As Halloween fades into spooky cobweb covered memory, the annual gift giving season of merriment is upon us. I refer of course to my birthday, Katemas, on December 5 but I believe there’s also some sort of minor religious celebration a couple weeks later. Invested, as I ever am, in public service, I have put together a small treatise on gift giving.
Giving is an art more than science. Like most arts, giving presents is incredibly frustrating due to the sheer amount of opinion surrounding the activity. My opinion, the only one that matters, is that the ideal gift is a luxury that the receiver would not purchase themselves. Socks do not apply, unless they are the special kind that infuse lotion continually into one’s skin. I am a great pleasure to stop shop for because as there is very little I buy for myself. Anything more impressive than canned peaches or instant coffee is a decadence.
I should point out that giving something a person would not purchase for themselves does not mean buying whatever pops into your head. Do not buy a stake of the month club for a vegan or a vampire. A relative who shall remain unnamed, persisted on getting me a pajamas every holiday for at least three years. The only time I wear pajamas has been during school spirit week when it is apparently inappropriate to show up nude. When at last I asked why she kept getting me pajamas she said, “Well, you never wear them!” The silence was deafening.
The trick is to find something the person wants but either cannot afford or doesn’t believe they deserve. I am the truest millennial so I deserve everything. I would be difficult to shop for except I am the truest millennial and can afford nothing. Last week I “treated” myself to canned peaches for a $1.87 at Food 4 Less. Food 4 Less has replaced words with numbers and passed the savings on to me.
Ideally, a gift will reflect the person receiving it. Often, I will purchase trees in national parks for my sister. She cares about the earth and has no space in her apartment. If you are put in the appalling position of buying for a stranger or acquaintance, there are certain fail safe items. If I ever met someone who kept track of their headphones and didn’t break them for a full year, I’d burn them as a witch. Similarly phone and laptop chargers are always needed. Likewise very good chocolate or liquor or chocolate covered liquor are safe bets across the board. Just go with the real necessities of life.
The dismal truth of modern life is that so many people can’t afford their real necessities or worse don’t believe they deserve to have them. The most ideal present for many people would be payment of their bill or forgiveness of a debt. Indeed, what gift could be more valuable than financial freedom? I once believed that money was the most impersonal and therefore worst gift one could receive. Now I know better. A gift of money says “I know you have needs, and I trust you to fulfill them as you see fit.” Gift cards do not have that effect. A gift card says, “I decide where you spend your money and it’s here in this random store three hours from your home. Here’s $10 for a place where everything is $30. Enjoy your errand.” A gift card is a plastic invitation to hell.
Of course, there are always those infuriating individuals who are content with their lives and genuinely want for nothing. My father is one of these degenerates and its always brought a rift between us. Were I a wealthier woman, I would give experiences; trips abroad, theater tickets and elaborate schemes of intrigue. I am, however, the truest millennial and worked all day for a tank of gasoline. As a compromise, I’ve started stealing my father’s possessions and giving them back with gift wrap.
Incidentally, don’t ever give gift wrap as a present. It sends the message of “I only want to prepare you for giving me more things.” And it’s that kind of honesty that ends friendships forever. My family has an obsessive need to save every piece of wrapping paper they come in contact with, to the point where buying more would be excess. My mother prefers to gift bags. There is an ongoing cycle of the same five gift bags given and returned between her and her sisters which no force could tear asunder.
Of course, Katemas is about more than gifts. It’s about me and giving me gifts. Whether it’s money, or headphones, or chocolate liquor, or the complete Jurassic Park DVD set, the important thing is that you’re thinking about me. Ultimately, I am a gift just by being here, which is why it’s called a presence.