The Lament Of The Sucky Gift Giver

by Annie Reneau
Originally Published: 
gift giving
Dean Drobot / Shutterstock

I am terrible at giving gifts. I don’t say that with false modesty, nor am I trying to excuse some kind of laziness. I mean I totally, innately, at a very basic and genetic level suck at gift giving.

If you’re familiar at all with the theory of The 5 Love Languages, you know that “gift giving” is one of the five love languages. I took the book’s assessment test and found that “acts of service” is my primary language, followed by “words of affirmation.” Unsurprisingly to me, “gift giving” came in dead last — like, I don’t know if I actually got any points for that one at all. I don’t care about receiving gifts, nor do I express love to others by giving them.

Basically, I have no gifting instincts whatsoever. Even when I get invited to a birthday party, what I’m going to give the birthday gal or guy doesn’t cross my mind. I usually end up on the day before (or the morning of) the party in a sudden panic, because it didn’t register until that point that I needed to get a present. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about the person. I’ve likely thought a lot about them and how happy and thankful I am to know them and how excited I am to celebrate their birth — lots of happy, warm thoughts. The gift part just doesn’t enter my brain.

It’s not that I’m not a generous or giving person in general. I’ll happily watch your kids for a few hours to give you a break, I can write you a sweet letter or poem, and I love to look for ways to make people’s lives better or easier. I’ll give you just about anything you ask for, and I’ll welcome you into my home and shower you with hospitality. I have a generous spirit — I really do. It just doesn’t manifest itself in gifts.

My close friends and family members already know this about me, so it’s all good. Except it’s not really all good, because there are apparently other situations in which gift giving is expected. I simply do not understand these situations. When etiquette suggests (or demands) bringing a hostess gift or whatever, I’m oblivious, like no clue. Holiday gifts for co-workers, teachers, mail carriers — who gets included in that list? I have no idea. The holiday season, in general, is brutal for sucky gifters. Absolutely brutal. Birthdays and anniversaries are a close second and third.

Thankfully, my husband shares my gift-giving ineptness, so we’re totally covered with each other. Our idea of a birthday or anniversary gift is to say, “Hey, you know that high-speed blender we’ve been eyeing but didn’t want to spend the money on? How about we buy it and call it one another’s birthday presents?” We are 100% satisfied with this arrangement. I don’t remember the last time we actually gave one another a real present, wrapped and unexpected. That literally never happens, and we both couldn’t be happier.

Part of this personality quirk probably has to do with a sense of simplicity. I don’t want to give someone something they don’t need or that will just take up space in their house until they feel like they’ve kept it long enough to justify taking it to Goodwill. When I do give a gift, it tends to be something like flowers or candy — something impermanent. But even those gifts kind of stress me out. Those flowers are just going to die, right? And the candy is just contributing to someone else’s self-control challenges.

See? I overanalyze. When I do actually manage to remember to get a gift, I overthink it. If it’s really the thought that counts, can’t I just think about the person, and then tell the person I thought about them, and have that be okay?

I know you gifty people out there will not relate to any of this at all. I know because I have gifty people as friends, and I love them dearly. I love how excited they get about presents and how their thoughtfulness is shown in such a tangible way. I just hope that my thoughtfulness, which is manifested more in words and actions than in ribbons and bows, comes across as clearly.

Happy gifting, gifty people. And to my fellow sucky gifters? Hang in there through the holiday season. You’re not alone, my friend.

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