"Gift cards are not gifts"

According to Liz Pulliam Weston of MSN Money,

A gift, ideally, says, “I thought about you. I considered your likes and dislikes, your needs and wants, your dreams and desires, and found you this token of my esteem that I hope will delight you.”

A gift card says, “There! Checked you off my list.”


It’s official. Shame is dead.

Heaven forbid that givers use their own judgment and spend a little time picking out small items that might give the recipients pleasure. Just give us the cash and get out of the way.


It’s also not that I don’t understand the practical aspects of the gift card. I do. I just can’t help mourning the passing of a lovely tradition, one that helped us focus on each other and had the potential to bring us closer.


Sure, the old way included plenty of opportunities for misfires — for the tie shaped like a fish, the sweater that’s six sizes too big, the dolls from the aunt who could never figure out that her teen-age niece no longer played with Barbies. But those experiences taught us the fine art of tact and diplomacy, of expressing gratitude to people who tried to make us happy, however bizarre the actual result.

It also drove home the point, as few things do nowadays, that special occasions are about people — not about getting more stuff or increasing our net worth.

That last bit there really struck me. “Special occasions are about people — not about getting more stuff or increasing our net worth.”

I had a conversation with Brooke yesterday about gifts. I said something about missing having an mp3 player, and she said I should put one on my wish list.

“Hmm, now which one to put on there?” I said, which meant “I need to do some research to pick the right mp3 player.” Brooke suggested I put several different ones on the list, in different price ranges, so if someone wanted to buy one they’d have a selection.

Me (5:27:01 PM): hmm, but what if I get more than one mp3 player?
Me (5:27:03 PM): hahahaha :P
Me (5:29:07 PM): I know, I’ll make a Wish List called “In My Dreams”
Me (5:29:08 PM): XD
Brooke (5:31:08 PM): why not?
Brooke (5:31:33 PM): why not blog about what you’re doing, or wanting to accomplish with so many mp3 players on your list?
Me (5:34:09 PM): nobody can afford to buy me an mp3 player
Me (5:34:23 PM): I’m giving COOKIES as presents this year :>
Me (5:35:08 PM): I expect presents $20 or less
Me (5:35:42 PM): except a couple of people who wanted to give us stuff we lost in the fire, I don’t know what they’re spending
Brooke (5:35:50 PM): you have parents and in laws, you have family and friends.
Me (5:36:01 PM): and none of them is going to spend over $20
Me (5:36:13 PM): I guess they could pool their money, but the likeliness of that happening is low.

What is that, exactly? I got all defensive and self-piteous. Then I realized what I was doing:

Me (5:38:13 PM): I have quasi-advertised my wish list before, but I think going too deeply into “this is exactly what I want and expect” is tacky
Me (5:38:23 PM): people are free to look at my lists and buy me whatever they want to
Me (5:38:25 PM): or nothing at all
Me (5:38:37 PM): I don’t want to do a huge mp3 player analysis and get my hopes up
Me (5:40:03 PM): I’m not saying you’re wrong or anything, just that I Think Different(ly) and I tend to have to manage my greed
Brooke (5:40:37 PM): oh, I gotcha..
Brooke (5:40:48 PM): wow, I hadn’t thought of it as “greed” before..
Me (5:41:14 PM): that’s pretty much how I look at all my wants.
Brooke (5:41:22 PM): I’m usually pretty YEY! about ANY gift, no matter what it is, because I appreciate them all :-) I’m not saying you don’t, I’d just never thought about it that way, before
Me (5:41:24 PM): it’s my way of trying to keep myself from being too selfish.
Me (5:42:19 PM): if I get too excited about something I want, and start to think that someone will buy it for me, and then I’m disappointed, I can actually be resentful, which sucks
Me (5:42:51 PM): right now in my life I’m trying to just be happy that anyone would get me anything.
Me (5:42:56 PM): which is hard for me, because I suck!

Not long after that, I felt really uncomfortable, so I changed the subject.

This all harkens back to the Guilt post, and my feelings about receiving gifts in general. I’m 27 years old, but I still haven’t stopped thinking of Christmas as a time to get lots of cool stuff I want, despite my efforts. And it seems like I’m always a little disappointed, especially when I compare my situation to that of some of my friends, who get cool presents all the time.

Is this gift-envy?

Is this greed?

Is this me wanting stuff I haven’t earned…again?

Am I just feeling like this because I lost everything, or is this how I always feel?

Bah. I make myself sick.

[Update 4:37 pm:] I am shamed!