I think everyone has been told, “I don’t know what to get you for Christmas,” at least once. I know I’ve used that line on friends, family members, and even spoiled pets. Most of the time, “I don’t what to get you,” is a last ditch effort to get a little gift guidance before you resort to a gift card, but it’s not exactly the nicest thing to hear during the holiday season. There will always be circumstances – usually an office grab bag or an extended family secret Santa – that put us in tricky gift giving situations with people we don’t know very well, but if you’re clueless on what to get your next of kin, the problem might just be you.
When you drop the, “I don’t know what to get you for Christmas,” bomb, you’re putting all the blame for your own gift giving shortcomings on someone else. I’ve heard this gripe from various people – even my mom – throughout my life. It’s an understatement to say that it’s a little disappointing when you hear that out of all the things in the world someone could create or buy, they can’t think of one relevant thing to put in your stocking.
I don’t think many of us are dealing with people who are so secretive, mysterious, picky, or affluent that you couldn’t walk into Target and find at least one thing they’d appreciate unwrapping on Christmas morning. Unless your sibling was recently in a coma or your spouse has been on a space mission for the last decade, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to come up with a few gift ideas for your loved ones.
I’ve said before on this blog that I’d rather receive nothing than a gift card, and I really mean that. After anxiously tracking packages, deliberating at the mall, and dodging store employees asking if I need help, when I get an envelope with my name on it that looks like it was written in the car on the way over, my feelings get a little hurt. I believe in the holiday hustle, and the gift card is the ultimate, “Sorry I couldn’t be bothered to think too much about what you might like, but here’s 25 bucks trapped inside this card like a genie that you can’t even save or invest.”
We throw around the phrase, “It’s the thought that counts,” to pardon the most frivolous presents. These days, all it really means is whatever crap you decide to give someone is better than nothing at all. If you’ve ever received a gift that was so not you, you’ll agree that isn’t always true. You’re only allowed to be shielded by the privilege of “It’s the thought that counts” if you actually make an effort. There’s a difference between waiting in line to get your sister a pair of boots that end up being the wrong size and buying a gingersnap cookie-scented hand sanitizer you came across in the junk heap by the checkout while you were shopping for something else. The boots require intention and thought while the hand sanitizer only requires inserting your chip-enabled card.
I don’t mean to sound like a gift elitist or a snob; what I’m trying to say is that I think we could all try harder – especially this time of year – to show people that we’re listening. Before haranguing someone for not emailing their Christmas list, maybe you should take a second to ask yourself if you’ve really been paying attention. Have you really spent any time thinking about what this person might enjoy? What their passions are? What little, unexpected surprise would mean a lot coming from you?
My favorite and most cherished gifts are the random things I don’t even remember mentioning. Inside jokes turned into something tangible. Odds and ends that may not seem like much, but are magical in their own way because they prove someone spent a moment thinking about me or my interests.
The “I don’t what to get you” line is usually an excuse, so the next time someone says this to you, unless you’re rediscovering who you are after escaping a cult, you should call them out on it instead of sheepishly reciting your list. If you’re exchanging gifts this year, stop passing buck and put a little effort into it.