People generally like to make others happy. Other than the social obligations tied to holidays, I do think a majority of people enjoy partaking in the spirit of giving, spreading cheer, and enveloping themselves in the consumerist culture. It’s why we buy flowers on Valentine’s Day, go home during Thanksgiving, scurry to buy gifts before Christmas, and throw wild New Year parties. Even the more stubborn ones that remind themselves, ‘I don’t need anything for my birthday,’ aren’t exempt from the cusp.
A person’s eyes light right up when you give them a gift. It doesn’t matter if the gift’s expected or unexpected, big or small (separate from one’s expectations, which could disappoint). The fact that they are receiving something makes them feel appreciated, special, and loved. While we all need reminders of that once in a while, it feels like most of us take our friends, family, and/or lover for granted the rest of the time.
Gifts are like cannabis. You might get it once in a while, all the time, or never. A good hit takes you to a place where, no matter what the truth of your reality is, things just don’t seem that bad. My friend describes it as an ‘escape.’ The problem is that the affect’s temporary, and soon after you come down from that high, reality sets in and colors just aren’t as vibrant. Life becomes a little more lifeless.
Gifts operate in much of the same way. The more thoughtful, elaborate, or complex the dosage is, the more the receiver’s standard is raised for the next dose. Well, for Christmas he made me a scavenger puzzle which led to a diamond ring. So for our upcoming anniversary, he must be planning another puzzle and will do something even more romantic, like leave a message in the sky or propose on a blimp with an even bigger diamond ring. Instead of focusing on the renewal of the relationship, the affirmation, or the confirmation of affections, the receiver often focuses on the self. The self considers the gift’s level of refinement, thoughtfulness in relevancy to one’s tastes, and questions the giver’s intent. The receiver’s reaction to the gift may be completely involuntary or well calculated, depending on the person’s thought process.
The giver is guilty of committing a rather selfish act as well. The giver hopes to gain something out of the exchange regardless of their expressed servitude. Some givers may not even be conscious of this hope; their selfishness is covered by the illusion of good intent. It’s not to say that gifting is unnecessary, overdone, or causes people to become wild insatiable beasts, but it does function on its own rules of appropriation.
I’d like to think that receiving gifts tests one’s degree of self-awareness. Will this person remember the act a week from now, 5 months from now, 10 years from now? Will they remember the monetary value of the gift or its mindfulness? Will they remember their own happiness, if at all, or the message the giver tries to convey? You can learn a lot about a person from their reaction to a simple gift or kind gesture. After all, it’s easier to follow in the footsteps of Narcissus than Achilles.