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It's the Thought that Counts: How Not to Choose Gifts
The Thought Doesn't Just Count - It Swears
Picture the scene: it’s my birthday. My other half enters swinging a carrier bag with a trendy logo. My heart leaps. What has he chosen? A slinky, sexy dress? A funky, fun outfit? Feverishly, I fish out the contents. Seconds later, I am staring at a sober slate-grey skirt and top - staid, shapeless and three sizes too big.
It's the thought that counts, but what on earth was he thinking? A gift is an aid to telepathy. Whatever is within the wrapper, what we’re really being given is the gift of seeing ourselves as others see us. As I surveyed my oh-so-sensible present, it hit home that in my guy’s eyes I was not the subtly maturing rock chick of my fantasies, but Susan Boyle’s frumpier sister.
The Way I See Me
The Way He Sees Me
Please note that, unfortunately, neither of the above photos looks remotely like me.
Gifts Can Be Weapons
But at least he meant well. In German the word “gift” means poison, and some gifts, especially from my own sex, undoubtedly arrive dripping with the stuff. At one place of work our breezy Manager insisted we share the Yuletide joy and exchange Christmas gifts with colleagues. But there was a problem: one female colleague couldn’t stand me. It was mutual. I’d rather have had my teeth drilled than buy her a gift.
Nonetheless I faced necessity with resignation and spent my lunch hour tracking down something suitably non-covetable to give her. Later I watched her open the unbranded box of toiletries I’d carefully chosen, and pretend to be pleased.
But my smugness was short-lived. The package she handed me was oddly shaped, and I tore off the layers of wrapping paper with some apprehension. Inside was a hideous, gaudily-patterned, fringed raffia shoulder-bag, of a type that might have been carried by a Haight Ashbury hippy on an LSD trip. With a smile dipped in vitriol, she turned to me and cooed, “I know you like that sort of thing.” I had to hand it to her. Not only had she trounced me in the “buy a horrible present“ contest, she had managed to insult my taste at the same time.
The Hand of Friendship?
A Gift Shows How Much You Care
My colleague may have won that Christmas challenge, but no-one can beat mothers-in-law in the art of proffering the poisoned chalice. One Christmas a friend of mine watched smiling as hers handed out beautifully-wrapped parcels to the young women in the family. Each of them in turn unwrapped hers, and with much ooh-ing and ah-ing, drew out an expensive, classy, pure silk shirt. Finally my friend’s turn arrived, and her mother-in-law handed her a similar, slim package. All eyes upon her, my friend excitedly tore open the wrapping – and pulled out an oven glove.
A Love Token
How Much Should You Spend?
I have a close relative who has never bought me a gift in her life. She says she does not want to insult me with a cheap gift. It is often the case that those who assess gifts entirely by their retail value are lacking in emotional generosity. If someone values your gift only by its price-tag, they are not really your friend.
New romantic relationships can be a minefield. It's his birthday a few weeks after you meet. Do you buy a cute, inexpensive, fun gift? (He thinks you're tight-fisted/not that interested in him). Or, do you spend a month's salary on an expensive watch, to show him how much you like him? (You forlornly watch him disappear as he lopes off down the road in panic). Or do you simply take him down to the local steak-house for a rib-eye and a few beers? (You're his buddy). Whatever you do, you risk having him run a mile by assessing that you are either not really interested or just too interested.
It might be best to err slightly on the side of caution. Choose a gift that costs enough to show you like him, but not expensive enough to lead him to suspect you might be his date tonight, his stalker tomorrow. A young woman I know took the 'inexpensive, fun gift' idea a bit too literally, however, when she surprised her much older boyfriend on his birthday with a bright green plastic frog. He spent the entire evening gazing at it with an expression of total disbelief.
Pretentious or what?
My Gift is Better than Your Gift
Then there's the gift-wrapped act of one-upmanship. Someone gives you a present which is teeth-achingly expensive - and inappropriately so. It’s from a female acquaintance or neighbor you haven’t known for very long. The gift is usually something like an antique lamp that you will have to put on show, and will display to the world her superbly classy taste. You were planning to give her, if anything, a box of cupcakes. You wouldn’t spend this much money on your daughter’s wedding; yet now the onus is on you to bankrupt yourself to reciprocate in kind.
Don’t. This is a nasty little game. She could be desperate for your friendship and thinking she can buy it, but in most cases this isn’t really the case. She is someone who, in order to feed her self-esteem, has to feel that she has demonstrated her superiority to you. She is really giving herself a gift when she does this. Don't feel embarrassed when you hand her the cupcakes.
She will of course tell anyone who will listen what a cheapskate you are. Some people will see through her, others won't. Nevertheless, don't engage in the game she's playing, because it's one you can't win. Even if you re-mortgaged your home to buy her a solid gold coffee pot, she would look at it askance and tell others behind your back that it was nowhere near as classy as what she gave you.
How to Choose the Right Gift
Even with the best intentions, choosing gifts for others can be dangerous. If you buy your friend expensive moisturizer for Christmas, will she think you're hinting she’s looking old? If you give her perfume, will she think you’re saying she smells bad? If I buy my Aunt Brenda the usual jar of violet-scented bath grains for her birthday, will she take that as a sign that I see her as old and boring?
However, there’s help on the horizon. My best friend has come up with what she says a foolproof plan to solve this problem. Before their birthday, she asks her friends and relatives what famous person they would like to be. This tells you, she says, how they inwardly see themselves. Then she buys a present she thinks that famous person might like (the economy version, of course).
I decided to give this a go. This morning I asked Aunt Brenda what famous person she would like to be and she was happy to tell me. It was a revelation. I never realized she was such a big fan of Evander Holyfield.
Or maybe she would have preferred the bath grains?
Insights and Info on Gift-Giving
- Bizarre Products Sold on Amazon
Really different ideas for gifts as sold on Amazon. Read for fun, but you never know, one of these might be just what you are looking for.