DAY 6 – Gifts
I remember spending lots of time thinking about it. I had enjoyed reading it myself and thought that it would appeal to my brother’s sardonic wit. I’d browsed bookshops looking for another copy and gave up and got one off Amazon. He was going to love this, I thought.
He absolutely hated it. So much so, as the amusing knob sock he is, he wrapped it up for me the following year and gave it back. This, he told me, was what he was going to do each year.
Of course such an example is extreme. But up and down the country and throughout the globe many suffer silently as, yet again, someone thoughtfully but thoughtlessly gives an unwanted gift. Be it aftershave, perfume or cosmetics for someone with allergies, to socks or gloves for an amputee. The reason for this? Well it’s simple. Nobody actually likes shopping for presents for other people. Especially when no thought goes into the purchase at all.
For example, let me try to imagine how your average Christmas gift buying session goes.
You – Hmmm I must buy **insert relative here** something….what is there? Hmmm Tinned prunes? No…How about a nice spatula? No…did that last year…..Gift voucher? Too practical……Oh bugger, that shop is full…look at the queue there! Blimey! She’s a bit fat….Oh shit it’s him from that place….hide….It’s ok they’ve fucked off elsewhere…Now what was I going to get? ….oh bugger…I can’t find anything…oh what’s this? Ah I know…Socks! 😀
Close? Thought so. You can spend hours trawling shops looking for that one thing you think they might like, or worse, what they have asked for. And still you will end up getting something without too much thought. Let’s rewind a bit…..tib a dniwer s’teL. thguoht hcum oot tuohtiw gnihtemos gnitteg pu dne lliw uoy llits dnA. rof deksa evah yeht tahw, **play** What they have asked for.
WHAT THEY HAVE ASKED FOR
Surely this defeats the object of a gift. If I asked for…I dunno…a Maclaren F1. Would I get it? No. I wouldn’t.
A result of not asking and getting; Seventies style
My Granddad used to say to me, “Ask don’t get, Don’t ask don’t want”. It was like some weird mantra he used to say. Clearly he was a stonebonker but in those paradoxical words are the root of all solutions to the worlds problems. ASK don’t get – exactly. If you ask, you don’t get. Or you shouldn’t. In this consumerist world we ask and we get. Most of the time. Want a house? Ask an estate agent. Want help paying your bills, ask a customer service person and they’ll usually do what they can (though this is often not as much as you want them to do). Regardless, to me at least, asking beats the point. Gifts should be things you don’t expect, or things which can be cherished.
So like buying a box of cheese or beers or aftershave is not really conducive to gift giving. I can buy beers, cheese and aftershave whenever I feel like (providing the shop is open). Furthermore, I have more socks than I have grains of talcum powder. So probably the last thing I need is socks and aftershave in a special specific cheesy beer gift set. I should be able to look at a gift and say “Oh so-and-so bought me that back in 1990 and I still get a good use out of it”. Of course that is not an excuse to buy tat. Sure my ceramic Tardis cookie jar is a good ornament, but really, it’s clutter. As is the Cyberman helmet. In fact, clothes are equally a bad idea. Yes theoretically they will last a fair while depending on their quality, and yes I am grateful for my Cat boots my olds bought me 3 Christmases ago. But when those boots are worn through and full of holes, what then? Do I cling onto them because they were a gift? You see, when I buy a gift, I’d rather the person I buy the gift for keep hold of the gift forever. Look at it and think of me. Smile and think “Aww Stegzy bought me that.”
Chuffin’ Denim? Again?
This revelation, again like one St Paul might have had, struck me when for the umpteenth year my olds asked me what I wanted for Christmas. The fact that, at that time, I could, theoretically, afford most of the things I wanted (excepting a Maclaren F1) whenever I wanted kind of made me stuck for an answer. What do you say when you have everything?
So I told them. I said how I felt about the word WANT. I said how the whole concept of Christmas made me feel isolated and wasteful, I also said that, if they truly wanted to, they could get me something but, it had to be something with a message. Something which I can cherish and look at and say “My mum and dad bought me that” something that a lot of thought had gone into.
I got a Terramundi Piggy Bank that year.
I still have it. I still use it. It’s great. Every time I look at it I think “Aww my mum and dad bought me that” and I feel all cosy and warm and loved. Then I look around my room as I type this and I look at the various other things, mostly gifts, I have accumulated over the years. With the exception of Malcolm Bird’s Witches Handbook (my favourite Aunt bought me it when I was 10) , the Tardis cookie jar (my eldest brother got me for Christmas following my ultimatum that gifts should require thought not want) and the T Shirt bought for me by that special specific person in my life the rest of them, I have no recollection if they are gifts and who bought them for me.
I’m not ungrateful. Far from it. I am heart renderingly grateful for all the gifts and things I have had over the years. But my point is, only a very small minority of them remind me of the person who gave the gift. An even smaller minority still exist in one form or another, and the vast majority are only still in existence because you cannot eat, wear or spray onto the skin.
Unfortunately, Christmas has become an oversized mega orgy of consumerism. We must go forth and purchase anything. Wrap it in paper. Give it to someone who then unwraps it, pretends to like it, then takes it back to the shop for a refund. Or, it gets looked at for an hour, then left to collect dust on a shelf until the house clearance people come to take away the cadaver’s belongings.
So, this year, if it is not too late. Maybe to recapture that little bit of Christmas spirit and enjoy the magic of actually giving an accepted gift. Put some thought into what you are buying. Think about the person. Think what would they like that would remind them of you forever and ever (or until the Alzheimer’s sets in). Then get them gift vouchers.