's "Happy Birthday Lisa", written by Michael Jackson, from an episode of the Simpsons. I'm the older, not the younger sister, but the general sentiment hits just right.

Best and worst gifts I gave - that's a hard one to answer for me; I'm afraid I'm not a terribly ambitious gift giver. I do like the idea of picking gifts for loved ones, and I like to think I'm not cheap, but my time-management is sub-par and my approach is usually fairly last-minute, so the results can be somewhat underwhelming. I like to think that I do have a good sense what kind of souvenirs to bring home for Mum from a journey, or what kind of books to give to my brother (although he often seems happiest about gift cards, to be honest), and I feel I also usually get it right with my Aunt (last year I gave her a Storyworth-subscription, following a recommendation on Mefi, and she seemed very enthusiastic about doing all the prompts). But I'm repeatedly stumped when it comes to Dad for instance, and while I hope my gifts are usually welcome, I don't think I've ever pulled off one that was particularly memorable. At least I think that my bad gifts are generic at worst; I do hope that I never committed one of the truly mortal sins, like buying something for myself and trying to sell it as a gift for another person, or buying a gift with fraught implications about desired behavior, or something like that.
posted by sohalt at 3:48 AM on December 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best gift I've given was a photo book, of images I scanned in from a whole bunch of family albums. I gave printed copies to my great grandfather, and mother, and my great-great aunt (the grandmother's sister). This was early 2000s, and getting a photo album printed was not as simple as clicking a button in an app on a phone. These albums had spread through the family for like 60 years. So many of the pictures hadn't been seen. And I did my best to make it chronological, and split by each branch of the family. I made a few mistakes, and the whole crew sitting around flipping through it talking about people and scenes was just the most rewarding thing. I'm not saying I *enjoyed* seeing my Great Grandfather tear up, but I definitely felt like I won Christmas. I gave all the aunts, uncles and cousins a burned DVD of all the scanned images too. (Worst gift I gave to myself was being tech support for 3 dozen people for a year.)

The best I've been given was my mom had a bunch of my step-father's suits made into teddy bears. I had no idea what this giant bag of teddy bears was. She asked me to help set up the gifts on my couch and had my brothers and their kids come in and pick one each. *then* she told us. That lady's good.
posted by DigDoug at 6:01 AM on December 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best: in the late 70s, my dad had a grant that meant we needed to spend several weeks in NYC. A friend of his arranged for us to house-sit for John Leonard, whose brownstone had a lot of antique and antique-y style furniture. In particular, Leonard's kids had a roll-top desk. I immediately fell in love with that desk. Acquiring a roll-top--a nifty one, with all sorts of little cubby holes and drawers--became a priority. Alas, roll-tops (especially if made out of real wood and not pressboard) are expensive. Flash forward a couple of decades, and my parents gift me a roll-top as a combination "got your PhD/got a tenure-track present." It has now followed me through multiple moves and several cats (who have, er, improved some of its aspects), and I am typing at it even as you read.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:19 AM on December 4, 2022 [4 favorites]

I will never forget the time my father bought a package of scotch tape for my sister (I am chuckling now). To be fair, my sister was 4 at the time and enjoyed pulling out scotch tape and sticking it every where, so maybe it was the perfect gift?
posted by brookeb at 8:35 AM on December 4, 2022 [4 favorites]

Twice in my life I have received pups as presents, once as a surprise, and they are both the best, as all dogs are. I would never suggest a surprise dog present, but since at the time I wanted a dog very much, I was not at all sorry. In fact, it worked out as well as possible for the pup. She was born deaf, and what would have happened to her if she had gone to someone else who thought that made her defective? Together with her many hereditary ailments? (That's also why I wouldn't suggest it.) As it was, she lived to almost seventeen. Today, I still call my dog by her name sometimes.

I can't be sure of the best present I've ever gotten someone else, but I bet it's a winter hat with a light in it (identical to this one). My dad has to go out and do stuff around the house at night, and he loves both hats and gadgets. He's got it on at least once a day in the winter.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:52 AM on December 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

This isn't entirely a physical gift, but I think the best gift I've ever gotten for my wife (to date) was for our 10th wedding anniversary; ten cards presented to her throughout the day as I took her to different spots around the city we lived in at the time which had some sort of significance to us and our history as a couple. Each of the cards had a brief write up about the spot and why I had chosen it.

posted by The Card Cheat

posted by scratch at 9:03 AM on December 4, 2022 [4 favorites]

Not sure best or worst, but one year at Xmas I sent to my dad (who lives three time zones away) the newest hardcover from an author whose work we both enjoy. At the same time, he sent me the same book.

You've reminded me of two funny and then one creepy gifts from a college friend and her boyfriend....

Two funny things first, starting with the one that you reminded me of: this was just after college, when "my gang" was that friend and her boyfriend ("K" and "C"), a mutual guy we were friends with and his girlfriend, and single me. We all did gift swaps between us, and C was a big Peanuts fan, so I got him this great book about the making of A Charlie Brown Christmas that had just come out. When we all gathered and were getting ready for our gift swap, I brought out my square package - and saw C was holding a package for me that was exactly the same size and shape. He spotted my package at the same time, and looked from it to me, grinning. "No way."

Everyone else looked and compared the two same-sized packages, and we all came to the same thought - and C and I both simultaneously unwrapped our gifts with everyone watching, and confirmed that yes, we had indeed given each other the same damn thing.

Another year - I think it was the year following - K and C decided that they were going to put together a gift box of different candies. So they spent the next month randomly picking things up as they saw "ooh, that's a good thing for EC's gift box...." and only once they were getting ready to wrap it did they notice that they had gotten me an absolutely mammoth amount of candy. They leaned into it, gift-wrapping each and every package individually, and gave it all to me in a big gift bag. Everyone sat there watching as I just kept unwrapping more and more candy, and the whole situation just got funnier and funnier until by the last package we were all giggling helplessly and I teased them, "I get it - you're giving me diabetes for Christmas!"

....sad ending to the saga - K and C had a sort of open-relationship thing going on, and C and I hooked up once - and he wanted to keep things going but I didn't. He was a little persistent about trying to change my mind, and it was getting weird; then came the day when I came back from a vacation. I'd asked K and C to drop by and feed my cat, but when I got home I saw C had also left behind a small gift for me - a pocket vibrator with a note. I immediately called him, told him he'd way overstepped and that he needed to come get it back. I left it in my vestibule and didn't even let him upstairs, and I never spoke to him again.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:12 AM on December 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

One of my favorite gifts that I've ever given to someone was for my wife. I commissioned a custom leather carrying case/pouch for my wife's Nintendo Switch. It was themed in the style of Skyrim. Check it out here for anyone who is interested. The look of joy on her face at getting something so personal and specific to one of her favorite games has always stayed with me and whenever I see her opening up her case, it makes me smile. My buddy did such a phenomenal job.
posted by Fizz at 10:11 AM on December 4, 2022 [5 favorites]

In HS I had just started going out with this girl. I wanted to give her the best Christmas present ever. I scoured the mall and just couldn't decide. I ended up getting her a huge dolphin plushie. She got me a sweater that was too small. That I wore anyway.
posted by Splunge at 10:27 AM on December 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

Fizz, that's amazing!
posted by Gorgik at 10:47 AM on December 4, 2022

Best gift I ever gave was to my husband, before we were married (almost 30:years ago). I was a pretty active cyclist at the time, and he expressed an interest in it. I mentioned this to a carpool buddy who worked for a bicycle company, and was an accomplished mechanic. For $200 he cobbled together (from cannibalized parts) a really nice mountain bike.
I smuggled it into my apartment, and hid it in my roommate’s room, forbidding my not-yet-husband to open that door. On Christmas morning, while he was still asleep, I shut the door to my bedroom, and very carefully wheeled the bike into the living room (lifting the rear wheel so the freewheel wouldn’t make any tell-tale noise).
Then I woke him up and made him close his eyes while I led him into the living room. He was completely surprised and delighted. He’d never had a new bike, much less one as a gift. It almost makes me cry when I think about how happy he was that morning. Of course his joy multiplied my joy at giving him such a gift.
posted by dbmcd at 12:53 PM on December 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

best: Horse-riding lessons; I think I was 10.
worst: I once got married at a community center on an island. Not fancy. Mom was nonplussed because I wasn't getting married in my old home town. I bent over backwards trying to help her feel included. She suggested bringing her fancy silver-plated chafing dish, of which she was proud, as we were self-catering. Um, sure. She ended up giving me a fancy silver-plated chafing dish as a wedding gift, because bringing one would have been too much work. I am unable to give it away, have never used it.

I found a lovely scarf at a thrift shop, with the designer's signature rather prominent. The designer has my sister's nickname and same last name. Sending it to her htis Christmas, looking forward to her response.
posted by theora55 at 12:58 PM on December 4, 2022

My best gift was also the most surprising. My mom picked my brother and I up from daycare and said she got something for us we'd really love. At the time the thing I wanted most was a Super Nintendo. That was the best thing and so naturally in my little kid brain I was convinced she got us a Super Nintendo. What else could it be? That was what I would love. So I spent the whole ride home fantasizing about how great it was going to be to have a Super Nintendo. I couldn't wait to get home and start playing. There was no doubt in my mind it was gonna happen. We got home and there was no Super Nintendo. I was so disappointed. All my dreams were crushed. And then she opened a door and the gift came running out. A new puppy!!! I didn't even consider that would happen and so I went from crushing disappointment to happiness and joy in about two seconds. That dog was so much better than any Super Nintendo. It just wasn't something I'd even considered. We got the Super Nintendo about a year later but it could never match the joy of a having a puppy.
posted by downtohisturtles at 1:54 PM on December 4, 2022 [9 favorites]

This is a sort of best and worst story. When I was fifteen, I begged my parents to give me a typewriter for Christmas. My handwriting was really awful and having a typewriter of my own meant I could complete my written homework assignments at home rather than at the school library (using one of the school's typewriters). My parents hemmed and hawwed, but eventually Christmas came and I had my present: an inexpensive Royal portable.

That same Christmas, my parents paid off my older sister's car. And bought motorcycles for my two brothers. Well, hmmm. A $20 typewriter versus hundreds of dollars in car and motorcycle payments. Hmmm.

Well, Reader, my sister kept her car, but the two motorcycles ended up as scattered parts in the garage in less than six months, before my brothers sold them off. (I wonder sometimes if getting the cash for the bikes was their plan all along.) But that typewriter sustained me through high school, through college and through the resume for my first job. So while that may have been the cheapest Christmas gift my parents could give me, it was $20 well-spent. That typewriter was well-loved and well cared-for.
posted by SPrintF at 2:36 PM on December 4, 2022 [9 favorites]

Many years ago, my then-boyfriend gave me a perfume gift set for Hanukkah. It was not a scent I wore, nor was it anything I’d mentioned I wanted. (We’d been dating for six years at that point, and he knew what scents I liked.) This type of gift was very out of character for him, too.
A few months later, we broke up.
Two months after that, I found out he was engaged to the woman whom he told me kept trying to hit on him but he swore up and down he was completely not interested in and he kept rebuffing her.
Suddenly, it made sense…
posted by SisterHavana at 2:45 PM on December 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

A best gift is one I used yesterday, my big smoker, I did 20# of bacon, plus shrimp, peppers, and brined chicken wings with garlic, onion, cayenne & salt, that funnily enough have the exact texture and flavor dogs. I love messing about with brines and rubs, though, and seeing how things change as they cure and then smoke and get finished.
But the smoker was nearly four cheap dining room chairs we didn't want, and it took some delicate maneuvering to transform it into something we like and use. I still don't have matching dining rooms chairs, and won't until I find well made chairs that I like, but I can make some fabulous food to go on the dining room table, as soon as I get the projects cleared off.
posted by winesong at 4:02 PM on December 4, 2022

as a child I was lucky that my parents provided everything that I needed and some things that I wanted. I remember one Christmas, during the gas crisis, my parents didn't have as much money to spend for Christmas. so that Christmas morning I opened up a shoebox and inside was the remnants of my father's coin collection. it was the greatest gift that my dad could give me as I always loved collecting coins. I suppose it was in the look of my face and then I cried and then everybody else cried and I think my dad even had a tear I really think that my father was pleased because he didn't have to spend any money and the joy that it brought me was worth more than anything and it fueled my love for numismatics. I believe it was in the 80s when silver jump to like $50 an ounce, I converted the more valuable pennies nickels and dimes into Morgan heads plus I had 5 oz of silver that I acquired from other ventures. I guess my father was further proud because I had taken what he'd given me part of it at least and converted into 540$ quite a sum for 12-year-old.

so dad, thanks for the silver fishing pole.
posted by clavdivs at 5:01 PM on December 4, 2022 [8 favorites]

Worst: Had a long distance girlfriend, halfway around the world distance. We met in a country near the mid-point between our respective homes, and traveled through it for over a month. She had brought a "funny" t-shirt that she wore most days. She asked me once "he, do you like my t-shirt?" and I said "um, yeah, sure."
So it's Christmas night. We're in a shitty town, in a shitty hotel. Everything is closed, there's nowhere to get Christmas dinner or Christmas anything. We just came in from a long, hard trek in the mountains. All we have to eat is what's left of the trail food. We're trying to make a go of it cooking some rice with like cans of tuna, and she says, "It's time for presents!"
I had spent a week before leaving making acid-etched metal covers for a book which I knew she loved and attaching them to said book. The end result was heavy, and I'd carried it in my backpack for a month, including through the mountains. But it was worth it when she saw how much effort and thought had gone into the gift.
And my present? It was the 'funny' t-shirt she'd worn for most days on the trip, with all the dirt and sweat of our recent trek in it. Not even washed.
It was the hardest I've ever had to fake liking a present in my whole life.
posted by signal at 5:44 PM on December 4, 2022 [5 favorites]

Worst Gifts I've Been Given: That prize would go to my first husband. One year he went to a pro Football game (American football) on Christmas Eve with his best friend. Christmas morning I was given a tee-shirt from the game, obviously purchased from someone in the parking lot for probably ten dollars.
The all time worst gift, same giver: I had my eye on a gold bracelet sold by Kmart. They had it on sale for $49 for the whole month of December. I circled it in the flyer and posted it on our refrigerator. (this was in the late 90s). Christmas morning, he hands me a jewelry sized box. My heart was pounding and I was so happy until he said "It's not what you wanted."
Sure wasn't. I opened the box to find.... a glass bead on an adjustable leather strap.

Best Gift I ever gave: My second husband had lost his mother to breast cancer when he was 21 (at this point, he was in his early 40s). I was given some "unwanted" photos of his mom from his father, so I made a collage for him, secretly. There were photos of him as an infant with his mom, and just tons of pictures of her. He opened it up on Christmas morning, and was so moved it brought him to tears.

Best Gift I Ever Got: Hands down? The family "Pedigree" book on my maternal grandmother's side. When I was a kid, I loved to read this self published book written in 1895, with the family lineage traced back to the late 1600s, complete with a fold out family tree. My grandmother had hand written in her information (the line had stopped when her father was a child), her sisters, her children.
When my grandmother died, the book disappeared. Fast forward a few years, and one of my mother's sisters casually asked me if I wanted the book!! (She knew I did, ha ha, she was trying to be lowkey about it) I was overjoyed and honored. I now have my grandmother's diaries from the last 20 years of her life. I am so fortunate!
posted by annieb at 6:08 PM on December 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best: My dad got me one of the dozen or so first digital cameras in Chile, which was cool in itself an also because I was doing a lot of architectural renderings to pay bills and having one of the only digital cameras in the country to work with was a huge asset and also because how did he even get his hands on it?
They also got me (on a different Christmas) one of the first pocket-sized mp3 players.
posted by signal at 6:20 PM on December 4, 2022

After having told the really horrible gift story on my ex's mom, I had to think about what really nice gifts I've been given over the years. One of the surprising best gifts has been one from my husband's mother that I didn't originally think much of: an electric towel warmer! Where will we put it, etc.? Once we found a spot, we got in the habit of putting clean towels fresh from the dryer in it. It's so nice, especially in the winter, to get out of the shower to a warm towel. I would never have bought one for myself, so it's a very good gift on that front.
posted by gentlyepigrams at 6:31 PM on December 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best gift I received in terms of both being cool/aspirational and something I actually use semi regularly was probably a used '56 Epiphone Les Paul repro guitar from Mrs LDS. Best received gifts I've given to others: a new, but slightly irregular Fender Squier Strat and a home made(by me) tube guitar amp bundle to my now late boss, who exclaimed that it was the nicest present anyone had ever given him. I also have an old friend who loaned her father's branded knit hat to her then girlfriend 20 years ago when we were both in college. Said girlfriend proceeded to lose the hat and it was A Thing. Amazingly, after combing e-bay for months, I was able to find an exact match for the lost hat 20 years later and sprung it on her. It was particularly special as her dad was terminally ill at the time and it gave them a point to connect on. The most disappointing gift I received was a mountain bike my folks gave to me in High School. The frame was too big for me, and my folks gave it to me with the notion that I would use it to get around college. Of course, I wound up going to a tiny campus and the bike was pretty pointless when everything was within walking distance. I do still have the bike, it's still too big and I still never use it!
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 7:53 PM on December 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Worst gift—first year of marriage, my husband gave me a vacuum cleaner.
Best gift—2nd year of marriage, my husband gave me emerald earrings.

This is practically a Hemmingway short. Well done.
posted by gauche at 7:59 AM on December 5, 2022 [4 favorites]

The worst gift I ever got was when my husband proudly handed me the "grand finale" gift for Christmas and it was...a large LED 'flickering flame' candle.

I mean, it was a nice LED candle! It looks pleasingly realistic, we still use it. But I was pretty baffled how that was supposed to be the big showy closer gift. I hid my confusion, and with some subtle questioning, he said he noticed I was admiring it for a long time when we were at the lighting store picking out a new ceiling fan, so he went back later and bought it for me. ...I had zero recollection of seeing ANY candle, and am 99% sure I was just zoning out and happened to be staring at that candle without noticing it. The poor guy was SO CONVINCED he was super in tune with what I was thinking, and mentally my brain was probably showing something like the "Let's All Go to the Lobby" dancing concessions.

The worst gift I ever gave was a nice bar of soap to my friend in college, later discovering she is incredibly allergic to almost all chemicals and fragrances and can only use like, one special brand of soap without breaking into hives, and the one I gave her was NOT that brand.
posted by castlebravo at 8:37 AM on December 5, 2022 [5 favorites]

Chalk me up as another one who received a diet book for her birthday; received an offer to fund a stay at a weight loss camp, or in the words of the person who made the offer, a 'fat farm'; received the offer of a brand new wardrobe of beautiful clothes on the condition that I lost weight first. Seriously, does this tactic ever NOT backfire?

Best gift: a puppy. I was about 10. He was my best friend for 12 years. Nothing can compare to the moment I met him.
posted by unicorn chaser at 9:35 AM on December 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

My sister is really good at presents, to the point that friends and family often say she missed her calling as a professional shopper for the the lazy/timepoor/stumped/etc. After that build-up, it probably sounds daft or obvious, but one that particularly sticks out is the Weeping Angel stress ball toy she got me one Christmas (along with a bunch of other stuff). I've loved Doctor Who old and new since I was a kid, but I hadn't realised how wound-up I could get about things that don't matter as much as I think they do. It was her thoughtfulness that struck me most, finding something that was perfect for me. I've squeezed that blinking thing to bits over the years!
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 9:40 AM on December 5, 2022

I feel like I must have more examples of excellent gifts received/given and terrible gifts received, but I'm coming up absolutely blank other than like... almost every gift ("gift") I have received associated with work.

When I first started here, at orientation, at the end they were like "oh also we have this gift for you!" It was leftovers from the previous year's annual gift that they were trying to get rid of. It was a set of barbecue utensils except... with really short handles? So you're absolutely guaranteed to burn yourself if you try to use them over a grill. Ohhh or maybe the messenger bag that I opened up that IMMEDIATELY flooded our entire house with the most acrid chemically plasticky odor. My husband instructed me to get that nonsense out of the house NOW; I concurred.
posted by obfuscation at 10:06 AM on December 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

maybe not THE best, but a really great one, that might sound terrible on the surface:
in I think 5th grade I got a box of socks from my aunt for xmas.

IT WAS AWESOME!! they were all fancy, each pair was different. argyle, angora, glitter. they were magnificent!

I don't know if my aunt recognized some budding footwear fetish in me, or if she created it, but to this day I love some fancy footwear. today I am sporting some green knee socks with TIGERS on them.
posted by supermedusa at 11:02 AM on December 5, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best gifts I've given:

My partner's milestone birthday was right during pandemic lockdown times, so I was really wracking my brain about how to make it special. I had contacted all the friends and family I could think of, and asked them to send snail mail birthday cards. I even had the foresight to give them a neighbour's address, so that I could collect all the cards there and give them to him as a surprise. I reached out to high school friends, uni friends, former coworkers, and lots of extended family. No small feat, as he's studied and worked in many diff countries. Thank goodness for social media, I could DM most of them!

The surprise was somewhat spoiled because one of his friends was worried he'd miss the deadline (his actual birthday) so he sent a FedEx overnight... to our home address! It actually arrived 2-3 days before the big day, so the jig was up. But in a way it was a wonderful extended celebration. The cards were trickling in even a month later, and he has a nice tall stack of cards now to remember it by.


For my mom, I organized a surprise birthday party for her 60th, Feb 2020. I asked the extended family to send me photos from their childhood, teens, early twenties, etc. Printed them all out and asked friends to put them up on a photo wall. I booked a party room at a restaurant serving our type of cuisine and paid for the buffet etc. There must've been 50 people or so.

I told her we'd just go out for a birthday lunch, just the my partner, my mom, and I. I even had to use a car share, and gave the excuse that my partner had to meet a friend so he took our car and he'd join us at the resto. Of course partner was shuttling people around and setting up the venue w/ my cousins. We walk into the restaurant and gave the reservation name, they ushered us inside, my mom even commented that maybe one part of the restaurant is closed because the lights were shut off. Then they slid the sliding door open, they turned on the lights, and everyone was like HAAAAAPPPPY BIIRRRTHDAAAAAAY!!! The staff led all of us in singing happy birthday, and even gave her a little muffin w/ a candle to blow out, but she was too busy laughing/crying to do it. She was clinging on to my aunt (her SIL) for dear life because she was so overwhelmed. Anyway, it was a great time, a few happy tears, and she had a very memorable party before the world shut down a few weeks later!

My cousins were ragging on me about how now they have to throw a similar grand bday gesture for their parents, and I've set the bar too high. If they don't, they will all seem like ungrateful kids, heh.
posted by tinydancer at 4:39 PM on December 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

The best gift I ever got was a tiny Swiss Army Knife, a stocking stuffer when I was about fifteen, exactly the right amount of tiny knife, screwdriver, and scissors for 80% of the ad hoc uses for those things in my life.
It lived in my pocket (on my actual keyring) for so long that the little shield-and-cross emblem I had assumed was painted on actually fell off it.
I thought I had lost it after having it for probably twenty years, bought a new one on Amazon, and then found it again about a week after my new one arrived. So now I have one for each backpack.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:01 PM on December 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

For a few years in the late 20thC I taught short courses in a couple of Finnish Universities. Over lunch one day, my minder said that twice every Summer he went North to the family farm to mow the 4 ha. hay meadow - with a scythe. I was impressed and confessed that I long-long-time desired to be as capable as him in this respect. That perked him up because I became a solution to a problem which had hung over his Institute for some time:

Several years earlier one of his colleagues decided to switch jobs and the tradition was that the remaining work-mates have a whip-round and buy a token gift as a memento. The chap in question was very shy and retiring and hadn't found it easy to make friends. Someone owned the process, gathered the money and went to the hardware store to buy . . . a scythe. The message being that their soon to be ex-colleague was so hopeless at the social aspects of life that he would be best put alone in the middle of a large meadow to cut grass by himself. The last Friday came around, with the presentation scheduled for the afternoon coffee break. The coffee was poured, the cakes passed round, the HoD made a brief boring speech and presented the scythe. The recipient received the gift, but quickly understood the intent; he put the scythe down on the coffee table and left the room and their lives without a further word.

What to do with the scythe? It couldn't go back to the shop and the cash couldn't easily be returned, so the scythe was taken down to a basement store room and left there . . . until I turned up. Everyone in the building agreed I should take it away. Before 9/11 you could turn up at the airport with a scythe as part of your baggage!
posted by BobTheScientist at 11:51 PM on December 5, 2022 [4 favorites]

That scythe is your best gift, but it was also someone else's worst.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:08 AM on December 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

The best gift I have given that brought joy: A laserdisc of Heathers.

I am not sure if it was a gift per se, but when I worked at the local mall one of the nice older ladies handed me, out of the blue, a chocolate Santa with its head bitten off.
posted by jadepearl at 12:10 AM on December 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

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