09 December 2008

Return of the Instrument Junkie

My friends have done it to me again.

The good folks in the Performing Arts Guild, Extraordinaire (PAGE) celebrated my recent birthday with ice cream and apple cobbler (and candles! just not as many as necessary, thank you!). Then they handed me a gift.

They weren't supposed to do that.

I unwrapped it and found a Yamaha Tenor Recorder. I was nearly speechless, and I wasn't putting together complete sentences.

I have a hard time with gifts.

Part of my problem is that I'm not good at accepting gifts, and I HATE feeling indebted. I'm also bad at giving thoughtful, meaningful gifts: the more time I have spent on deciding what to give, and the more effort I have invested in procuring a gift, and the more certain I am that the gift is PERFECT--

The more likely I'm going to see that "What were you thinking?!?" look.

(This is why gift baskets with floral soaps, bath oils, and the like are NEVER the right gift. Somehow, the message received is, "You stink. Take a bath.")

So, receiving gifts, especially really good gifts, puts me under real pressure. I want to reciprocate, and I know I can't.

Also, when it comes to gifting, I tend to be a cheapskate. I'll buy dinners, and movie tickets, and fill gas tanks, and never notice or care. But I hear what other people spend on gifts for birthdays and Christmas, and I can't even IMAGINE what they spend it on.

My ideal of gifting is to give someone something useful that they wouldn't buy themselves. I mean, if it's not USEFUL, then it's USELESS, and who would want a useless gift? ("The Ronco Turnip Twaddler! Similar items sold in stores for up to $150.00, yours for just three easy payments of $59.99!") But if it would be useful, you've probably already bought it, or it's too expensive, or it's so utilitarian that no one else would even THINK of buying one of THOSE as a gift.

(This is why vacuum cleaners are ALWAYS the wrong gift, even if your wife ASKED for one. It's too utilitarian, no matter how practical or expensive.)

And once you have a reputation, it can backfire.

(This is why a string of pearls can STILL be the wrong gift. It's so extravagant that they MUST not be real, and so non-utilitarian that they couldn't be from him...)

In other words, I have NEVER been able to give the right gift. I have been told, "Oh, I don't want anything!", and then I am castigated for giving nothing. I have been told, "Oh, anything is fine," but it isn't. I have given exactly what was requested, and been told I should have been more original. And I have tried to be original, or extravagant, and been told, "What were you thinking?"

So, if I seem ungrateful, or overwhelmed, or surprised, or confused, or WHATEVER, it's because I KNOW that I can never be as good to my friends as you are to me. My gifts to you will be well-intentioned; they are unlikely to be good, original, clever, or terribly expensive. Or even on time. It just doesn't work. My experience tells me so.

Thanks for the recorder, PAGE. I love you all.