Let’s talk about gifting, shall we? Because, well, everybody else is doing it and peer pressure is a real thing, guys, in case that hasn’t already been made clear to you in the last twenty-some-odd years of your life. [Don’t worry, I’m having flashbacks to sophomore-year-of-high-school beer chugs too—RIP those days, I don’t miss you.]
Everybody loves a good gift, and plenty of us (gotta account for the scrooges out there) also enjoy the act of giving. The holiday season, of course, is the perfect arena for this generally-good-spirited give-and-take situation. However, in recent years, with many thanks to Pinterest’s world domination and subsequent onslaught of DIY-heavy, picture-perfect everything, the holidays have reached Olympian-worthy levels. How to find the best, most original gift? Or the most personal—the gift that says, “I know you better than you know yourself, sucka”? How to decorate the house or apartment (or your bedroom in your parent’s house, because you guys are people, too) in a way that says I-tried-but-not-too-hard or perhaps yes-I’m-very-crafty-and-as-a-result-living-a-much-fuller-life-than-you? And let us not forget that this is the age of irony, so gifts seeped in such incongruity are also heavy-hitters—think funny children’s books to place on your coffee table but never read, or maybe a Tamagotchi (which is in the midst of a massive comeback, thank the lawd). The deduction? It’s tough out there and often so overwhelming as to render your meager efforts at living up to current standards null and void.
On top of this nearly-a-fact-but-not-quite is the issue that many of us young adults are toeing that very thin line between broke and almost-broke. Spending for others can seem rather indulgent when we haven’t eaten real food since last week (because we’d–quite responsibly–rather spend money on booze or the odd new piece of clothing). When you combine lack of funds with twenty-something selfishness AND general idiocy re: saving dollar bills, gifting successfully becomes a whole new animal, one that is even more difficult to tame.
But that doesn’t mean the allure isn’t still there, lying dormant in the back of our busy brains waiting to be woken up by the hundreds of expertly curated gift guides that every website and publication ever decides to craft (because, let’s be real, it’s an easy ass way to make money for their advertisers, sponsors, what-have-you). My personal relationship to these gift guides is akin to my relationship with the male gender: I all-too-often allow them to seduce me, even though I know full well that I can’t afford the damage they could easily cause. Usually an hour passes and I realize I’ve been online faux-shopping the entire time, imagining a world in which I buy my foodie friend a subscription to Cherry Bombe magazine and my alcohol aficionado pal a funky bar set for the bar she doesn’t even own. It’s really not that different from sleeping with someone who is strictly no-strings-attached, when what you really want is commitment. Both of these players (loose ladies n’ gents, slutty gift guides) are simply a tease.
So what’s the solution? Avoiding the internet for the next month does not seem feasible, especially if you’re anything like me and suffer totally questionable withdrawal symptoms whenever your access to technology is limited (let’s not talk about it). Giving up gift guides around the holidays is like giving up sugar, nearly impossible and a bit extreme. Allow yourself to dabble, I say, use them as motivation perhaps—to be what? Not poor? More on top of your shit? Whatever works! But when it comes to the real act of giving gifts, maybe save yourself some money this season (you’re young, people will forgive you not splurging on a French Press or rare print of something-made-in-Brooklyn-and-vaguely-pretentious) and brainstorm how you can “give” from the arsenal of stuff you already have—no, not your heavily stocked closet filled with items you never wear but the really special stuff: your talents n’ personality.
I haven’t settled on my gifting plan just yet, but ideas I’ve played around with are writing short pieces for and/or about specific people, maybe getting fancy and putting them in a cheap little frame. Then there’s always the act of burning CDs, which I’ve been doing for years to much acclaim (casual NHB—that’s non-humble-brag, copyright me), and I’m sure all of you could achieve a similar response. Offering specific services for free always works, too (though I’m not advocating for on-call blow jobs) – think more G-rated, like babysitting, house-sitting, organizing, running errands, teaching someone a skill, etc. I think you get the picture (and if you don’t, don’t tell me).
The holidays are hard, man. Go a little easy on yourself in the gifting department if, like me, you need that extra cash to sustain some semblance of a social life and your overall existence via food intake. It’s not just selfish—it’s smart. And as anyone will tell you, most of the crap you drop dollars on for other people goes wholly unused, whereas a personalized gift is, at the least, touching and memorable. If you’re nothing like me and rolling in the dough (from your side-hustle as trust-fund baby or child prodigy?), or perhaps just older and resting on more stable funds, then do you, but beware gift-guide overdose—it’s a time-suck that knows no bounds.
That said, I will be compiling a short list of things for the older folk out there to peruse if they’re totally at a loss for what to buy that special twenty-something in their lives. Hypocritical, I know. But rather than basing it off of what advertisers are shelling (since I have none), I plan to use my brain. Not reassuring? Ah well. Stay tuned.