Sunday, December 4, 2011


Training Tip:  Do not reward bad behavior.
Let me say it again:  No gifts, please.  Seriously.  I mean it.  None.  Don’t.  I’m not joking.  Please.  Really.

Every Thanksgiving, a queasy sensation grows in my stomach, and it’s not just from sucking too much whip cream from the can.  It usually starts with the Black Friday ads for inane products, like the Forever Lazy or Pajama Jeans.  It’s that feeling of dread of the holidays.  It’s knowing we’ve entered the “gift-giving” season. 

Let me clarify.  It’s not the giving that freaks me out, it’s the receiving. I’m terrified of offending the giver, and it’s a justified fear.  I was not blessed with a poker face and my social filter is defective.  I’ve been known to blurt out things, horribly ungracious remarks.  I know, “it’s the thought that counts,” and I do appreciate the thought.  Really, I do.  And yet somehow I can’t help myself.  And then I just feel awful. 

I try to avoid gift giving situations.  I don’t have bridal showers or housewarming parties or birthday parties.  Although, I did have a fortieth birthday party.  I was blunt on that one.  I specifically stated on the invitation and with conformations “no gifts.”  But, wouldn’t you know, I still received some.  So I’ve decided to no longer mention that an invitation is in celebration of an event.  Still, when the holidays come, there’s no getting around it.  It’s expected for one to give AND receive gifts.

It’s not that I’m a Scrooge.  I enjoy holiday decorations, parties, kids getting whipped up about Santa and reindeer.  I like going into The City and looking at the giant Christmas tree in Union Square and seeing decorations in the stores and shop windows.  I like how people try to be a better version of themselves.  I even like getting gifts for my nieces and nephews, especially because they know exactly what they “need.”  The older ones prefer gifts they can put in their wallets and the younger ones have their consistent likes.

It’s more complicated with adults.  As adults, we usually have the funds and access to get pretty much anything we want, especially in this age of instant gratification.  We all hear the suggestion to get the thing others wouldn’t get for themselves.  Well, there’s a reason why we don’t get “it” for ourselves.  I’ve gone to enough yard sales and thrift shops to see where these gifts end up.  And gift cards, while widening the possibilities of purchases often end up languishing in wallets or bureau drawers – money generously spent, but frequently wasted.  And I feel guilty about that as well.

I understand the desire to give gifts, to show appreciation but at least in my case, my family, friends, and colleagues are gifts in themselves.  I neither need nor want more “stuff.”  I’ve finally convinced my husband that we should do something together for our anniversary, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas to avoid a gift exchange.  I’m being perfectly honest when I tell him all I want is to spend time with him or to share something we both can enjoy, like our new front door or a great bottle of single malt scotch.  Ideally, that’s what I want from my family and friends as well, a moment of sharing.

The holidays are full of hustle and bustle, so I know time is the one gift few can spare, but there’s no reason that the gift of time must be given during the holiday season.  The best gifts I receive are spread throughout the year:  the glasses we raise at Great Big Sea concerts, the confidences exchanged over Wahoo Fish Tacos, the emails we send sharing news of our lives, the words of encouragement we exchange when we’re feeling low.  These are the gifts that I treasure, and truly, they’re enough.  They can’t be purchased and they can only be given by those who love me and by those whom I love.  That’s why receiving tactile gifts worries me so much. I don’t want to hurt the people I love with my boorishness, especially knowing they have only the best intentions at heart.

And yet, there is the compulsion to give.

Some memories have grown a bit hazy with time and martinis...
So, how about a compromise then, dear family and friends?  Since I don’t take pictures, a photograph of you or your children at a memorable event would be great; consumables that we can share at a later date like cookies or a bottle of Two Buck Chuck; a self-made coupon to watch a dvd together at one of our homes, share a frozen yogurt and chatter, or a martini and gossip, or a hike and dog play time; an email with a link to a video that conjures a fond memory we share.  Easy on the wallet and guaranteed to bring a smile to both of us.

For my part, I will try try try to find something that won’t force you to grimace politely and hide that cringe with a sneeze.  I’m sure I’ve come up with some doozy gifts, but my family and friends are much more gracious than I. 


Well, there you go.  That’s another gift given to me, which I’ve been too ungracious to appreciate.

1 comment:

Creative Commons License
The Cranky Cow by Kou K. Nelson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at