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].


  1. I’ve been given plenty of gifts that I didn’t actually like but kept/wore because of who gave them to me. For example, my mom often gives me clothes for Christmas that I really don’t like… but I smile while I receive them and keep them because I don’t want to hurt her feelings. Months later, she’ll realize I’ve never wore the clothing item, and then I’ll tell her that I never really liked it in the first place…

    Another example would be my boyfriend. Over the summer, he came to my house one day and gave me a bracelet made out of pink elephants. It was cute, but it was really random, so I asked, “why and where did you get this?” He responded and told me that he got it at 7-11, and “just because.” I wore the bracelet for some time, and recently took it off because he got me a much cuter, well thought out from a website that I actually like… I wore the pink elephant bracelet for such a long time because it really meant a lot to me that he got me the gift, regardless of it being 75 cents.


    • I absolutely understand. This happens to me basically every Christmas. I had more than one bracelet where this happened to me. I am wearing one now. I don’t think it’s super pretty, but it means a lot to me because I got it with one of my best friends while I was in Korea… I have benign wearing it since I got it.


  2. Just like we discussed in class, people tend to assign meanings and tell stories to things around us, even randomly. By doing this, we also assign value to them.


  3. It is always hard to buy things for other people because you aren’t sure if they will like it or not. I definitely believe in the idea that it’s the thought that counts.


    • I love Christmas and birthdays, but there are some people that I experience the struggle that you are talking about every year. I totally understand.


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