So it looks like the sometimes on, sometimes off block on "blogs and personal sites" at work is off today. So hi :)
This is probably the first year since grade school that I'm involved in a Secret Santa thing. It's at work, the amount is $10, and the person I'm supposed to get a gift for is a complete stranger to me. We say hi to each other in the morning, we talked about what her little boy wore for Halloween, and we wish each other a good night at the end of the day. I think I once told her that the cinnamon bagel she was toasting smelled nice. That's more or less it.
When I was brainstorming gift ideas with another coworker, who grew up in another country (and didn't have Secret Santa gift exchanges, I guess) she said she thought the whole idea was stupid. Her thought is that everyone buys a present, any present, for $10, and wraps it. The presents are then numbered, and everyone picks corresponding numbers out of a hat, and whatever present is labeled with that number, they get that gift. The end.
This idea never occured to me before, but as I shopped around for something reasonably nice for around $10, I realized a few things: (1) There is pretty much NOTHING worthwhile for that price. I'm a little bit obsessive about finding presents, especially for people I am not close to. If it looks cheap, I will not buy it, and unfortunately, $10 items tend to often look like $5 items. And WTF is she going to do with a smallish bag of cashews tied with a plaid ribbon? Or a ceramic ladybug-shaped kitchen jar? One sad tube of lotion from Bath & Body works costs more than $10, and isn't much of a present either, especially if you don't know what scent to choose.
I have a certain scorn for people who smilingly present me with useless doodads (giant yellow rhinestone brooch giver, I'm lookin' at you), and I don't want to be on the receiving end of those feelings. This thing is not supposed to embarrass me. Which brings me to
(2) Knowing which stranger to blame for your shitty present is evil. She's going to open my gift in front of everyone and have to act like it's "nice." In 6th grade we had a Secret Santa thing, and a boy we will call Joey unwrapped a gift from his secret santa, who he discovered to be a girl we will call Erin. The present was terrible. Actually, it was an adjustable plastic crown that blinked and played a dying-battery kind of jingle. It looked like something pre-owned by a toddler. Within a few minutes, Joey and his friends quickly proceeded to press all the buttons, wear it like a wrestling belt, and bash it against things until it broke. Joey was actually a pretty nice kid, but he was visibly disappointed to be stuck with the worst present in the class, and had not yet learned to handle disappointment gracefully. The whole class put down their new fluffy pens and action figures to make "what the fuck?" faces at Erin, and Erin probably never forgave her mom for regifting ostensibly weird shit to the worst possible demographic. Look, if there is a lesson to be learned from all this, it's don't be that mom. And lastly
(3) Someone, right now, is wondering what the shit to buy me. This person does not know me. I can say this because I don't really know anyone here. I'm notoriously bad at telling people what I want for a gift, but I like most things. Unless they're exceptionally stupid. But this person does not know that, so they're probably racking their brains for what not-embarrassing item to get the secretary. Or they're looking around their house for some crap to get rid of.
So the more I think about it, the more I agree with my coworker: buy an item, wrap and number it, no questions asked. That way, when you're standing around the company tree with eveyone and holding up your new chipped Reindeer coffee cup filled with peppermints, you can spare the object of your rage from catching some major bitchface.
Long story short, I bought some preserves. They cost $13, are boxed with a ribbon, and they come sealed in little glasses, so when you are done with the jam you can drink out of them (there are two). I bought preserves because I like preserves, and even if she doesn't, she can regift them (to up to two people!) or dump out the contents and keep the glassware. So what I guess I'm saying is, whoever got my name will be the recipient of more than one dirty look if it is in fact a reindeer mug I end up getting.