I had to buy a present for an upcoming wedding yesterday. I don’t particularly enjoy buying wedding presents for people, because they’re the least imaginative out there. Even when you get a little creative and thoughtful with them, your efforts go unnoticed in a sea of more obvious, less thoughtful presents.
There is nothing selfless about gift-giving. But, more on that later. We must start from the start, and I want to tell you about my unpleasant experience in acquiring the above gift. I talked about the Goods and Services Tax in India in a post last week. Only in India would a massive fiscal movement translate into a festive sales drive, where people who don’t quite understand how things are going to change (at this point, nobody does) are driven to make the best of it anyway. Some have even dubbed it the ‘End Of Reason Sale’.
However, unlike everybody else, I wasn’t there to capitalise on this great opportunity. I was there to get a chore done. I managed to pick up my item relatively quickly, despite the crowd at the store, but the gift wrapping at the counter ticked me off.
I have three stages of rage: a) when I don’t express it, b) when I express it in long, philosophical monologues that no one has the patience to hear and c) when I’m too weary to engage and alternate between melancholy and sarcasm. We were between stages (b) and (c) yesterday, but thankfully there were too many people in the queue behind me for me to flip out.
First it was a smaller box. Then, they had no f***ing ribbons. The guy was even stingy with tape. And I had to beg for a bag. I asked him rhetorically, “how am I supposed to gift someone this?”, but his overall cavalier attitude bothered me the most. Now, I’m not expecting Rowan Atkinson from Love Actually, but I am expecting clear, direct, polite answers. “No, we don’t have it” would have sufficed in this situation.
Later on, it got me thinking about my attitude to gift-giving as a whole. I used to love it. I’d spend hours just looking at stuff, thinking what would be good for whom. I even bought/suggested things that people could get other people. I did the very same thing earlier this month, for Cher’s sake. I feel pathetic having to tell you this, because it is pathetic to tell people that you think you’re a thoughtful person.
And I mean, thoughtfulness as a whole. They don’t come with gifts no more. I read about a Christmas once, when in Japan people agreed not to use wrapping materials. This is a country that has huge, multi-storey buildings dedicated to stationery, where you could spend hours looking at paper with different patterns on them. Back when I was a serial crafter, I always reused papers, ribbons etc. You could still wrap things up shiny and pretty, without affecting the environment so much.
But now, things are counter-environment-friendly. Plastic bags were banned for a while here, before the practice of having to pay extra for them was introduced, which even applies to paper or cloth bags in certain stores. Ideally, you wouldn’t pay, carrying your own bag instead. But, when it comes to gifts, I feel obliged to get the store bag too! Oh, look, I made an effort for you. Here’s proof of how generous and indulgent I am towards you. Oh, and here’s something you can use that’s inside it.
But, I’m not all that bad/materialistic. I recycled a gift earlier this year. In my defence, I didn’t feel much for either party, and they didn’t feel much for me. It was a brand new watch that I didn’t need/want, and yet another wedding was only a couple of weeks away….
Those of you who’ve seen more of the world than me will probably be telling me, a little misty-eyed, “That’s what your generation calls adulting, my dear.” I understand, but I’d like to be reminded I have a heart once in a while. That all those Christmas movies weren’t just some companies casting a spell of human decency on you, to take money from you.
It does happen to me. I got a Noel Fielding art book from a friend of mine for my birthday last month. To think someone associated me with art is new. To think they remembered how much I love The Mighty Boosh, filled my heart with rows of Mary-Berry-style chocolate fondant fancies. It even came wrapped in some shiny paper.
I’d like to believe in it all, you know? Magic, the spirit of gift-giving, receiving, people thinking about you etc. Being that romantic is probably redundant, but I refuse to believe it has all been some very convincing manipulation, all along. I might be naive, but I’m not that stupid.
Go on, make me feel a little better about the world, and tell me about all the thoughtful gifts you gave/received in recent memory!