The Politics of Gifting


A guy I know gave his wife of 20 years a terry bathrobe from Dunnes and she gave him a carefully planned weekend in Paris. Then they split up.

This, ahem, ‘extreme’ example illustrates the minefield that is gifting and the highstakes nature of the beast. Misjudging its dynamics is as common as holiday gluttony. Who hasn’t experienced that awful moment when a friend produces a beautiful present and all you’ve brought them is something iffy from your re-gifting stash? And who hasn’t carried the baggage from that horror into the next year and tried to rectify the inequity by overcompensating only to cause even more embarrassment… (top tip: if the first year goes arse in your friend’s favour, commit to another year at dazzling levels so you have a shot at restoring equilibrium).

Granted, the politics of gifting are a very First World Problem but they’re still worth a little consideration. Hell, if we were in Japan, they’d be our number one, overriding concern. Forget world peace.

And Badedas coffrets. Actually, anything reeking of chemist-on-Christmas-Eve. It will be blatantly obvious from the minute the paper’s peeled away how much care and attention has gone into your present (yes, it is the thought that counts) and to be found wanting is inevitable if you’ve made no effort.

Mind you, it can be just as tricky to be the one making all the effort. You may start off enthusiastically handknitting jumpers and scrapbooking the year’s memories for special people or buying them Prada handbags, but if you do, know that the bar is going to remain high for eternity. Even if the landscape changes dramatically so it’s much more densely populated or budgets change, you’ll be expected to keep up what you started. Trust me, I’ve witnessed the abject disappointment firsthand when there aren’t enough homemade snoods to go around or the stocking’s a bit light on in-jokes and luxuries.

If that’s daunting, and the whole merry dance has become a tyranny, do like my friend who shows up at Christmas Dinner with a plastic bag filled with un-giftwrapped Selection boxes straight from the cash & carry, a tradition she began when a student many years ago. Her bar is so low, so predictable and so equitable – there’s one for everyone in the audience, old and young, near and distant- that no umbrage can be taken.  The extent of the thought behind the Roses is getting the headcount right (which admittedly can be tough), her emotional investment in the exercise correspondingly nil.

Personally, I’d hate that approach though I do enjoy the chocs in front of the telly. No highs, no lows…no fun. I’d willingly risk getting it wrong every now and then for the joy of getting it perfectly right sometimes.


@lgeorge353 has to go now and start knitting.

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