The Magical Realism of Regifting

A Seinfeld episode in the ‘90s brought regifting to the fore, in a way validating the practice of passing off unwanted items—often dressed up in rumpled tissue—as gifts. By Femme Banale’s estimation, regifting could be responsible for flagging US production growth. That is, production will not expand in the face of low demand for consumer goods, especially gifty goods. And demand is low because of the invisible and unmeasured supply of regift-ware.

We now live in a new Macondo-like reality with millions of regifts and potential regifts magically multiplying behind closed cabinet doors. Open the door, let the light in, and there they are! The scented candle, the candy and nuts, the wine bottle with the unusual label, holiday potpourri, gift-sets of all kinds.

Regifting holds risk: There’s the risk of recognition or discovery that the gift is recycled material and the resulting dispiritment. But there also lurks a deeper risk—that is, unknowingly regifting an item that the recipient gave you earlier. Let’s call it circular regifting. Femme Banale gives a firsthand account.

It was a casual dinner for friends in which I did indeed receive a scented candle. No surprise there, but what followed was surprising. A flash of recognition passed as one guest handed me a hostess gift; my brain churned to understand. (Cue: psychedelic music, “And somebody spoke and I went into a dream. Ahahahah ahahahahah…”) That’s it! The Christmas present that I gave them two years ago. A cascade of emotions followed: wonder, annoyance, suspicion (Are they messing with me?), resignation (“Thank you”), delight (Gotcha!), concern (Here comes the memory decline), and finally gladness. Yes, gladness.  I was glad to get the item back because I liked this particular item. Through the dubious channels of regifting, the gift made its way back to me.







2 Replies to “The Magical Realism of Regifting”

  1. I think I’d consider myself a fan of re-gifting, as it helps gives purpose to stuff that might otherwise be discarded to landfills. I always tell the recipient I’m giving something to that I have “re-gifted”, and I actually think it maybe endears me to them…unless I’m sorely mistaken, in which case they probably call me a cheap SOB after I leave.:)

    I’m not so sure about circular re-gifting. That feels weird to me. I experience more of the emotion of “annoyance”, so perhaps I need to work on that. Maybe that’s a character flaw I have?!?

    Thanks for your post, giving me cause for self-reflection. I always love reading your posts. Hope all is well with you and your family.

    Last thing. I AM a big fan of giving away personal items to family members or friends, if I feel it will have special meaning to them. Just last night I went to an adult nephew’s 44th birthday party. Instead of buying him a gift, I gave him a souvenir bottle opener that his Grandpa Hamilton had picked up many years ago on a trip to Scotland. His joy upon receipt, and appreciation for this very small gift, was worth so much more to me…and he’ll be able to use it for many more years than I will. Let’s call this “familial re-gifting”:).

    1. Thanks for bringing up the idea of “familial regifting.” It is a joy to give and receive those items with family history and meaning.

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