Tag: gift_giving

Christmas Presents

I hate Christmas shopping. I hate the whole culture of gift-giving in general, especially when there’s an expectation of reciprocation, which is especially true on Christmas.

One year I proposed to a borther that we should agree not to buy each other presents (“My present to you is that you don’t have to buy a present for me”). My mom overheard this proposal and wailed, “But you can’t do that!”, with such urgency that I never again suggested it. I didn’t want to be seen as “that guy” and her outburst made it clear to me that I would be seen that way, so for twenty years I’ve been dutifully buying Christmas presents for the family, and, after my mom remarried a guy with five children of his own, for the step-family as well.

I made the best of a bad situation, and I admit that I did feel driven to buy good and thoughtful gifts, and took satisfaction from doing so. But, on the whole, I never liked it, always considered it a burden, and always hoped someday I’d get out of it.

My problem with gift-giving is that it’s so damn dramatic. People say the person who receives the gift should be grateful for even getting a gift; if it’s a bad gift you’re no worse off, right? Except that bull.

First of all, when gifts are given with the expectation of reciprocation, you very well might be worse off, because you spent time and money on their gift.

But more insidiously, gifts are not always borne out of generosity. Oftentimes gift-giving is done as a way to manipulate, test, embarrass, or otherwise exert power over the receiver. Gift-giving can be malicious.

Unfortunately, in my family, gifts of malice are quite common.

This year, for various reasons (including recession and starting a new business) my family called off the regular gift exchange and had a Secret Santa drawing instead. I’ve always hated the Secret Santas we used to have in the extended family (it’s bad enough shopping for someone I know well, now I have to get something for an obscure cousin-in-law), and didn’t want to participate in this one, but with some difficulty and luck I was able to swap draws with my sister, who drew me. And so, with no regular gift exchange and having effectively removed myself from the Secret Santa, I was now free of obligation to buy anyone a present.

And it was the best Christmas ever.

There is a much longer version of this post, including details of some of the malicious gifting, here. I probably will come off looking like a whiny loser if you read the whole thing. You probably would have to have grown up in my family to understand.

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