Have you ever been given a gift that you didn’t particularly like, but the person who gave it to you means a lot to you so you keep it and maybe even use it? This is most often because we tend to assign an important meaning to the object based on who it is from or who it symbolizes. For example, even if my best friend gives me a pair of earrings that I don’t particularly care for, I will still wear them simply because she thought of me and got it for me. The earrings hold importance and meaning since she got them for me.
I interviewed a few friends about this. They will remain anonymous due to the possibility of the gift-giver finding out what they admitted to me. I chose to write about two. So as to get both side’s feelings, I wrote about one male and one female friend that I interviewed.
One interviewee discussed a Pandora Bracelet, pictured below that she finds “hideous” (Interviewee 1, 2014) but she explains: “My boyfriend got it for me and my best friend bought two of the charms” (Interviewee 1, 2014). She has assigned meaning to this item. The bracelet becomes a symbol for her relationship with her boyfriend and her best friend. This is why, despite how she feels about the bracelet’s appearance, she continues to wear it. When I asked her what she would have done with the bracelet if the case had been that the bracelet wasn’t from anyone she cared so deeply for, she replied with: “I would probably re-gift it to a friend that wants it or give it to a family member who wants it” (Interviewee 1, 2014).
Another friend that I interviewed was given a sweater (pictured below). The only reason he didn’t “just store it somewhere” (Interviewee 2), was because it is from his girlfriend. He explained: “I didn’t like the sweater because it looked like an old man sweater.” While he did dislike the appearance of the sweater, he kept it and even wore it because, like Interviewee 1, it symbolized his relationship with his girlfriend. He explained: “I wore it because it was really warm and because Keiko gave it to me” (Interviewee 2, 2014) He has given the sweater meaning. It isn’t just an object, it is something that was picked out for him, and his girlfriend wants him to wear it.
These are just two examples of when we assign meaning and symbolism to objects we would otherwise ignore or avoid in the marketplace. For example, if interviewee 2 saw that sweater in store, he would not have bought it. He probably would not have even noticed it.
Can you think of any examples of this occurring in your life?
Written by: Katya Seitz
Interviewee 1. (2014, October 13). [Personal interview].
Interviewee 2. (2014, October 13). [Personal interview].