I wrote this for Ben's birthday a few years ago, and was reminded of the conundrum of gift-giving and party-planning and emotion-expressing this weekend as we celebrated our wedding...
The giving of gifts is easy and natural for some people (or so I am told during our most recent in-service meeting). There are, apparently, personality types whose primary strength lies in their ability to know just what gift to give under what circumstance. Their closets are teeming year-round with anticipatory gifts, little (or large) nuggets of just-the-right-thing saved for just-the-right-time. They give gifts to demonstrate affection and gifts to show gratitude, concern, or appreciation. These people, without pause or consternation, are able to procure ostentatious gifts, bribes, and sincere demonstrations of love -- whatever is required -- with ease, economy, and facility.
Gift-giving is a laborious process for me. Every angle must be analyzed. What does proposed recipient need? Want? What would he or she like? What untoward or unintended thoughts might be communicated with this gift? That one?
I realize, in theory, the process of gifting something to a loved one should be easy: Identify a shared interest. Ask yourself what you might like if you were in your recipient’s skin. Is the intended gift-receiver not already in possession of said object? Good. Proceed.
But not all loved ones are enamored with commercially available objects. Some intended recipients are actively hostile to receiving cheap material goods produced by overseas, underage, slave labor.
Now what you have is a question of time.
One cannot give what one does not have. And so the conundrum arises: In order to demonstrate sincere affection for a loved one who is uninterested in crass material goods, one must have time. Time to create something lovely, plan some party or gathering that is sufficiently demonstrative but not overly sappy, paint a character watercolor that doesn’t just flat out suck.
And yet, the god of time-allotment managing my life is a mean and stingy bastard, particularly these days. (I’m not poor anymore, so I have to submit my pound of flesh somehow; it seems if I am to pay off my student loans in this lifetime, the currency will be blood and sleep as measured in time. But I digress.)
So, I perch upon the precipice of needing a gift for an eternally cherubic and friendly loved one who is actively antagonistic toward cheap plastics, who already has everything he might possibly want, who, when it comes to needs, is basically a self-sufficient feral cat.
He’s already has his shots. We did that two years ago… Before his first China trip…
How do you say “Thank you, I love you” to someone who means to you what breath means to body, or what flesh is to bone, or what peanut butter is to jelly? How do you package up all those feelings in paper and tie them off with a cheap satin bow? How do you even propose to purchase (or create) a physical embodiment of the affection you feel for a person who gave you a Han Dynasty replica sword with which you can slice off the tops of milk jugs as if they were room-temperature butter? With whom you can watch hundreds of hours of subtitled martial arts series? With whom you can create worlds within novels? With whom you can traipse continents?
With whom you can read Chuck Tingle?
Or Fanny Beaverly?
It’s not really possible. And time is running out, as it tends to do. But this is my attempt, sallow and thin as it may be.