Gift Giving is it important? That depends if you like gifts. I do. I don’t need something big or fancy but presents make me feel like someone likes me. And that can’t be all bad. Because most of us want to be liked.
Lewis Hyde in The Gift talks about how important gift giving is in all cultures. It defines how cultures work.
When people give you gifts, in our culture, we feel obligated to give one back. I’ve been shopping for a couple weeks for presents and I’d gotten this lotion for my friend Karen. I hadn’t given it to her yet and then she showed up at my Christmas party with this bottle of my favorite champagne which is Veuve Cliquot. Well, after she laid that champagne on me, I had to go get something better for her. I haven’t quite figured it out yet but by the rule of gifts, I have to get something as good as what she got me, especially considering that Karen and I have been friends for about twenty-five years. But if Karen had gotten me a carnation, I’d be thinking, wow, I’m stomping on it.
The rule of gifts means that you have to try to match whatever other people give you. Around Christmas you have to watch carefully for this sort of gift giving that’s over the top of what you were planning to give. I worry about this with my family as well. My husband is a better gift giver than I am. Or, I’m easier to buy gifts for. That is another possibility. And I like to dwell on that. I am happy with books, art, t shirts, journals, pens, candles, bath supplies, wings, scarves, weird art, games that I will never figure out how to play, hats that I won’t wear, jewelry even if it’s weird, I’m easy to buy gifts for. And he’s not easy. But also, he’s probably more thoughtful. I can really tell that he puts thought into the whole gift giving and I always end up feeling this weird combination of guilt and gratitude that mix up in my head. Because I know this is going to happen, I do this crazy thing every year where as it gets closer, I shop like a demon hoping that I will find some specific thing to buy that will make me feel like a champion gift giver.
What I want to avoid is being like Quoyle’s wife Bunny in The Shipping News. She never shopped for her husband and when she realized it was his birthday, she gave him some eggs from out of the carton he himself had bought earlier that week. She was a lame gift giver. I’m going to avoid being like Bunny.
Gift giving is trippy. It’s about giving but it’s also about showing the other person how smart you are. And how much you care. Good luck with your Christmas shopping.