What is the deal with giving presents?

I’m not saying I don’t like giving gifts. Or getting them. What I don’t like are all the darn rules around giving them. The following are the rules I have a problem with. Yes, I just ended that sentence with a preposition, and no, I’m not changing it. What can I say? I’m feisty today. The bad rules:

1. Presents must be given at Christmas no matter what. This rule has two aspects that peeve me.

a) Presents must be given even if the giver has no good gift to give.
Really? Just because it’s December 25th, I have to come up with a gift for you? And don’t give me any junk about celebrating Jesus’ birth, because that has very little to do with most people’s thoughts about exchanging presents at the holidays. This goes for people who expect me to give them fabulous birthday or anniversary presents. I buy gifts when I find something perfect, and if that happens to coincide with whatever monumental date you’ve got going at the moment, that’s great. But I’m so tired of buying something, sticking it in the designated gift box, and then forgetting about it by the time your Big Day comes around. Do you know how many double gifts I’ve gotten? Do you know how many times I’ve forgotten I already sent a present and then have to scramble for something else at the last minute? Did anyone ever think that maybe sometimes the best gift is no gift at all?

This rule is sometimes voluntarily suspended by families in favor of a gift lottery or other such thing, which is a good idea, but then other complications ensue. For instance: what if I have a perfect gift for one of my relatives that I’ve been saving for Christmas (mutter) and I don’t get that person’s name in the draw? Then I’m giving an extra gift, and that’s not fair! I say names for lotteries should be drawn a year in advance, to allow for all-year shoppers like me to have a clue about what’s going on. Of course, then some folks would send next year’s Christmas presents in January and I’d have to keep track of them too.

b) Gifts must be given even if the givee doesn’t want anything.
Honestly, people, the only things I need at this point are a house and more books. Ok, and some cash for some new clothes. A girl’s gotta have some new clothes now and again. And if I get many more books, we’ll need another bookshelf, so I’ll add that to the list now. Never hurts to be prepared.

Now, if you find something that just screams “Betsy needs this!” and you still believe it after five minutes of sober consideration, by all means send it my way. If you just think it’s cool, take a picture and email it to me. I’ll enjoy it just as much. Or follow my mom’s example with her garage sale shopping (hi Mom), and just send me the money you would have spent. Really really. I don’t need more knickknacks. Even if I really liked them (which I generally don’t) I don’t have room for any more. If we had room for anything else in our house, it would be more stuff for the kitchen, and we already have everything except an angel food cake pan and an air popper for popcorn. No really. Ask me. We probably have it in some form or another.

Just to be sure this doesn’t focus entirely on me, I have to say that I know a whole lot of people who feel the same way. We’re a society that buys what we need when we need it. And most of the time we buy what we want when we want it, too, which makes for precious few gift-giving opportunities. I realize that.

An interlude here.
For those who are familiar with the whole idea of love languages, receiving gifts is not one of mine – which means I often don’t put much importance on giving them, either. For those who aren’t familiar with the five love languages, go here to learn more. And since we’re on the topic, I’m a words of affirmation girl.

Now, back to the rant. Bad present rule #2:

2. Presents must be appropriate in size and value for the social norms surrounding the giver and givee’s situation.
Now before I go on I want to make a distinction in this section between a present and a gift. To me, a present is something bought to be given at a specific occasion – a wedding, shower, homewarming, birthday, anniversary, holiday, etc. etc. etc. A gift is simply something that is freely given, regardless of circumstance. Some presents are also gifts – some are merely presents. And some gifts are presents, as is only logical, but some are just gifts, not for any special purpose or at any certain time. Just gifts. I guess what I’m saying with this whole thing is that I’m interested in giving more gifts, rather than presents.

The reason this is an important distinction is that a gift often doesn’t conform to the social norm for presents. If I know the perfect gift for my coworker is a handmade queen-sized quilt, that’s what I want to give her, not the little tin of candy that is socially acceptable. Heaven forbid that coworker be a man, because then something Serious might be happening. Yeah, like me seriously caring for and knowing about what my close acquaintances and friends like.

What’s the point? I’m seriously declaring a personal moratorium on all enforced present-giving. You’ll get what I want to give you when I want to give it to you. Anybody have a problem with that?

Now, if only I had the spine to enact it.