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A gentleman’s guide to opening a terrible present

"With the calm and care of diffusing a bomb, peel back the wrapping paper with a neutral expression on your face..."

From lumpy, home-knitted jumpers to cringeworthy risqué calendars, bad gifts outnumber the good several times over. The lucky amongst us will have friends and relations who know us so well that every present hits home – but the majority will, at some point, have to tear the wrapping paper off a truly terrible gift.

So how can you save the feelings of those less-gifted in gift-giving? Fortunately, there are ways you can mask your true thoughts, sail through the act of opening and despair/dispose of the gift later.

Check the tag

The first step in this prickly process is checking the tag. You must know who the gift is from before you open it in order to pitch your reaction appropriately.

Open the present

With the calm and care of diffusing a bomb, peel back the wrapping paper with a neutral expression on your face. When you realise what it is, break into a smile – nothing too big, you rictus grinners, for that will look insincere – and hold it up to the gift-giver. Also, try to prevent the searing disappointment from becoming too evident behind your eyes.

Say something

A tricky stage, you shouldn’t come straight out with a thank you. Instead, exclaim something else before you thank the gift-giver, which will make it look like you’re not trying to rush the exchange because you hate the present – even though you do.

A ‘how did you think of this?’ or ‘where did you find this?’ works well, if delivered without too much of a judgemental inflection, and then you can move onto the classic ‘thanks’.

Don’t throw it to one side

Even if you’re lucky enough to be bombarded with beribboned packages, it’s often a good idea to put the ones you hate atop of the unwrapped pile. This way, gifters will think you can’t stop looking at their terrible present – but it will also make it easy to skim them off the top and into the bin later – win/win.

Don’t get too excited if there’s a gift receipt

Your eyes should light up at the gift, and not its receipt – even if the latter does promise a return to a world in which you haven’t got a novelty tie/potato clock/bargain bin aftershave – delete as appropriately, and completely forgivably, applicable.

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