In late October, one of my oldest and dearest friends, Mike Schepp, and I gathered at one of this town’s best breakfast places, LuLu’s, so I could treat him to a birthday breakfast, albeit one about a month past due from his Sept. 20 birth anniversary. Our times together began when we were 7 in the second grade under the watchful eye of Sister Joseph Andre some 59 years ago.
Once we worked our way through the large plates of victuals and solved a good portion of the world’s problems (although never coming anywhere close to solving why the Browns lose more often than President Trump tweets), we then headed for the parking lot.
I told Mike I had a small gift for him in my car and told him it was actually a tool. Mike, being as disinclined as yours truly when it comes to all things mechanical, said to me, “Can I re-gift it?” to which I replied, “Of course, as long as you don’t give it back to me!”
I thought about that recently just after the biggest gift-giving holiday of the year and have a few thoughts on what really is gift-giving’s dirty little secret.
Let me start by saying that, at my age, after traveling down more of life’s roads than the ones I’ll travel moving forward, gift-giving is not my favorite pastime. Like many of you, I’ve collected enough stuff over the years to last a couple of lifetimes, and if I need more stuff, I have the means to buy it myself.
Surely, when it comes to receiving gifts, it’s sort of a children’s world. Since they’re totally dependent on others for pretty much everything, of course, they’re going to be thrilled anytime a gift comes their way.
Now, when it comes to what is re-gifted, the book is, I’m guessing, the most common item that people pass on down the line, provided you don’t, say, drop it in the bath tub while reading it, as “Cheers” Sam Malone once did in an episode from Season 6 of one of my favorite TV series of all time. Those of you who never missed an episode will recall it was Diane Chambers’ rare first-edition autographed copy of Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises.” At any rate, barring any such Mayday Malone-induced damage, a book read carefully doesn’t really change in appearance should one choose to use it as a re-gift. A word of advice, though, is where you’re reading it, use a bookmark rather than dog-earing the pages.
A quick spin around the Google machine brought me to a number of writings on re-gifting, especially on the etiquette involved in such a re-gesture. Most feel there’s nothing wrong with the practice. For instance, author Jacqueline Curtis sees the re-gift as perfectly acceptable as long as you remember to follow eight simple rules. Although I’m not sure there’s any significance to the order in which Curtis presents them, she listed them as follows:
1. Never re-gift anything meaningful or homemade.
2. Re-gift outside your circle of friends.
3. Only re-gift brand-new items.
4. Re-gift thoughtfully.
5. Check for signs of a re-gift.
6. Don’t wait for a special occasion.
7. When in doubt, re-gift to charity.
8. Never re-gift food.
Now, there’s some subjectivity involved in some of the above rules. In the first, how meaningful a gift is you’ve received is, of course, subject to interpretation. And, in the fourth rule, how thoughtful your re-gift is, will largely be determined by the person to whom you are re-gifting.
As for Curtis’ other rules, they seem pretty prudent to me and not subject to much interpretation, although I’ve a little problem with No. 8. Now, I wouldn’t advise passing along your doggie bag from a restaurant, I don’t see much wrong with passing on a box of chocolate provided you received it recently.
Of course, the second rule is essential to avoid the potential embarrassment of giving something to someone that will encounter the person who gave it to you. And, Curtis’ fifth rule must be followed carefully! Imagine, for instance, re-gifting, say, a book without noticing the person who gave it to you had written an inscription to you inside the cover!
For me, the easiest and safest re-gifts are gift cards. However, do keep in mind that a card may lose value after a year has passed since its purchase, and some may even have an expiration date. So, it’s pretty wise to call that number on the back of the card and check value before kicking that can down the road!
So there you have it, folks. The proverbial cat has been loosed from the bag when it comes to re-gifting. Oh, and Mike, just a word about that little tool I gave you for your car’s glove box last October. If you did re-gift it by slipping it into someone’s Christmas stocking a week or so ago, when our historical records are all written, let it be recorded you weren’t just a re-gifter. You were a re-re-gifter!
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.