November 17, 2016

Why We Give Perfectly Horrible Gifts

Why We Give Perfectly Horrible Gifts

You know the feeling you get the moment you watch someone open a gift that you gave them, and they LOVE it?

You see this kind of wave wash over them – a wave of love that you created? in that moment, they see how you really feel about them. They realize that you chose something JUST for them, because you know them, you SEE them, you understand them, and you want them to be happy.

Man, I love that feeling of purposeful giving. I have always totally grooved on that feeling. I plan for it, hope for it, wait for it… relish it.

But good lord, it gets all jacked up sometimes, doesn’t it?

We’re coming up on Black Friday in America, and this is the time of year when the whole gift-giving thing used to weigh seriously heavy on my heart and my to-do list. And almost everyone I know carries around at least a bit of this kind of weight.

Here’s what happens: We feel like we SHOULD buy a gift for someone, because, well, we’re supposed to. It’s the season. But we can’t think of what to buy. We can’t come up with the PERFECT thing to deliver that wash of love that that’s meant to be released when the bow is untied. We can’t find something that the receiver would really want.

We’re stuck. We’ve entered the horrible space of gift anxiety.

And the pointless shopping begins.

“I wonder if she’ll like an orange angora sweater? It’s 40% off.”

“Or an electronic wine opener?”

“Or a gift certificate for sky diving?”

“Maybe an oven mitt with her name on it?”

And as giddy as I get for the love-fest that follows the presentation of a perfect gift, I HATE gift anxiety.

Here’s why: pointless shopping disconnects the gift from its intended purpose.

Do you feel me?

Personally, I’ve found a way around that. But I need to back up, just a bit:

My husband and I just celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. Early in our marriage we used to argue about gifts. To be completely honest, I relentlessly accused him of being a bad gift-giver and demanded that he fulfill my needs. (Can you imagine me being so nasty?) And he suffered through my accusations, and did his best to defend himself without telling me to f&^k off.

Over time (it probably seemed like a longer time to him than it did to me), I came to understand his position on giving. And once I did, I made it my own. And it eliminated my gift anxiety – for good.

You see, a gift isn’t a gift unless the giver wants to give it, and the receiver wants to receive it. Otherwise, it’s an obligation on one side or the other.

Here’s what I mean: If you settle on buying me the oven mitt with my name on it, because it’s the time of year when you’re supposed to give me a gift, even though you know that the oven mitt will not create a wave of love and understanding, well, then, you’ve shoved your obligation onto me.

Now, before you go gettin’ your panties in a bunch, and calling me ungrateful and other nasty things, hear me out…

As the receiver of the oven mitt, I am now obligated to things for which I never signed a contract. Surprise obligations:

1. I am obligated to pretend that I like the oven mitt when I open it.

2. I am obligated to USE the oven mitt. (Or at the very least, lie and say I used it.) And if you really knew me, or saw me, or understood me, you would know that I have ZERO use for an oven mitt. I have an oven because it came with the house. I use it to store the pans I never use. And large pizza boxes, which are too big to fit in the fridge.

3. I am obligated (depending upon who you are, and how many times you stop by in a year), to display the oven mitt in my kitchen, or talk about it, or whatever is required to show you the appropriate amount of oven mitt respect.

Your gift anxiety (“Oh, crap, I need something for Juju… I’m gonna grab this oven mitt.”), has now become MY gift anxiety (“Oh, crap, she’s coming over! Where the hell is that ugly oven mitt? I need to hang it on the oven.”)

Now, all of this may sound very harsh. Maybe you’re thinking… “Jeez, Juju. You’ve just turned something really special into something really shitty. Way to go, Kill-Joy.”

But if you really think about it, I haven’t.

You see, if you really want me to know that you love me, you SEE me, you UNDERSTAND me, and you want me to be happy, then you can just SHOW me. You can say, “Juju, I wanted to find you the perfect gift. But nothing screamed your name. And I didn’t want to buy you something, just to buy you something. How about we have a happy hour together, instead? And I’ll buy you three dirty martinis and a ride home?”

Hot damn. Now we’re talking. Now I feel loved, seen, understood, and well… excited.

So, I want to circle back now… to Black Friday.

This is a day that was literally CREATED for retailers to profit from your gift anxiety.

This day was designed for you to buy a whole bunch of obligations for other people, at the lowest prices of the year.

It’s a day when we can all feel perfectly warranted in shoving strangers at Walmart, in order to demonstrate acts of love and kindness for our family members.

It’s black, my friend. It’s ugly.

So, I’m offering you an alternative.

This year, I’ve turned Black Friday into Give Back Friday.

I’ve convinced 15 seriously badass experts to GIVE 30 – 60 minutes of their time and advice to YOU and YOUR business. All day long, we’re going to shower you with love and goodness that you can use for years to come.

You might not want to show up all day. I get that. There’s no shame. And certainly no obligation.

Here’s the best part: if you want the goods and you’d rather not hang out, you can grab your gift and run. (Your mom will never now. It’s totally cool.)

Just donate $30 to World Teacher Aid, and you’ll get recordings of every session from the entire day, so you can watch ‘em whenever you want. And 100% of your money will go directly to the charity. So on Black Friday, you’ll be giving the gift of education to someone who will, undoubtedly, feel your love.

Give Back Friday.  From me… to you.

(At first I got you an electronic wine opener… but I opened it and used it already,)

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