Sunday 17th December 2017
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What’s the worst gift you ever received?

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A bag of Bean Cuisine soup mix, given to me by my first office crush—who clearly did not reciprocate—in 1989.

Posted on December 13th, 2014 195 Comments

195 Responses

  1. Skylar says:

    queen size sheer knee highs from my mother in law. Yeah– queen size.

  2. Sue Erneta says:

    Glass rooster from my Mother-in-law.

  3. Kate says:

    A cheque for money I had lent him earlier that year, from my alleged partner/lover. In a plain envelope, not even a card or a note.

  4. Heather says:

    What I think would be called a ‘house dress,’ aka a muumuu, full length, in red and white vertical stripes, from my boyfriend’s mother when I was 19.

  5. Rachel says:

    From ages 10-14, used photo albums from my Grandma. I didn’t own a camera.

  6. Lisa says:

    My ex-mother-in-law gave me hangers. Padded, but still…

  7. dana says:

    A used shirt from my grandmother, with pit stains. My sister got a used pair of hand-lotion gloves.

  8. Robin says:

    A decoupage clock with the image of an angelic toddler pressing her chubby little hands together in prayer. it made me rethink my vibe, so I guess that was good.

  9. Susanna says:

    What a sad query. I don’t have an interesting answer myself, but one of my closest friends–who has a famously conflicted relationship with her mother–once received, from said mother, a package from a fancy lingerie store. She was excited, believing that this was a harbinger of some new phase in their relationship. When she opened it, inside were some panties from a fancy brand (I forget which one), but the tag–which her mother had neglected to remove–had a sale price that noted “soiled.” Needless to say, this gift has occasioned ongoing tortured processing with her therapist that continues to this day…

  10. Jill says:

    A regift – back to me – from my sister-in-law, of a handmade journal I’d sent her a couple of years earlier. I’d even written a note inside for her – which was still there when she regifted it back to me. It was handmade, bought from an artisan at a festival. It was signed and numbered…and when it came back, the covers were filthy. One of the most thoughtless things my SIL has ever done (and she does many thoughtless things). I got that maybe a journal wasn’t her thing…but to treat it so shabbily – and then send it back to me – was rather hurtful. No other iffy gift has ever come close to topping that moment.

  11. Jill says:

    Oh! and second worst, when I turned sixteen, my step-grandfather gave me an electric can opener for my birthday. That was odd. I was still living at home and didn’t use it until I moved out…and then I did use it for many years. But at sixteen?? Disappointing.

    • Heather says:

      With these extremely strange, out-of-context gifts, I sometimes wonder if there was a mix-up and they were meant for someone else. Perhaps another, older relative received something appropriate for a 16-year-old girl that year!

      • Jill says:

        Well, that *would* be interesting! But not as far as I ever knew. 🙂

        • Tamara says:

          Have you seen how some older people shop? Go to a flea market or to the dollar days at a local drugstore on senior days and just watch. The can opener was likely something he got on sale and had sitting around for a while. Didn’t matter who got it — it was a practical gift and that’s what makes sense.

  12. Judy says:

    My mom was queen of giving gifts for the daughter she’d wished she’d had instead of me. I had a blue double mohawk and a pierced nose and she got me a Laura Ashley dress with a lace collar. Then she got all buttsore when I told her I hoped she’d kept the receipt.

    • Anna says:

      I feel this pain! My mother consistently does this and has for years. It’s both frustrating and sort of hurtful even though I don’t want it to be. As if highlighting the gap between the actual me and her aspirational me.

      • Karen says:

        My mother was also queen of the insult wrapped in a bow. The worst was when I turned 30 and was still unmarried and she started giving me things like silverware and china for Christmas – basically wedding gifts – “because I’d obviously never marry so that was the only way I’d get my house properly furnished.”

    • Kateness says:

      My mum also does this, and has since I was a kid. My worst gift technically came from my Nanny, but it had your-mother-picked-this written all over it. A Cosmo fashion computer game. For a tomboy bookworm. At 13. My mother was desperately trying to force me into girly-girlness. this particular ploy was unsuccessful.

  13. Betsy says:

    A cat necklace. I don’t like cats! They’re scary – it’s like they see right through me!

    I had a roommate who got an alarm clock from a boyfriend for her birthday. He told her he bought it for her so he could use it when he spent the night. Ugh.

  14. Caroline says:

    When I was a scrawny 9 or 10 and kind of a tom boy my aunt gave me a white lady’s slip( boobs and all) and and a tube of lipstick.. I believe it was coral.
    She gave my 15 year old brother flash cards.. That still amuses.!

  15. Tina says:

    A beige knit hat and scarf set from WalMart from my father’s girlfriend. Because the beige knit hat and scarf sets she had given me the previous two years for Christmas wore out I suppose.

  16. My husband is Swedish but I do not speak Swedish yet last year his mother gave me a cookbook in Swedish, not a very good attempt at veiling how much she despises that I do not speak the language!

  17. I once got a set of really nice silk pajamas. Sounds like a great gift, right? Except that the guy broke up with me as I was unwrapping it. On Christmas. ::sigh::

  18. Jane Scrivanich says:

    1986, friends told me they were pretty sure I was getting a diamond ring from my boyfriend for Christmas. Had hopes up a bit, I admit. He gave me a fishing pole. We’ve been married 29 years, though!

    • WMP says:

      If he was your boyfriend in December of 1986, how have you been married for 29 years? That would mean you got married in 1985.

  19. y.k. says:

    bottle of hand lotion- which would have been fine, but no wrapping/ribbon/card & handed to me as an afterthought. wrapping is important! it doesn’t have to be martha level but an effort should be made!

  20. Carol White says:

    A coffee gift card for a place I never visit. Anyone who knows me knows I only frequent DD. To make it worse, the card was from my sister. I gave it away. I called it the passive-aggressive gift!

  21. Laura says:

    Reading all these responses has made my day! I feel so much better about the the framed paper guest towel from my mother-in-law.

  22. Robbi says:

    My sister and I received Big Girl cotton underwear year after year from our aunt. It wasn’t boxed, just wrapped, and we could feel through the paper that it was more Big Girl underwear each year when we placed the gifts under the tree. One year, our dog, Herman, ate the end of the package revealing the Big Girl panties a few weeks early. It was a relief. Even though we knew it was Big Girl underwear, we were kids so we always had the hope that it was something else. When Herman opened the gift ahead of time, we were strangely cleansed of our annual disappointment. My entire perception of our Aunt was based on those gifts (thank Heavens our Mother never made us wear it! We had to write a “thank you” note for the underwear but the underwear itself always disappeared shortly after the holidays.)

  23. jenb says:

    My husband – to whom I’m still married – gave me one dishtowel on my birthday. I got a lot of mileage off that one.

    But the real worst was when my mom gave me a lace teddy (wha??) at Christmas when I was 16 – and I opened it in front of my grandparents! And then my grandfather asked for a “modeling session.”

  24. Kirstjen says:

    My MIL sent 3 cans of Libby pumpkin, paying $31 in UPS overnight charges. Because of course canned pumpkin is unheard of in Chicago. She also sent my husband a tin of homemade chocolate chip cookies with a note: “Do not share with Kirstjen.” And an open bag of dried apricots which smelled of cigarette smoke. And a 2-pound box of Sees Candies – with 9 pieces left in the box, of which 5 had bites taken out of them. And on and on the list goes…

  25. DelawareDeb says:

    After reading some of these I guess I shouldn’t feel so bad that in 1970 my mother gave me a 20 year old sewing machine, but my younger brother got a shiny new moped.

  26. Meg says:

    A girlfriend gave me a tiny wall plaque that reads “Go braless! It pulls the wrinkles from your face” or some such. I remember trying to maintain a smile while thinking “this still isn’t my sense of humor, she doesn’t know me very well….or is she trying to tell me something?” It went into the donation box immediately.

  27. Maggie says:

    Several years ago my mother-in-law (though at the time, I was just dating her son) gave me Fit Flops for Xmas. You know, the shoes they make to help you “tone up”. At the time I was quite svelte. Oh and they were size 10, when I’ve always been an 8 1/2. Luckily they still had the tags on so I could return them.

  28. edie says:

    Probably a plush Christmas tree about 12 inches tall, like a stuffed animal only it’s a Christmas tree, with little lights and stuff–from my daughter’s mother-in-law. You can wind it up. It plays “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (complete with lyrics) and kind of dances along in a bizarre back-and-forth sort of jig. Actually it’s probably not the worst, but certainly the funniest. My daughter’s mother-in-law does not celebrate Christmas. Is there a message here?

    • suzie q says:

      Maybe she thought, oh, Edie celebrates Christmas, she must like Christmas themed things!

      • edie says:

        Actually I left out the best part! (we took out the decorations last weekend and there it was . . . ) It has a mouth. A little mouth that moves in time with the lyrics. So this is a singing/dancing Christmas tree. When you think about it, what’s not to love?!

        • JJ says:

          My grandmother has this tree. The good news is it is a delight for small children and will keep them occupied for long stretches. But yeah, that’s tacky as hell

  29. Audrey says:

    A loaf of banana bread… this would have been totally fine if it had been baked specifically for me ahead of time and wrapped. However, my brother loudly told his wife in front of my husband and me to “wrap up that loaf in the kitchen” right before we were to open presents. What???? I’m sitting right here? I can HEAR you!!! To make it even worse my sister in-law then goes on to discuss with my brother if there is enough left because they were going to serve it for dessert that night. All of this discussion while we are sitting right there in the same room!

  30. ramonaquimby says:

    odor eaters! I was a teenager and lived in pumas (worn without socks, naturally) that were admittedly pretty gnarly. They went right to a white elephant/boxing day gift exchange.

  31. Ginger says:

    When I was 18 I wanted a new pair of Doc Martens. I was living with a wealthy family member after leaving a very traumatic living situation with my parents. This family member had two younger sons and she made it clear that she didn’t like Doc Martens at all. Christmas morning came and there was a wrapped boot box under the tree with my name on it. I excitedly opened it and there was a discount paper back book about ladies fashion in the 1920’s. The new Docs went to one of the horribly spoiled and obnoxious younger sons who never wore them.

  32. Ginger says:

    Oh, but on a funnier note, I had someone give me a gift card. Because so much of me screams “football fan”. No.

  33. Kim Van M says:

    A college friend came out to visit my husband and I in Connecticut after we had bought our first house. She brought us one Videlia onion for a gift. Perhaps she assumed we had never seen a Videlia onion before? She wasn’t even from Georgia.

  34. kathyj says:

    My dad once gave my mom a meat slicer. When she opened it, she said, “Why did you give me this? I have already have one sitting in the basement that I don’t use.” He has also been known to give me boxes of Puffs tissue for Christmas because I like, as he puts is, “the soft kind” and he buys the cheap tissue. He is weird.

  35. heidi says:

    a wastebasket from my college boyfriend. he also thoughtfully added a sony walkman, because “This way you can listen to music while you clean up your room.”

  36. christin says:

    These are amazingly shocking and very funny. My BIL and his partner gave me a horrible “mumsy” cardigan a few years back. You know the type that kindergarten teachers wore in the 90s? This was shortly after he got together with her. She is the self-proclaimed (and BIL-proclaimed) gift lady, so generous, spends so much time and money on gifts, blah blah. So I know a lot of thought went into this, finding a the perfect item that said “me”. Really? That’s how you see me? Well crap.

  37. c.w. says:

    My Muther gave me a pair of clean, but slightly used pair of pantyhose a couple of years ago for Xmas.
    I should also say that my Muther has a history of giving slightly off-kilter gifts. She used to keep wrapped presents in her closet, but never thought to label them as to what was inside. Whenever it was someone’s birthday or there was a wedding or anniversary she’d go to her closet and take something out and hand it to you. It was sort of like grab bag gift giving. As a result my daughter received a silver plated cake server when she turned eight. My son a set of steak knives when he turned ten. The list goes on…

    • Fritanga says:

      Last year my mother gave me a pair of black petite slacks. I’m 5’9″. When I took them back to exchange them, I found she’d spent $9.99 on them. I got a merchandise credit and put it toward a pair of $60 sneakers for my teenaged nephew (who needed them). When my mother found out, she was livid – I guess she wanted me to wear the slacks as Bermuda shorts OR return the ten bucks to her.

      Yes, she’s insane.

      • Fritanga says:

        And yeah – my nephew is HER GRANDSON. To whom she always gives $5 as presents, even though he’s now 18. My mother has more money than me and my siblings put together, times 5. She’s just incredibly cheap.

  38. Dana D says:

    The take-away from all of these funny/sad stories?

    Some people should not be allowed to have children.

    But then, we would not have delightful people in the world telling funny/sad stories…so maybe I am wrong.

  39. KimFrance says:

    This thread is divine!!!

    • Alison says:

      I couldn’t agree more. It has been so much fun reading through these responses… makes me feel a lot better about my gift giving/receiving history!

  40. suzie q says:

    My winner: as an engagement present, friends of my in laws ‘morphed’ our engagement photo to show what our potential children would look like. They put it in one of those ‘every year at school’ frames, so we had about 10 different versions of a creepy, monster-ized ‘being’, with our engagement photo at the center. I made my husband write the thank you note and then dispose of it.

    First runner up: a paring knife set, as a wedding gift, from a friend who sold knives as a side gig. Not a set of steak knives, or a knife block, a set of paring knives. Which they got either at cost or at a discount.

    Second runner up: a set of three bibs, from Target, as a baby gift for our second child, from a friend that we had spent over $50 for each child. Which was brought to our hotel room when we were in town visiting, because they didn’t want to attend any of the other events scheduled while we were in town. The baby gift for our first child was a diaper pad. A fancy diaper pad, from The Next Step catalog, but a diaper pad nonetheless.

    I feel better!

  41. Sheila says:

    My college boyfriend’s mom gave me the ‘White Acrylic Christmas’ trifecta one year-

    1) crocheted slippers with pom-pom balls on the toes
    2) a ‘boxed for giving’ white acrylic cowlneck dickie
    3) a basic white, 100% acrylic sweatshirt that she’d embroidered mushrooms on the chest


    Just what every college gal in 1987 was after.

  42. Liza Wyles says:

    A training bra in a slightly dented box, which makes me think it was foraged from the nether regions of the Jamesway discount bin.

  43. Terry says:

    Maybe the Kitchen Witch I got from my mother when I turned 16? But more likely a re-gift from a co-worker. One year during our office gift exchange she received a wire tray filled with scented soaps and lotions. The following year at our gift exchange she gifted me the tray, minus the soaps and lotions. I kept that thing for years and smiled every time I saw it.

  44. Christina says:

    A half used bottle of Rogaine.

  45. An oven mitt that looked like a dead fish. From my law school boyfriend.

  46. Keely says:

    Our elderly, family friend/neighbor gave everyone hand knit slippers (with pom poms!) every year and I loved them so much. I was the least favored though, so one year, mine came wrapped in a tampon box. I was maybe 13 and that was mortifying!

    I also gave the worst gift ever! In the 80’s, my mom loved the color peach…so in a lapse of judgment I bought her peach colored custom made blinds for the sliding glass door in her bedroom. That’s a lot of peach and she wanted drapes in a different color! She graciously used those awful blinds for about a year – and I married someone with decent interior design taste! LOL.

    • Heather says:

      I must say, my beloved grandmother, who passed when I was 17, always made hand knit slippers with pom poms. It was the only thing she knew how to knit! I wish I still had a pair, just to remind me of her.

      • Susan H. says:

        I loved those hand knit slippers with pom pons too! They always wore out on the soles and stretched out so they fell off your heels, but they were made with love.

  47. Dana says:

    My first “real serious boyfriend” gave me a Philadelphia Eagles mug and a glass figurine of a shoe from what only could have a dollar store type of store.

    • Linden says:

      LOL. On Valentine’s Day, one of my high school boyfriends gave me $4 and told me to get myself something!

  48. Barbara says:

    From my friend’s husband at our annual friends christmas party: A deluxe, anniversary DVD of a movie I hate, a movie we had discussed the weekend before where I had expressed my hate. A movie his wife (my best friend) knew I hated. (Won’t name the movie here, it’s one many girls of a certain age love and I don’t want this to morph into a whole different thread!)

  49. Bex says:

    This thread is priceless! I have never received anything as heinous as some of the gifts y’all have gotten, but I have received plenty of gifts that were completely counter to my tastes and made me wonder whether my family and friends really know me at all. What makes it more frustrating is that I’m the easiest person in the world to buy for. I love to read (Amazon gift card) and knit (yarn store gift certificate). Why can’t they figure this out?

  50. MMM says:

    My mother in law gave my husband and me an old, dirty, tan Bell telephone wrapped in a shoe box when everyone was buying new ones as the Bell telephone company was loosing its monopoly. It had been my SIL’s phone and had her number still on the receiver, and was grimy too. Of course, she got a bright shiny new one, that very day, right in front of us. And her phone was even in a beautiful color. That gift told me exactly how I was thought of in that family.

  51. Linden says:

    My aunt’s mother-in-law gave her clothing that hurt. She always got her one of those tacky sweaters with metal doodads and studs all over them. The metal bits on the inside would scratch her if she wore them without a shirt underneath.

  52. Lesley says:

    For a wedding present, a mirrored triptych with a crystal sculpture of a clown playing the lute, from some well-meaning Italian cousins. This wasn’t some Venetian blown glass masterpiece, mind you, but a bunch of crystals glued together with visible blobs of glue. Since the clown was reclining with its legs spread, the reflection in the mirror of one of the legs emerging from the crotch made it positively obscene. To boot, it came with a little insert (in Italian) that explained that this was a party favor, yet the words “party favor” were blacked out with a marker. We have yet to figure this one out. But needless to say, it’s more of a best/worst present.

  53. Tinnitis says:

    Splatter screens. You know, those things you put on top of your frying pan while cooking bacon. These were from my husband for Christmas. He learned a tough lesson that year.

  54. GeeCee says:

    I haven’t gotten any truly terrible gifts, or if I have I’m blocking out the memory in self-preservation. I have gotten plenty of things that aren’t quite to my taste though, like the sweatshirt with puff-painted kittens on it from my mom. I will tease my boyfriend about the time his Christmas gift to me was a feather-on-a-stick cat toy. I believe the reasoning was that we have a rescue cat who wasn’t all that well socialized and I was trying to give the cat lots of attention and playtime, but I admit that my first reaction on unwrapping it was “o.O”.

    In case you haven’t seen it yet, finding this and going through the archives ate up a good chunk of my Sunday afternoon:

  55. Emily says:

    From my MIL, a small evening bag shaped as a bustier. The bag had boobs and everything. This may have been the same year as the Pajama Jeans.

  56. Susan says:

    My first Christmas with the in-laws, SIL gave me a full-length, pink, Victorian collar, puffy sleeves cotton nightgown. Always wondered what message she was sending.

  57. jhops says:

    My grandmother used to crochet gifts for “all the grandkids”, and I received several items from her that I never successfully identified. I did get a “Barbie doll with crocheted hoop-skirt” toilet paper cover one year. In orange, because every kid got their items in “their” color, and I got asked last.

  58. Gleemonex says:

    My dad gave me a jar of mayonnaise one year (I think I was about nine or ten). Because, according to him, *I* liked my mayo smooth (as in, I’d stir it around to smooth it out in the jar before spreading it on my sandwich) while he liked *his* — aka the communal, family jar of mayo — “chunky style,” i.e. just knifed outta there whichever way. He explained this like he was some kind of Superhero Gift Detective, with much pride and many flourishes. 1) No, he was not mentally ill. 2) No, I was not either. 3) Yes, I bought his story (at the time); it was only years later that I figured out he must’ve forgotten to get something for the middle kid on his annual xmas eve gas-station-and-liquor-store present-buying dash.

  59. Kay Erikson says:

    A cheap plastic travel hair dryer from my husband our first christmas together after we starting dating
    I was so dissapointing as I was hoping for something romantic
    Typically he went for practical and what I needed
    Might have been ok if there were plane tickets someplace fabulous attatched
    But sadly there was not
    In the 15 years we have married I have never received another appliance!

  60. gablesgirl says:

    A toss up. From SIL, a pair of salt and pepper shakers of ducks dressed in holiday garb. Salt and pepper came out of their behind. MIL, no gift because “she needed to spend money on her other son’s girlfriend and she didn’t have enough for a gift for me.” I have been married to her so for 20+ years.

  61. Tricia says:

    A pair of earrings in my birthstone from my dad, which would have been amazing if they had been for December, the actual month of my birth, instead of November. Yes, he is my biological father. Not the worst out of this list by a long shot but still……

  62. Alexa says:

    A pair of white taper candles, like they sell in the supermarket, wrapped in plain white tissue paper, from my MIL. Not bad enough to funny, not good enough to be good. Just, sigh.

  63. Femme50 says:

    Ugh. Just last year I received the ugliest cheap, shiny, made in China $1.50 scarf in a bilious pink & black dye-smeared leopard print. Like a re gift from these same otherwise quite wealthy friends, who have previously given us dinged up coffee table books on subjects of no interest to us. Adding insult to injury, I’d brought them back a magnificent wool scarf from Paris in a beautiful muted pastel that I’ve always regretted not keeping for myself. The shee ugly cheapness of it makes it barely possible for me to keep if for the remaining 10 days until the Xmas one-year mark when I may safely dispose of it. Even Good Will does not deserve a scarf this awful.

  64. AmyM says:

    I want this thread to go on forever.

  65. Mae says:

    An electric bun warmer for a wedding present in 1979. A year later, when I felt coerced into buying a wedding gift for the son of the people who owned the restaurant where I worked, the bun warmer got redeployed (my husband’s brilliant idea). We still laugh about it.

  66. auntjone says:

    A box of peanut brittle from the gas station on my very first Mother’s Day. It was left on the bar in the kitchen. He didn’t even give it to me in person. I do like peanut brittle, and his gifts got better, but we ended up divorced.

  67. For our wedding, my husband and I received one place setting of Fiesta-ware from a very VERY cheap aunt and uncle. ONE PLACE SETTING???? Come ON – at least spring for two.

  68. Susie says:

    Reading through these comments is so much fun. The first thing that came to my mind, was that I have given a lot of “bad gifts” but mainly as a child, so those don’t count. The worst I’ve ever received was from my MIL, when I spent the first Christmas with their family. She announced loudly to everyone (all adults, as my husband is the youngest) “Susie brought gifts for all of us” and I have nothing for her. Of course I brought gifts. It was Christmas and my husband told me that his family “really celebrated”! She wrapped an ornament for me, probably straight off the tree. 21 years later, we still have the ornament and it makes me cringe a little every time we decorate. This year, my 18 year old told me it was her favorite one. She didn’t know the back story, but I was happy she felt that way.

  69. Anne says:

    When we were teenagers, my sisters and I would get to go shopping with our grandmother and get one new outfit, and for several years running, one of my sisters would give me the free calendar she got at Limited Express for spending over $50, or whatever, with our grandmother. I now realize that my sister is on the autism spectrum, so I can forgive it retroactively.

  70. Elle says:

    A purse that was repurposed from a pair of children’s jeans, Osh Kosh elastic waist band and all. The waist band had a snap to keep the purse closed, so to get something from the purse, you had to open the waist band and put your hand in the children’s pants. YOU HAD TO PUT YOUR HAND IN THE CHILDREN’S PANTS! It was lined with a neon sequined material. Totally precious.

    • Jill says:

      OH MY GOD I think this wins some kind of prize. I nearly fell on the floor laughing. Good grief, people as a whole are crazy / clueless / insane when it comes to gift giving…

    • Ashley says:

      This made me laugh too hard – I am dying! Reading this thread on Christmas Even while I’m stuck at work is keeping me alive.

  71. KimFrance says:

    I love my readers. I love this thread.

  72. SNoe says:

    A little late, but for years my MIL has been giving me a jug of rice for Christmas. It is always wrapped, and sometimes in a sweater box. I do not eat much rice.

  73. Rachel D says:

    I was going to write about the re-gifted calendar, but you people have me bested. Such good humor though!

  74. Mary Alice says:

    Sorry I come to this so late. My mother in law died and the family had an old fashioned “gathering the lawyer’s office and receive what she bequeathed to you” meeting. Her three sons received substantial inheritances. The lawyer read a lovely note from her about how she wanted to leave her two daughter in-laws special person items. My sister in law received a beautiful family heirloom ring. I received a spiral bound paper notebook and a Bic pen.

  75. Ginger says:

    When I was 17 I got a blue lion doorstop with a “matching” draft snake. Matching how? It was a blue plastic bag filled with beans and tied in a knot at the end. This from a wealthy relative. Because every 17 year old worries about keeping doors open and preventingdrafts.

  76. Vanessa says:

    When we were kids, we each got to open one small present on Christmas Eve and as a young teenager, I always tried to pick out one that looked roughly book-sized so I could stay up way too late on Christmas Eve reading it. That all ended when I was 14 and my dad got me Dr Laura’s Ten Worst Things Women Do To Screw Up Their Lives. It was not a good year.

    • Ashley says:

      Oh my god, he’s just managed to crush my spirit now – can’t imagine how awful it would have been for you at 14.

  77. Heather says:

    As I’m reading these what I’m most appalled by is the ugly cheapness that many of these ‘off’ gifts convey. I’m all about being careful with one’s money, but more and more, miserliness is just a deplorable character trait to me. I’d rather get no gift than, say, a used bottle of hand lotion or something that was clearly only purchased because it was on final discount, with no thought to what the recipient wanted or needed. If people are really short on funds, doing something nice for someone else, or a fresh-baked loaf of bread, or a card with a sincere message, are all beautiful gifts.

  78. Leah says:

    I am not a very good housekeeper, not disgustingly bad, just not a good one. After the birth of my second child, my sister gave me a set of fancy cleaning products from Restoration Hardware and my mom gave me slippers with terry cloth loops on the bottom – mopping slippers. And they wondered why I suddenly had to leave the living room to hide my tears. I still wonder if they collaborated on their gifts… Not as bad as some of the other gifts, but still

  79. TP says:

    These posts have made me laugh. One clear takeaway is how awful mother-in-laws can be, even if well-meaning! I don’t really care for my own, but will any of us manage to be normal mothers-in-law? I have two boys under the age of 10 so there isn’t an imminent threat of MIL-hood, but it may be in my future. I hope to avoid being completely lame, but time will tell. Happy holidays!

  80. Una says:

    To make it easy for my husband one year, a whole month before Xmas, I told him exactly what I wanted: gold brocade curtains from a local store. Not expensive. I even printed out the online details with the size etc specified. But he left buying until the afternoon of xmas eve. They had sold out. They even said he could get them at a different store but it was too late, our guests were arriving. So instead he bought me a sheet. A flat, white sheet. He said, it’s Egyptian cotton. I said, f*** you.

  81. Ginger says:

    I have a great mother in law. I adore her. I go to my husbands home town to visit her as often as possible. We have traveled together and have always gotten along wonderfully. Her son on the other hand….

  82. Eliza says:

    I giggled when I saw one poster said she’d received one vidalia onion as a gift.

    One year, my ex-MIL gave me a “bloomin’ onion maker” for Christmas, the kind that makes those deep fried onions. Needless to say she was a great fan of Outback restaurant, which I was not.

    I guess I didn’t show enough enthusiasm, because the next year she gifted me a used cosmetic bag with a collection of samples in it.

    Of course, this is also the woman who approached me at the funeral for her my ex-FIL. It was the first time I’d seen her since H and I had separated. She reminded me that after all, she’d sent me a condolence card when we’d announced our engagement. As if she hadn’t had anything to do with his upbringing. It’s funny now:)

  83. Kirsten says:

    My dad is the middle of three boys, and both of my uncles are married to lovely women. My gran, dad’s mum, was born in early November. When I was a kid, we lived next door to gran and grandad while the other two sons lived some distance away. This meant that my parents were the ones who helped out with the day to day assistance that elderly people sometimes need.

    For my gran’s 70th birthday, we had a surprise party for her. It was held at our house, so although the other sons contributed financially, the bulk of the preparation landed on my parents. All of the family and her friends were invited, there was a lovely cake with beautiful decoration, and she said she’d really enjoyed her day.

    The following week my two aunts (gran’s daughters-in-law) received beautiful bunches of flowers from gran as a thank you for the party. My mum got nothing. And at Christmas, my two aunts were given £50 each. And my mum got – a packet of dusters.

  84. Peggy says:

    My SIL gave me wooden salad fork and spoon set used to serve salad. The tines were broken off of the fork.

  85. Elise says:

    One year my family received not one, but two, electric hot dog cookers. You put each end of the hot dog onto a metal prong, which then ‘cooked’ the hot dog by electrocuting it. They had a tangy, metallic flavour – disgusting.

  86. Dee says:

    This thread makes me especially glad that I have two daughters. I will never be a mother in law to a daughter in law. Well, unless one of my girls comes out which seems unlikely at this point. I don’t think I would ever give a terrible gift to a daughter in law but the odds don’t seem in my favor.

  87. Alex says:

    I love this thread. It’s kind of sad and amazing how many of these terrible gifts have been from mothers….including mine. Last year, my mom and her sisters went to New York during Fashion Week to see the runway show of a good family friend who is a very famous designer. While they were there they got to visit said designer’s warehouse and pick out whatever they wanted at a huge discount. My mom wouldn’t tell me what she’d gotten me, only that I’d love it and she’d give it to me for Christmas. I was bubbling over with anticipation for weeks, envisioning beautiful cocktail dresses, maybe an amazing handbag, some shoes…something REALLY good. Christmas comes and her present is….a shirt, from this designer’s side line for young girls, in a size small. A shirt meant for a petite teenage or preteen girl. I’m 30, 5’8, a size 12. When I asked her why on earth she’d gotten me that size, she said, “I’m sorry, I forgot how big you are now.” I gave the shirt to my 14 year old cousin, who still barely fit into it.

  88. EBN says:

    I’ve received some amazing gifts and some not-so-amazing gifts, such as…a “Ziggy” comic nightshirt, a child’s sized, thrift store t-shirt from my younger brother for Christmas when I was in college, because he thought I could “make something out of it” and I was not remotely crafty! A coffee grinder for my 21st birthday from my brother, when I didn’t own a coffee maker and wasn’t allowed to have one in my dorm. And for several years in a row the same brother got me a gift certificate to Cinnabon.

  89. Becky says:

    My sweet great Uncle Russ got me and my sister bottles of “Charlie” cologne EVERY year — because the young girls really like Charlie. One year we got Charlie scented soap instead. My Mother got Jean Nate. It was so well intentioned it almost hurts my heart now.

  90. semadogz says:

    My partner of 25 years gave me, many years back now, an outfit( can’t think what else to call it) consisting of a tight mini skirt and matching vest , all made of wetsuit material – neoprene is it? , in electric blue leopardskin print . It was pure hooker wear . At the time I was a pretty active feminist ,and given to wearing cheesecloth and jeans and boots…

  91. semadogz says:

    Actually it’s 35 years . Could that be a Freudian typo ….

  92. JD says:

    Top of my head, my dad gave me my own frequent flier miles that I had gathered as a kid on family vacations. There weren’t nearly enough to do anything with, and I think they were a solid 15 years expired. You know he just stumbled on them cleaning out his file cabinet. Thanks, Pops.

  93. Kris says:

    It’s a tie, I think. I love to read, and I’m pretty omnivorous in my reading habits. However, one of my friends managed the nearly impossible feat of gifting me books I couldn’t stomach, every single year. They were always romances, and not even the fun ones with titles like “The Heart’s Moist Bloomers” where the heroine spends all her time getting ravaged by noble pirates. I did love the after-Christmas ritual of exchanging them at the used bookstore, though.

    The current worst comes via my aunt. When I left I got my first apartment, she decided that it was unfeminine of me not to collect things, and picked something I should collect – Nativity scenes. I have nothing against nativities, I just don’t like knick-knacks. (Guess that practically makes me a frat boy.) We lost touch for a few years, and reconnected after my mother died. When we opened presents on very first Christmas that she spent with me and my husband, the first words out of her mouth when I started opening her package were “Do I remember correctly that you collect Nativity scenes?”

  94. Mary Ellen says:

    My ex-husband’s step-grandmother gave me a gift bag containing a bunch of half-used Avon lipstick samples, obviously used earrings (they were absolutely filthy) and a package of really, really cheap mens’ tube socks — and the package was already ripped open, and each awful, plastic-y sock the word “DEFECTIVE” was stamped, in bright red ink.

  95. Allison says:

    My MIL is a classic bad gift giver: she likes junk-store and church crafts fair crap and assumes if she likes it, any sensible person would. There have been years of bad jewelry (a pendant with a dead bug suspended in Lucite; a white and gray leather Wonder Woman-style “bracelet”), bad kitchen ideas (the wood salad bowl perched on a table-height tripod; did I mention the bowl was cracked?), and bad home ideas (the black, gray and orange paper-mache vase that resembled an exploded, scorched basketball). The worst, absolute WORST was when she gave me a carved wood fertility doll from her Moroccan trip. My then-boyfriend (now husband) and I had just moved in together, it was my first Christmas with his extended family, and I opened this in front of all the relatives I met for the first time earlier that day. “Mortifying” is the word that springs to mind.

  96. Montréalaise says:

    When I was about 16, my father gave me a bottle of foundation which was really dark – quite a few shades darker than my complexion, telling me “You need some color in your face!”

  97. Jenni says:

    A pair of maternity leggings from my step-mother. And I wasn’t pregnant.

  98. Suzy Q says:

    Co-workers seem to give the worst gifts to me. We used to do the Secret Santa thing, and one year, the new billing manager got my name. What she gave me was probably a wedding gift to her 30 years previously. It was a horrid cut-glass picture frame with a wedding couple picture clearly from the ’80s. I literally threw it away. The next year, she got someone else’s name and gave her an awesome, thoughtful gift.

    A few years ago, another co-worker gave me a stack of ten (TEN) pink washcloths. They stayed in my car trunk for a couple of years, and when I finally went to put them to some use, I discovered they were each attached individually to the other in four spots. Seven of them are still attached together.

  99. Fritanga says:

    Worst gift was a $2 scarf my mother-in-law bought in Bermuda or Puerto Rico or someplace. How did I know it was $2? She showed me several others which she said she intended to give to her housecleaner, her manicurist, her shampoo girl, etc. “Aren’t they great?” she said without a trace of embarrassment. “And so cheap!” Wonderful to know where I stood in her estimation.

    She’s improved since then, but that was definitely a low point. And yeah, my husband and I always gave her expensive gifts (she gave HIM money).

  100. Lori says:

    About 15 years ago, I got my sister-in-law a beautiful basket of lotion & bath products, and she got me a basket with a bag of sand in it – you heat the bag of sand and it keeps bread warm in the basket at dinner. I could not have asked for a sillier present (at the time, my husband and I lived in a small apartment and did no entertaining and even if we did, I would never, EVER, keep bread warm with sand).

    Now that I look back, I think she was re-gifting or just giving me something she had on hand that she didn’t want anymore. Not long after that, I suggested that only the cousins exchange gifts, not the adults, and it’s been that way ever since!

  101. TB says:

    One year we came home from our annual Christmas dinner date in the city to find that one of our neighbors had left a mason jar of homemade granola on our porch…nestled in a black lace thong. My husband and I were both so horrified. I’d like to think the thong was an accident, but I don’t really know how one accidentally sets a mason jar on a black lace thong without noticing it.

  102. Beka says:

    My sister one year gave me blue margarita salt (I was 19) and tie-dyed organic cotton socks. Her logic “I thought you would just love puttin blue salt on everything”.


  103. Amy says:

    A jar of cream from a student (I am a teacher) that said “for tired skin.”

  104. melissa says:

    for my 50th birthday, my mother gave me a bottle of Oil of Olay.
    And when I was in 4th grade, my grandmother gave me a bra for Christmas. Size 36D, white lace with pointed cups.
    In 5th grade, I got green metallic fingernail polish and a t-shirt featuring a graphic of a couple kissing in front of a sunset. (like you’d expect on the front of a condom box.) I just realized all my ‘worsts’ have in common someone trying to make me older than I feel.

  105. Mandy says:

    A scale from my mother – with a titter and a smile. Thanks, fat-shaming person who gave me birth!

  106. Victoria says:

    Reversible pants
    Fire engine red on one side – powder blue on the other.
    Came with a matching reversible belt.

  107. blondie says:

    Every year I know I’m going to get really bad gifts from my in-laws. The reason is because they don’t care what you want, they think they know better and they do not want you to tell them what you want. It is truly a complete waste of money for them because I donate the gifts right away. One particularly bad one was from my SIL who has zip fashion sense, it was a Vera Bradley bag in the most heinous colors. I am not a Vera Bradley type of chick at all (SIL has tons of it). I took a picture of it and sent it out to friends saying it was free for whomever replied 1st, no one replied. My bestfriend said it looked like a purse you would buy for someone you hated!

  108. Hanna says:

    When my mother was 12, my grandpa gave my grandma an iron for Christmas. Her response was to throw it across the room and THEN give him divorce papers wrapped in Christmas paper, which he unwrapped in front of his two children. Needless to say, the consequences of this screwed my mother up to an unretrievable degree. The mad twist to the story is, after being divorced for 30 years and marrying other people, my grandparents remarried each other in their 60s.

  109. Jill says:

    One more (because I can’t help myself) from my mother. When Mom’s on, she’s spot on. When she’s off…

    When I turned 40, my mother went on and on about my gift, which “she didn’t make” and it “cost her nothing”. (my mother is um, crafty, so in the past I’ve often received things she’s sewn or otherwise made). And she loves to share, over and over again, how very little she spent on gifts. “Do you like that scarf? It was $6 at T J Maxx”. Etc.

    So the birthday arrived, and my gift was a paper box (one of those big ones that holds the reams of office paper) stuffed FULL of everything I’d ever made – kindergarten drawings, old report cards and yearbooks, cards I’d given to her, or made for her, as a child…essentially she cleaned house. What she thought I would do with them, I can’t imagine…but at least they were “out of her hair”. Way to celebrate a milestone birthday, Mom. 🙂

  110. Sophie says:

    Every year when I was small, my aunt sent,sea-mail, from the US to the UK, a doll with a head made from an apple, which was wizened when it arrived. I have no idea whether these dolls were lovely when wrapped, but they certainly weren’t when they arrived! They looked like head-hunters’ trophies and terrified me every year. I actually used to cry when the parcel arrived. My mother took pity on me after a couple of years and would open and dispose of them in advance. I wrote dutiful thank yous every year, like a good girl.
    For a wedding present from same aunt we received three tea-towels, a pair of chicken-shaped oven grabby things and a slightly used pot-holder. Dutiful thank you followed, as ever. I expect to be wafted to Heaven by quite a host of angels, I can tell you!

    As for presents from my MIL, her misplaced generosity is gratefully received by the local charity shops, which we visit asap after Christmas. I’d love to just NOT have anything, but it goes to good causes (which she’d hate, ha ha).

  111. Alicia F says:

    I love this! There have been a lot from my mother which aren’t *bad*, just not at all me – I haven’t worn brown since I left school 20+ years ago, and yet she keeps giving me brown leather handbags and scarves, I wear very little jewellery and she gives me ornate beaded necklaces etc. But I think the worst was from my grandmother, who gave me a handtowel embroidered with lavender, which I recognised as a regift of a present my mother had given to her…

  112. Jo says:

    My parents were living in Bolivia and they sent a big package with gifts for all of us. My brother and sisters received beautiful llama wool blankets and hand-tooled leather belts. I received a pair of slippers that looked like roadkill (and were too small), and a sweater that was wider than it was long. And my Mom was so proud of her selections for me, “I know how your feet are always cold!” Well meant, but the sizing was so off.

  113. Ann says:

    This is hands-down the best comment thread I’ve read in a verrrrrry long time…I’m alternating between gasping and laughing out loud. Thanks!

  114. Anna H says:

    I was ten, and wanted a Malibu Barbie from my parents. Under the tree was a parcel of the desired size and weight. Joy! Only, it was a thermos, and next to it, a hefty sleeping bag.I realized my parents’ dire need for cross country skiing in destinations best described as “Snowplanet Hothish” had reached a new stage, the overnight one.

  115. Juliana says:

    From my grandmother — an altoids tin with a tooth in it. The took had a gold crown, and came with a note saying it was “valuable”.

    • Ashley says:

      That’s not a Christmas present, that’s a ransom demand! It would give me nightmares for weeks – yikes.

  116. Tally-ho says:

    My soon to be ex-husband is a terrible gift giver. Our first Christmas together he gave me a candle and a pen. Gee, you shouldn’t have. One Christmas early in our relationship he gave me the boxed gift set VCR of Fargo (romantic, right?). The worst part was the enclosed snow-globe with a foot sticking out of a wood-chipper and red snow swirling around. Last year, the first Christmas after we began the process of splitting up, he helped our young daughters pick out pajamas for me. They were medium. I wear at least an XL.

    • Rebecca says:

      I also received the Fargo snow globe from my husband. And it was a step up from the cheap white plastic kitchen garbage can he gave me for Valentine’s day a few years ago…

  117. Emily says:

    A bottle of lube, from a co-worker who sells “romantic aids” as a side hustle. The bottle was open, half-empty, and…crusted with a dried, white substance on the outside.

  118. anna says:

    My aunt is a very sweet, well-meaning woman who is just the worst at giving gifts. One year I received a hand-decorated pillow case as my main gift. It had been decorated in puffy paint, which had slightly smeared… another year our family gift was a box of hand-made ornaments that had all broken in transit. The winner, though, actually went to my sister, when she was about 16 or 17. It had fake fur on the top (she had recently become a vegetarian) and curled up at the end (like an elf shoe???) and had a jingle bell on the toe.

    That was her entire present. We already have lovely, handmade stockings. It was totally useless – at least until we started bringing SOs home for the holidays & we needed some spares.

  119. marti says:

    A dickey (fake turtleneck collar) from my mother-in-law. Just the name itself lends itself to no-gift territory. Hate to be ungrateful, but I’ve never worn the thing.

  120. Janet says:

    Red and green leg warmers with wreaths on the side, complete with a jingle bell from my stepmother. It was the 80s, but still…and she is rich.

  121. JJ says:

    For me it’s a tie. The worst overall gift I have ever received was from my now mother in law when I was just dating my husband. For my birthday she gave me a very used paperback book entitled “How to Clean Practically Anything.” Just what every 23 year old wants! The other gift wins the category of “most thoughtless”. My boyfriend gave me five scratch lotto tickets for my college graduation. Then when I won $2 in the scratch game he insisted I buy more scratch tickets until I lost altogether.

  122. Vivian says:

    My husband is a last minute shopper. One year I got a lovely duck decoy! He probably walked into the first store he saw on Christmas eve, some Minnesota wildlife art store and bought a beautiful life-size mallard. I’m sure it wasn’t cheap, but totally not my style. It’s still in his office, where it fits in with all the other clutter in there. I can’t get him to get rid of anything.

  123. CopyChic says:

    One year, my dad got me a Mickey Mouse keychain. I think I was 22 or something. Another year, he and my stepmom have me a can of coffee, and I don’t mean fancy coffee either, I mean Maxwell House. This year, my sister got me a used DVD and a book (“My Sister’s Keeper”) with the $3 price tag still on it.

  124. Tika says:

    My dad was a notorious crap present giver. One year I got a coconut, yes, just a coconut. Another year it was a ‘painting’ he had done, small scribbly brush-strokes on a very small piece of paper. The worst was when he gifted me what looked like a large roll of money wrapped up in an elastic band, only the first layer was a £20 note, the rest was newspaper that he had cut to shape to create the illusion of a large wad on bank notes. Cried my eyes out at that one!

  125. natalie says:

    My aunt once gave me a gift bag full of peanut butter jelly packets. Like the ketchup ones you get a fast food places, only filled with grape jelly and peanut butter, pre-mixed. My sister and I still laugh about it and the next year my cousins took over gifting responsibilities so things got better.

  126. 30 Something Blondes says:

    A cirque du soleil t-shirt from a boyfriend.

    Honestly… who would actually wear that?

  127. Silly You says:

    A Thigh Master from my boyfriend. No lie. No wonder my friends hated that guy.

    Oh! Bonus…he told me his mother suggested it. No wonder I hated that woman.

  128. Jd says:

    My sister once gave my mom a pair of extra-large underpants (my mom is not large) and a jar or wrinkle cream for her birthday. Ouch.

  129. Michelle says:

    When I was younger, I had an aunt (I’m guessing there was some dementia involved) who would rummage through my family’s garbage. At Christmas, she would wrap up and re-gift my siblings and I with our broken down garbage and old toys.

  130. JaniceG says:

    Thank you so much for this hilarious, and sad, post. I am sitting here recuperating post op and this is helping me get some good laughs!

  131. ame says:

    Man, some of these are HYSTERICAL and EVIL. I would probably have to say the worst gift we received was an obvious regift at our wedding of this hideous chip and dip thing that was clearly regifted multiple times. It had three cards in it from the original gifters to the original recipients, then the regifters, and then the next regifters. When we opened gifts in front of friends and family we saw the other cards and read them out loud, laughing hysterically. We donated it because I was not about to regift that to someone else.

    I think my sister might still win though, in terms of “worst gift ever.” My uncle has been in a bad way most of his life, just having a hard time making ends meet. My parents often bought his gifts for us for Christmas when we were growing up. My sister needed socks and underwear desperately one year (according to my mom, anyway) and was “gifted” those. How exciting for her! My dad accidently grabbed that gift for her (he neglected to label that one for the morning opening with just us) for the family xmas celebration on Xmas eve–where she got to open socks and under wear from our uncle in front of our entire extended family. Just what every 13 year old girl dreams of. My uncle was mortified and she was beyond embarrassed. My mom had to run upstairs and grab her a “real” gift in a hurry to try to bypass the embarrassment. That become the year socks and underwear became the Xmas tradition. Now every year SOMEONE always gets socks and underwear as a gag (in our immediate family, not the extended). This year it was my potty training 3 year old nephew, who promptly hurled it across the room because it was not a toy, obviously. But it is still a running gag for the last 20+ years.

  132. Katya says:

    Previously used eye shadows! The funny thing is that I’ve got the same “second hand present” twice. First, it was an YSL palette, then Too Faced.

  133. Meredith says:

    My dad, god love him, still thinks that I am very into leopard print because I was at 13 when I frequented Contempo Casuals. About 5 years ago, he bought me a purse so ugly I was shocked that Coach even made it. It was an oddly tiny satchel-style thing, in a patchwork of aggressively nasty beige/champagne/metallic/leopard fabrics. It managed to be dowdy while still looking like something a hooker in Coney Island might carry. He was so, so proud of it. He literally said “I saw that and thought, if that isn’t just my little Mousie all over, I don’t know what is.” Truer words have never been spoken, Dad.

    I oohed and ahhed over the Coach label, because he was so proud of its fanciness. At this point, he will go to his grave thinking I love leopard, because there is no gentle way to break the news. Plus, I exchanged Hideous Bag for a gorgeous pair of heels. God love him, he gets points for trying.

  134. Jane says:

    My gran lived quite frugal and practical and always kept old boxes to reuse when needed. One Christmas I unwrapped my present; it was in a box for a cello tape dispenser. Knowing my gran’s habits I made the comment: “At least I’m not getting a cello tape dispenser for Christmas!”. With great excitement I opened the box to discover a cello tape dispenser inside. I did not know where to hide my head. It was pretty hard to hide my disappointment at the time. In retrospect it was a very useful gift. My gran has passed since but I am still using the dispenser whenever I have to wrap presents, thinking fondly of my gran as I go along.

  135. RT says:

    Worst Present: Birthday Edition

    On my 24th birthday, my then-boyfriend brought three presents to my apartment.

    1. An Old Dijon Mustard Jar with a Record Needle Inside
    I’d recently bought at turntable at a garage sale and it needed a new needle so he bought me one. The transparent mustard jar wasn’t the gift so much as the gift wrap.

    2. Bed Pillows
    I already had two bed pillows but the gentleman found them uncomfortable. So for my birthday, he gave me a gift for him.

    3. Pillowcases
    One pillowcase was dark blue while the other was light blue. They didn’t match, he proudly told me, because they were on sale.

    At about 4pm we ate burgers at a local fast food chain and so, you know, the whole birthday dinner thing was sorted. Not surprisingly, in the morning, when his roommate asked, “Did ______ make you feel special?” I burst into tears.

  136. RT says:

    Worst Present: Christmas Edition

    In 10th grade school, I received a lump of coal from my best friend. It was a gag gift that probably came from a card store/Spencer’s Gifts type place. When I opened it, the room went silent. All the gifts up until that point had been typical high school girl fare – earrings, soaps, lip gloss, tank tops. There were about ten of us in the room and no one, except the gift giver, thought it was funny.

    She’s a therapist now.