The Gift-Giving Grind

You all read my expose on procrastination, so it should come to no surprise to you that I have yet to begin my Christmas shopping for this year. December has a way of seeming like it’s longer than it is, and then before you’re even close to prepared for the Christmas ham or the cookie platters, it’s Christmas day and you’re frantically trying to stall your children from waking up while you wrap the presents you forgot to do last night.

Although I don’t necessarily support Christmas–I mean, I don’t love it, but I’m not opposed to it–, I still give gifts so that my friends and family can be convinced I have some sort of a heart. I’m trying my best to fake that I like Christmas; it’s like I’m undercover, buying presents for people in celebration of a holiday I don’t totally get. It’s like I’m Santa Claus, but not as athletic.

At least I sort of have an excuse for putting off my Christmas shopping, though. Being a college student is the perfect excuse for not doing things. Don’t have a job? You’re a college student, you need to focus on your classes! Live with your parents? You’re a college student, you need the support! Snort crack cocaine every day? You’re a college student, you need to unwind sometimes to get you through the semester! Anyway, in the midst of my crack cocaine addiction, I kept telling myself, “I can’t even think about Christmas presents until the semester’s over.”

Well folks, the semester’s over and gone with, as of today, and I’m left with less than two weeks to collect some possibly useful crap for my loved ones. In my mind, I’d love to get everyone the perfect Christmas gift that, when they open, a beam of heavenly light shines upon it as a mysterious breeze rustles by (think “Harry Potter choosing his wand”). I’d love for them to unwrap it, mouth agape, and start hopping around and helplessly crying tears of joy. “This is everything I’ve ever wanted in life! I can die happy now!” they’d cry, accepting me into a joyous embrace of love and victory (for me). Then they’d ordain me Best Gift Giver in the Land and promote me to #1 Person in their life, so that everyone loved me most. On their deathbeds, they would request to be buried with the gift because they couldn’t bear to be parted from it, even in the afterlife, and the legends would tell of my astute intuition for making the world happy through material gains– which is the true meaning of Christmas, as we all know: to be the champion of gifting tangible items.

Unfortunately, it goes more like me, handing some mug-sized gift to someone (bulgy and poorly wrapped in flyers from my unwanted mail pile– not only do people get the gift itself, but they also get the gift of rejected advertisements and coupons I deem totally useless!) and saying, “Here.” I shine a spotlight on them in order to produce the effect of heaven’s beam of light (“Hey–ow, what are you doing? I can’t see anything, get that flashlight out of my face”) and an icy breeze gusts by (“Shut the damn window, it’s drafty in here enough as it is already”). They unwrap it, turn it over because they don’t know what the heck it is, double-check the wrapping paper to see if there was more to it (nope, that’s it), then look at me bewildered, “What the fuck is this?” To which I respond, “It’s a doctor banana keychain!”–a blank look–“You know, like a banana dressed up as a doctor. But a keychain!” To which they respond, “Is it a flashdrive, too, or something?” “Nope, just the keychain!” Then they give a look that says they’d rather have just had the mug they thought it would be. Later, after they leave, I find the keychain in my own garbage can. My own garbage can! Well, at least I can regift it to someone else then. Spread the joy.

Sometimes I try a little on my gifts. Every year, my family struggles and anguishes over what to get my dad. He’s just tough to buy for. We hold an annual conference and review everything he’s ever said he liked or wanted throughout the year, featuring guest lecturers and interviews with strangers or coworkers he’s interacted with at any point, and give a PowerPoint presentation on possible gift ideas. One year I bought my dad a set of Lincoln logs, because I used to play with them at my grandparents’ and they’re fun and creative and different and I knew he didn’t have any. He acted seemingly pleased when he opened it, and I was like, “Yes! Score! I got my dad a gift he likes! I win at Christmas!” He played with them for the first day, and after that they disappeared from this dimension, never to be used again. Now I know what it’s like to have kids.

The problem with where I’m at in my life is that I have several friends, but I don’t know if we’re the “gift-exchanging” kind of friends, or if we’re the “I’ll-send-you-a-‘Happy Christmas’-text” kind of friends. I don’t really care if any of my friends get me anything, I just want to know if they’re planning on it so that I can get them something so I don’t feel like an ass. I’m half-tempted to post on Facebook some ridiculous “Like my status if you’re buying me a gift this year” so that I can get a definitive and clear-cut answer. The other day at work, I mentioned this to my one friend and she told me, “Yeah, I’m not getting you a gift,” and I was like, “Cool. Good to know.” And then she said, “I just farted. Let’s walk over there.” It’s nice that we can be honest with each other.

Not only is it nice to have a heads-up on who’s buying you gifts, but it’s also useful to know how elaborate someone’s gift for you is. It’s kind of embarrassing when someone gives you a gift basket full of soaps and perfumes and bath salts and sedatives and shampoos when all you got them was a paperclip (a striped paperclip, thank you very much). Unfortunately this one’s less easy to feel out; “Hey, Emily, so, uh, when do you want to exchange our $15-minimum Christmas gifts?”

Anyway, there’s a real art to buying gifts for people. I really want to strive for those unforgettable presents, but I just got to a point where I can afford to eat a meal each day. So really, when I buy people Christmas gifts, it’s like, “Happy Christmas! I gave you the gift of my starvation!” My enemies especially like that gift.

In any case, I really need to get to a shopping outlet and a bank. The shopping outlet will hopefully provide some neat gifts for people; the bank will help me mortgage my apartment (Can you do that? I’m gonna do that).

So, for now, happy buying, everyone! And remember: it’s not the thought that counts, it’s the victory of giving the biggest and best gift that counts.

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