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Frugal Vegan Gift Giving, Part II – Awkward Gift Situations – When Someone Gives You Dead Cow

19168_1235871429306_7173068_nSo, what do you do when you are gifted with something completely inappropriate?

I say, it depends on the situation.

If it’s someone you don’t know very well – say, a coworker or neighbor who doesn’t know you’re veg – and they surprise you with a box of milk chocolates or a homemade pound cake – just smile and say thank you.  It’s an unexpected gift by someone who doesn’t know your dietary choices/needs, so don’t make them feel bad for not knowing something they had no way of knowing.  If they ask you later if you enjoyed it, be honest and say as a vegan it wasn’t something you could use, but you passed it along to someone else who enjoyed it. Then thank them again for thinking of you.

If it’s someone who knows you are vegan – I would give them the benefit of the doubt.  Most people truly do want to give you gifts you can use and enjoy.  It’s just many people don’t actually understand what vegan means.

They may confuse vegan with vegetarian.

They may understand your dietary choices, but not realize your beliefs extend to clothing as well.

They may understand not to give you leather or fur, but not realize you also do not wish to wear silk or wool.  (And sometimes we confuse them on this issue – they may see us wearing a wool coat and think, “so wool is ok,” not realizing the coat is five years old and we’re only wearing the coat because we can’t afford another one.)

In this case I would try to be very tactful and appreciate the thought behind the present.  Smile and say oh you really do need a new sweater, or you’ve been wanting something in just that shade of blue, but as a vegan you’d prefer it in cotton instead. Most people include the gift receipt with the gift. Exchange the sweater (or whatever) for something else, let that person know what you exchanged it for, and thank them again.

If it’s someone who REALLY knows you are vegan, and they give you something completely and totally inappropriate – then, that person has some issues.  They are threatened – not by you, but by the idea of veganism.  This is a very aggressive gesture, so you need to address this issue – politely but firmly.  Just say, “Thank you, Aunt Matilda, but we’ve talked about this before and you know I don’t wear (leather/fur/feathers) or eat (smoked salmon/caviar/Brie/milk chocolates).  Why don’t I just give this back to you and you can enjoy it for me?”

Above all, stay calm.  Sometimes, people will give you inappropriate gifts in hopes of getting an emotional reaction from you, thereby validating their theory that vegans are emotional/irrational.

 “Oh, Mabel! You should have seen the way Catherine reacted when I gave her that beautiful leather jacket trimmed in rabbit fur!  Why, the way she carried on, you would have thought I had committed murder!”

or

“That’s nothing, Matilda!  Rick is so ungrateful!  You should have seen the way he reacted to the gift plan we gave him from Omaha Steaks!  Six lovely filet mignons shipped directly to him four times a year plus a smoked turkey at Thanksgiving!  But he actually tore up the brochure that described his plan!  And then he … he … oh, it hurts my heart to say this … he FLUNG the pieces at me!  Right in my face!  Well, maybe not right in my face, but in my general direction from across the room.  If he’d been another four or five feet closer it would have gone in my face!  Obviously, the boy has emotional issues.  Perhaps he should seek counseling.”

Of course, the best way to avoid these awkward situations is to head them off at the beginning of the season – or even before. Remind those in your gift-giving circle of gifts that are not suitable for your lifestyle.  Better yet, provide some suggestions of gifts that ARE. Remember, some people are threatened by veganism, so make some neutral suggestions (a mystery  novel, electronics, flannel PJs, a fleece robe, a gift certificate to your favorite Thai restaurant, a power tool) in addition to your more vegan-tastic ones (vegan cookbooks, a gift certificate to Bean Vegan Cuisine, a tote bag or T-shirt with GO VEGAN! emblazoned on it).

Sunglasses, as long as they're not trimmed in fur or feathers, make neutral gifts

Sunglasses, as long as they’re not trimmed in fur or feathers, make neutral gifts

“I DON’T WANT TO GIVE GIFTS THAT CONFLICT WITH MY ETHICS”

Guess what?  You don’t have to.  If your sister wants leather boots and your mom wants a mohair coat and your dad wants a new hunting jacket and your brother wants a gift card at the Outback … you don’t have to give them any of that.  Sadly, you can’t give them a copy of The China Study and Vegucated instead, no matter how much you really, really want to.  They will probably also not appreciate you adopting a farm animal at Farm Sanctuary in their name.  (Although some of your vegan friends might love that!)  Pick a neutral gift, one you will feel good giving and they will feel good getting.

Electronics of all kinds are also usually neutral options.

Electronics of all kinds are also usually neutral options.

Next post we’ll cover some frugal vegan-friendly gift-giving options …

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6 Responses »

  1. This is a great post. The part about people who might be confused is especially familiar to me; I have a wool coat and a down jacket, both of which I’ve had for years, both of which I need (and obviously want) to replace but can’t afford to at the moment. I’m terrified that someone in my family is going to get me a replacement as a holiday gift, not realizing that I don’t want the same version 😦

    • Oh, wow. I think a lot of us vegans are in the same boat. It’s so hard to find a coat that looks good, fits well, and keeps you warm – and when you find a quality coat, it’s usually an expensive investment piece. I have two wool coats that, despite their age, are still in great condition and I really can’t afford replacements right now. Maybe try talking to the people you think are most likely to gift you, and just say, “Hey, you know I”m vegan but you may not know what that means….” In my experience many people are grateful for the conversation, because they do want to learn more but are unsure what to ask or how to start the conversation without offending us.

  2. Well said! Although I have to admit that I am guilty of giving my dad a copy of The China Study when he was suffering from some serious health problems. He didn’t seem to mind. 🙂

    • It’s great your dad was receptive! Did he make any positive changes based on reading the book?

      I think it’s fine to give the China Study to people who may be receptive to it. In my own personal family, though, I don’t think many people would be receptive – and to avoid conflicts and make for happier holidays, I try to pick more neutral gifts. And maybe gift them with China Study or Vegucated or Forks Over Knives at some other point during the year.

  3. Great tips – sometimes I think I’m too afraid of being “that” vegan so I just shut my mouth. Love the cat/laptop photo!

    • Thanks! I am kind of scrounging for photos since right now I don’t have a good camera … that is Prince Harry in the photo and no doubt the reason why I have so much “kitty porn” on my computer!

      I understand about being “that” vegan. That’s why I think it’s so important to stay calm and just be really gracious and tactful. I used to be too sensitive about things, but I think *most* people really do want to give you gifts you like and can use. As for the others … well, let’s just say I finally learned to speak up and if someone gives me a pair of rabbit fur earmuffs (I mean, really? It doesn’t even get that cold down in the South) I will politely refuse the gift. But it took some time for me to learn how to speak up and handle things!

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