I hate presents. Hate giving them. Hate receiving them. I don’t think I’ve received a present I’ve liked since I was about 10 years old.
I think it was my mother-in-law who totally killed present-giving for me. My mother-in-law is a big present-giver, but she has the taste of a 70-year-old woman living in a small country town, which she is. For 25 years she has given me a string of appalling presents. A shiny purple bedspread with matching pillowcases. A frilly toilet paper roll holder. Lots and lots of hankies (I don’t use hankies). Big dolls. Small dolls. Dolls with creepy faces. (I don’t like dolls.) One year she said she wanted to spend some extra money on me, because I’d helped her out with something, so she bought me a gigantic teddy bear. I was 30 at the time.
Earlier this year, in desperate need of storage space, I packed up these decades’ worth of unwanted mother-in-law presents and dropped them off at Vinnies. It was a huge relief, but I also felt sad and guilty for never having used them. I just hope someone out there will squeal with delight when they see the shiny purple bedspread.
My siblings aren’t much into present-giving, but when they do give me things, I usually wish they hadn’t. An expensive candle? I have a toddler and we don’t do naked flames in our house. A gigantic wind-chime, which produces bonging sounds at the volume of Big Ben? Yep, my neighbours in the high-rise flats around me will love that. Elaborate keys that aren’t made to fit anything? Tiny paintings of dogs in the English countryside, complete with stands? Hmmm…
They're smiling now, but wait till they open the presents. Photo via iStock.
My kids have started buying presents for me. One year my daughter bought me two enormous glittery nail files, one pink and one blue. I don't even file my nails. Of course I told her I loved them.
Giving presents, even to kids, is fraught. I've stuffed up, big-time. One of my nieces is a real girly girl, so when she was about five, I gave her a bug-collecting kit, to broaden her horizons a little bit. She opened it and burst into tears. The following year, having learnt from my mistake, I gave my other niece a Bratz doll. But her mother has such strong ideological objections to Bratz dolls that they're banned from the house. Sorry about that.
Generations ago, when people didn't have so much stuff, presents were great. You know, you owned maybe one dress, and your ma bought you a new one, in blue-checked gingham. Thanks, Ma! Or your kids had only sticks to play with, and Grandpappy, with his gnarled hands, carved them a spinning top that kept them amused for months on end. Aw, Grandpappy!
Nowadays, we have houses crammed with unwanted, cheaply made garbage. You can buy a dress from a chain store for the cost of a cup of coffee and a cronut. Kids have so many toys that the hardest thing is buying them something they haven't already got. If it keeps them amused for two minutes, you feel happy.
"You shouldn't have. No, really, you shouldn't have." Photo via iStock.
I hate it all. The wasted money, the wasted effort. I hate feeling guilty for not liking something that someone has bought for me.
I hate the crap that exists purely to be given as presents. Scented soap. Bejewelled photo frames. Coffee-table books. These things don't need to be made.
I hate the stuff that gets advertised as "stocking fillers". I mean, what the hell? How did we get to the point where we have to fill the empty spaces in a stocking with stuff that people don't even want?
And money. My parents give me money for Christmas. I earn money. They don't. They need it more than I do. I take it, politely, but it's pointless.
Can we just stop, please? Let's end the present-giving tradition. Sure, if you know someone genuinely needs something, or would really love it, buy it for them. But there should be no obligation that everybody has to give presents to everybody.
Let's just buy the good-quality things that we need and give generously to the people who can't afford to do that. Let's take the crap out of Christmas.