How Do You Know When to Give a Playa Gift? You Just Know!

I love playa gifts. They’re wonderful. The pendants, patches, and stickers I’ve received over the years are all over my home, my coffee mugs, my notebooks. But I’m also content not to have created any such material gifts myself — that I have so many moments of pure connection, with no tangible record. I’m grateful for the chance to learn (and create) more expansive definitions of the principle of Gifting, so that I don’t feel so inadequate.

I am intimidated by handmade gifting. But, I really, really love re-gifting, especially when the gift and the recipient are perfectly matched to each other.

I say to the person: “I have something I think you’d like,” or “This made me think of you,” or “I hope you can use this.” Lots of people do that, right?

I never randomly give things away to complete strangers; that seems to risk the recipient not actually wanting the gift, but perhaps feeling obligated to be polite and accept it.

But Black Rock City citizenship taught me, unexpectedly, that re-gifting to a stranger can be wonderful, so long as I know the recipient and the gift are right for each other.

It plays out like this: I wear or carry something that I don’t actually want to keep. Jewelry, clothing, a bag, whatever. Then, at some point, I gift it to someone who makes some genuinely enthusiastic remark about it. The conversation tends to go like this:

other person: “Wow, what a beautiful necklace!”
me: “Oh, thank you so much! It’s for you, actually.”

People tend to be incredulous. So the conversation often continues something like this:

other person: “No way! Are you serious?”
me: “Completely serious. I want you to have it.”

other person: “I couldn’t take something so special.”
me: “I’m really happy to give it to you.”

What I often don’t share is the full explanation:

I wore this exactly for this reason, to give it to someone who truly appreciates it. I didn’t wear this because I need to possess it; I just wanted a fun, meaningful way to pass it along.

How do I decide? I don’t pass something along on the first comment, or even the first compliment. I’m looking for deep enthusiasm, not just a passing compliment. I’m definitely not drawn to half-hearted, or perhaps somewhat insincere, comments, like an offhand, “Nice bracelet.”

The right recipient has true excitement and is unattached to an outcome — like trying to warm me up to have a drink or a dance or something else.

The clincher, why I enjoy this so much, is the final sentence of the conversation. Some variation of:

“This is so cool! Thank you so much.”
or, “What an amazing surprise! Thank you.”

Re-gifting to strangers is so much more fun than dropping things in a thrift store donation box. And though my own satisfaction isn’t the objective, I get an equal — if not better — gift in the process.

The actual object is not that important. It need not be vintage, or rare, or flashy, or expensive. I’ve gifted bottle-opener keychains and ended up with Burn-altering hugs. The point is not to have a transaction so much as an interaction — particularly one that keeps love and appreciation moving and alive. All it takes is being in the moment, which allows you to just know.

Top photo by Walter Sedriks

About the author: Stephanie Kohler

Stephanie Kohler

Stephanie Kohler is a writer, musician, and teacher based out of Atlanta, GA. She believes that playa magic is everywhere. More info on her website.

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