Buying presents

It’s nearly Christmas. You might disagree, but it’s been “nearly Christmas” for me since about September. I start my Christmas shopping scandalously early, because I like to get everyone something really good. And that takes time.

I honestly think gift-giving has gone nads-up these days. I’m not sure it’s ever been much better than this in my limited lifespan, but it’s definitely deteriorated, and it’s also nowhere near as good as it should be in 2008.

Here’s what I mean. Once, a long time ago when capitalism was still sucking its thumb, there weren’t many gifts to choose from at present time. You got one thing for Christmas, out of perhaps a possible ten things, and you liked it.

These days, consumer choice is bordering on limitless. Everyone’s got a high street, London has about fifty (and a big wanger-jonger shopping centre springing up at the end of this week, to boot) and now we’ve got the internet. Which puts all the high streets in the world on your desk. With squillions of varieties, colours, sizes and prices to choose from, everyone should be getting something really personal for Christmas. Something really “them”.

But the opposite has happened. Faced with infinite choice, we’ve backed away. Present-giving has become a chore, a responsibility. I keep reading about present “solutions”, as if buying someone something they’ll love is a problem.

Now, I realise that because buying presents is an obligation, and because the gift-giving occasions fall on set dates that we can’t change if, for instance, we’ve got a lot on at work, presents can become a liability. But the problem with that attitude is precisely that the dates don’t change. Everyone knows when Christmas is. If you’re the type who panics and buys something rubbish at the last minute every year, bloody well start early. Start in July if you have to. There really isn’t an excuse for not being prepared by the time December 25th rolls around.

On top of the lackadaisical approach of most people, there’s also the new problem of wishlists. I can see how this started. Someone had no idea what to buy someone else, and asked for suggestions. Those suggestions came in list format, perhaps “a watch”, “some chocolates”, maybe even “a blue necklace”.

But now we have wishlists with bloody hyperlinks.

It’s not “a watch”. It’s not even “a silver watch”. It’s “The Rolex 350×1 in Mafia Chrome with the Smurf Blue leather case”. With a link to buy it. It can be a mere two clicks between seeing what someone wants and ordering it.

This is wrong. It’s wrong in every way. You’re not getting some gentle guidance to make sure you get your loved one something they’ll adore. They’re going shopping, and you’re the wallet. It totally undermines the point of a present. Where’s the joy and surprise of tearing into the rustly Kraft paper, undoing the wonky sellotape, when you know exactly what’s inside?

This year, please don’t ask for guidance. Don’t ask for suggestions. Definitely do not ask for or seek out wishlists. Put some research in, actually listen to and think about the person you’re buying for. They might not get the exact thing they were lusting after, but they can damn well buy that themselves in the January sales. They’ll get a surprise. This method is riskier and it takes longer, I accept, but just wait until you see the looks on their faces.*

*If this look is disgust/horror/tearfulness, I take no responsibility. Especially if you bought your loved one those rhinestone-studded hotpants I saw in Asda with the word “Expensive” emblazoned across the bottom.

Ironically, they were in the sale for fifty P.

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