Gift-giving is known as one of the five languages of love. How much thought someone puts into a special present can say a lot about how they feel about the recipient. Unfortunately, gifts are also a good way to send a passive-aggressive message to an unsuspecting target. These people share the worst ones they have ever received that ended up translating into a painful insult. Hopefully they got the receipts.
All content has been edited for clarity.
"My step-grandmother is the worst at giving gifts, but mostly just to me. I used to be a hardcore tomboy, and she would gift me pink bedazzled shirts and Barbie dolls. But the worst gift she’s ever given me was after she and my grandfather had just come back from a cruise in the Caribbean. After she handed out nice souvenirs to everyone else, she tossed me a hair clip and told me one of the street vendors had thrown it at her, but it’s pink, so she thought I’d like it. What made her think I’d want a hair clip some random person threw at her I have no idea."
"I have alopecia, which is when your hair falls out in random patches on your body. It got to the point that I had to shave my hair because I had bald spots on the top of my head.
Having a bald head as a little girl was tough. I opted out of wearing hats or a bandanna because I felt dumb covering it up when everyone could already tell I was bald. My grandma though would always force me to wear hats when I came over to her house. She would ALWAYS say stuff like 'little girls aren't supposed to look like that, cover up.'
It hurt, but I ignored it and put the hats on. I was super quiet as a kid and didn't make a fuss.
For my ninth birthday, my grandma bought me three different kinds of hats. I remember sitting there wanting to cry the whole time after opening her gift, but I just sat there quietly.
Honestly, those three hats ruined my entire day. I felt so ugly.
I'm completely cut off from that side of my family, for the better obviously. She was abusive towards my mother as well and my mother was also not a good person to me herself. My oldest sister stepped up on mothering us when we moved in with my father when I was 15.
I still have bald spots right now actually and i couldn't care less. I learned to love them without some stupid hat."
"I started working evenings, so my husband started having to make dinners. My mother-in-law got me a magnet for the fridge that said, 'I'm too pretty to cook.'
It is like cooking dinner is the only way a woman could contribute to a household, and under no circumstances should this task fall on a man. Funny thing is my husband discovered that he truly loves cooking. It's not a chore for him, but a passion.
It was definitely a mean jab. She has mastered the art of passive aggressiveness. I get lotions for Christmas that I'm allergic to, unless I happen to also be pregnant. If I'm pregnant, I get lotions I'm not allergic to. Mother's Day cards are simply signed 'I know you try.' Yeah, she can't stand me.
Oh, and the magnet somehow 'fell' in the trash."
"When I was in high school, my mom got me a shirt that made fun of my ADD. It read: 'People say that I have ADD, but they don't understand...oh look, a chicken!'
She then proceeded to buy chicken-related things for me for the next few years, and to this day, points out anything related to chickens like it’s some kind of inside joke.
She was just trying to be funny and connect with me through humor. I understand it’s probably hard for her to relate to me as I grew up and my interests changed, and it didn’t really bother me at first. But after nearly a decade of this now, it honestly hurts my feelings."
"When I was only 16, my dad insisted on me paying $1,000 a month rent for living in our house. After a while I moved out because I found cheaper rent. For my birthday, he sent me a card that read: 'You don't owe me rent for the time you have been gone' with a happy face on it. It felt like a slap in the face."
"It was my 25th birthday and I was with my family. I was excited because it’s hard to get us all together since growing up.
I got nothing. Neither my parents nor my brothers got me anything. The night before, my family threw a massive birthday party for my mother. Over 100 people showed up, live band, tons of drinks, the works. I felt completely forgotten.
I think my folks eventually noticed and later offered me a trip to a mountain casino. I don’t gamble, don’t enjoy it, and both sides of my family have histories with gambling addictions. No, thank you."
"My mom's family used to do a Secret Santa every Christmas. The year after my parents got divorced, my aunt and uncle drew me and my brother for Secret Santa. We got two of their kids.
They stopped at a gas station on the way down and bought us gas station novelty junk — like the first things they saw. They wrapped them in the bags they came in along with the receipts, and basically just tossed them at us when it was our/their turn. It was dead silent, and profoundly awkward. Most of my mom's family really dislikes this part of the family, and there was a significant amount of shade thrown non-verbally.
So we took it in stride because we aren't total sacks of crap, and proceeded to give their kids the gifts we got them. When this was met with significantly less awkward tension, which my aunt and uncle noticed, they couldn't suffer it any longer. So they said, and I quote:
'Well, they're Jewish, so they don't even celebrate this holiday, and they aren't even really a part of the family anymore, so why would we spend any money on their gifts?'
There was a gift minimum and maximum at like $20. The fun was finding a funny, interesting gift. No one was expected to get anyone something crazy. They're/we're Irish Catholic...there are like 30 of us.
Later they tried to say that they know we'd 'cheap out' on the gifts and that's why they did it. Then they made their kids cry by making them leave what we'd gotten them at my grandmother's house.
To them we were an embarrassment. As an adult, it has way more to do with how miserable they are as people, than us. No one in the family likes them, and their marriage is a disaster.
But, the Jewish thing is a big deal to them and was always a big deal to my mean grandfather when he was alive. They live in Maine and my brother and I are the only Jewish people they know, and, probably for a long time, had ever even really met. My grandfather was just an old bigot.
My aunt and uncle are the kind of people who think saying we were going to 'cheap out' on gifts would somehow go over everyone's heads as a low level antisemitic burn. I would also like to add that I have never done anything religious at all regarding my Jewish or Catholic sides so...this is all them.
Yeah, we don't do that anymore, and they get invited to like one family event per year, which is my grandmother's birthday."
"My (now estranged) father offered to take me clothes shopping for my birthday. We went to an outlet store and I proceeded to have fun the way a 20-something girl has fun shopping for clothes — while he sulked in a corner the whole time.
The next day, at my party with our whole family, he gave me a birthday card in which he referred to me as a brat and a princess, in reference to how he thought I acted while on the shopping trip that HE suggested in the first place.
It was the logic of a narcissist. The purpose of the gift was to generate praise for his generosity. I was only supposed to enjoy it in a way that was most convenient for him."
"This wasn't so much the gift, but the way it was given. When I was going through my divorce, I went home for Christmas. My aunt gave me a pair of pajamas, which I tried on and found to be a couple sizes too small.
I went to my aunt and told her the pajamas were nice, but unfortunately too small. Usually when we buy the wrong size, my relatives and I are more than happy to return or exchange it.
'Well, you'll have to lose weight!' my aunt said to me. She'd bought them on clearance in January and couldn't take them back. And instead of saying, you know, 'Oh, shoot, I'm sorry about that' or literally anything a normal person might say, she tells my sad pathetic divorcee self that I have to lose weight.
I told my mom, and she bought the pajamas from me."
"One of the things that is pretty well-known around Christmas time is that I don’t care what I get, except for I have a list of things I don’t want which has three items on it: onesies, expensive tech, and home appliances like toasters. Two of those things I’d rather decide on myself and the other one I straight up hate. You can guess which one.
This list wasn’t written anywhere, but I always said whenever onesies came up in conversations, how they’re the dumbest piece of clothing on the planet.
Around Christmas, we get one gift each for someone in the family, which we do by pulling cards a couple weeks before.
One year, I got asked what I wanted and thought whatever, I’ll write some stuff down I’ve been thinking of getting: a mouse pad, a backpack, a couple of pop figures, and a plush from a game I like.
Fast-forward to Christmas, we have the usual dinner then presents. I get handed my present in a brown paper bag and it feels soft. I got it from my aunt and my sister got hers from my uncle.
They decided to get us matching presents and thought it was an amazing idea to get us onesies of a cat and a dog. I hated it, my sister loved it. I gave mine to my sister and stood up. My sister already knew I’d hate it, everyone at the table knew I’d hate it, my aunt and uncle looked shocked.
My grandpa was kind enough to let them know I had said numerous times I don’t like onesies, even when they were around, to which my aunt responded, 'We never really pay attention when he talks because he’s just a nerdy freak anyway.'
That was the first time in my life I got up from the table at Christmas dinner and walked out the door. When asked where I was going, I simply replied with 'to people who don’t think I’m a freak.'
I went to celebrate Christmas at my then-girlfriend's place. We played Mario Kart all night with her cousins and I got a custom ps4 controller from them."
"My family was living overseas and this was the first time in our lives to spend the holidays away from relatives. My aunt sent us this big box during December. Naturally, we all assumed it was a Christmas gift.
We opened the box and it was... old clothes — like really old clothes, many of which wouldn't fit, were not washed, and some were items like socks and underwear. My aunt thought we wouldn't mind the hand-me-down from her own kids. They weren't even packed properly, it was just thrown in a box haphazardly.
My mom was furious for us, threw the entire thing away, and still gives my aunt grief about it to this day."
"To preface, this my husband and I did not demand or expect any gifts for our wedding. We had a very low key, chill wedding with about 25 guests. During the entire wedding planning process, my mom kept promising to pay for stuff like thousands of dollars over our limit. She kept telling me to put things on credit and she would pay me back later since it was 'my special day' blah blah blah. I did not, and she never actually paid for anything anyway, but whatever. I didn't expect someone to pay for my wedding in the first place.
At this point, she started bragging about how big of a gift she was going to give us. Someone asked her how much she was going to give because they were going to match it, but she told them not to bother because it was going to be an extravagant amount. Again, I didn't expect or demand anything, but after all that build up, opening her card that night on the honeymoon and seeing a $25 gift card was a dumbfounding moment. She always did this sort of thing when I was a kid/teen, so I was expecting it and it wasn't a big deal. We got a pizza with that $25."
"I had gone to college with a music scholarship. I spent my entire life working to make it into a specific part of the music industry, only because my adopted parents told me that that was the only way I’d ever get to have a higher education. So I forced myself to work in an art that I slowly started to hate because I was not in it for passion, but because of a lie that it was the only job I could ever have.
I broke down and was not able to finish my education when I could have because the pressure killed my ability. After a long two years of me uprooting and redirecting my life, my birth-father (who knew all of this) gave me an instrument and music. He told me that I should start with this instrument that he wanted me to play.
I never knew I could be so insulted by being given something, but the icing on the cake was that he got angry when a year later I had to sell it because I had to move to a smaller place, had no money, and he refused to take it back. He wanted me to play it, even though I had no interest and was still very sore about the whole situation. He didn’t care; he wanted me to play his instrument because it was unfair that I learned what my parents wanted instead of sticking to my 'true blood'."
"I was super in love with foxes as a 7-year-old. I made little clay models of fox families, had soft toys, drew pictures, everything was foxes.
My Yia Yia (grandma), knowing this, gave me a fox fur coat. It even had little fox tails hanging off it. Gracious little me thanked her with a trembling lip, then went home and sobbed. I remember hugging it as if I could bring it back to life, but also being revolted by it. I handed it to my mom and told her to burn it. I cried over that for days.
Yia Yia meant well, but man, did the intention get corrupted somewhere. She bought me a plush toy fennec fox years later and kind of made up for it."
"On Christmas Day, three months before I turned 18, with my half-brother visiting (I have only gotten to spend time with him a few times), I saw there was a huge present beside the tree. Like it was a good five feet tall. It had my name on it, and I was super excited. We saved it for last.
It was all the stuff my father confiscated from me over the years: video games, movies, clothes, work uniforms, homework, school books, and a lot more. My huge Christmas gift was all the stuff he stole from me.
My father wanted the house to be 'neat,' so he would confiscate anything that was not hidden in some way. Homework on a desk? Confiscated. Movie case on the DVD player? Confiscated. Work uniform laid out on the bed so you can change quickly after school? Confiscated.
I don't think I came out of my room for two days after that happened because I was so mad and embarrassed. I moved out the day I turned 18 and it was one of the many reasons why."
"I was bullied a lot in high school. I was not the most popular girl plus was a mix of social awkwardness and low self-esteem because of the bullying and isolation.
The Christmas holiday came around. It's my favorite time of the year, and we were two days from the holiday break. My classmates were exchanging gifts. We had a mandatory one for the Secret Santa — nothing really nice because the gifts were at a low budget, so lots of chocolates and candies. I asked a classmate who was giving out personal gifts, as a joke, if he got me a present. He was one of the few who didn't bully me. I was surprised when he said 'wait a minute' and started rummaging in his bag. I even said, 'Hey, you didn't have to...'
He pulled out a dental hygiene kit...something you would buy from a dollar store-type quality. It was a set of a really shoddy toothbrush and a tongue scraper. I was internally horrified and became super self-conscious. Was my breath that horrible? Do I have nasty teeth? I thanked him and he just shrugged and left me. I felt awful about my dental hygiene for majority of my life (until now). I also avoided him a bit since because I thought we were friends, but, in reality, we're not.
High school sucks."
"One of the most insulting gifts I've received is the time a girl I’d known since we were little sent me a poem she and her friend wrote together. It was about how if she were a bird, she’d fly, she’d fly so high, and then she’d die, and the rest of the poem was in great detail about her falling to the ground, broken. She sent the poem to me as I was recovering from a major spinal surgery and I read it from a big chair padded with six large pillows, because that was the only way I wasn’t in agony. I burst into tears and I couldn’t even understand at the time why it upset me so badly.
Then there was the time my aunt took me into her room where she was staying at my house while she visited for my college graduation, and told me my medication was a scam made up by doctors who just wanted money.
I’d made the mistake of telling her that I was worried about wearing the same dress I’d had on at graduation because my skin disorder was acting up and I felt hideous. She told me the medication I was on (that had basically saved me from killing myself when my skin got so bad that I couldn’t shave or put on deodorant without crying from pain) was useless and that she had the answer.
She pulled out a bottle of Young Living lavender oil and mixed it with lotion and made me put it on my arms and legs, right in front of her. The room she was staying in was very small, so I was basically cornered. All the while, she kept telling me this would ‘fix’ me. I told her the problem wasn’t on the surface, it was in my cells, and she told me, ‘but lavender goes right to the cells!’ And when my skin looked smoother after being coated in about forty layers of lotion and oil, she deemed her intervention a success. I felt awful through my entire party.
A few weeks later, she sent me a box straight from YL, with two bottles of lavender oil, a ‘cooling spray’ made from lavender oil, and some other lavender things. She then called me to explain that it was a skin care package, and she gave me a precise regimen. My mom insisted I still had to write her a thank-you note, because she really did want to help. I did, but I would have rather strangled her."
"When I was 15, my cousin got my little sister a set of pajamas with some cartoon character she loved and a bunch of that Bath and Body Works stuff. My sister was overjoyed by it all — it was one of her favorite gifts that year.
The same cousin got me some ugly flannel pajamas that were two sizes too big and I just pretended to be thankful, even though I was really disappointed. I guess she had no idea what to get for me, and I was in that awkward height-hasn't-caught-up-to-weight stage. It sucked at the time, but I grew into them after a growth spurt and even though they were ugly, they were really comfy. I ended up wearing them until they fell apart when I was well out of college, so maybe she did know what she was doing."
"This may seem dumb, but it kind of hurt me. So my mom had gotten me this book two years ago for 'Geeky Girls,' thinking it was a graphic novel-type of story because I can't read well (it's true, I struggle). She was sort of right, but I wasn't all that interested in the book. But that's not why it was insulting.
Last year leading up to Christmas, I was talking non-stop about 'Homestuck' (a web comic) and was really hoping I'd get something related to it. Nope. Instead, my mom got me the exact same book from the year before. It really hurt."