Unwrap me.

I’m not big on gifts. I am grateful and happy that we no longer do gifts at Christmas in my family. It’s been about 13 years and what a relief. No more stressful rushing in December to buy useless things that the others might not even like. Anytime of year we see something we think the other might like we just buy it and give it, whenever. It has made Christmas much more relaxing, warm, and fun.

At the same time, sometimes I love searching for, or finding, the perfect gift for a friend. And I love making cards or gifts when I (rarely) have the time or energy. And I love wrapping gifts. I love how they look and I love unwrapping them.

The best gifts I’ve gotten from my friends are ‘experiences’- afternoons or days they had planned out for me. Picking me up in the morning and taking me for a haircut or brunch, a city walk or a museum tour. This year for my birthday, two close girlfriends sent me a poster a few days before my birthday. It had a picture of me with balloons and said: Be at … at 10am. Bring hiking boots, an umbrella, sexy evening wear and pyjamas. I had no idea what any of the plans were but it was so lovely not to have to think, so lovely to be surprised. And of course we had a magical day.

What about gifts from boyfriends and girlfriends? Tough one. I have a hard time picking gifts for a boyfriend. Beyond making something cute, or planning a romantic getaway, I’m often stomped. If the person has expressed something they love, then I love secretly making a mental note and getting them something related. Such as a trip to attend a concert of a band they like. Or going to an antique car show if that’s what they like. I can also pick out a beautiful cashmere sweater or scarf. But what else? It stresses me out so sometimes I’d love it if we just skipped on the gifts.

As long as we make the occasion special. If a guy plans a wonderful evening or cooks a beautiful meal for me on my birthday, then I don’t need anything that comes in a box.

And I think it’s often even harder for men to pick out gifts for girls. So I don’t blame them when they get it wrong. Some of my friends got pretty awful or hilarious gifts from their boyfriends this year.

My Hungarian friend’s husband got her hiking boots. She looked at him trying to hide her utter disappointment. You have to know she doesn’t like nature, tents or anything like that. And how unromantic and unsexy are hiking boots as a gift? But then she found a note inside one of the shoes describing a trip to Italy. That was the real gift, and the boots were just for a one-day hike they’d take there. Italy = much better than boots and the surprise made it even better.

Lara got a blender from her boyfriend. Even if you’ve been married 15 years I’m not sure you want a blender. But when a boyfriend gets you one… well, no comment.

Tech gifts are typical of guys by the way. My ex always got me things like cameras, external hard drives or ipods. And it’s ok, because I still think of him anytime I use any of my gadgets.

In my other ‘home country’, they do wish-lists. You write a list every Christmas and birthday with all the things you want and everyone chooses whatever fits their budget or their relationship with you. Definitely makes things easier. Not sure how I feel about it though. Since living there, I write wish lists every Christmas and birthday, but I’ve never shared my wish-lists with anyone. Instead I just wish for the items and send people telepathic messages about them in my head. But the thing is, you have to not cling to the list you have in your head- oftentimes someone will completely surprise you and give you a gift that you didn’t even know you wanted, and that’s so much better than anything you could have put on your list.

Going back to boyfriends, what gifts do we really want? Anything that shows he’s been listening or has taken time to think. Price means nothing and there is not even any need to purchase anything.  I have two things in mind right now that I’d like to receive. One is an object and one is a document. Let’s see :-)

I’ll end with a nice gift my best male friend got his girlfriend. They’d only been together a month (now going on 3 years) but were madly in love. For the 7 days leading up to Christmas he got her a gift everyday. Her favorite chocolates,  CDs, DVDs, a book, even an item of lingerie (in a fun way). On Christmas eve he gave her a guitar. She’d been dreaming of one. She was so surprised she didn’t know what to say. Again, it’s not about the value of the guitar, but more the fact that he’d been listening. And had saved up and deprived himself of some things to be able to get it for her.

So what do gifts really represent? And why is there so much emotional energy attached to them? Do our parents create this obsession when they go overboard with presents when we are children? Do we just like seeing something and opening it… feeling that we are opening another view into the other person and our relationship… wondering if they really know us at all?