(Banal) thoughts on exchanging giftsSubmitted by Sage at 2010-12-28 14:56:37 EST
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When it dawned on me to write this post, I was listening to a Bone Thugs song, “Look into My Eyes”, from “The Art of War: World War I”. I got this CD from my sister for Christmas in 2000. I think I got her a CD that year too, although I can’t remember what. Then I was thinking of how my brother didn’t come to my Dad’s house this Christmas, which pissed everyone off, because he didn’t have the money to give anyone gifts. Then I thought of how I told my Dad I was going to give my brother some cash for Christmas and he told me not to, because my brother would feel guilty that he didn’t have anything to give to me.
There are all sorts of rules about gift-giving. For example, the rule of thumb for wedding gifts is to spend whatever is estimated that is being spent on you, as a guest. For example, if one is having 300 guests at a $30,000 wedding, a $100 present is reasonable and expected. If you’re showing up with a guest, spend $200. I guess that applies more to the average guest; parents are probably expected to spend more, and so on. Also, there are mixed feelings on gift-cards and cash. Some argue that it’s better to give cash and/or a gift certificate so someone can buy what they want but others disagree, saying it’s thoughtless and cold.
This may be a less formal and more unwritten rule, but generally speaking parents try to be fair and spend equal amounts of money per child. Sometimes this causes tension, because there may be a greater quantity of packages to be opened for one child than another, and someone is grieved that their sibling has more presents than they do.
When the children get older, they are expected to exchange gifts, as my sister and I did. The informal rule of thumb there is to spend about the same amount of money on each other. If I were to buy her a CD player* and she were to “only” buy me a CD*, it would have been awkward for both parties. One would have been grateful with a touch of guilt that they received such a generous gift, and the other would have felt a bit slighted that they “only” got a CD when they spent so much money on a CD player.
Furthermore, people are supposed to buy gifts for their parents and grandparents, too. I don’t really know the rules on this one, but I do know that I don’t personally feel bad if they spend more money on me than I do on them. I guess that since I’m younger and will always be their kid or grandchild they can and should spend to the max on me without regard of what I’ll be getting them, but I think that even changes as one gets older.
Giving to parents and grandparents is awkward in itself, if there are siblings in the family. It creates a sense of either competition or joining together. The question is, should we all go in together and get the parents a big gift or do our own shopping individually? I prefer the former, but even then it’s difficult deciding what to get, because in my case at least, my parents are hard to shop for. And if you venture out to get your own gift for the parents, it’s also awkward if one of your siblings gets a more expensive or otherwise perceivably “nicer” gift. This is of course overlooked if that sibling is much more well-to-do than you are. But on the flip side if you’re the well-to-do sibling, are you expected to spend more simply because you make more?
And then there’s all of the sayings about gift-giving (ready for a Sage tie-in?), such as “don’t look a gift-horse in the mouth”, which translates to “don’t think about how much the gift costs or is worth”, or “it’s the thought that counts”. But people can swing and miss when they try to be thoughtful. For example, my boyfriend’s brother is a boxer. On numerous occasions, my boyfriend purchased Rocky t-shirts or other boxing-related paraphernalia as Christmas and birthday gifts for his brother. Much my person’s chagrin, his brother never wore or used any of it. I guess his brother may enjoy boxing, but doesn’t necessarily want it to be broadcasted on a t-shirt, or to own every boxing-related movie or video game.
I’ve long believed (and made clear to anyone and everyone around me) that spending time is way more important to me than exchanging gifts; one’s presence is their present. Unfortunately, gift exchanges of all kinds (Christmas, Hanukah, birthdays, weddings, or whatever) make people feel obligated somehow. I don’t know about you, but I hate feeling obligated to anyone. I guess that’s why I am kind of a Scrooge this time of year, and so are bunches of other people.
Have a nice day! Which reminds me...I recently got a fortune from one of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants (Mekong...yum!!) that said "Today is a very lovely day. Congratulations!"
*Of course CD players and CDs are somewhat dated nowadays, but they weren’t back in the late 90’s so there.*
I wonder if attaching pictures works on the dot net.jpg