(Reprinted with permission from the the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor)
Passive-aggressive –adj: “Of or relating to a personality that harbors aggressive emotions while behaving in a calm or detached manner.”
So much is written this time of year about the joy of giving, finding that perfect gift and the true meaning of Christmas. Well, if you’re like 89.6 percent of the world, you probably belong to a dysfunctional family that would give the Lohans a run for their money. And those with sane, normal families are undoubtedly blessed with wack-a-doodle friends that keep life interesting.
Let’s face it, gift giving — and receiving — with these loved ones is not always a fun or healthy process. Who isn’t a little tempted to send an ancient fruitcake to the grandmother who still refers to you by your sister’s name and sends you last year’s calendar that she gets free from her favorite charity? Subliminal message, be damned.
Sometimes the passive-aggressive generosity starts at home. You know, the husband who buys you a brand new, state-of-the-art vacuum cleaner for Christmas because he obviously enjoys sleeping in the den for a week. Perhaps you have a loving wife who buys you a gym membership because there was the time you uttered the words ‘work’ and ‘out’ — not necessarily in that order, but she read between the lines.
One friend looked deep within to appreciate the thoughtful gift from her mother-in-law the year she received “The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands” by talk show psychologist Dr. Laura. However, based on the string of profanity in the thank you note, I’m not certain she looked deep enough.
My own mother is a sensitive yet practical gift giver, but I’ll never forget the year I received my traditional three pairs of underwear with a dual purpose. It was clear I could use a pair as a parachute if I ever needed to bail out of a plane. I tried to conceal my horror when I delicately questioned if they were the right size.
“What? Don’t you like them? They’re the same kind I wear,” she explained innocently. Hey, my mom is very cool, but I wasn’t quite ready to wear the same bloomers as someone 25 years my senior.
Some people are on the other end of the spectrum without realizing it. A woman told me she was tired of all the gifts she carefully chose for her in-laws ultimately winding up with their daughter, so she was inordinately proud of her solution this year to monogram everything. Points for passing passive and going straight to aggressive.
Countless stories of inappropriate gift certificates, hidden agendas and the blatant re-gifts litter our holiday memories like so much discarded wrapping paper. The key is smiling brightly while digging around for the receipt. When you have “colorful” friends and family, it can be a challenge to remember that time-honored adage, “It’s the thought that counts.”
Especially when you know exactly what they’re thinking.
Merry Christmas and many happy returns. ‘Tis the season to share – tell me some of your best/worst gifts with a hidden message.