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16 December 2015

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Christy P.

Spending 2 hours yesterday in an airport with carols on repeat was my own personal winter torture. I feel you.

Jamie

I love this post so much. Here is a gifting disorder fist bump, my friend.

bearing

Right back atcha, both of you.

Kate

This is an interesting read. I am one of those people who loves Christmas presents, both the receiving and the giving (more the giving). I like to give and receive thoughtful handmade things best, but my second favourite sort of gift is the gift card/liqueur/chocolates kind, so I think you've struck on something there. :-)

A Christmas without gift-giving would be hard for me. I would be like the relative that wanted to get you something to unwrap. I tend to fall on the multiple small items side of the spectrum, because I will make something, then buy something since I saved so much money by making the gift, then see something perfect and small to add...I love watching someone discover the next little goody after thinking they'd already gotten everything there was.

Jamie

So maybe this would be a place where I could say that I still WRITHE with embarrassment when I remember the year that my husband and I decided to give to a charity in his parents' honor in lieu of giving an ordinary wrapped gift. It was SO SO SO weird and awkward that the memory is painful. My MIL said, defensively, "Well, we DO give to charity, you know."

In a weird twist, my husband buys almost all the kid gifts and I buy all of the non-kid gifts. So I still feel like that one was on me. UGH.

bearing

Maybe this is one of those things where (like introverts and extroverts) there are two kinds of people and they really don't understand how the other kind works.

Jamie

Can we talk about that? Because I don't think my introversion is a disorder. (In fact, I just got a little indignant when asked to fill out a recommendation form from a sketchy for-profit school in which they asked me to rate my student on her introversion, as if it were a troublesome and undesirable quality). This feels to me like social anxiety, in which I'm certain I'm wrong no matter which side of the situation I'm on. If I don't like a gift I'm given, I feel bad. If I give a gift that the receiver doesn't like, I feel bad. These reactions do not really make sense to me, but here I am still writhing about something from...hm...4 years ago, I think, and wondering anxiously what to give my FIL this year.

bearing

No, I don't think introversion is a disorder, although I think extroverts treat it like it is.

I was thinking, maybe I'm not actually, you know, defective. Maybe Not Being Into Gifts is in fact an okay (but misunderstood) thing to be, like being introverted.

But you're right - "I'm certain I'm wrong no matter which side of the situation I'm on" -- that is what it feels like to me. And SO fixated on trying (in vain) not to feel wrong, that I can't possibly be anything but wrong.

Jamie

Maybe it's a continuum, like introversion. I am usually a healthy version of an introvert, in which I can talk comfortably to strangers and I don't obsess about "Wait, that was a dumb joke I made." But in some circumstances, that inner tendency (Too Many People = Meltdown) morphs into Not Very Many People At All = Meltdown. KWIM?

There must be a healthy flavor of gift-impaired somewhere, in which a person just doesn't care about getting/giving gifts very much, but can get the job done without curling up into a ball and weeping in the Christmas aisle at Target.

OR OR OR OR-- maybe it's just a quantity issue. Maybe I'm OK with birthday gifts throughout the year because they're spaced out. But there's so MUCH gift crap to deal with at Christmas, SO SO MUCH, that I just can't hack it. There are certain days when I want to say to my children, "Please stop putting words in my ears" because I'm on introvert overload. All of December is like that for the gift-impaired.

Jamie

Now I am having social anxiety about posting a comment in which I sound smug about people with more extreme introversion. Maybe I will just spew out all of my crazy right here in your comments section, yes?

I think I should probably get off the internet and go finish the rosary. I will be sure to ask the Blessed Mother for a spoonful of sanity.

bearing

Jamie, you're doing wonders for helping feel like I am not in fact crazy, or at least not the only person in the world with this particular brand of crazy.

Jenny

Ah, gifts. I don't love gifts. I enjoy picking out gifts for a certain few people, but the rest is total obligation. I don't know what they want and it is just a big guessing game. I feel cheap because my budget doesn't seem to look like anyone else's budget.

And then there is the problem of the relatives and my children. Oh they buy them so much stuff. I try to think of crafty ways to reduce the amount, but nobody is interested. They want to buy them stuff and lots of it and most of it is plastic junk. Just thinking about all the stuff headed our way is causing me to panic a bit.

For awhile, we were exchanging names between all my grandmother's great grandchildren. There are eleven. My sister and I have seven of them between us so really there are only four who are not already first cousins. We never see these children. One of them I haven't seen in at least four years. Can we stop this madness of sending packages to essentially stranger children? No, apparently we cannot. My sister and I have connived to reduce it to sending cookies, but the stress.

Jenny

I'd love to have a Christmas where we could stay home, but that isn't in the cards. Our Christmases have been a mad dash of travel from my parents to my in-laws to my mother's family to my father's family with hours of driving in between. It has always been this way. If I tried to just have a small family Christmas at home, that would be the cause of all kinds of hurt feelings so we travel and Christmas comes and goes and I feel all wrung out.

Rebekka

I enjoy buying presents for close family and friends. Receiving presents is ok. The frenzy of "I just bought what was on your wishlist" at Christmas seems so tasteless to me. We do Christmas with my husband's extended family, and it was INSANE until some of us put our foot down, and now we only give gifts to immediate family, and to children. (Although the number of children increased from three to six this year, so...)

But your Gift Anxiety thing is like how I feel about clothes. I like the idea of clothes and feel like I should care about "fashion", but the actual execution of the program is doomed to fail. Because I really don't care, and I want clothes that are functional, comfortable, and machine washable, and everything that does not meet those criteria does not get used. So I basically just have a uniform (and then I go to work where I have an actual uniform supplied and laundered by my employer, including outerwear, total win!) It sounds like you also have a gifting uniform, maybe you should just embrace it?

Colette

Entries like this would be why I keep coming back to your blog. Erin, you are my spirit animal.

I struggle with the trick of matching a gift with the person's actual interests while not offending my own sensibilities in purchasing something. Or, in the case of about half the family, forcing interests upon them in the hopes that they actually develop some sort of hobby.

Worse is hearing, "Oh, I don't need anything and I get whatever I want. You don't have to get me anything." What a trap -- I know full well that showing up empty-handed is NOT an option.

And then having to do it for all family members at the same time of the year? Kill me now.

Jenny

Ack! I forgot about the annual dismissal we get from my MIL declaring that we just don't need to buy her anything. I'm not that stupid, lady. That grudge would be held over our heads for eons if we dared to attempt it.

This year we are buying her chocolate and wine. One year we bought a whole bunch of different cheeses and another year was different teas. Special consumables is what we try to get.

Jenny

Every time I read through this I key on something else. Christmas cards! I intend to send Christmas cards every year and, to my shame, it hasn't happened since 2008 or 2009. In large measure it is because I feel obligated to send one to everyone when, in actuality, I haven't had time to send them to everyone. I also have scruples about not printing addresses, or worse, greetings on the computer. I feel compelled to do it all by hand, which as I said, I haven't had time for. Instead of just sending them to the few people I can manage, nobody gets them because I feel bad about it.

Unrelated to Christmas, but in the same genre of sending cards all together, my everlasting shame is how long it took me to write baby thank-you cards after O was born. They gave me a baby shower at work, less than a month before she was born. I was totally distracted and didn't get them written before birth. And then I was in recovery and then it was Christmas and then I was back at work and then I was spending every free moment nursing a baby. I was slowly getting them done, but didn't want to give them to anyone until they were all done.

Oh the shame of going back to work and seeing these people daily with the thank you notes hanging over my head. I finally, finally, slinked into the office and handed out thank notes a full six months after the baby shower. I wanted to crawl in a hole but I got it done.

mandamum

Ah, gifts. I am one of those weird "we don't do gifts on Christmas" people, and with only one set of grandparents who are still gift-focused, it works out pretty well. We do small gifts in shoes for St. Nicholas Day (kids have started adding their own little crafty gifts to each other), and chocolate coins for Epiphany. And we do family gifts (board games, gingerbread house making, membership to the science museum) during the 12 Days of Christmas. I don't know how the kids feel about it, but I do know that generally they enjoy the St. N gifting. The key for us is to find something interesting to do on Christmas morning, since we're not plowing through wrapping paper. Family games or puzzles usually work well, and a fire is always a hit.

As I read the comments, I wonder how much of the difference might be attributable to people whose "love language" includes gifts, and those who don't put a high priority on gifts. I can appreciate small (or edible) gifts, but I don't think it's anywhere near the top of the way I express love. And too many things at once (for me, or my kids) make me feel claustrophobic. Either it's "Stuff" I have to deal with, rather than a blessing, or it's a feeling too much money has been spent on something I am unlikely to appreciate enough. Or both. One year, I bought my grandmother and aunt an "I donated a goat in your name" type present, and they both seemed appreciative. I'd be appreciative of that kind of gift too :) No stuff, good feelings :) Ah, well.

mandamum

(Meant to add - I think part of the reason our family has ended up here is because gift-giving (and receiving, especially receiving!) was my least least favorite part of Christmas, growing up. I don't think I had the "performance" stress you experienced, but it always seemed a sour note among the sweet. Too much build-up, too much room for disappointment, I guess. I remember working hard to develop a mental habit of contentment, as I got into high school - guess that's a good outcome, but not as "sweet" as one might expect from Christmas gifts.)

Jamie

Love this comment thread almost as much as I love this post. It's like 2005 over here, she said nostalgically.

bearing

Seriously, I feel like so much less of a freak now.

The love language thing I might have to look into. Is that book stupid, or is it good?

Jamie

80-20 good-stupid, I'd say.

rachel

I don't know if this is helpful, validating, or irrelevant - adding it in the hope of the first two, of course. I'm Jewish, live in Israel, completely insulated from Christmas and gift-giving (and the Jewish-American Hannuka gift craze, which nobody does here). And from the outside, Christmas seems insane-making. Honestly, I don't know how you all do it: Erin's post seems the first sane formulation I've seen. You have so many people to think about! And you have to get the degree of intimacy and thoughtfulness just right! And the wrapping and the shipping - just seeing it from the outside makes me hyperventilate. You all seem unbelievably organized and heroic and talented for figuring it out every year.

Barbara C.

The 5 Love Languages is a bit of a mixed bag of a book. It, like most relationship books, needs a big disclaimer that "This will only make things worse if your significant other has an addiction or mental disorder or is a narcissist."

I think my biggest issue is that it doesn't distinguish between "doing acts of service" as a love language and "you're an adult so you need to get off your ass, clean up after yourself, and share the adult responsibilities". My ex-husband thought I was supposed to thrower a ticker-tape parade in his honor if he unloaded the dishwasher every day for a week...and treated it like a quid pro quo.

But I think it can be insightful if you are dealing with sane people.

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