I have never been good at giving gifts. Some people have a knack for picking out wonderful things that their loved ones didn’t even know they needed. I lack that talent. The advice to “just get people something you’d like!” doesn’t work if your tastes are somewhat non-standard, i.e., if you’re me. In middle school, when one of the most popular girls in my class invited me to her birthday slumber party, I got her novelty socks.* As a teenager I gave my friends strange humor books and accessories that fit my semi-hippie aesthetic preferences, cluelessly failing to notice their preference for YA fiction or Abercrombie & Fitch gear.
I could always tell that my gift wasn’t quite what the recipient wanted — there would be that awkward pause and then the “oh, uh, thank you!” This led to some serious hang-ups about gift giving. I hate giving people things they don’t want or won’t use. Worse, I hate making people feel like I didn’t care enough to find something they would actually like. I did care! I was just terrible at it!
My eventual solution? Gift cards. For everyone. On every occasion. Unless the giftee took pity on me and told me exactly what s/he wanted, s/he got an Amazon gift card. Or, if I was feeling really ambitious, a gift card to a nearby restaurant that I thought s/he’d enjoy.
I thought this was a pretty good solution until last Christmas, when my sister- and brother-in-law astounded all of us with adorable, thoughtfully chosen gifts that we never even knew we needed, like this awesome print of our hometown:
My pleasure at unwrapping these cool presents got me thinking. I don’t accept “I’m just bad at writing” as a valid excuse for my students repeating D-level grades — I know they can do better if they’ll put in the work. So why was I accepting my own “I’m bad at gifts” excuse? Could it be that I just wasn’t putting in the work? I resolved to do better this year.
So far, this has mostly involved keeping my eyes open for gifts. I’ve been bookmarking neat online finds on a “Gift Ideas” Pinterest board, and Econo Man and I came home from Italy with a suitcase full of Italian leather accessories and Modena balsamic vinegar. But I have to admit that I still have a bit of that will-they-really-like-this? anxiety when I look at the luggage tags and wallets that we brought home. More tips are always welcome. Does anyone have good ideas for finding gifts? And do you think there’s such a thing as someone who is “just bad at gifts”? Am I doomed to repeat the Novelty Sock Incident every time someone’s birthday rolls around?
* And snowflake earrings, which fortunately she loved. Those may have been my mom’s idea.