Question of the Week: December 13th, 2015

Do you give gifts to people?  How do you feel about it?

I have anxiety around shopping.  I’m just disproportionately bothered by the possibility that something will go to waste.  So naturally, shopping for other people causes even more anxiety.  There have been many years where I skipped out on giving gifts even when I was old enough for it to be socially inappropriate.

I’ve been giving more gifts to my immediate family in the past few years.  I partially got over my anxiety.  Also, since I have anxiety around shopping, there tend to be lots of things that I want but won’t buy for myself, so I like to imagine that I’m buying things for other people that they won’t buy for themselves.  It isn’t really true of my family, but the fantasy makes the experience more enjoyable.

About Siggy

Siggy is an ace activist based in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and has a Ph.D. in physics. He has another blog where he also talks about math, philosophy, godlessness, and social criticism. His other hobbies include board games and origami.
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14 Responses to Question of the Week: December 13th, 2015

  1. Sciatrix says:

    I like giving gifts, but I am kind of neurotic about picking out exactly the perfect thing–what if they don’t like it?!? I’m like you inasmuch as I like to imagine I’m getting people things they would not buy for themselves, although I suspect my guesses are a little more accurate–gifts I’m buying this year include a lot of small luxury things and things which are a little more high quality than might be strictly practical to my friends and family.

    I don’t actually care about receiving gifts that much and have been told I’m a nightmare to buy things for because “you never want anything!” Which is a little embarrassing, really, except that half of my family is like this. I once called my mother to ask what my dad wanted for his birthday and got a very exasperated “All he’s said he wants is a sports car.” I believe I suggested that I could afford a Hot Wheels car for him instead…

  2. luvtheheaven says:

    I have a lot of trouble thinking of good things to give as gifts, too much of the time. If I can think of something good, it can be pretty enjoyable to give someone something that I think it is likely they’ll appreciate and enjoy, though.

  3. Writer Ace says:

    I like giving gifts to my immediate family and my friends. I grew up with my parents having the rule that, if we asked for something for Christmas, we wouldn’t get it (I think to keep us from bugging them for stuff) so once we got older and they started asking what we wanted, we didn’t have an answer. My brother and I jointly bought gifts for each of my parents up until a few years ago because it made sense with neither of us having much individual money, though we don’t do that anymore. I have a relatively small immediate family and set of friends, so it’s usually not too hard to buy for them, and I like making them happy by giving them stuff.

  4. Sennkestra says:

    For the holiday season, I really only really get gifts more my immediate family or for people who invite me to holiday parties.

    Shopping for family isn’t usually too hard, because we have a family tradition of sending each otherannual “greed lists”, as we call them, with both specific things we are interested and general things we like (for ex: a specific kitchen tool, general clothing sizes, requesting unusual chocolates, listing out books we are interested in, etc.). So that makes shopping way less stressful.

    As for everyone else, I usually just buy them some sort of food product like nice chocolates or local olive oil or artisan pasta or ridiculous hot sauces, because it’s easier to find things that most people will like, and being consumable means I can get people the same couple gifts over and over and over again…

  5. dcbilliot says:

    I love buying gifts for people, however I’m not really someone who buys gifts for birthdays or Christmas. I typically just operate under: If I see something I like that I think would be perfect for someone, I buy it and give it to them- no matter what time of the year. I find that, for me, that takes away a lot of the anxiety of actual gift-giving during the prime gift-giving times. But I guess that works for me because I personally would rather a spontaneous gift in the middle of the year because someone thought of me randomly than be given a gift just because it’s that time of year. And it works the other way because all of my friends know that about me and so they aren’t expecting anything from me.

  6. Sara K. says:

    This isn’t a gift-giving time of year for my family. Gift giving tends to happen around birthdays and weddings, and it’s usually in the form of money.

    By ‘my family’, I mean ‘my mother’s family’. Neither my dad or my uncle are into holiday gift-giving, and they are the only living relatives who I’m close enough to on that who I’d be close enough to be involved with gift-giving/receiving.

    I vividly remember receiving the last gift from my paternal grandmother, even though I don’t remember what it was. It had been for my birthday, but the last set of gifts I had gotten from my grandmother had been age-inappropriate (she had not realized how much I had grown up), so I was in no hurry to open my new set of birthday gifts. A couple weeks later, my mother came to pick me up from middle school, had brought my grandmother’s gift with her, and asked me to open it on the way home. When I got home, my mother explained that my grandmother had died in the morning, and that I should leave my dad alone for the rest of the day.

  7. queenieofaces says:

    My roommates and I do a winter gift swap, which ranges from “actually super thoughtful gift” to “weird in-joke,” although it tends more toward the latter (last year I got H a doge snow globe and she made all of us inspirational posters). I tend to be kind of crap at winter gifts because it’s right after finals are over for me, so I’m exhausted and don’t have enough time (and of course I never plan ahead and when I see something someone would like earlier in the year I’m like, “Ooh, let me give that to them now!” rather than…waiting…until December oops).

    The super serious gift-giving season for me is actually summer, because I have to bring omiyage* to Japan and then as long as I’m in Japan I might as well get omiyage to bring back, right? Which is how I managed to come back with a suitcase that was 1/3-1/2 filled with omiyage last year.

    *For anyone not familiar with Japanese gift-giving culture, when you visit people (or when you travel and come back), you’re supposed to bring a small gift, usually food, preferably something that’s native/specific to wherever you’re coming from. If you’re, say, a researcher who’s doing interviews with a couple dozen people, this can get quite pricey quite quickly. If you’re, say, a researcher who has been doing research on the same religious organization for five years and doesn’t want to repeat gifts, you wind up coming up with some creative definitions of “local.”

    • Sara K. says:

      I’ve read about how the omiyage custom got started, which I found interesting.

      Have you ever given out blueberry jam? I’d think that would be a good omiyage from New England – blueberries *are* native to New England (which is why it’s possible to cultivate non-hybrid blueberries over there, unlike here in California).

      • queenieofaces says:

        Blueberry jam is on the list for future single-recipient omiyage (I have two different lists: one for groups and one for individuals; the group ones tend to be things that you can easily divide across a large group, like saltwater taffy and maple sugar candy; jam unfortunately is harder to divide). I also have the added complication that anything I give has to be appropriate as an offering to the kami, but fortunately I’m not inclined to, say, bring beef jerky (which I’m not sure I could do anyway, given customs screening).

        • Sara K. says:

          Would packages of dried wild blueberries (which only come from New England and certain parts of Canada) be a suitable omiyage for a group?

          Now you’ve got me trying to think of New England omiyage, which isn’t easy since I’ve never been there. I’ve sure you’ve already exhausted everything to do with maple trees and cranberries … what about Moxie soda? Bunkie rolls? Succotash? The most oddball thing I can think of is garlic mustard (alliaria petiolata) pesto. That stuff is practically impossible to get in California, so I’d imagine it’d be even harder to get in Japan, and thus would be a good (single-recipient) omiyage from the eastern USA/Canada.

          • acetylcholine says:

            I was trying to think of good New England themed gifts. I don’t know how easy it would be to transport liquid, but coffee milk is pretty much only in New England. You could also do small samples of maple syrup (between 30-60 ml). Boston is famous for it’s baked beans as well. (That might be a strange gift). Cape cod potato chips wouldn’t be a bad option either, but might be hard to transport.

          • queenieofaces says:

            I appreciate that this has become a New England omiyage brainstorming thread. 😀 Liquid is difficult to transport, as are dried fruits and vegetables (you tend to get stopped at customs). I think my next round of omiyage will feature Taza chocolate, since the factory is right by me. I also just made everything more complicated because I started sending oseibo (winter gifts) to the main site I do work with, so now I have to come up with twice the normal variation… I know that some of my senpai just bring, like, stationary from universities in the Boston area (everyone wants Harvard pencils for some reason!), but I am not quite at that level of desperation.

          • Sara K. says:

            I have transported liquids on airplanes and … the short answer is that it can be done, and if you do it right, it doesn’t even have to be much hassle. For carbonated or otherwise fizzy drinks which go to luggage (not carry-on), their main concern is going to be air pressure (this does not apply to non-fizzy drinks!), so they may want to put it in special packaging. However, *they* will do the special packaging themselves at no extra charge to the customer (or at least, that has been my experience with Japan Airlines, other airlines may be different). You may have to show up earlier to luggage check-in than you would have otherwise, and getting it out of the special packaging may take a bit of effort, but other than that, it’s not more difficult than handling other kinds of luggage.

            I have less experience with fruit, but my understanding is that dried fruit in a sealed package probably would not require passing through plant quarantine, and even if it did, it would probably pass plant quarantine pretty quickly (a quick search engine search indicates that even fresh fruit can pass Japanese plant quarantine pretty quickly if it’s not on the restricted/prohibited list, and blueberries are not on that list).

  8. Hollis says:

    I’m in a similar way because I really don’t like waste and I just don’t really like receiving gifts either? Like, I like getting stuff, but I’m very particular about the stuff I get, and I just don’t want trinkets. I have too much stuff already and I want to get rid of that, why are you giving me MORE stuff (unless it’s useful stuff, like warm merino wool socks, or a fullface helmet, or a twelve pack of my favorite cider, or an underquilt for my hammock).

    I want people to like the gifts I give, but I also want them to want to/be able to use them because that’s what I want in a gift (and I forget that people sometimes like pretty trinkets).

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