Look At Life: Present Giving

15th December 2017

The Art of Giving

By Claire Moulds

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, for women, Christmas ‘presents’ two predicaments…

Not only are we the ones most likely to have researched the perfect gift for each recipient, sourced it for the best price and then beautifully wrapped it; somehow, we also seem to end up present shopping for ourselves too.

Among my friends a large proportion will end up buying their own gifts, while many others can safely predict that they will be presented with a voucher, accompanied by the oft-heard phrase ‘I just didn’t know what to get you’.

Then there are those whose hints go unnoticed, even when they pointedly say ‘I’d love that handbag’ and thrust an advert and website info, under their other half’s nose. Most depressing of all is the friend who’s resigned to the fact that her husband won’t buy her anything – and hasn’t done for years.

Obviously, Christmas is a celebration of far more than just gifts under a tree but I do think it’s terribly sad that after, in some cases, 40 years of being together, a husband can’t think of a single gift (it doesn’t have to be big or expensive) to buy his wife that he knows she will love. After all, a thoughtful present not only brings enjoyment in itself but also acknowledges the fact that the giver cares about you.  

Naturally, I’ve seen some ‘well meant attempts’ over the years, like the friend who was presented with a bike on Christmas Day, even though she’d shown not one jot of interest in cycling or in owning one. Worse still it was accompanied by the phrase ‘let’s take it out right now’ as she stood in her pyjamas sipping a glass of prosecco and contemplating the perfect time for putting the turkey in the oven.

Now, I should say – smugly – that my husband is the exception, as he is absolutely fantastic at buying me surprises that I will adore. For example, last Christmas, after I became addicted to the behind-the-scenes tv series at Chester Zoo, a ticket for an ‘aardvark experience’ was tucked into my stocking.

I’ll admit that his thoughtfulness does result in a certain amount of envy from friends and colleagues. However, there is a downside…

A trip to town results in him coming home with armfuls of bags, not because he’s simply splashed out on the first thing he’s seen, but because he has the ability to immediately laser in on something I will love and that he knows will suit me perfectly. He literally has a ‘gift’. In contrast I will agonise for months trying to find the perfect set of presents for him, trawling the internet for hours and going on multiple shopping trips in multiple cities. Don’t get me wrong: he appreciates what I buy and the fact that care and attention has gone into it, but I would love to have his ability to gather everything up in one simple, painless trip. Last year he even managed to buy all his gifts and wrap them in a single day. I almost cried at how easy he made it look!

The fact is, though, that the men who don’t invest much of themselves in the present-buying process are the ones who truly miss out. I get endless pleasure out of seeing someone open a gift from me that completely delights them, and I’m not alone. Indeed Scientific American states that ‘giving – and thoughtful, generous giving at that – may be more rewarding than receiving on numerous levels, from the neural, to the personal to the social.’

It’s important not to interpret ‘generous’ as simply ‘throwing money at the problem’. Here it means generosity of time and thought too. Yes, it’s far easier to simply ask someone what they want, but, by making the effort to put yourself in their shoes and to consider what they would really appreciate, the value of the gift is greatly increased.

Such an act also has wider implications too. Researchers from the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project recently studied the role of generosity – as defined above – in nearly 3,000 marriages and found that men and women with the highest scores on the generosity scale were far more likely to report that they were ‘very happy’ in their marriages.

So, this Christmas why not set your other half a challenge to buy one present that you haven’t asked for, and don’t expect, but which will put the biggest smile on your face when you open it?
And then maybe have a cycling helmet to hand, just in case…
 

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