18 April 2005

Something Borrowed, Something....ewww

Don’t worry, this won’t be a commentary on the single life. I think I pretty much wore out that topic for the time being with my “Marriage Bug” entry below. So if that’s what you wanted, look there.

One of my better friends is getting married in about five weeks. I still sort of thought it wasn’t really happening, but then I got the invitation in the mail a couple weeks ago and realized it was true. I have to tell you, there’s something a little intimidating about all that lace and calligraphy. Another one of my totally irrational gut reactions, but we all have them. Like fear of clowns. Or ducks. Seriously, I know someone who’s deathly afraid of ducks.

Anyways, the invitation also gave the requisite gift registry instructions. Which is fine, I guess. Definitely convenient. I suppose if you’re having one of those huge weddings, it’s the best way to avoid getting a dozen sets of bed linens. But honestly, I just don’t like the whole concept. It’s part of the whole dumbing down of gift-giving, and I find it depressing.

When you know someone well enough to be in the position to get them a gift, you shouldn’t have a problem putting some effort into it. You shouldn’t need a registry to tell you what to get them. People will probably object that a registry makes sure the new couple gets things they need and want, not stuff they’ll just be stuck with. You know what? Yuck. Where’s the surprise? Where’s the sincerity?

As a child, I did the thing that all kids do and dropped not-so-subtle hints about what I wanted for my birthday and Christmas. More often than not, I would get it. But it would be just that one thing, not a whole list of get-me-this and I-want-that. The rest would be a surprise. Along with a homemade card from my sister and a homemade cake from my Mom. Thankfully, I never had the type of parents who gave up when I reached teenage years and just gave me money or gift certificates. How wretched that would have been. “Oh, when I was 17, I’ll always remember, I got $200 and a gift certificate to Marshall Field’s.” Yeah right. Some people have told me that my family is unusual, that birthdays just stopped being important at around age 16, and that Christmas is just not a big event as you get older.

Well, I’m glad they’re “unusual.” I’m glad I’m unusual. If that’s unusual, bring it on. If it’s unusual to eschew gift certificates and registries and wish lists, then that’s really sad. Here’s a perfect example: our Journal was blessed with a great faculty advisor in our inaugural year, one who helped us achieve our goals and even move beyond our expectations. So when I mentioned that we should get him a gift, everyone said that was a good idea. And then the usual: “a gift certificate to a nice restaurant would be cool.” Yeah, real cool. “But we don’t know him!” Well, you know that he’s a good person, that he likes sports, that he’s sincere and funny and has all sorts of memorabilia in his office. We’ve all spent hours with the man, but “we don’t know him” well enough to get him more than a gift certificate. All I can say to that is: gee whiz, people.

Do we really know people so little that we can’t even think of things to give them as gifts? Apparently, yes. The result is that we try to err on the safe side, which basically means bland. But I refuse to succumb to the malaise. So you might get a really awful gift that you hate from me. I doubt it would happen, because if I’m coming to your wedding, or helping you mark some other momentous occasion in your life, then that means I know you. Maybe not as well as I could, but definitely more than on a superficial level. But so what if you do get a gift that maybe isn’t perfect? The point is that, I think, there really is no such thing as an “awful” gift, so long as someone put some thought into it. There are gifts that you will never use, that will collect dust and perhaps never again see the light of day, but they mean something, and that’s what matters.

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