Seeing that my birthday’s coming up, I’d like to talk about giving gifts for a bit.
I don’t normally celebrate my birthday. While that may seem strange to some people, for others, it is fairly normal, especially in Arabic culture. But the reason I do not celebrate my birthday is not for cultural reasons. It’s more that I don’t see a purpose in celebrating something as arbitrary as a birthday. However, the one thing that does tick me off about birthdays is the concept of gift-giving as to this day, still annoys me.
To understand why, let’s go back to my childhood days, where my birthday was this very special day that I always looked forward too. Awesome stuff happened, I’d get my way, and almost never got told “no” for anything I asked for. A child’s dream is to get spoilt and my birthday was the perfect day for that to happen. A big part of what made my birthdays special was the gifts I’d receive. I’d remember waking up extra- early in the morning, before school, just so that I could open up a few gifts in the morning, before I headed off to school. All throughout school, I’d be thinking about what other gifts would be waiting for me when I got home. I got my first computer during my 7th birthday (in 1995), one of the most memorable gifts I ever received.
But as I grew older, I noticed a little, unfortunate trend. I’d be receiving gifts for hobbies that I had lost interest in during the year, making the gifts all but redundant. As a kid, I was very easily inspired by all sorts of random hobbies, which included model-making and model-railroading. But as I lost interest in them, I was sure to receive gifts on the following birthday relating to these hobbies. This is because my parents would buy the gifts. This was somewhat unfortunate because I found it to be extremely wasteful.
An even to this day, I’m not a particularly easy person to shop for. Given my interest in collecting interesting items, it makes it really difficult to find a good gift for me. What I consider “interesting” is highly subjective. Only a very few items would inevitably fit the bill. Of course, you could go the other way and find out what my favourite “thing” is. In this case, it’ll have to be my Supergirl collection.
I have long admired the character, and the TV show has done nothing less than solidify my appreciation for her. But finding a supergirl-related gift is just not enough. My collection is made up exclusively of figures and very specific comic books. Buying a keychain or a fridge magnet just doesn’t cut it. Also, the things I take an interest in are really hard to come up, even on the internet, let-alone local stores. Local shops don’t cater to highly niche audiences that I fit in, making finding a perfect gift significantly harder.
So we then go to the standard gifts that I have received non-stop for the past few years. Keychains. Lots and lots of them. All of dragons, because yes, I do like dragons. Personally, I would very much rather no gift at all, than a gift such as a keychain. I find a gift that I do not want or cannot use to be a waste of money.
Many people say that it’s not about the gift itself, but “it’s the thought that counts”. Well, yes, but only to a certain extent. Buying a keychain of a dragon for me is basically a cop-out. “Oh, he likes dragons, so let’s pick this keychain up for him”. I only use one keychain, and until that one breaks, I will keep using it, before moving on to another practical keychain (which, by the way, the keychains that I have been getting are not).I’d very much rather receive nothing as a gift, than have money wasted on something that I do not want. And don’t take that as lack of appreciation either. I’m very fortunate to have people that are willing to buy gifts for me. However, I genuinely believe that they could spend money for a better cause.
Someone suggested that I put up a wishlist of things that I want. That was a great idea. I’d receive only things that I could actually use or things that I wanted for my collection. But it was so apparent while typing that list out, that the items there were very hard to find, if not impossible to obtain. For example, one of the items I have listed there is a Supergirl comic (preferrably the sketch variant of Supergirl #1) that has been hand-signed by Helen Slater, Laura Vandervoort and Melissa Benoist – the three actresses that have so-far played Supergirl, CGC-graded signature series. Something like that doesn’t exist and is almost impossible to come by.
But it goes to help me making a point. If you do intend on giving a gift to someone, make sure that it is actually thoughtful. Something that the received would actually value. And while it really depends on the recipient, I’m pretty sure that some people would rather have nothing at all, than get a gift that they hate.
This also brings me onto something else that has bothered me about gifts – timing. While I understand that people prefer to give gifts during special occasions (Christmas, birthdays, parties), it makes it significantly harder to get timing right. Sometimes you’re in a store and you see the absolute perfect gift for that special someone of yours. Some people would just hang onto the gift until the next special occasion to give it. For me, I’d rather give the gift as soon as possible, because nothing signifies “thought” better than this. Giving a gift on special occasions just seems “forced” to me.
So how are your gift-giving policies? Do you buy gifts in advance? Or a few weeks before the special occasion? How do you select what gifts you buy? Have you received great gifts? What about terrible ones?