To Give a Gift

“What do you want for ….?”

Birthdays, Christmas. Any holiday that involves gifts, you’ll usually run into this question. And despite the fact that you’ve spent the entire year going, “Oh, I like that, I should ask for it for Christmas/my birthday,” you’ll probably have no idea what to say in response to the question.

I hate that question. Ok, hate is a strong word. I would prefer that you ask me rather than giving me something I won’t like, but gifts should be a surprise. If you’re going to get someone exactly what they asked for, what’s the point in wrapping it? That’s why we wrap things. It’s not for the pleasure of ripping paper (although this is quite enjoyable). We wrap them and put them in pretty bags obscured with pretty tissue paper to hide the gift, to continue the surprise. That’s what makes it fun.

I realize that a lot of people don’t view gifts the same way I do. Gifts are really important to me. As far as the five love languages go, it’s my secondary language, almost on the same level with my primary language (physical touch).

Gifts were never a really big thing in my family as I was growing up, so it wasn’t until recently that I learned how important they were to me, both to give and to receive. As such, I haven’t had much practice in giving well chosen gifts. Plus, I’m a poor college student. But I’ve learned some guidelines, both from the moments when I know that the gift I’ve given was perfect and from the moments when I know that the gift I received was perfect, even when it was something I never asked for or expected.

So, if you’re going to give someone a gift, first thing’s first, you have to do it right. Sure, give them something you know they want or need, but you’d better know that they want or need it. If it’s something you think they’ll like, or know you have to give them a gift but have no idea what they actually like and you think this’ll make a really sweet gesture, forget it. Drop it, turn around, go to the gift card aisle, pick up an Amazon gift card, sign your name, and have done with. Horribly impersonal, but you’ll both be a whole lot better off in the end. If they’re anything like me, they won’t be able to get rid of a gift they hate for the simple reason that it was a gift. Regardless of how tasteless the gift, it’s still a representation of the giver in the receiver’s mind.

A good gift (not a card) is as much of a representation of your relationship with that person as it is a representation of the time and effort you took to choose the gift. In other words, if you know the person well enough, choosing a gift for a person will take almost no time at all. It’ll be almost a no brainer.

You’re at the store, browsing, and you’ll see something, and that object, whatever it is, will immediately bring another person to mind. Get it. Not Christmas and not their birthday? Who cares? Get it anyway. The least you can do is save it for Christmas or their birthday. Or you can just give it to them the next time you see them and get them something else for their birthday/Christmas. Though, if you’re going to just go ahead and give it to them, don’t wrap it. Handing them something you just got for them out of the blue is surprise enough. Also fun.

One of the best ways to choose a gift is from off-hand comments. Listen for them; they come all the time. You’re talking about something, and your friend mentions something he/she thought about getting but didn’t. Perfect gift idea. Of course, this one depends on why they didn’t get it. If it’s a monetary issue, then it doesn’t matter, but if it’s something else, you should probably find out why.

But there is one rule: never give a person a mug. Unless he collects mugs. In which case, by all means, give him a mug. But seriously, mugs are the single most over given gift ever, next to gift cards. And the problem is, since they’re given around so much, everybody has cabinets full of them. Best case scenario, it’ll get broken (which might actually be a worst case scenario, because if it get’s broken, it’s probably because it was used a lot and was a favorite…). Worst case, it’ll stick around for decades, never getting used because the person you gave it to doesn’t drink hot drinks. Me, I’ll buy my own mugs, thanks.

No, this post isn’t motivated by the fact that my birthday was yesterday. Well, maybe a little, but mostly not. I got all really good gifts yesterday (and no mugs), but I did have to fight with the “what do you want for” question a little.

Now, I shall continue with my study on the giving of gifts. Which reminds me, I still have approximately one half of a gift and I need the other half (to give, not to receive)…

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