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The Swag Hag

Featured photo taken by Kelly Popejoy;  loot thanks to Alt Summit

I appreciate a great give away bag.  The first one I remember getting that wasn’t the result of being the token little sister in Big Sis’s social scene, is  the one I received as an invited guest at the sixth birthday party of Dr. Crybaby (she was a smart kid who cried a lot – you get the reference).  A white waxed paper bag with a clown print about the size of an iPhone 5, it lay there, on the left hand of my place setting next to the party blower just waiting to be torn into.  The amount of self-control we all had back then is remarkable.  Like the unspoken rituals practiced over dinner in Downtown Abbey, none of the kids in my first grade class picked up the treat bag nor dared take out a single item.  We all knew the goody bag was for the end of the party and we had plenty to entertain ourselves until then – authentically NY/NJ style greasy pizza, Neapolitan Shop Rite ice cream cups, hats, blowers, balloons, pin the tail on the donkey, and a few games of tag.

The prizes in the goody bag were unveiled in the car en route home: a marbled rubber ball, a sugar candy necklace, a pocket sized maze, a plastic puzzle, a plastic soldier (or was it a monkey) and a whistle that was as loud as an exhale.  These were all the classic standard suburban 80s fare, and a kid didn’t need much to be happy.  It. Was. Awesome.

Goodies since then have changed. They are now called swag, which by definition means goods acquired my unlawful means which I can understand because I sometimes feel like I looted a small corner store when I leave some of these parties, events, and workshops.  I am NOT complaining, like I said. I am grateful. But in the end, it’s just a lot of STUFF. I am accumulating many more goods than I can possibly use, so I pass things on to someone who will appreciate it, & put things away for a rainy day.  I swear my armoire is about to topple over sometimes from the accessories, cosmetics, products, paper goods, and tschotchkes.  I have become a Swag Hag.

A lot of swag is useless recyclable coupons: Will you ever really make the trip out to that salon for $10 off a blowdry? Am I ever going to use a 20% off code to buy a woven bracelet online that costs less than its shipping?; much of it is practical: notepad, jewelry cushion, paper cocktail plates – nuff said; and some is covetable: I wanted that yoga mat towel! Rejoice Kevyn Aucoin mascara!  Often swag is on point, prompting word spreading or ordering: My gosh, this body butter is addictive. Did you try these gem shaped natural crayons? But inevitably a lot of low quality basics get thrown into the mix depending on the host: Another water bottle? No thanks. Irregular tiny tote bag? Not if it can’t hold two heads of cauliflower.  Impersonal fragrance? That vial of musk smells … vile.  Once in a while, the swag makes NO sense, but precisely because of it they earn a space on your IG feed, like a James Franco onesie (click here), or a foot long, two inch wide pencil. I can’t imagine what it would be like to get serious swag the way movie stars do – instead of stationery getting furniture, and instead of coupons getting entire lines of full sized hair care items.

Though the lure of the swag is always going to be strong as hosts and marketers keep one upping each other, but I dare say I have been getting swagged out. I am looking for something new to take home. At #TXSC15 last weekend, where the focus was creating a meaningful presence, a speaker said:

“The best swag is getting power, comfort, and caring words.”

Now that is my kind of swag. For swag like that, I’d happily be a hag any day.

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