Gift giving made difficult

Giving someone a gift should be a relatively straightforward thing. At least that’s the way I feel about it. You find something you think the person would like, you buy it, wrap it (or in my case gift-bag it) and you present it to the person. Seems pretty straightforward right? Yeah….well…… it just seems that way.

As it turns out, I’ve been making a huge mess of the whole thing all along and didn’t even know it. Recently I overheard two ladies talking about a house-warming one of them was invited to that coming weekend. It was at the house of a recently married couple and she was wondering what to get them. The problem, as it turns out, was not so much in the ‘what’, as it was in the ‘how much’. Apparently the people who were hosting the event, had given this lady and her groom a cash gift at their own wedding. The dilemma now was  ‘should I give them a gift of exactly the same value as what they gave me, or should I just give them the same amount of cash……hmmmmm.

This, of course, had me all intrigued, here I was spending my hard-earned cash all ‘willy-nilly’,  and trying to figure out what people liked when all I needed to do was to use the value of  any previous gifts received to determine what to get someone. My gift giving just got way simpler; especially when it comes to that person who re-gifted me that ‘thing’ a few Christmases ago. Technically it didn’t cost them a penny, so guess what’s in your stocking this Christmas.

Of course the conversation got me thinking about how much gift  giving we do in or daily lives and the implications of this practice.

At work last year, for example we had one of those ‘white elephant’ things.  I personally would usually steer clear of these events because they invariably lead to much more confusion than was either anticipated or warranted. Being the new guy though, I figured I’d at least try to be involved. I work with a really nice bunch of people so I had no problem taking part in the activities. I go out, buy my $10 gift, wrap it, then show up to realize the whole  thing is thinly veiled wine swapping party.  I mean, its pretty difficult to wrap a wine bottle to maintain that element of surprise.

Of course, after the fact, is when I get the real history of the white elephant fiasco.  Turns out that people were not very enthused  with the stuff they received so they vowed never to take part again. The blame rested squarely on the shoulders of the ‘white elephant purists’ who went all out to preserve the authenticity of the thing by not spending one red cent and instead gift wrapping a ‘really special piece’. Yeah I always wanted a Buddha with six hands, who wore a  yarmulke over his afro, and went ho-ho-ho when you rubbed his belly. I know just where to put it to………just step a little closer. The result……a thinly veiled wine-swapping party.

Of course, one of the big dilemmas in the whole gift giving thing is the concept of re-gifting; to re-gift or not to re-gift, that is the question. Re-gifting is not a  thing I do (usually), but for some people it offers a means by which they can make a statement by taking something near and dear to them and entrusting  that thing to another human being.  If you believe that, I have some prime swamp land  umm real estate in Florida that I can sell you. The real statement  is ‘yuh know how long I tryin tuh get rid of dis ting, ah doh even know what yuh does use it for’.

This whole process would be much simpler if we as gift recipients would accept gifts with an air of appreciation for the fact that the gift giver invested some amount of time and energy into the selection. It might not be something  that you would have chosen, but, as they say, it’s the thought that counts. We, however, are not generally in the habit of counting thoughts; what we do is use the gifts to somehow reflect the character or status of the gift giver; “dis ting lookin cheap jess like she, she wouldn’t pay ah penny tuh see ah ants wine,what I doin wit dat, anyway, put it dey,  ah have a weddin comin up’………….it’s a vicious circle.

Of course this horrendous attitude causes all kinds of odd behavior. One of my personal favorites is the old ‘put it in a really big box and ‘forget’ to sign the card trick’.  As the name implies, this involves the use of a ridiculously huge box to house a pair of earrings or some other such small gift item. By the time the recipient wades through enough tissue paper to wallpaper a large room to get to the ‘prize’ he/she is too tired to even be upset or to launch an all out investigation into who the culprit is.

The ‘big box’ approach, while it can be effective in maintaining or creating your image as a generous gift giver, must be used very carefully. First,  you have to make sure that the event itself is pretty big so that even your obviously large gift can get lost in the pile.  Next, don’t be overly conspicuous when you walk in with it; this doesn’t mean you should sidle along the walls like some kind of weirdo, it just means don’t make a grand entrance so that everybody sees you. Last, and most importantly,for heaven’s sake, put the box down, BEFORE you pose for pictures.

 They say you have to give to get, but if you only give based on what you get, then maybe you should just keep what you have. I never heard the end of that conversation though, I kinda got sidetracked………..there was this HUGE box just sitting there……..


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