Single in Sandpoint: White elephant in the room

By Scarlette Quille
Reader Columnist

There are a lot of  Christmas activities that I do not understand, but one in particular stands out above all the rest: the White Elephant gift exchange parties. 

Illustration by Angela Euliarte.

First and foremost, don’t we all get enough stuff that we never knew we needed or wanted for Christmas? The way I see it is that pretty much every gift-giving situation involving people we don’t socialize with regularly are white elephant parties. Secret Santa? Come on, we’ve all had a terrible Secret Santa who gifted us weird shit for an entire season. Hell, maybe you were the shitty Secret Santa because you got stuck with a person you do not know or like whatsoever. I understand the point of forced togetherness during the holiday season, but do we really need to add the awkward bonus of a gift exchange?

The only benefit I see to these types of gatherings is the social experiment aspect. You can learn a lot about a people from observing what their definition of a white elephant gift is. Let me explain. 

I went to a giant, all-department Christmas party one year. There were at least 75 people there, and I had worked with maybe 25 of them. The people at my table received: a giant stuffed lion, a camouflaged dog kennel,  a set of tastefully-scented candles and — lucky me — I got to open up a giant vibrator in front of 50 or so strangers. Mind you, this vibrator did not come in any sort of packaging, and therefore was likely used and probably contaminated. Who brought the vibrator? Who? I am pretty sure that sex toys are on the list of things you shouldn’t one: RE-gift, and two: give as a gift to a coworker. 

The other element to this type of  party is that the gifts are anonymous. I found myself looking around the room at all of the people hysterically laughing trying to figure out what kind of a nut job would wrap a giant vibrator to exchange at the work party. I have my suspicions on who this person was, but in a party that size, it could have been anyone from the janitor to the CEO. Truthfully, my money is on the CEO.

I think the gifts are supposed to be funny, so I kind of understand the lion and the vibrator. But what the hell is hilarious about candles? Is it a social statement? I mean, candles seem like a pretty normal gift, which illustrates my first point: ALL GIFT EXCHANGES ARE WHITE ELEPHANT.

I’m not sure why we need to add a gift exchange or theme to have an excuse to socialize with one another. I don’t need to wear an ugly sweater or take home a box of junk to enjoy  a party. Honestly, most people will come if there is booze involved. I guess the gift exchange part is for the people who don’t drink? If you really want people to come to your gathering, just be honest. Say “let’s get drunk,” and let the chips fall. No one needs to own  clothes that make everyone look like a fat ass, and no one needs to bring home a box of junk or a used vibrator from a “Christmas” party. Can we all agree on that? 

The last thing that haunts me about the white elephant parties is the practice of “stealing” someone’s gift. So if you open your gift and decide that you would rather have a box of candles than a vibrator, you can “steal” the candles. I never steal at these parties. It feels wrong to me. I may not be the Christmasiest bitch on the planet, but I know that stealing doesn’t really go hand in hand with the spirit of giving and togetherness. So what do you do when your gift is a vibrator? Do you keep it, so all your co-workers and their spouses think you are a closet freak? Do you steal and ethically compromise yourself? Ask yourself these questions the next time you are proposing a white elephant party. Think of the person who might get a vibrator.  

Having said all that, I go to the parties. I will be wearing a holiday-themed, ill-fitting garment this weekend. I wonder if I am supposed to bring a present. If so, I have just the thing.

Happy Holidays!!!

Scarlette Quille

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