…to be forced into buying crappy gifts for people just to fulfill an obligation. Fa la la la la la la la.
Before you get your Santa suit in a twist, let me say, I love giving someone a gift I know they will enjoy and appreciate. What I hate is spending time and money to buy something…anything…for an acquaintance, even though they will probably hate it, because it is part of a “fun” gift exchange or because they are getting me something so now I have to get them something, only to be filled with the satisfaction and joy that their inevitable look of poorly stifled disappointment brings:
That just warms your heart.
My gut reaction to that look is, “Okay, fuck you then. You get nothing!” Although, I don’t entirely blame them. They are trying. It is just very, very difficult to pull off the perfect ‘I don’t like this at all but I am going to look so genuinely excited and grateful that you can’t tell’ face. You have to be quick on your feet – if you show even a flash of disappointment before painting on a smile, it’s over. But, in your rush to show excitement and appreciation, be careful not to overdo it – that is also an immediate tell. Your level of excitement must be proportionate to the gift. If someone buys you an ugly pair of Christmas socks, you can’t use excitement to cover up your true feelings. Saying, “Yes, socks! I can’t believe it, I love love love these, OMG this is amazing! I have to Instagram these right now,” could only be perceived as sarcasm.
Yes, there is a lot of thought and skill that goes into pulling off the perfect fake response. I myself can’t do it. I fight a constant battle between not wanting to be rude and not wanting to lie, and this internal conflict manifests in my face. The attempted smile is always pulled back by the ‘Yeah, I don’t want this crap’ face and it ends up looking like this:
How about, instead of buying each other shit we don’t want… we do nothing! Let’s just exchange season’s greetings and call it a day. How about you take the money you were going to spend on me, and buy something you actually want, and I’ll take my money, and buy what I want, which I’ve actually been doing all year, because I am self-sufficient and don’t depend on casual acquaintances to buy me things.
Some might argue that a gift card is a way around the gift exchange dilemma. But at that point, why bother? A gift card is almost like giving someone cash, but with the caveat that they can only spend it where you say so. So it is actually worse than giving someone cash because at best, you’ve exchanged bills out of your wallet, and at worst, you’ve exchanged those bills for a plastic card that you can’t use.
A friend of mine was forced into a gift exchange at work, specifically a gift card exchange. I consider this to be the height of stupid. They are literally going to stand in a circle and trade $25. Why is that fun? “You’ll never guess what I got at work today – after paying $25, I got $25 back!” You don’t even get to unwrap it, and we all know that is half the fun of presents. I did a lot of online shopping for myself last week and I’m very seriously considering wrapping that stuff up just to open it Christmas morning. Maybe taking this gamble with a gift card exchange is fun in the way that Russian Roulette is fun, but instead of not getting shot in the head, your rush of adrenaline comes from not getting the Olive Garden gift card.