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18 December, 2004

No ho ho

I'm not a particularly materialistic person*, so I'm in the happy position of not wanting much.  Those things I do want, I can generally afford to buy for myself.  I prefer to choose for myself; there are few people I'd trust to second-guess my taste.  I dislike surprises.

There are times when I find the right thing for the right person, so enjoy giving gifts, but I dislike the concept of receiving simply because one gave.  Turning it into a reciprocal debt devalues the gift, in my opinion.  If I give, it's because I want to make the other person happy; I don't expect anything in return.  It's a gift, not a transaction.

Secondly, I resent giving/receiving gifts according to social conventions I don't share. If I find a great gift, I want to give it then, not when the recipient just happens to have been breathing for a specific, ultimately arbitrary, number of days. Much worse, why should I, an atheist and secularist, have to conform to a (nominally) christian calendar?
This is also the reason I take only the minimum, compulsory leave at this time of year (the University is shut 24 Dec-3 Jan; if it wasn't, I'd go in), hence saving my leave allowance for a time of my choosing.
Helen is being braver than me this year, and isn't even coming back to the UK. We'll catch-up in the new year, under conditions we'll enjoy rather more. Why pay premium airfares and high prices in overcrowded shops in December, when prices (but maybe not crowds) will decline in January? Yes, we'll buy one another gifts, but by shopping together; it's not a competition.
[Tip for fellow males: the consensus is that this is the only safe circumstances under which it's acceptable to buy a partner lingerie i.e. in her presence, subject to direct guidance]

In short, in terms of the gift giving/receiving aspect, (okay, and many others), I dislike christmas.

This little rant was triggered by the case of my mother's partner. I don't really have a personal opinion of him; we're just not close. He's not someone for whom I'd choose to buy a gift, nor from whom I'd expect to receive one, yet we do exchange presents, purely for my mother's sake.

This year, I really struggled to think of anything at all that I'd like. For a moment I considered requesting a CD I don't want, but which I could save for someone else's birthday, but even for me that's cynical.
I eventually settled on a high-visibility waistcoat for cycling. A desperate choice, as time's running out. If I'm really honest, I don't want it, and doubt I'll use it. When I'm in a more-than-usually belligerent mood, I'm ideologically opposed to the very idea, really. Cars aren't obliged to be painted high-visibility colours, so why should cyclists have to make an extra effort? We're not second-class road users, and I won't behave as such.
I passed this request on to my mother today, and she asked me to buy it myself, to be repaid when I see her next week.

So let's recap. In order to receive a gift I don't even want, from someone about whom I have negligible feelings (positive or negative - don't misread this as dislike), I need to buy it myself, thereby having to brave the peak-time crowds in the city centre, a chore I'd otherwise managed to avoid entirely this year, for something I don't want anyway (did I mention that bit?).

This is all so, so fake. I really despair.

*: I have quite a few books and numerous CDs, but they're merely the carrying media of text and music. I'm not so interested in them as things, to own and hoard.

Comments

I totally agree, yet I still find myself feeling guilty if someone buys me something and I don't get them something. It makes me feel cheap or something. ARG!

Posted by rakel at December 20, 2004 11:41 AM
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