Barack & Michelle Don’t Do Birthday or Christmas Presents

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WHAT GIFT GIVING SAYS ABOUT YOU?

(The following article appeared on the original Pink Flamingo on July 25, 2008)

It is true confession time.  While you may think I am this horrible “B_T_H”, when it comes to gift giving, I am a total push-over.  I’ll be honest.  I love giving presents.  Nothing to me is more enjoyable than shopping for the perfect gift for someone, then presenting it in a perfectly wrapped package.  It probably doesn’t amount to much in this crazy mixed up world of ours, but to me it is a momentary sigh for a person.  It is just a quickie little thing that says, “Someone thinks you are important.”

Okay, I get off on gift giving and shopping for presents.  In my family you just don’t get one item.  You usually get at least a dozen things from me.  All wrapped to perfection.  I like matching things to a person’s personality.  To me nothing is worse than getting some stupid item you can’t use or doesn’t make sense for your life or life-style.

I also have this theory that you can tell something about a person by the way they give.  People who do not give gifts rank right below belly-button lint pond scum on my list of bad things.  I don’t like people who do not give gifts, or who just give cheap pieces of junk.  You can’t trust ’em.  There is something wrong with them as people.  I’ve also found this is one of those no-fail ways to judge a person.  If they can’t give then they are basically selfish individuals who care more about themselves than others.  The only exception to this is the person who gives away a tremendous amount of money, but never tells anyone. I know someone like this.  No one knows how much he does give away.  He never wants anyone to know.  I approve.

“…When we love, we give. Every time we do something for someone else we feel effective, useful and generous. Giving a tangible gift can also lead to some reflection about what our relationship to the person is (what kind of gift is appropriate), how much we care about the person (how much effort do we want to go to), and how that person’s likes or dislikes may be similar to our own (what should we actually buy or make). These are just some of the thoughts gift-giving provokes. Resolving them helps us feel effective. The same may be said of giving advice or doing someone a service.

We usually think that the more we care about someone, the more we want to give to them. This is probably true. But what is even more interesting is that the more we give, the more we come to care about the person to whom we are giving. We feel alive in the activity. And it is the receiver who has provided the opportunity for us to feel this good, so we feel loving in return. Moreover, as social psychologist Daryl Bern, Ph.D., has taught us, we deduce our attitudes from our behavior. “I must really care or else why would I have given such a meaningful gift?”…”


But – there are the people who just don’t give presents at birthdays and Christmas and then advertise how self-righteous they are about it.  Trust me, it has nothing to do with materialism, or getting back to basics.  It is the trade-mark of a cheap, selfish individual.  Would you believe Michelle and Barack Obama are like that?  They do not give birthday or Christmas presents to their daughters.

“…But while it’s reasonable to cut back on spending during the holidays, psychologists say that banning the gift exchange with loved ones is not the best solution. People who refuse to accept or exchange gifts during the holidays, these experts say, may be missing out on an important connection with family and friends.

“That doesn’t do a service to the relationship,” said Ellen J. Langer, a Harvard psychology professor. “If I don’t let you give me a gift, then I’m not encouraging you to think about me and think about things I like. I am preventing you from experiencing the joy of engaging in all those activities. You do people a disservice by not giving them the gift of giving.”

The social value of giving has been recognized throughout human history. For thousands of years, some native cultures have engaged in the potlatch, a complex ceremony that celebrates extreme giving. Although cultural interpretations vary, often the status of a given family in a clan or village was dictated not by who had the most possessions, but instead by who gave away the most. The more lavish and bankrupting the potlatch, the more prestige gained by the host family….”

I have a theory about gift giving.  If you do not receive gifts when you are a child, you do not learn how to give.  Learning how to graciously receive is the key to learning how to graciously give. By not giving birthday or Christmas gifts a person (if they can afford to do so) is seriously damaging the parent-child bond.  There is something almost perverse about the whole idea that parents do not give birthday or Christmas presents to their children.  I would almost consider it abuse. They are robbing their children of something very special in life.  They are robbing themselves of something special.

Never trust a person who does not give birthday or Christmas presents.


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