This year, no one gave me a birthday present. Not a real one, anyway.
There was cash from my mom, who also treated me to a stellar dinner out. My co-workers bought me flowers and cake, and my friends got me cards and a plenty of celebratory drinks. My step-dad paid off several old parking tickets, and my real dad showered me with praise during a long phone call. I received an apology from my boyfriend, when I asked him where my card was. He had given me a lovely pair of earrings three weeks prior, clearly unaware that I would also require a gift on my actual birthday.
To make him feel better, surely, my brother sent me neither a card nor a gift; though, Big Brother did send an awfully nice text message.
But there was nothing actually wrapped in wrapping paper or tied with a bow. No box to open. No pretty thing to wear. Not even something practical, like socks or windshield-wiper blades.
Too old to throw a tantrum but young enough to feel sad, I eventually decided to suck it up. So I sulked internally and didn’t let my disappointment show (until now).
Don’t get a false impression: I’m not materialistic. Not anymore than the average person. It’s just that presents are more than stuff to me: Gifts are love.
The Five Love Languages—a book and philosophy about ways of expressing, giving and interpreting love—details the language of “getting gifts.” For those who speak this “love language,” you know the true meaning behind a big red bow, wrapping paper and the treasure (or treasures!) inside.
“If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you,” according to the book.
The other love languages include service, words of affirmation, quality of time and touch. Sure, those are fine. Great, really. I love a good compliment, and hugs are awesome. But a present lasts forever.
I’ve always known this about me. Since I was a little girl. I love that feeling of opening a gift that’s “so me!” And I’ll burst out, “Oh! This is sooooo me!” Because it shows that the gift-giver knows me, and not only do they know me, but they took the time to find something for me in particular. Or maybe it was something I mentioned months ago in passing conversation. Or maybe it’s a reference to an inside joke.
I just love that.
I do enjoy giving presents as well (Confession: I did forget my dad’s birthday this year. But a card and really neat gift were in the mail the day after. Sorry again Dad!). I like that moment of seeing their face light up when they open it. I live in fear of giving a bad present.
So, my point is: as we approach the holiday season, truly the season of gift-giving and gift-getting, I believe it’s time we change how we give gifts. Think of it not as an obligation, not a duty. Think of it as a reflection of your connection to the people you love. Give presents that are “so them,” and give gifts that make them, and you, smile. Remember that, maybe, to the person who opens that gift, it’s not simply a pair of earrings or a pair of snowboots, it’s love. As for me, I’ll give the gift of forgiveness.