Reciprocity: A Hard Habit to Make

Sidenote: First of all, I have to admit this: My favorite band when I was in 5th grade was Chicago. “You’re the Inspiration” and “Hard Habit to Break” were dedicated to Jason Marlow and Bobby Duran, two of my long-term crushes, as detailed in my journal from that time. I don’t dedicate songs to people anymore in my diary, but maybe I should start?
Okay, enough of the Old Days.

So, gift-giving can be a real pain in the joints, can it not?

Last year, I gave one of my coworkers a whole basket of items of significance and meaning, including a $20 chocolate martini mixer.

She gave me some post-it notes that don’t even have sticky on the backs.

So, I wasn’t mad, but I felt like I’d definitely Overdone It. This year, I resolved to be as minimal as I could, so I bought her a silly magnet and a box of silly political candy.

She gave me a maraca-esque instrument from Ghana. I mean, it wasn’t an outrageous step up from post-it notes – but it definitely seemed more thoughtful and tasteful than what I’d been expecting. So now I look like the dolt.

It’s treacherous, I tell you!

I love giving presents, and I hate giving them. I start really thinking hard about what someone might like and it practically sends me over the edge.  Am I giving too much? Too little? Should I give something at all? Should I give something meaningful or tasteful? What about the people who don’t want any “things”?

Despite the nerve-wrackingness of it, though, I am COMPLETELY against the options of:

1) no presents,

2) presents that are purely do-gooder for the third world symbols,

3) buy your own and wrap them yourself presents,

4) or presents completely dictated by wish lists that are really just order forms.

That’s just crap. If you find gift exchanges so awful that you have resorted to one of the above, well, just stick with #1 and go shop for yourself or the third world whenever. Don’t even pretend Christmas. Just give it up.
I may be bad at it, but gift giving is an art, a gesture, a laying bare of the soul, and when it works, when you really cause someone delight and pleasure – well, all the disappointed faces matter not as your heart wells.


3 Responses to Reciprocity: A Hard Habit to Make

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I love when I find a great gift for someone! When that happens it’s as much fun to give it as to receive it.

    One comment about gift lists– I agree that lists should not just be order forms, but I do like recieving wish lists. They not only send you in the right direction but can help you get to know the person better. For example, you posted a list of things you like on your other blog. When it was time to celebrate your birthday I went back to that list for ideas of something that you might like. I *wanted* to get you a little something, but I also didn’t want to buy something just to buy something if you know what I mean. So- I was able to get to know you a little better and also get you something that was a little more meaningful. (I hope.) =)


  2. ChrEliz says:

    What are you talking about, not good at it? You’ve given me some of the most precious, thoughtful, and loving gifts ever.

    The coworker/acquaintance gift giving is tricker than the friend gift-giving. The less close you are, the more you think about the whole reciprocity/equality/lack of equality thing. Or in my case, I just don’t do gifts with many people. Really, hardly anyone. The only people I give Christmas gifts to are my kids, my spouse, my parents, my siblings’ kids (but not my siblings), my one best friend from high school, and you (and Jo.) That feels just about right to me.

    When I do have to buy for someone I’m not super close to, I often like to get someone either something consumable, like wine or chocolate or really good fruit, or an experience. Like, a gift certificate to a day spa or to Feast or something, along with a little wrappable item that is related to that theme. I try to link it to something I do know about them personally. Some people would put “gift certificates” down as #5 in the list of Crappy Gift Giving Options, but I love gift certs, when they’re personally selected and thoughtful.

  3. Emily says:

    I’m on the same page – love and hate to give. At this point, I exchange gifts with my family & that’s about it. I really don’t exchange with friends, coworkers, etc…it’s just too much. Maybe when I have tons of disposable time & income my opinion will change. I would love to buy everyone I care about the most thoughtful gift, or to make something personal for everyone…but I just can’t. I try to send out homemade cards to people that are important to me…that’s my little gift to the world. Of course, having a 2 year old in the house prevented that from happening this year – thank god for Shutterfly! 🙂

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