I like to think of myself as an equal opportunist. When it comes to offending people, I’m all about equality. Everyone gets offended equally.
I’m a pretty terrible gifter. I’ve given bad gifts from everyone from my mom to co-workers, and here’s why. I don’t like shopping for your birthday. I don’t like shopping for your Christmas present. I really don’t like shopping for your wedding or bridal shower. I don’t like shopping for you period, for any holiday or event in which giving a gift is considered “good etiquette.” You know what else is good etiquette? Offering an open bar for the wedding you invited me to for which I had to buy a gift AND squeeze into a pair of Spanx for.
Maybe I haven’t said it enough: I am terribly lazy. As your birthday, Chanukah, baby’s arrival or wedding nears, I am not looking for your gift because I’ve either forgotten or I’ve given up out of frustration of not being able to find something that won’t make me cringe in horror when you open it up in front of your party guests.
I had to visit a Babies “R” Us for the first time last summer when shopping for my boss’ baby shower gift. She had mentioned that she and her husband had experienced their first “we’re going to be parents” meltdown in a Babies “R” Us and I just laughed nervously and told her what you tell every soon-to-be parent: “Everything is going to be ok.”
As soon as I walked into that Babies “R” Us and saw that there were not just one, not two but 800,000 different types of pacifiers (and babies need more than just fucking pacifiers), my skin started to itch with hot panic.
Really, what the fuck. I narrowed a search from pacifiers to brands and found TWENTY different types of pacifiers under ONE brand. These are only SIX of TWENTY.
I had the baby registry in my hand, and I suddenly became very hostile with the registry. What’s the difference between regular Pampers and “natural” Pampers? Why isn‘t there just one type of pacifier? Why is a diaper genie $200? What the fuck is a diaper genie? What’s the difference between the wash cloths on this sheet and the ones that are $3 cheaper that I am holding in my hand. I was starting to understand what my boss had felt that day she and her husband had to paper bag it. I wasn’t planning on experiencing the “what are we having a baby for?” panic ever…or at least until my mid-30s.
I put down my wash cloths, backed away from the bath time section and left. I left before I verbally abused a store employee who had surely been verbally abused by parents to be and baby shower shoppers alike. I left before I walked out with a basket full of the wrong stuff. I left before I came to a section full of things related to nipples and breastfeeding. I ended up running over to Target which I thought would be less overwhelming-it wasn’t-and a very nice store associate picked several things on the registry for me.
The stress of presumed gift giving situations brought me to a startling personal realization. Gift giving had lost its meaning. It was perfunctory and not fun. Gifting should be two things: meaningful and fun. I had to change my approach even if that meant skipping gifts altogether or planning ahead a little.
In my new approach, I decided to come at this a few different ways.
1. Giving someone a gift doesn’t always have to coincide with calendar holidays and birthdays.** Aren’t the best gifts the ones that are given just because someone was thinking about you? (**Let’s be real here for a minute. Shouldn’t I be giving your mother a gift on your birthday for letting you take up residence in her uterus for 9 months and giving you the gift of life?)
2. Gifts don’t have to cost much or anything at all-the ones that have a truly personal and poignant touch are the ones that are remembered and probably kept. That’s a pretty “duh” statement, but it was something I’d lost touch with.
3. Hire someone for what you cannot do. Look, I’m not crafty or have any artistic vision whatsoever. But there are people out there who are and can help you take an idea and take it to completion exactly the way you’d like it.
This is out of context though; I didn’t just come up with this approach out of nowhere. It started with a concept that turned into a gift. I’m not usually in the business of tooting my own horn but….toot toot! This was a good one.
I came across a project on Pinterest that took old maps and re-purposed them in creative ways. The blogger had all of these old maps, that are now essentially artifacts now that we have GPS, and instead of tossing them she turned them into fun pieces to decorate her space. After reading through the comment thread on the post, I thought this would make a great Christmas present for my friends Sara and Chris who had just been married that year. They had just bought their own place that year and were slowly but surely putting their personal touches on their new home. Also, I had got them a pretty crappy wedding gift that I tried to mask in a really cute bag and it needed to be redeemed.
I didn’t have any old maps laying around so had to go to AAA to get them and the looks that I got when I told them I was cutting the maps up…
“I need a map of Arizona and two or three maps of California.”
First of all, who’s still asking for maps these days and who’s still PRINTING them? I imagine there are some “Into the Wild” type folks who like to rough it and use genuine maps to turn their traveling experience into a real….experience. No complaints from me, I mean I’m glad they had the maps because this would’ve been a pretty shit project if I’d had to print Google maps.
“Oh are you going on vacation?”
“I’m putting a project together. Going to cut the maps up and create a little art piece.”
“So, that’s one map of Arizona and three maps of California.”
I’m sure people have come to AAA and asked weirder things, but whatever.
I cut out heart shapes out of the maps around the city that Chris and Sara had met (Globe, AZ), the city they had married in (San Francisco), and the cities they had honeymooned in (along the California coast/wine country). I strategically glued them to white card stock that was labeled to indicate the meeting, marrying and honeymooning spots that then went into a three-picture frame.
Even for someone as craft-dumb as me, this was fairly simple to put together and the only real challenges I had were outlining each frame section and then lining up the hearts on the card stock so that they were centered in the frame. The end result would have been worth it even if I endured a cosmic struggle putting it together because Sara and Chris really liked it.
Why am I sharing this? I have a really cool (Pinterest) project to share that also falls under the meaningful gift category, and it needed a back story. I can’t reveal it yet. Also, it was important to highlight the psychopathy behind my history of poor gift giving. Does my new found perspective mean I’m going to stop giving really bad gifts? Nope. There’s always going to be the pressure to give gifts and sometimes I’ll cave. Other times you just won’t get anything but the gift of my acknowledgement. And other times, well I just might make you do that thing where salty water comes out of your eyeballs. What do they call it? Crying? Robots don’t cry so, I wouldn’t know.