I’ve been thinking a lot about my frustrations and lifestyle choices. Most of them have to do with how I want to be seen by the world: thoughtful, stylish, interesting, smart… whatever. Put-together. I generally don’t feel like any of those things, so it can be a challenge. But before I end up getting off-topic (so early in the post!), I should introduce the actual topic: giving gifts, and how the things we choose to give make us appear to the giftee. (I apologize for use of the word “giftee” just now. I thought “receiver” sounded weird and “recipient” too pretentious, for some reason.)
Rarely have I done much exchanging Christmas gifts with friends, and when I have it’s never an expected part of our relationship. It’s generally been an I’ll get you something if I have money and see something you’d like/have time and energy to make something situation. So I don’t buy a lot of presents. Immediate family and one or two friends only. I would love to buy gifts for all my friends, but I don’t have enough money or energy to do so.
If you’re giving gifts en masse, it becomes impossible to give each person a thoughtful item (or collection of thoughtful items). I mean, unless you started in June… so you have to get little animal finger puppets or small boxes of chocolate for everyone and hope you don’t have any friends who hate finger puppets or chocolate. As I mentioned, this really hasn’t been a problem for me, so I’m just guessing that this is how it would go.
The people I usually shop for get good presents. Sometimes they’re really good, because I found this perfect thing, or I remembered something they really wanted. Other times it’s not quite as special but still something they’d appreciate. Occasionally, it’s something that was really given minimal effort (in terms of the actual search) because I thought for weeks and couldn’t come up with any ideas.
It’s easy to buy nice, personal gifts for people you know really well. You understand their tastes and what might actually be useful to them. You see stuff you know they’d like all the time. Often, this is because their tastes overlap with yours–but not always. Like, you don’t like the grass-scented Yankee Candle Company mini-candle, but it’s your friend’s (weird) favorite, so you get them one. However, if you’re close enough to know that they have five of these at home, that’s not what you buy them.
Often, you will have a certain gift in mind because the person has mentioned to you at least once, but more likely twice or more, that they want this thing. If they mention it more than once, there’s a good chance they haven’t bought it for themselves. So you can get this thing they’ve specifically told you they want, which means there’s a good chance they’ll like the thing, and as a bonus you’ve proved that you listen to them.
Then there are those times when you don’t have a specific thing in mind, and when you try to think of something the person will definitely appreciate, you realize you don’t know them that well after all. You know about some things they like, but you really aren’t sure what they want or need. You don’t want to get them something dumb or silly, because that’s not special. So you make do with something you know they like and hope they’ll appreciate the thought enough even if they never use the gift you get them.
When I give someone a gift, I want it to give the impression that I actually care. That I took the time to understand something about them and that I’m intuitive, creative, clever, sweet, etc. I want to give a gift that is among those gifts they’re really happy they received (at least for a few weeks. I guess if they forget about it after that, I won’t be offended). I want to impress.
If I do give you a box of chocolate, it’s not because I couldn’t think of anything better. I actually think chocolate is a great present, for someone who really likes chocolate. But unless it’s this special kind of chocolate that I had from this place once and I haven’t been able to find it since, it’s not really as personal. Almost everyone likes chocolate. You see what I mean?
I don’t know how much my gifts will impress this year. Most likely not that much. And of course I preemptively feel inadequate and selfish because of that. But I guess every year can’t be THE gift year. I can only hope the people I’m giving to can see that there was thought and love behind the choice.