It’s in the bag (the receipt, that is!)
Consumer choice has a lot to answer for. Just ask any parent with hazily fond (if probably inaccurate) memories of counting themselves lucky to get a tangerine in a sock and clip round the ear for Christmas (probably with the weaponised sock.)
‘Ah, those were the days,’ they’ll sigh, wiping away a tear with a Furby or whatever recent ‘must-have’ of yesteryear is now the dog’s chew toy.
Choice is easy for kids, in a way; it’s all about peer pressure. They unequivocally want the latest gizmo or gonk because it’s fashionable, and I’m afraid they wised up long ago to the fanciful parental claim they can have just as much fun with a cardboard box. That was always going to be a long shot.
Traditionally, adults petition gifts more subtly; dropping hints, making suggestions or opting for the ever-popular, ‘don’t go to any fuss on my account.’
The latter, in particular, is about as helpful as a sniffer cat to the drug squad, right up there with: ‘ooh, I don’t want anything’, and ‘any little thing will do, don’t go spending your money on me.’
These are not guidelines, these are invitations to come a massive cropper, incidentally all of them copyrighted by members of my family, to predictable effect (the knickers made of recycled tea bags probably weren’t the highlight of my sister’s 40th).
Such gift gaffes are the result of a challenge to both wallet and imagination, requiring you to balance fiscal flair with quality merch, while prospective recipient sidesteps any input and lets you do all the hard work.
Many’s the time I’ve been reduced to a gibbering wreck and scouring the shelves of unlikely outlets (he’ll never expect a rubber dinghy repair kit from Halfords, hee hee) just because the giftee anticipates a ‘surprise’ based on intimate and encyclopaedic knowledge of undeclared likes and dislikes.
Year upon year, the lightbulb moments dwindle until you’re left scraping the barrel, previously known as the bargain bin in Woolie’s, for items you then repackage as ‘ironic’ (calendar of ‘Britain’s favourite bus shelters’, Max Bygraves Sings Swing, novelty mullet with optional headband).
And when that rich seam of crapola is exhausted by regifting fatigue?
That’s when you really hit the buffers.
I went off to buy someone a birthday present recently and all I came with was a (non-lousy) cucumber; no Freudian subtext, I was making a salad.
Gift-wise, I couldn’t find a thing – not a thing – within budget or acceptable boundaries of personal taste. I did think of ironicising the cucumber, but even I couldn’t make that one fly.
To sum up, I’m completely fed-up of people who refuse to signpost their way to a preferred present, or else shrug and say hopefully yet hopelessly, ‘money?’
Money. Come on, you can think beyond that, surely!
I’ve never em-cee-squared anything in my life, yet I still point regularly to items in catalogues or on TV ads, declaring sans subtlety, ‘I could do with that,’ or ‘I’d like that one!’
I make life incredibly easy for everyone around me.
That’s probably – no matter what Whitney Houston says – the greatest gift of all.