I struggled with this post. I’m ambivalent, at best, about presents. I hate to wrap—I think it’s a waste of time and resources—so I’m the kind of person who hides the gift behind her back and says, “Pick a hand.” Giving is nice, but the getting part stresses me out.
There’s so much managing of emotion that goes along with presents. And oh, my goodness, do my codependent tendencies come out when I’m thinking about this.
Say it’s your birthday. Perhaps you get just what you want. Great! But then you have to think of adequate words to thank the giver, which can be difficult. Worse, you get something you didn’t want, in which case you have to work even harder to find words that aren’t lies but convey something better, warmer, than disappointment.
And if you’re the giver? That’s even harder. You think and plan and make and knit and sew and plot, and in four seconds, the gift is received and pushed aside in order to open the next one. I really try to prevent myself from saying “Do you like it? Do you really like it? Look, did you see that it flies/walks/cries when you push this button? It’s so you, isn’t it? You love it, right? Do you love it?” because then I’m making the poor recipient manage all the emotions that I myself have a hard time with.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that when I was a kid, I was sneaky. I could pull off a piece of tape like I was one of Santa’s elves. Mom never suspected that I already knew what every present under the tree already was, and I had to keep it that way—when I opened the big book of fairy tales, I had to act surprised while I managed the disappointment (that I’d brought down onto my own head) that there were no surprises left on Christmas morning, none at all.
That shaped me into who I am today. If someone places a present in front of me with the wrapping paper gapping open, I’ll shut my eyes and hold the paper in place while hollering for someone to get me some tape. If I think an area might be off-limits due to present-goings-on, I’ll stay out of the entire room. If a receipt falls to the floor and I start to read it, the second I think it might be private, my eyes shut tight. I hate figuring out surprises in advance now, to the extent that when I’m reading mystery novels, I work hard not to think too much about whodunit. I want that reward. I don’t even read the backs of books. I want the surprise.
So I can’t wait for December 6th. Juliet Blackwell’s new book, Dead Bolt, comes out, and if anyone breathes a word of the ending before I get there, I’ll hit that person in the head with a dictionary. I’m just saying.