Akika says: The awkwardness of gift-giving

By Geisha Bar

Gift-giving is so awkward for all involved, don’t you think?

As a gift-giver, you’re going to fall into one of three categories:
a. Doing it out of obligation when you don’t really give a shit;
b. Anxious that you want to give people nice gifts because you love them but now have to think of something creative and thoughtful and awesome (that they don’t already have) without breaking the bank; or
c. You grew up in the UK and assume that spending $800 on 6 different gifts for your mother on Mother’s Day is totally normal, and consider a Christmas tree with fewer than 72873490 gifts under it to be thoroughly unfestive, you fucking weirdo.

Most of us fall into the first two categories, and unfortunately this means a lot of awkwardness on Christmas day when people are unwrapping gifts. Gifts are often a prime display of misunderstanding – for example, a man might get his wife a voucher for a jewellery store because he wanted to get her jewellery, but doesn’t trust his own taste and doesn’t want to waste money on something his wife will never wear. Upon opening the voucher, the woman is disappointed because the man has missed the point – women want to feel like the man made an intimate choice of the perfect piece of jewellery, just for her, because she is so special and he knows her so well. Similarly, a man may forgo the whole jewellery thing altogether and instead buy her practical things that he feels comfortable shopping for, such as a new laptop – which can upset her because it feels “impersonal”. Gift cards are similar, in the sense that men seem much happier to receive gift cards due to practicality, whereas women are often sentimental and want a gift that conveys how much the giver has thought about her.

If you want to know whether someone likes the present you gave them, they will usually involve eye contact when thanking you, and pay it sensory attention (holding it against them, or leaving it out to look at). Conversely if they don’t like the gift, they will often avoid eye contact while gushing about the gift, and unconsciously re-wrap it, or place it back in its box or bag. It’s probably subconsciously for these reasons that people generally hate the whole tradition of opening presents individually while everyone else watches. It’s the festive equivalent of putting someone on the spot – so reactions to gifts are often hilarious to watch, especially when the person receiving is either a poor actor or a blunt individual who doesn’t bother to hide their feelings.

Make next Christmas a fun anthropological experiment by getting drunk and paying close attention to people opening their gifts! Embrace the awkwardness! Watch your relatives squirm! Merry Giftmas!