There was a time when birthdays made me nervous. Not that I ever gave a damn about getting a year older, but it was the sheer trepidation at opening my gifts and being horrified by some of what I found inside. I have gone through years of being saddled with hideous earrings, books I would never read, music I would never listen to, clothes I would never wear, photo-frames, lamps, vases, purses, pen holders, makeup, knick-knacks, T-shirts, accessories and jewelry that was SO NOT ME.
Not that they all got it wrong. I do have a few friends who always asked me what I’d like or by instinct, got me exactly what I wanted. Thank god for them.
Wouldn’t life be so much easier if people just asked you? Or took you shopping? Or just gave you gift vouchers? May be the reason they don’t is because they feel a certain nakedness in revealing their budget. It’s like saying, “Okay, this year, you are worth Rs X to me…”
Which is why they try and enforce their choice on you. But I don’t get it. Surely they know you enough to know that you are not going to ask them for a plasma TV or something equally ridiculous. Why don’t they give you the benefit of doubt? And what are multiple options for?
After an era of un-me gifts, I finally mustered the courage to ask people whether it was okay to exchange. So, a not-so-becoming-red-and-yellow sweatshirt was traded for a crisp white linen blouse that was more me. Or the bland Alchemist or Six thinking hats for a Tom Robbins or Bill Bryson that was missing from my collection. They didn’t seem to mind —they were glad it was off their back…
If I have so much trouble with birthdays, I shudder to think of the innumerable monstrosities people receive on their weddings. I know for sure that everyone gets stuck with at least 20-30 gifts they don’t know what to do with. It is quite likely they donate it to charity, or worse, gift it to someone else — someone insignificant enough not to be invited to the wedding. But no one ever talks about it. I wonder why. May be because as a culture, we are taught to be grateful for anything we receive.
But I find it amazing that people who are closest to you can also goof up. Like my mother who gave me the shivers with her surprises. I really love her, but don’t necessarily love what she chooses for me, from grooms to gifts. After much deliberation, I had a heart to heart and asked her to leave both departments to me. To my surprise, she was relieved. Now, she either hands me a cash envelope, or buys me exactly what I want (color, design, style, model non-negotiable). It’s been a few years into this arrangement and both of us are extremely happy.
Or when the beau who once called me from Goa claiming he had sighted a ‘nice purple skirt’— I gave him the green signal, thinking purple, obviously. I later realised that there was much more than purple happening on that skirt. There was pink and elastic and flowers and sequins and layers. But his enthusiasm was endearing, and I bravely smiled my happy smile. (Okay, now you know..)
But I am finally in a happy place. Each year, I have a wish list (of items in varying budgets) which I sound off (upon being asked) to my inner circle… This year, I got exactly the wine glasses, perfume, dresses, books, pendant, i-shuffle and the DVD collection I wanted for my birthday. I have perfected the art of made-to-order gifts!
And if anyone out there plans to start a gift registry, I will be the first to sign up.