Last night, my family all went out for my brother's fiance's birthday. Her birthday technically isn't until tomorrow, but we figured she'd be spending that with her own family, so my mom decided we'd do this instead. However, with a birthday dinner comes that awkward decision leading up to the event. Do I get this person a gift?
Now, most of my friends have wives or girlfriends who inherently know the answer to this. However, some of us aren't so fortunate, so I've decided to help break down a few key points that I feel are helpful in deciding in the future whether I will get someone a gift.
Point #1: Do you know what this person really wants?
If you don't know the person well enough to get them something that they really are going to enjoy, why buy them anything? You're only going to force the person to lie. Oh, great, a baseball that tells you how fast you threw the ball. I haven't thrown a baseball in over 7 years...but I love it. I'll go to the park tomorrow and try it out. What kind of gift is that? The gift of lies and deceit. I still have that stupid baseball (did you think that was an arbitrary gift example) sitting in my closet.
Point #2: Buying someone a gift means they feel obligated to give you one in return.
Now, instead of just giving this person the need to lie, you are also giving them guilt. Especially if your birthday just passed and they didn't get you anything. And as was the case with Point #1, if you don't know what to get them, they likely don't know what to get you. So, by buying this person a crappy gift they'll never use, you have doomed yourself to their fate, and can await the pain of having to lie when your birthday rolls around. And thus the vicious cycle continues.
Point #3: When in doubt, get a gift card.
When you do know (or should know) someone well enough to get them a gift, but you're not sure what to get them and don't want to fall victim to Point #1, go with a gift card. I find that this is the best non-gift gift ever. Perhaps it's not all that personal, but isn't gift giving about the thought. I've given gift cards to restaurants, malls, and even Target (everyone loves Target). With the gift card, you know you're at least giving them something that will get some use...well, if they actually remember to take the card with them. I still have a Nordstroms gift card from like 3 years ago. I hope it still works.
Point #4: Going to dinner counts.
I'm gonna make it official, right now. If you invite me to dinner for your birthday, my presence is gift enough. True, I will likely end up splitting the cost for paying for your meal, but honestly, two hours of my company is a timeless gift. All kidding aside, some of my best birthdays have been those when my friends have come over and just hung out or gone out to dinner. It doesn't happen all the time, especially as we are all getting older, so for people to take time out of their lives to spend time with me, that's a gift in itself.
Point #5: Is a card really a wise investment?
I ended up getting Kevin's fiance a card, as she did not fall into Point #1 and I didn't want her to have to lie or feel the guilt of returning the favor with a crappy gift come December. It was a piece of cardboard with a picture of a bulldog (they have a bulldog...see, that was clever of me) and some funny jokes or some shit. It cost $4! Yes, $4! I signed it, put it in an envelope, handed it to her, she opened it, and it is likely in the trash now. (That's what I do with card, anyway). So basically, I threw $4 in their trash can. How did the world come to this? Is everyone so uncreative that they rely on pictures of dogs and clever wit written by someone else. I am embarrassed with myself for having gone this route, and I will never do it again. The next "card" I give to someone will be a piece of paper (like, $.01) with the words, Happy Birthday, written on it, and perhaps a little joke like, "You know you're getting older when you're eating at 4 PM and you're in bed by 9 PM. Be glad you still have control of your bowels." Belly laughs for all.
So, as you can see, those of you that know me can expect a gift card, my presence, and a piece of paper making fun of you when your birthday rolls around. And I would expect no less in return.
Happy Birthday, you old pieces of shit.