‘Hush, little baby, don’t say a word, Papa’s gonna buy you…’ The minefield that is the ‘perfect’ gift and why the person getting it will never forgive you.

gift_Author’s program note. Over the course of your life, you’ll give a cart load of gifts. Gifts for people getting engaged, gifts for getting married, even gifts for getting divorced. There are gifts for going away and gifts for coming back. There are gifts for job promotion and gifts upon retirement. There are gifts for Christmas… and gifts for birthdays…. gifts for lovers… and, of course, the gifts you give yourself for coping with the utterly thankless responsibility of ensuring that this mountain of gifts arrives on time and always with the thoughtful consideration expected, required… and no doubt given!

Yikes!

Just reading this (very) partial list of gift giving occasions and events makes me fatigued and anxious. So many to give to… so little time… and as for the bucks required… Daunting! Exhausting! Downright intimidating! It seems like an awful lot of work for the fleeting “pleasure” of seeing the recipient’s beady eyes bore into your hapless offering, the entire future of your relationship hinging on what you’re giving and the terrible scrutiny it’s certain to receive by not only the closely inspecting and ultra finicky recipient… but also by every single person who will receive (whether they like it or not) the recipient’s staggeringly detailed report (in triplicate) on every aspect of what you gave.

It’s enough to drive a body to drink. I wonder whether there’s anything left in that bottle of cheap schnapps Uncle Ernie palmed off on me last Christmas.

Basta!

Well, I want you to know that I’m not going to take it anymore. I mean, I’ve been bled enough, raked over the coals enough, embarrassed enough, chagrined, attacked, insulted, berated, demeaned, degraded, excoriated and humiliated enough by the whole stinking business which you and I both know is a conspiracy cooked up by a posse of shameless, rapacious robbers, like the owners of catalogs selling overpriced and completely useless bibelots along with licensed marauders who sell wilted flowers and low grade chocolates with high fallutin names sporting princely prices.

Everyone knows these criminals are mostly aging gay men, precious hair strands (fewer by the minute) arrayed in flagrant pompadour, wearing too much bling and an ocean of cheap scent with names like “Passionate Embrace” and “Te quiero”, not merely perfume but an eternal wish.

They have to sell tons of this egregious bric-a-brac to get the bucks required to give endless presents to their much younger boyfriends who demand gifts, then turn up their perfect aquiline noses at what they get, while demanding still more. Oh, my, what a muddle!

That’s why I am setting up something you and I both need. I call it Gift Givers Anonymous, and it’s a place we can hie to whenever a gift is given or received and we need to sound off. The first meeting is hereby called to order. Since I invented this baby, I get to go first.

Agenda for gift sound-off by the founder.

1) Lavish gifts given by me to people who failed to appreciate them sufficiently, if they were even appreciated at all.

2) Paltry gifts given to me by cheap-skates who lavished neither care nor concern nor any consideration at all on what they gave me.

Dear friend, now that you have the agenda, let’s get down to the essential business of blaming others and praising each and every generous gesture, no matter how small, we have ever made. This will take some substantial time because generosity and munificence are my middle names; not to mention that the milk of human kindness runs thick and malted in my veins.

The Music. I have chosen as the music to accompany this long-overdue article a song we have all heard from our earliest days when dandled on parental lap. It is called “Hush, Little Baby”. You’ll find it in any search engine many different versions of this song — whose lyricist and composer have been lost; (no doubt due to someone whose gifts were not in the fields of efficiency and management.)

Everyone and his brother has changed the lyrics. Still I found a very peppy version I quite like, by my near neighbor in Cambridge, Yo Yo Ma cleverly partnered with Bobby McFerrin, a man whose incandescent smile, far beyond mere happiness, suggests receiving a great big present, like having Ma play for him for free. Anyway, go listen to it now and sing along with the lyrics about a luckless man who kept buying things for his spoiled rug rat, things that kept breaking, cracking, ripping, fading, irritating, disappointing.

“Hush, little baby, don’t say a word/ Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird/ And if that mockingbird won’t sing/ Papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring/ And if that diamond ring turns brass/ Papa’s gonna buy you a looking glass.”

Urgent personal note: I trust the lyricist who chronicled all these problems contacted the Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce about them. Such a string of bad luck is more than coincidental. Take my word on that. See for yourself…

Great gifts, surprising consequences.

Ok, it’s time to dig into my immense, colossal, huge, astonishing array of stories about how I have given much and more often than not been “rewarded” by the back of the receiver’s hand. I am chagrined to expose these tawdry events, but the truth demands it. Besides, I have carried this burden alone long enough. Just the thought of sharing it amongst all of you makes me positively giddy.

Here is a tale I could never tell (no matter how liberating) but for the fact our organization is pledged to a secrecy so impenetrable that even master spy Edward J. Snowden could not breach it. Alors…

Each year at Christmas I lavished presents on my dear mama, including the annual seasonal commemorations and heirlooms produced by America’s greatest silver smiths and crystal producers, Lennox, Towle, Gorham, et al. I was a prodigious purchaser of these stylish items, ranging in price from $40 to $150. I bought lavishly and gave lavishly, earnestly believing that they were received with all appropriate gestures, touching words, and loving regard. Over the course of many years, these valuable gifts became a trove, if not a king’s ransom, then surely a baron’s.

Then one day, close to the holiday, the phone rang. Mother. And I sat up ready for the expected gratitude to be rained upon me — not. “I got two more of those blanketty blank bells today. I’ve been meaning to tell you… I HATE THESE THINGS! Stop sending them!!!”

This was bad. But worse followed. At Christmas…. The most unforgiving gift season of every year.

One year, feeling exceptionally flush with cash, I ventured into F.A.O. Schwarz, a place of magic where the deepest of pockets is required. Anyway, this year I had those packed pockets and so ventured forth with confidence and elan. I was going to buy my beloved niece Chelsea and nephew Kyle something Over The Top, something grand, opulent, in-your-face, in short the very things one finds in wanton abundance at this entrancing place. And so, faster than you can say American Express, I selected and had shipped presents designed to awe. Alas, they did their job too well.

Fast forward a few days. Phone call. Sister, mother of above-mentioned enfants terrible. I was ready for gratitude, for praise, for rose petals and cotton candy. Instead I received a good and thorough lecture, exceedingly long and detailed, about the impertinence of giving magnificently when the merely adequate would do.

In plain English, this meant that while my whopping presents (a bear bigger than he was; a stunning miniature silver tea service for her) were favored by the kiddos, hers would be sneered at and disdained. And That Would Never Do. Thus, the radiant kindness and most considerate of gestures was dismissed as a clever ploy for estranging stingy parents from impressionable children preferring their suave and subtle uncle, an unscrupulous man of shrewd calculations, unequaled manipulations, and malignant stratagems; a man who has gotten his own back, recovering his wounded self-esteem, thanks to the empathetic and supportive membership at Gift Givers Anonymous.

Thanks and a superb gift-giving idea.

As the exuberant applause began to wane, my sentiments as rendered above having brought near chaos celebrating our collective freedom from the double thrall of gifts inadequately acknowledged and inadequate gifts given, I capped my timely presentation with one last idea, that each member (and members only, please) draw up a list of approved items desired, in this way to ensure that only the right gifts be given, not gifts we had been forced to say we liked, but which we most decidedly did not. Prospective brides have been doing this for decades, which in no way detracts from my unique emendation and improvement.

Please, then, note what I most humbly request: a pizza cutter, shower soap dish, one aluminum cullender, one pair wooden salad  tongs, six wooden hangers and three violet or lavender sachets for eradicating persistent moth infestation. Then the meeting was adjourned, members handed my list as they left, revivified, refreshed in spirit.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered all my lists in the trash, the last one defaced with this sentiment partly obscured by a huge red X. “Give you gifts? I’ll be d–ned if I do. I resign!”

Was it something I said?

About the Author

Now with near seven decades of a successful writing career, Dr. Lant is, he likes to say, in the prime of his prime. Thus does the “scribbling” life he commenced at age
5 continue. Twenty books. Thousands of articles. Untold radio and television programs;
worldwide recognition and enthusiasm, all of which culminated in the publication of
his autobiography, “A Connoisseur’s Journey, being the artful memoirs of a man of wit, discernment, pluck and joy”. It was a book that screamed “classic!”, and he has
delighted in the several awards that followed.

To get your copy go to www.writerssecrets.com. You will also want to join his writing
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