November 2017
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gifting: what makes a gift more meaningful for me


icon: "presents (a photo of a colorful pile of presents: my gifts for others for winter Solstice 2013)"

prompt from kehlen_crow: If someone wanted to give you a gift, what would make the object, or action, more special and meaningful?

Unlike most people, a gift is more special to me if it is given in honor of a day that matters to me: winter solstice, spring equinox, my birthday, my spiritual birthday, or if we are close enough to have one, our friendiversary. So that is one way to make it more meaningful. Another is to tell me ahead of time (but not more than a month ahead of time) that you are getting me a gift, and give me a very general idea of the genre of the present, because I like to anticipate (but if you tell me exactly what it is then it just feels like an annoying wait, not anticipation). That's not to say random gifting isn't special, but it doesn't have the additional aspect of "I know this day is important to you" or "I value our connection enough to celebrate it with gifts."

The things I want a gift to express are: I know you, I value your contributions and support your efforts, our connection is important to me, I want you to be happy, I want you to be taken-care-of.

"I know you" is best expressed through something made for me or customized for me, or something. Allison made me a mixed-media art piece of a snow leopard with a forest where the white fur would usually be: you could hardly get more perfect for me! Topaz got me a windchime made from driftwood and multi-colored glass; also perfect. Kat has gotten me several beautiful glass objects in varying shades of violet and purple. Heather got me a carved wooden otter.

Buying a gift from my Amazon wish list also says "I know you" because I am very thorough and I mostly know what things would make me happy. Looking through my wishlist and buying something similar works for some things but not most. Many times what is on my wish list has been carefully chosen from every available item on Amazon, and I don't want a different brand/size/etc. If it is a product, best to get exactly what I wished, if anything; but with art, books, music, and films/shows you can probably figure out similar things I may not have thought of. I felt very cared-for when for winter holidays Topaz' family bought me the exact toaster oven that I wanted, though it was nowhere near the cheapest.

"I value your contributions and support your efforts" is easiest to express with shares/likes/comments, or by referencing it later. I really appreciate when people link my stuff in a way I can observe. I feel affirmed and valued when people do this. Any gift given with the note that it is for this reason also makes me feel loved in this way.

"Our connection is important to me" is best expressed in gifts that are reminders of how we connect. For instance if we both love trees, giving me a sapling, or if we both love cinnamon, giving me a cinnamon tea. Hannah has given me several gifts in this category including a tiny box with a glow-in-the-dark faery on it and an amethyst ring with a matching one which they wore.

"I want you to be happy" is expressed in gifts where the giver knows that a thing will bring me a lot of joy, and so they get it for me. This works best with things I can't afford. Right now, that's just about anything. In the future, I think it will be things that I might feel too guilty to buy. Perhaps someone would offer to pay part of the cost on the steel finger claws I desperately want, in order to encourage me to get them (because a $200 item is... maybe too decadent). Topaz got a set of my photos printed and made into a book for me because I had never had any of my digital photos printed -- it was too much of a luxury for me to spend money on.

"I want you to be taken-care-of" is expressed in people buying me things I need or giving me access to resources -- stuff like medication, phone service, gas, food, rides to events or partial rides. When I have money and a steady car, the money and transportation will drop hugely in how much the gift means to me. Right now it means a lot because both are so rare for me. Another aspect of this is when people gift me coffee (as in, a prepared drink from a coffeeshop), because it is a ritual and substance that makes me feel safe and nourished, even though it is not a need like food or meds.

A gift has the opposite effect when it shows a lack of knowing me. Examples are giving me perfume, lotion, or bath products (because I don't like or use those); giving me boring makeup or lip balm with artificial ingredients (I only like extreme colors and I am very particular about lip balm); giving me shoes or clothes (unless I chose them they are almost guaranteed to be stuff I won't wear); giving me pens or stationary (I am very particular! though there have been exceptions -- Elizabeth I genuinely liked your gifts!); giving me scented or ornamental candles (I like very few scents available in candles, almost never burn anything other than tealights, and I loathe when practical objects are made impractical); or giving me jewelry (I prefer to make my own jewelry and almost always dislike any other jewelry, though there have been exceptions when the artist knew me and made it in a style I'd like, or when the piece had deep personal meaning somehow). It also has the opposite effect if someone gives me something that violates my core values (one-time-use objects like glowsticks or k-cups, conspicuous consumption stuff like an expensive 'big name' purse, objectifying or exoticizing art, media that affirms oppression, etc), though that is more on a spectrum because what seems problematic to me may not seem so to others. For instance, I would feel somewhat pleased and known if someone gave me a copy of Tina Fey's "Bossypants" (more so if it was a used copy!) -- there is a lot of problematic stuff in Fey's feminism but if I only ever consumed perfect media I'd consume none at all.

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Comments
ghostwriter ══╣pic#126312942╠══
This happens to me a lot when people buy me or send me gifts. So rare for them to be something I know what to do with. Not many people really know me though. Or take the time to. I'm not so into gifts as well. I always try to tell them just a little note or email saying hello means more to me. Something they thought about and said or wrote.
belenen ══╣garrulous╠══
*nods* I love gifts, I'm just really picky about them and would rather not have anything than have something that was just given for the sake of having something to give.
wildrose ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣garrulous╠══
glad you enjoyed!

With Tina Fey, I don't think it is so much a particular issue or moment, but rather it is that they're not very intersectional: they make assumptions from a white, cis, abled point of view rather than considering oppressions other than the oppression of women. I still like them, I just wish they would understand that all oppressions are linked and learn from people who experience oppression that they don't.
wildrose ══╣╠══
call_me_katya ══╣╠══
Haha, that's okay! Even if you hadn't put in that little disclaimer I wouldn't have felt weird. Gift-giving is a process that grows along with getting to know someone so if I did get something wrong I wouldn't feel too bad, I would just try to do better another time and posts like this help immensely! And I think in-person knowing helps as you can see what the person surrounds themselves with and what they are drawn to.

I've received gifts in the past that showed a huge lack of knowing me and this did make me feel...somehow empty? Undervalued in a friendship? So I understand this.
belenen ══╣garrulous╠══
*resonates* I felt you would get it. I once embarrassed myself to bits complaining to my grandmother about a vanilla-scented bath set (I hate the smell of vanilla as well as bath sets) -- turns out it was from that grandmother, but I had forgotten. Oops.
raidingparty ══╣╠══
This was part of the reason behind my suggestion for a non-gift Christmas last year.
belenen ══╣confused╠══
which part? *confused*
raidingparty ══╣╠══
Ack, sorry, that was kind of out of nowhere, wasn't it.

My interpretation of your last paragraph is that most people know themselves best, including what they want. In sidestepping the "gift expectation", there would be no risk of getting something disappointing, or disrespectful.
fairytaleguise ══╣╠══
This was interesting to read, thank you. We feel quite strange if we get gifts that show no knowledge of us, if they're from people that we thought were close enough to know us and what would appeal. It's vaguely uncomfortable.

By the same token, we don't like giving gifts to people we don't know well as we'd rather a gift have real meaning rather than just be a gift for gift's sake.
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.