By the time you’re reading this it will be too late for the poor bastards who I got gifts for. My yearly reminder that I might be the worst gift-giver who’s ever walked the Earth.
In fairness, I might not be the world’s worst gift-getter, but I’m always in the conversation.
As the years go by, I just seem to be moving further and further away from ‘things.’ I’m an adult, if I want something I just go out and buy it, so I know when I’m handed something in wrapping paper and dripping with bows that it’s something I don’t really want. Once again, after truly disappointing previews from my last birthday, I have to muster up a quick performance of It’s Just What I Wanted! You Shouldn’t Have!
It’s not. They shouldn’t have.
Any more than the gift I got them is what they wanted.
I have to suffer through watching them begin to unwrap it, unbridled optimism sweeping across their faces, only to see the crestfallen look of someone who was just handed the very last thing they’d ever want to receive. Sort of like if the two of us were walking through a quiet forest at daybreak and after I clean up after my dog I hand them the bag.
“Do you like it?” I inquire.
“Are you kidding? It’s terrible. It’s a terrible, terrible, completely thoughtless gift!” their eyes scream back.
This after a full year of knowing they were dropping hints about what they wanted. I just don’t listen… because I just don’t care.
Xmas is a time to wrestle with what an oblivious, self-absorbed person I am. The truth is I think The Grinch would have been a lot more poignant if instead of finding super-human strength when the sleigh full of toys was dangling off the cliff, he instead (and much more realistically) was unable to save the sleigh and both he and all of the toys for Whoville disappeared into the abyss. What better way to hammer home the moral of the story than to have a Who find his broken corpse and all the rotting toys after the snow melts away in the spring? Is it my fault I’m not covered in green hair and keep getting invites to participate tree-side?
On some level it’s their fault for having a friend like me in the first place. For 364 days a year I put no effort into relationships and suddenly because it’s Xmas I’m supposed to put in some work?
The worst part is after all the packages have been exchanged and I’m sitting front row at Disapppointmentpalooza, I swear to myself that next year will be different. I will learn from my mistakes and be a better gift-giver and a better human being and my friends deserve more and I have it in me to care more and for a few fleeting moments I believe it. I really do.
At least until I begin the yearly walk to the closet of unwanted gifts. Sort of like the Island of Misfit Toys, except the toys are fine, it’s the recipient that’s a misfit… and the island smells vaguely like Staten Island. I open the door and hurl whatever stuff I got for Xmas inside and then close the door tight and forget all about what’s lurking behind.
Perhaps I’m scared that I will actually like the gifts I received and it would only make me feel worse about my own gift-giving limitations. I close my eyes tight and try to forget all about what’s lurking behind.
When sleep finally comes I dream about giving that sweet girl from accounting a real live pony. I ride up to her on my own hulking steed and whisk her away to the local nail salon for a mani pedi. “It’s just what I wanted! You shouldn’t have!” she shrieks happily.
“Don’t worry,” I say, “I didn’t”