Ask Una is a satire column in which we ask those burning wedding questions we know you’re thinking about but are too afraid to put in writing. So we did it for you. Seriously (we’re not serious).
I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but some of our wedding gifts are—how do I put this—unbelievably tacky and completely useless. Take, for example, the glazed terra cotta bird bath (we live in a high-rise condo), or the obviously expensive crystal vase engraved with “Life’s a Bitch And Then You Marry One” (thanks, Uncle Larry). Or, my personal favorite, the enormous hand-stitched blanket that depicts my new husband and I posed like God and Adam from the Sistine Chapel ceiling. I made a registry FOR A REASON and I don’t know what to do with these eyesores that can’t be returned. Ideas that don’t involve accidental arson?
—Gifted & Miffed
Going rogue is never a good idea, unless you’re a character in an action movie who has to defeat an evil international spy conglomerate in order to save the world, or a bus full of children, or Idris Elba. It wasn’t a good strategy for McCain/Palin ‘08, and it’s not a good strategy for wedding gifts. Unfortunately, some people have an uncontrollable urge to stand out at all times. Think of these guests as male peacocks fanning out their tail feathers and preening as they willfully bypass your Macy’s registry link and head straight for a small-town antique shop that specializes in “curiosities” like insect mosaics and extremely racist ceramics.
The worst thing about these rule-breakers is that their unbearably “original” selections rarely come with gift receipts. (I type this staring at a 20-pound garden statue of St. Francis of Assisi, given to me by the mother of a friend. I am agnostic and live in a second-floor walkup in Brooklyn, so the patron saint of animals and ecology currently lives in our liquor cabinet, tending to the Malbec.) You are thus left with two choices: find a way to use them, or toss them out and then claim, if the rogue gifter ever visits, that they were lost in a very localized house fire.
I can envision the bird bath as a ceremonial Wiccan altar, or—if your condo board isn’t into witchcraft—a central pasta station dish for large gatherings. Save the vase, as you could use it someday to store Uncle Larry’s ashes. The Sistine Chapel blanket should be placed in a safety deposit box for your next of kin, with instructions not to open until you are dead, or one of you needs to blackmail the other for a large sum of money.
The most important thing you can do now is to try to save others from the punishment you have endured. Avoid using the words “thank you” in your cards to these eyesore-givers; instead, try something like, “We were truly stunned when we opened your gift,” or “Words can’t express how we feel looking at this object every single day (which we are forced to do due to its unbelievable size).”
And don’t forget them during the holiday season! There has never been a better reason to send someone a brick of colon-challenging fruitcake, or a miniature animatronic Santa Claus who dances suggestively to a loud, tinny version of Wham!’s “Last Christmas” whenever someone passes by.
Una LaMarche has written four young-adult novels, Five Summers, Like No Other, Don’t Fail Me Now, and You in Five Acts, as well as a comic essay collection, Unabrow. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Observer, Allure, and Parents, as well as online at the Huffington Post. The New York Times has called her writing “surprisingly seductive,” which she plans to use on her tombstone.