Gift giving, and having a Thing

It’s holiday season, a time of year that generally stresses me out quite a bit. I used to feel very scroogey about the holidays, back when I was a bit younger and had my head a bit father up my ass, before I could appreciate the family togetherness and the traditions and all that. Back when I was just like, ugh, do I HAVE to? Not to say that’s the only reason one could dislike the holiday season, or that it reflects poorly in general if one does not like this time of year, no. Just that MY reasons for not liking the holidays were of the selfish/self-absorbed variety.

But since getting married, and further, since having kids, I get the holiday joy thing. I do. I am excited about picking which traditions we will stick with, and which lies/magic we will foist on our children (secular Santa, but hopefully not too far overboard…). I’m thrilled that our families are able to come visit us this year (Kevin’s parents are coming at Thanksgiving, and mine at Christmas).

I also really like the spirit of generosity this time of year, even though it is also what most stresses me out. I am not a very creative gift giver. I struggle a lot, trying to think of good things for the people I love, and I still feel a little scroogey about compulsory gift giving. I have a lot of half formed and mildly grumpy thoughts about this that I’m sure I can’t communicate without being kind of offensive – the expectation of gifts, buying them off a provided list every year in kind of a rote way. I mean, I LOVE giving gifts when I think of a good one. I can’t stop myself, even if there is no occasion, or if it is a little over the top. When inspiration strikes, I go for it. But I always feel kind of weird when I CAN’T think of something, for someone I love dearly, so I just go buy something off a list, or fork over a gift card or cash. Particularly when they also can’t think of something for me, so they do the same. So, for instance, we end up each giving the other an amazon gift card, or buying similarly priced items off each other’s amazon wishlists, and it just feels like pointlessly shuffling around money.

Which is not to say I don’t appreciate it. I do! Very much! It’s more that, because of my own personal brain and all my own personal neuroses, I feel like a failure when I can’t think of something. Like I’m not thoughtful enough, or I haven’t paid close enough attention to that person, or something. And also sometimes I just wish if I couldn’t think of something, I could send a card, and feel ok about that.

Over the past year or so, though, I’ve noticed something that might be super obvious to everyone already, I don’t know. I’ve noticed that some people are just really easy to give gifts to, or think of things for, and some people aren’t. I mean, I’ve always known that it’s impossible to think of stuff for my dad, yes. But I’ve started noticing that some of my friends are So! Easy! to buy presents for all the time, like I actually have to make myself STOP because it is getting a little excessive and weird, and other friends, even very dear friends, sometimes I’m just… nothing. I can’t think of anything.

And a big part of it is some people seem to have a Thing that is just super easy to buy stuff for. Like how I have dinosaurs, and Doctor Who, and I love to read, and I knit (or, I used to, ha). Dinosaurs are pretty in, the past few years, and I have a few friends who also love dinosaurs, so it’s been really easy to see something at a store and just think, oh! I bet So and So would love that! Same with Doctor Who stuff, if my recent Etsy transactions are any indication.

The way I’m writing this, I feel like it might sound like I’m saying that people I have trouble buying for just don’t have any hobbies or interests, and that’s NOT IT. I mean, my brother definitely has hobbies and interests. He likes building stuff, he loves disc golf. But… he already has a zillion frisbees, and tools, and it’s not like I can provide him with a new room in his house to renovate. It’s just hard hobbies to buy for, is what I’m saying. My mom loves to read, so I feel better about serving her up an amazon gift card when I can’t think of anything more specific. My brother though, it feels more like just handing him some money and saying, oh, my bad, I just can’t think of anything.

Anyway, I’m not totally sure what my point is here. I guess I have several. A blanket apology if I don’t come up with a good gift ever(y year), as well as an explanation to anyone I’ve creeped out (or, more seriously, made feel beholden) with my over-generosity. And most importantly, a request for my brother to get more consumer focused interests. Come on, dude.

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10 Responses to Gift giving, and having a Thing

  1. april says:

    C sent me an email two weeks ago with a link to a set of grill tools he wanted. Which I immediately filed away. Then earlier this week he says he bought them. And Wednesday they showed up. And I wanted to claw his eyes out because I had no idea what to get him, and I had finally gotten an idea only to have it DASHED.

  2. Audrey says:

    My husband is difficult to shop for, too. He’s similar to your brother, in that he has non-consumer-focused hobbies. But also, he’s very into instant gratification, so the moment he thinks of something he wants, he buys it for himself. He’s extra terrible about this around Christmas and his birthday. His excuse? “The holiday got me thinking about things I wanted, so then I went and bought them.” NO. No, that is NOT how it works. You think of things you want, and then you let OTHER PEOPLE, who are having a hard enough time AS IT IS coming up with ideas for things you would want that you don’t already have, buy them for you. A few years ago I had to go so far as to give him his Christmas present several days early because he made plans to go out and buy the very thing I had already bought and wrapped for him on DECEMBER 22ND ARE YOU KIDDING ME WHO SHOPS FOR THEMSELVES ON DECEMBER 22ND.

    It’s been a mildly stressful issue for me over the years, is what I’m saying.

    • snoozical says:

      Oh, I am laughing so hard at this. I have people who do this exact thing, but not quiiiite so hilariously. I mean, COME ON. December 22nd. I’m chortling.

  3. Swistle says:

    YES: some people are just easier to buy for, for a variety of reasons. My dad and Paul are hard to buy for, because although they have MANY INTERESTS, they are interests that are hard to buy for: too specific and/or too expensive and/or I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO BUY FOR SOMEONE WITH THAT INTEREST. Other people are so easy, I have to force myself to CHOOSE which of MANY ideas to pursue.

  4. Maggie says:

    I hate hate hate wishlists. I get them, I understand them, I see how they’re useful, I know some people love them, but I HATE THEM. Okay. Out of my system. Anyway, yes, some people are super easy. I could buy presents for my sisters all day long. But my husband? For whom most of the joy in getting something is the researching/buying the thing himself? UGH. Or my sister-in-law who has an ATTITUDE about presents? As in they should always be something she very much wants/needs? IT’S A GIFT oops I’m getting upset again…

  5. Dinsdale says:

    Argh, yes. I just posted about this. My dad, especially, is the hardest person ever to buy for because he has no real hobbies or interests and at 80, has basically bought everything he could ever want. I usually end up buying him whisky, but this year they’re coming here for Christmas so I can’t even buy that. I always feel disappointed when I can’t think of anything, and as you said, sometimes it feels like shuffling money around.

  6. K says:

    When we were dating, T bought me a CD as a gift but then opened it and downloaded it FIRST and THEN gave it to me. I found it exceptionally out of character and maddening then, but mostly very funny now. T also likes to tell the story as I think he recognizes how far up his can his head actually was.

    • snoozical says:

      I did that with a gift of CDs to my bro when I was in college! I truly did not see that it was kind of weird. “Let me just use this once first, I’m sure J won’t mind.”

  7. Kim says:

    Amen! I HATE wishlists and think they should be banned! They completely defeat the whole purpose of gift giving….

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