Photo: Conde Nast ArchivePRESENT PRETENSE: n./phrase, pron. prez-uh nt pree-tens: The act of stretching the facts, feigning excitement, or practicing selective truth-telling to avoid awkwardness frequently associated with the giving and receiving of gifts.
Sure, you know all about present tense (as in, things that are happening right now), but what about present PRE-tense? That, my dears, is a whole 'nother animal. Present pretense is that thing we all do around the holidays when giving and receiving gifts gets way too sticky and it becomes much easier just to....well...put on pretenses. Yeah, I mean lie. Here are a few of my favorite scenarios in which present pretense must frequently be employed:
1. Your co-worker got you a gift but you didn't get her one. The rules of present pretense dictate that you must pretend you're a step ahead of her. "Oh, I didn't realize we were ready to exchange gifts already! Yours is still being personalized...." and then you hustle to get her monogrammed stationery, a photo-printed anything, or a set of towels embroidered with her nickname. Oops.
2. You would rather wear one of the insane outfits I regularly conjure up in "Would You Rather?" than the thing in the box your boyfriend just handed to you. A humongous smile can go a really, really long way. I was at yoga yesterday when we went from side angle pose to our bind and my quads were feeling like they were ready to give out on me. "Now would be a great time for a smile!" the instructor told me. And you know what? That simple act of curling up the corners of my mouth actually did make me happier. Slap on the biggest grin you can possibly muster (squeals of delight are optional, depending on how good your acting skills are), avoid words ("I love it!" guarantees he's going to want to see you in it, stat), and give him a huge kiss. Then make a mental note to send him your wishlist next year.
3. Someone has just handed you a very obvious regift. I know, I know, we're all guilty of it from time to time (actually, a whopping 85% of you 'fessed up to regifting last season), but it's so much harder to be gracious when you're on the receiving end, don't you think? If you've unwrapped a box with a card made out to someone else, or a bottle of cheap wine with a label so tattered you could swear it's been around since the Nixon administration, or a gift that's absolutely not for someone of your gender, present pretense says you should simply shut up! You're not the one who needs to be embarrassed here, they are...which means they need to do the talking. If they don't want to address it, just let it go. And pass it on to the next poor sucker...
Tell me ladies, what kinds of gifting situations have you been in that require you to employ your present pretense skills? What's the most awkward holiday encounter you've ever had when it comes to exchanging goodies? How did you handle it? Time to share!
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