Actually, the Thought Doesn’t Count

It’s Thanksgiving. Can you believe it?!

Thanksgiving day means the Holiday Season is upon us… and that makes everything inside of me want to run away and live in a cave for the next month. 

I know I should be excited because it’s THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR and all that crap, but I kind of hate the holidays. And by kind of, I mean completely.
“The Holidays” will swoop in today on the carcass of a fat, dead turkey and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. I’m already gearing up to emerge from the bliss of my annual Thanksgiving food coma, only to careen into a state of perpetual anxiety over all the stuff that follows our national day of gorging and gratitude.
By 5am tomorrow the world will have been launched into the madness we call Christmastime, and I am guaranteed to lay awake at night for the next 4 weeks obsessing over food, sweating over money, and burning with shame at my inability to give presents that people actually like or want. I know it sounds crazy, but the Holiday Season just isn’t that fun when what you don’t have is any money, and what you do have is a history of eating disorders and a proven track record of lame gift giving. 
It’s like a trifecta of month long misery for a person like me. It’s so stressful, it just makes me wanna poop.
And can we talk about the gift-giving thing for a sec? I know that some people are really good at choosing, making, buying, wrapping, and giving awesome presents, but I am not one of those people. For me, the annual tradition of everyone giving everyone else gifts is stressful, uncomfortable, embarrassing, and awkward. I’m not a planner, I’m not all that creative, I’m not particularly intuitive, and I have NO money, so when it comes to gift giving, I don’t enjoy the process and nobody enjoys the results.

Fun, right?!

I think people who are good at this kind of thing have a moment when they see the joy and surprise and gratitude on the face of the person opening their gift, and I’m guessing that that moment makes the time and money they invested feel worthwhile. But, imagine the opposite. Imagine a gift being opened to a glimmer of disappointment, a glance of disinterest, or a genuine look of W.T.F. …Even if the words that follow are the same (Thank you! That’s so sweet! I’ve always wanted a walrus hide belt.You shouldn’t have. No, really, I mean it…You shouldn’t have.), the tone is a dead giveaway – if that “thank you” lilts like a sad trombone, sorry, but your gift bites.

The choral *womp-womp* of disingenuous “thank you’s” upon the ears of the gift-giving-challenged can make the Holiday Season a sort of personal hell. While all the normal people are writing their lists and checking them twice, bad gift givers are aimlessly scrolling through Amazon’s holiday deals and clicking through gift-guides on Pinterest, desperate to find everyone we love the perfect thing …or really anything. Because what we’re really desperate for is to get this whole damn thing over with.

It’s just so much pressure!

And, I swear, if you try to pacify me by saying it’s the thought that counts or that we’re not required to give gifts and should only do it if we really want to, I will pull my Thanksgiving Cranberry-Pear Crostata out of the oven right now and stick my head in there. DO NOT EVEN. Because, first of all? It’s not the thought that counts, it’s the gift that counts. Otherwise we would all just say, “I thought about getting you a nice gift” and everybody would be happy. Besides, the gifts I give aren’t awful because they’re thoughtless, they’re awful because I’m a poor, forgetful, relationally-shallow procrastinator. So last Christmas, when I thought about what to get you – and I did – I didn’t have enough money for a decent gift card and I couldn’t remember what you need and I wasn’t sure what you like and I waited too long to figure all that out, so all I could do was walk up to the clearance rack at Target, close my eyes, and grab the first thing I touched. And that’s why you got a XXL zippered fleece with Snoopy surfing a wave that said “Life’s a Beach”.
You’re welcome. 

I know.

I shouldn’t have.
But seriously, let’s just admit the thought doesn’t count. I’ve received good gifts, and it’s awesome, and I’ve received bad gifts, and it sucks. Let’s just be honest and say we’d really prefer to get presents we like or need or want, so that we can also acknowledge that some people just naturally suck at giving presents. 
While we’re at it, we can also quit pretending like opting out of the gift exchange madness is a reasonable thing to do. The suggestion that no one has to give gifts unless they feel like it defies everything we know about society and culture and the nature of community. Telling me I can simply abstain from reciprocal gift giving in Suburbia is like saying if I don’t feel like using a fork, I should just eat with my hands. Who cares what everyone else is doing, right?! Do what works for you! Go ahead and eat mashed potatoes with your hands at the staff Christmas party and the PTA Brunch and the in-laws Holiday Celebration – I mean, yeah, it will make everyone super uncomfortable, and they’ll call you rude behind your back, and no one will want to eat with you next year – but WHO CARES?! It’s your life! You are not obligated to use a fork. Or to give a gift. 
You don’t have to participate. Riiiiiiiiight. That sounds like it’ll work out well. 

The thought does not count and you cannot opt out! 

These are gift-giving truths every holiday shopper must face. So I guess I should just accept my fate as the very worst gift giver, and focus instead on what I can bring to this month of crazy we call the Holiday Season. …Pie. 

That’s all I got. Bad gifts and good pies. Let the dreaded Holiday Season commence


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