I Give Good Card, But Terrible Gifts

By Anne T. Donahue

We’re a little over a month away from Christmas, and for the first time, I am semi-prepared. No, the tree isn’t up (and it won’t be until the end of November) and not a decoration is placed, but I have four boxes of cards anxiously awaiting me – my time to shine.

I love a Christmas card. I love it in the traditional sense, and I love it in whatever form it takes when Elaine delivers her very own to George Costanza. I love summing the year up via personalized written message, and I love to know I’m orchestrating the most lowkey type of magic via mail. (Mail is the best, unless it is a bill. And I like to think that getting a Christmas card is at least a little bit better than a reminder that one’s Bell payment hasn’t been received in several months.) (Not that I have ever experienced that . . . in the last half-year.) Cards are an outlet to the warm, fuzzy friendship feelings I can have issues expressing face-to-face. They’re a physical reminder that despite us not hanging out in a while, I still love you and hope we get to hang out soon. Also, they’re a vessel in which I can place fancy stickers. A true bonus, since I don’t want to do gifts.

Hear me out: I’m bad at presents. I blank when I try to tackle a list, and usually end up walking away from a store with a new thing for me, the most selfish human alive. When I successfully shop, I quickly lose my logic to the fear that no matter what I buy my friend and/or family member, it will never be enough so I go overboard. Not only with items, but with a rushed explanation as they’re opening it: if you don’t like it, that’s fine, I just saw it and thought you’d like it, but if you don’t or you don’t think it’s enough, I can take you to dinner, please still be my friend, are we still friends? I am desperate to remain friends.

I blame 2006 and the onslaught of calendar-centric gifts that accompanied first decent paycheques. In the wake of Grey’s Anatomy and The OC annual collector’s items, my friends and I would rush to be the pal to pick so-and-so up that thing they liked with Mischa Barton’s face on it. The rest of us? Good luck: desperate to make as big a splash as the calendar coinsures, we’d scrape together anything that resembled something that looked like a grown-up present. My friends would somehow all succeed. I, on the other hand, would end up buying everybody American Eagle hoodies because I had a 40% staff discount. Sweet relief came when official gift exchanges were off the table, and gifts were given as a surprise. When the pressure’s off, I can put together a symphony. When the countdown’s on, I’m the 11-year-old who gave her best friend a pad of used paper with dogs on it, embarrassed to have received an impromptu gift I wasn’t ready for. It’s upsetting for everyone. Not a single soul wins.

But cards? Sweet, beautiful cards? That’s where I sing. There, I can say what I mean instead of what I’m trying to convey via item accompanied by gift receipts. There, I can write “PS, dinner’s on me!” and actually mean it instead of scrambling for a game plan I’m praying will seem organic. I like feelings – gorgeous, controlled, handwritten feelings – that show up at friends’ houses for a surprise (since I will never show up to anybody’s house unannounced). And I like that those feelings can abide by anybody’s budget since presents are expensive, and all of us are paying roughly $20 for carrots.

So this year, I will lean into my cards. I will write to my heart’s content, usually in front of Guy Fieri or Bobby Flay-centric shows that serve to distract me from my already-distractive personality. Will I avoid buying anything for anybody? Absolutely not: but those presents will be the result of an a-ha moment, and likely not in time for the holidays. After all, sales are afoot and I need new sweatshirts. You’d be surprised at how much you can save when you’re not buying everybody calendars.

Need a little more Anne? Read more from Anne T. Donahue right here!

Tags: Anne T. Donahue, top story, topstory

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