There is never an excuse for sending a thoughtless gift. I've spent the last ten minutes thinking of whether there can ever be an excuse. Nope. We're clear to proceed.
I consider myself a competent gift-giver now, but there was a time when I was totally incompetent.
Let's limp down memory lane together.
BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE
It was Christmas and I gave my brother this. Just one magazine. No subscription. No free gift. And I wrapped it. Nothing says ‘I’m not Santa’ more than a magazine picked up at a train station left under the Christmas tree.
'TALENTED GENIUS' KEYRING.
Another gift for my brother. I thought he could attach his locker keys to it. This was a terrible gift. Reason one: he was already teased at school for his genius and a keyring saying that he was a genius would guarantee a playground beating. Reason two: I happen to think he is a talented genius but he is humble and would never, ever use the keyring. Which begs the question: who did the good people at Keyrings-R-Us think would buy this keyring? Oh..that's right...me.
The council fined my husband for putting his rubbish out on the wrong day. They found out it was him by going through his rubbish and locating a wet envelope with his name on it. I thought that if he shredded all his letters, he would evade possible future punishment by the authorities. Another failure of a gift. Reason one: he should just learn to put his rubbish out on the right day. Reason two: it takes less effort to put rubbish out on the right day than it does to shred every letter. Reason three: by the time I presented the shredder, he'd forgotten all about the incident and I had to remind him: 'You know, that time the council fined you?...They found out your name...Bins?' Pathetic.
EMMA, BY JANE AUSTEN
When I was 13, I didn't have enough money to get everyone in my friendship group a present. So I gave one girl my own copy of Emma by Jane Austen that I hadn't read yet. I wrapped the book, forgetting I had written my name on the inside cover. When she opened it she knew that it had been my own copy and wasn't new and she wasn't impressed and made a snide remark. I felt bad about that for a long time. Now I see that it was quite a sweet thing for me to have done. Well done, resourceful, 13-year-old me.
I thought I'd get my husband's mum a cashmere jumper for Christmas. At that point, I hadn't known her long. I didn't know what size she was and so I guessed. Never guess. In this age of information, there will be someone, somewhere who knows the answer. It's probably in a database. I knew that I couldn't go for a bigger size or I'd run the risk of offending her. So, with logic as fuzzy as the jumper, I went for the tiniest size I could find. This was a ridiculous gift. Reason one: I made her feel like she was enormous. Reason two: because I am slight-of-frame it looked like I had bought the jumper for myself.
- As with all mistakes, it's important to spend a few moments in quiet reflection in order to understand what went wrong. In some cases you'll realise you make a mistake because you didn't have time to think through your options fully or because you had too much time and didn't trust yourself.
- Recognise that some actions feel like mistakes but aren't really mistakes at all. Like with the copy of Emma that I gave a friend - it wasn't really an error. I did the best I could.
- Don't dwell on gift-giving under performance. Rumination only makes you depressed. There will be another event, just round the corner in which you can bring your a-game.