I have some really close family friends who, for the sake of this article, I’m going to call The Flintstones.
The Flintstones are excellent people. Growing up, I used to love going to their house. They had a trampoline and a pool and I was allowed to “help myself” to their chocolate stash. And yet, every year, when Christmas rolled around, I would dread seeing them because I knew what was coming.
There would be a gift, wrapped in that weird foil sort of wrapping paper with my name written neatly on it sitting under the tree.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the sort of person who judges a gift by its wrapping. And despite everything I’m about to write, I truly appreciate that they bought me a gift in the first place. Generally, anxiety is the furthest thing from my mind when I’m opening a present. I love tearing quickly at the two edges, I love the suspense, I love the 0.006 seconds before I form an opinion about a gift and instead just feel surprised and excited by the promise of this new thing in my hands. (I’m literally smiling at my screen right now evening thinking about opening presents).
But opening gifts from The Flintstones filled me with a cold panic. Every present from The Flintstones was bad. Not just a “well this isn’t quite to my taste” sort of bad, but rather the type of gift you open and mentally compile a list of things that you would have preferred to receive, such as a can opener or a paperclip clumsily bent into the shape of a star or a skirt that only fits over one of your thighs. I’m kidding. (I’m not).
But years of less-than-ideal presents have prepared me well in one respect. I have perfected one of life’s most sought-after skills: the ability to pretend to like something you hate. And now, I shall pass 15 years’ worth of lessons on to you, dear reader, in 200 words. Grab a notebook.
Step 1: Take a deep breath
What you’re aiming for here is a low-level gasp. A gasp that says, “This gift is so amazing that it literally took my breath away and isn’t at all me buying time so I can think of how to react.”
If in doubt, channel Hillary Duff.
Step 2: Oooooooh
If you still need some more time to put your game face on, a long ‘Oooooh’ can buy you an extra second or two.
Young Will Smith gets it.
Step 3: Turn the gift over in your hands
This shows that you like the gift enough to not instantly want to hurl it at a wall.
The polar bear knows what’s up.
Step 4: Establish eye contact
Establishing eye contact is crucial. It shows sincerity. Or at least, the appearance of sincerity, which is all we’re really after here.
Nicole Scherzinger’s been there, done that.
Step 5: Smile
You want to look happy, but not so happy that they know your happiness is fake. Ideally, you’re going for the type of smile you’d use if you found a £20 on the street, or if your crush told you that they liked your new jumper. A mix of surprised and happy. This is a smile that requires teeth, but doesn’t need to last more than a second.
Hopefully by this point you’re free and clear, and they’ll have moved on to the next doomed recipient or been distracted by a bunch of rogue carol singers. If in doubt, ask your brother if he farted. Sing a song. Say you’re so overjoyed with the gift that you need a lie-down.
But at the end of the day, just remember the number one faker’s rule – sometimes less…
really is more.
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Image: The Grinch