The Gift of Nothing at All

I am blessed to have a number close women friends. Any one of them can make me feel great about my new haircut, laugh their butts off with me over the stupidest little thing, let me rant about my job/parents/kids/house/you name it, and offer wise advice if I want it or simply listen if I don’t. I trust them with my secrets, and I count on these friends when times are tough. You know who you are, and I love you.

But I don’t want to buy you presents even though you deserve them—loads of them.

Why? Gift-giving anxiety. Go ahead—roll your eyes. It’s stupid, I know.

It starts off innocently enough. I see cute a little tchotchke—maybe it’s a 4-inch tall robot that makes me smile and I think, that would make (name of close friend goes here) laugh. So I buy it to give at Christmas or your birthday. Sometimes I covet a lovely item—maybe a small oval box covered in marbled Florentine paper, but I stop myself because I already have a number of pretty little boxes. But one of my besties would love this too, so I buy it. And that’s how the gift exchange among girlfriends begins.

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At first, it’s fun. I’ve received many wonderful, inspired gifts. I love them because you thought to give them and because I enjoy the things themselves. I’ve tried to return the favor. Over the years, I’ve given scented candles, deluxe lotions and soaps, cool earrings, whimsical artwork, Christmas ornaments, good books, pretty scarves, food treats—whatever little luxury I think you’ll enjoy.

But after several years of gift exchanges, I’ve exhausted my good ideas for small treasures. Gift-giving anxiety creeps in. Didn’t I buy you earrings last time? How many scented candles does a person need? Will this red scarf go with any of your clothes? I want to do something nice for you, but what? Soon I am haunting gift shops and boutiques in search of the perfect cool thing for you. And then the missteps begin. I get a book you’ve already read. Coffee hurts your stomach, so that special coffee and mug—well, maybe you can give it to somebody else.

If you didn’t matter so much to me, this wouldn’t be so hard.

Eventually, we are both struggling. Finally, one of us says let’s call off the gift exchange. We are both relieved.

We agree to go out instead and do what we love most: talk, laugh, advise, comfort. That’s the best gift—time with you.

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This entry was posted in Friends, Holidays and tagged , , by Ellen Shriner. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ellen Shriner

I write short memoirs and personal essays. I have also completed a workplace coming-of-age story that takes place in 1979 and 1980 during my first year of college teaching. I write on topics of interest to working women, middle-aged mothers, Baby Boomers, people who love to read and write, and those who belong to writers' groups and book groups.

7 thoughts on “The Gift of Nothing at All

  1. Dang, this is the only reason I don’t like the holidays and birthdays–gift-giving anxiety. And then I procrastinate and it’s even worse! I have a sister who possesses a gift-giving sixth sense. She seems to pull off the most thoughtful gifts to members of my family. Thanks for the confession, Ellen! and glad to hear you two could come to a mutual agreement! Happy Holidays!

  2. Pingback: Are We Having Fun Yet? | Eliza Waters

  3. Perfect timing! It’s hard not to buy those things we see for our nearest and dearest, but instead we can put the resources we are blessed with–a bit of earned cash and our best free time–to be with our friends in person, plan trips, have great dinners…the gift of my friends’ company is what I look forward to most here in midlife!

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