Choosing gifts for friends and family can be difficult (except for gifts for me, where books and booze seems to be the pattern). Choosing gifts for people when you don’t especially like them can be even more challenging. With that in mind, I have several suggestions.
· Make a donation in the name of your “friend.” The key here is to use care in selecting the organization that will get the donation. Is your “friend” a lifelong Democrat? How about a donation to the Donald Trump campaign fund, complete with phone and email contact information? Donation to the NRA? Be careful about donating in anyone’s name to a terrorist organization because the gift can no doubt be traced back to you.
· A puppy is always a nice gift, especially when it’s a surprise. This is especially effective when the recipient has children as it makes disposal of the gift all the more difficult. A puppy is a good gift for apartment dwellers.
· A set of drums works well as a gift for the child of your “friends.” Just think of the hours of musical appreciation they have in store. I know this from personal experience as I started playing the drums when I was 12. My parents ended up moving into a bigger house, with my room on one end over the garage.
· If the recipients are about to go on a family trip by car, a harmonica can do the trick. But maybe not, as the kids will probably be texting and earbudding their way through the national parks, ignoring both the view and the opportunity to torture their parents with their new toy. But hey – it’s the thought that counts.
· Regifting sends a strong message, but only if it is evident that you did not actually buy the present. You might want to include the card that accompanied the gift when you received it. If the gift has your name and a personal message written on it, which folks sometimes do when giving books, so much the better!
· A gift card whose expiration date is near can work, largely because it puts an unpleasant time pressure on the recipient – you are taking control of their lives in a small way. A gift card that has already expired is a bit of a risk, but the benefit is that such cards are free, and the recipient might not notice right away that it has expired, so when she eventually tries to use the card she might blame herself for delaying, adding to your enjoyment.
· Food that is seriously unhealthful makes a nice gift. Think of that box of candy or bottle of scotch as a way to inflict an illness on the recipient, perhaps even shortening his or her life. The only problem is that the same gift would be an excellent choice to give to a person you really do like, so in either case they might not get the point.
· On the other hand a gift of food that is really healthful could be excellent for a person you don’t really like because the food is likely to taste bad. They won’t eat it and will feel guilty and inadequate, or they will eat it and feel virtuous but disgusted. But again, the same gift could be good for someone you really like. Food is difficult.
In the remote possibility that you are the recipient of such a gift, I have a few further bits of advice.
· Set your hurt feelings aside. You can now evaluate your relationships on the basis of gifts you have received. Now you can see your “friends” in a whole new light. You do want to know the truth, don’t you?
· What do you do with gifts you dislike, whether they were intended as unfriendly or not? Some you can save for regifting, perhaps back to the people who gave them to you. Or if the giver asks where you are keeping the gift, you have to say that you are keeping it somewhere else – perhaps a safe deposit box (you don’t, after all, really want to be believed), or if you have two places where you sometimes live, or even just a home and an office, you can say that you are keeping it in the other place. Kim and I have occasionally said, “Oh, we keep that in Michigan – we use it there all the time!” Now that we are moving from our Florida home, that option will be difficult.
The process of gift-giving becomes much more complicated when you buy a gift for yourself. Just today I bought myself a bottle of good bourbon. How am I to interpret that? Self-loathing? Self-love? I may have an answer tomorrow morning.