Brace yourselves: the holidays are coming. That means many of us will be thinking about gifts soon. The thought makes some people groan, others rub their hands with glee. Whatever your attitude, this post may insult you, possibly in multiple ways. It’s meant to.
Here’s the thing: I think we as a society have some terrible attitudes about gifts, and we hurt each other’s feelings all the time over something that’s supposed to be joyous. We need an adjustment. We’ve got a variety of different crappy ideas going on, so I want to shed some light on them. I’m guilty of almost all of these myself, so in no way am I trying to say that I’m a model gift receiver or giver. But I’m trying to get better. Here’s what to watch out for:
1. The Expecter – Expects to receive gifts on certain occasions. Yes, most of us do this, and yes, it’s kinda crappy. Unless it’s for a shower event, of course, since gifts are the point of a shower. (And, by the way, this is why you can’t throw a shower for yourself.)
2. The Princess – Even though you put money, time, effort, or thought into the gift, it isn’t the “right” thing, so the princess is ungrateful.
3. The Guilt Tripper – Feels bad and consequently makes you feel bad because you gave her a nice gift.
4. The Mute – Never acknowledges that a gift was received.
5. The Refuser – Preemptively requests No Gifts, or refuses gifts that people try to give. This is usually meant to be kind, but it counts as being an Expecter and/or a Princess.
6. The Veruca – Requests a specific gift from you without being prompted.
7. The Victim – Views a gift as an act of aggression. Sometimes this attitude is the result of having previously received a gift from The Gangster (see below).
1. The Grinch – Hates giving gifts. Sees it as an obligation instead of an opportunity to make someone they care about smile. This attitude is sometimes the result of having to give to a crappy receiver.
2. The True Love – Gives mass quantities of gifts. …And a partridge in a pear tree.
3. The Poor Planner – Forgets to leave room in his budget or schedule to give gifts.
4. The Clueless – Has no idea what to give, even if she knows you intimately. This person sometimes imagines that anything she might give will be somehow wrong.
5. The Puppeteer – expects you to keep every gift he gives you for the rest of your life. Feels personally insulted if you part with something he gave you.
6. The Genie – Asks you what you want as your gift. Depending on the situation this can work, but often it puts undue pressure on the receiver.
7. The Gangster – Gives a gift with an ulterior motive. May intend to make you (or someone related to you) feel inferior, obligated to reciprocate, or otherwise bad.
Now, here’s what I think is the correct attitude to have when it comes to gifts:
Giving: if you choose to give a gift—and yes, you do have a choice—do it with love. Do it because you want to make the receiver smile. Go forth and choose something that you think they might like. Then give it to them. The moment the gift has been received, understand that the receiver has the right to do whatever she wants with the gift, including give it away immediately, and don’t take such behavior as a sign of ingratitude.
If you don’t know what to get, gift cards are perfectly good gifts. The receiver gets to go to a shop she likes and pick out something she might not have gotten for herself otherwise. Just don’t judge her for what she picks! Alternatively, you can give gift cards for movie theaters or restaurants. Who doesn’t love going out on someone else’s dime? Spa treatment gift cards are also awesome and usually appreciated.
Another great gift for the right person is a charitable donation in that person’s name. I’ve done this a couple of times and it was well received. It’s easy, and it makes everyone feel good—as a gift should.
Gifts don’t have to be expensive. If you just can’t afford to buy or make gifts, you can probably still write a nice note on a card and give that instead. And that’s perfectly acceptable.
Receiving: don’t expect to receive a gift. From anyone, ever. (That said, it’s wise not to buy too much for yourself in the couple of months preceding your birthday and major gifting holidays.) If you do receive a gift, lucky you! Someone cares a lot about you. Be grateful, no matter what it is or how much money you suspect was spent on it. Say thank you. It would be especially kind if you tried to put the gift to use, but you have the right to do whatever you want with it and not feel guilty.
Look—when someone offers you a gift, they’re not just giving you the thing itself. They’re offering you their love. That’s the whole point. So even as the receiver, you have a job to do. You need to accept the gift with grace and gratitude, especially if you know that a sacrifice was made when this gift was acquired for you.
I think it’s okay to keep a Pinterest board of things you’d like to receive as gifts. That way, nobody has to directly ask you, and you’re more likely to receive things you actually want. Keep it up-to-date, otherwise you might receive things you don’t really want anymore. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see someone’s Pinterest board if you don’t have a Pinterest account yourself, but it’s still the best option I’ve encountered. You can also create wish lists on many e-commerce websites, and those are usually easier for your friends and family to view. You can add absolutely anything to your Amazon registry, even if it isn’t sold on Amazon.
Most importantly, whether you’re the giver or the receiver, remember this: the moment a gift is received, it has served its purpose. The true purpose of any gift is to make both the receiver and the giver smile for a moment. If the thing happens to be useful and/or desirable to the receiver, great! If not, that’s okay, too. In this society where we all have hundreds of possessions and everyone has unique taste, the thing itself is not essential to your relationship. It really is the thought that counts.
Agree? Disagree? Did I forget any distinct types? Tell me in the comments.