WHAT GIVING MEANS TO ME

Me, being the gift that I am. 

If you’ve found yourself here in the hope of reading something ~scandalous~ about blowjobs and my penchant for sexual generosity, I’m sorry my friends, for I have mislead you.

This is not Cosmopolitan, the year is not 2003 and you are not reading this under your duvet after your parents have gone to bed in the hope that this information will see you become irresistible to every boy you ever meet. 

No. 

This is not that. 

By comparison, what I am about to share is not just anticlimactic (please, pardon the pun), but tentatively knocking on the door of boring. 

Christmas Day is coming in hard and fast (I’m so sorry, these innuendos are just falling out of me) and the annual ‘my mum deserves the world, the stars, and every ounce of happiness I can muster but all I can afford is a scented candle’ predicament is upon us. 

By nature of not being even remotely organised, I completely missed the opportunity that Black Friday and Cyber Monday and every other desperate marketing ploy thrust in my face (*hrhum*) by brands and now find myself with eleven days to find presents for everybody that I love that aren’t just a waste of my money and their faux-enthusiasm as they deploy uncharacteristic politeness to gush about the barbecue tongs that will be so incredibly useful next summer even though they live in an apartment block in the centre of London and haven’t eaten meat in three years.

So now I have under two weeks to not just source meaningful presents but somehow muster up the strength and patience to deal with the ever elusive delivery drivers; surviving Christmas chaos by playing a new game whereby the person that can knock on a door as gently as possible wins the prize of all the parcels they were ‘so sorry to have missed’ the recipients for.

Fuck. 

Every year, the same. 

There was a time when Christmas wasn’t about giving at all. 

Spoilt rotten as a child, I was the Bruce Bogtrotter of Christmas. I wouldn’t sleep on Christmas Eve as I waited for the familiar smell of cigarette smoke to make its way up to my bedroom, feigning sleep as an overweight man made his way through the obstacle course of chaos that was my childhood bedroom to hang my stocking at the end of my bed.

As soon as I was alone again I’d be up like a shot, feeling in the dark for the now bulging sack (oh god, I’m sorry); trying to guess the colour of this year’s M&S socks through the glittered paper. 

There wouldn’t be a thought for those in my family and what they would be opening come Christmas morning. Least of all what they would be opening from me. 

Yes yes, I’d tell my teachers, I know this day is all about Jesus and stuff but he did go on to die for my sins and I think anyone willing to do that is probably a nice enough guy not to mind me sharing his birthday with him.

Thanks to the help of the grownups in my life, the ‘small issue’ of having to buy presents for the people in my life was normally taken care of in an afternoon, without an awful lot of thought put into it by me.

Your mum mentioned that she might REALLY LIKE A HOT WATER BOTTLE Em, the helpful adult would tell me. Let’s get her a hot water bottle! I’d cry, proud of myself for picking up the hint so promptly. We’d take the item home and I’d embark on the only part of the process I was remotely interested in and that was wrapping the thing. I’d slip it under tree, slowly, ‘accidentally’ brushing up against all the other gifts under there, hoping to catch a glimpse of one for me. 

I clearly remember the first time I chose a present for a parent, unprompted.  

It was during my love affair with the Argos Catalogue (oh please, we’ve all had one). I would spend hours pouring over the thing; circling various dolls and gameboys and climbing frames and (optimistically) bunk beds that had had the bottom bunk removed and replaced with a desk. 

Anyway. There I was, with the November edition when the annual hint was dropped into my lap. Your mum mentioned that she’d really like some bath salts. 

Well a pair of tough titties, I’m afraid, because this year, I’m going rogue. I’m giving her something that I want to give her.

I’d found a pair of earrings in the Argos catalogue and I was obsessed with them. Yet to talk my parents into allowing me to get my own ears pierced, I had become fascinated with the lobes of others. Most pointedly, my mums. 

The earrings themselves would not have looked out of place on Princess Diana in the early nineties. They were horrible. Made out of silver, gold and bronze (resembling metals), they were enormous studs, they cost £24.99 and to my nine-year-old-eyes, they were the most magnificent thing I’d ever seen. 

I circled them and folded the page down and every day when I got home from school I would look at them. I don’t remember how I ended up getting my hands on them IRL, but I’ll never forget how they looked in the catalogue.

I became fixated on giving these to my mum. SHE WAS GOING TO LOVE THEM.

For the first time I wasn’t just counting down to December 25th in the hope that other pages of my enormous catalogue had been noticed by generous adults, but because I couldn’t wait to show my mum what I had chosen for her and to see how happy she would be when I gave her the most beautiful and precious earrings ever created.

These were the modern day equivalent of the Heart Of The Ocean and my mum was Kate Winslet. 

It won’t come as a shock to anyone reading that my mum, despite her best efforts, was unable to put in an entirely convincing display of enthusiasm. Not least of all because she had probably been really looking forward to the bath stuff.

Truthfully, bless her, I don’t think she ever wore them, and before you pick up your phones to make a belated call to child-line, let me please reiterate how truly revolting these earrings were: I absolutely do not blame her.

That was my first experience of giving though. And I had really enjoyed it. 

The build up and apprehension and thought and the realisation that I was being gifted the opportunity of making someone really happy. 

In my nine year old mind, the monetary value of the gift I was giving was irrelevant and that’s a feeling I’ve done my absolute best to hold onto. 

Of course I’m fairly confident that nothing could make me happier than finding the Gucci Cross-body Bag & a Range Rover Sport under the tree, but I’ll stand by the fact that the best present I ever got was the 2013 Shirtless-Fireman Calendar that my mum had forgotten to take the £9.99 price tag off.

Not being Christian, it’s hard for me to see Christmas as anything other than a good excuse to take a few days off work, drink too much champers, put on half a stone and spoil each other rotten. I know you’re not supposed to admit that sort of thing, but to quote everyone’s favourite festive movie Love Actually: “If you can’t say it at Christmas, when can you eh?!”. 

It’s not about the presents! People would cry.

Yeh, yeh. I’d think. 

And obviously, it’s not. But then, it so sort of is. There’s so much to love about Christmas, and truthfully, giving is a bloody great part of it. And no, I’m not just saying that in the hope that I’ll get into heaven or be welcomed into the Gucci-bag-club-of-dreams as a reward for being so generous and selfless and stuff.

Of course the pressure to get the right present is exhausting and when you couple that with the fact that financially being able to show those that you love them HOW MUCH YOU LOVE THEM is damn near impossible, this time of year can be a tad overwhelming. 

But, as with most things, it’s the thought that counts. 

I don’t know when Christmas stopped being all about me, but, in a twist that my pre-adolescent self would never have thought possible, it’s become a whole load nicer since it started being about everyone else.

So I’ve got ten days left to trawl the internet as I hunt for presents that do my love for the people that I love justice and not an awful lot of money left to play with and that’s bloody stressful.

But what’s mid-December if not a sweaty fluster of itchy nylon jumpers, cheap mince pies and Christmas shopping chaos eh?

Of course I do have the added pressure of making sure that I never give another gift as horribly disappointing as those Argos earrings from all those years ago.

But on the plus side, I think that colossal fifteen-year-old faux pas has meant that any present I end up giving my mum henceforth, will be a damn site better than those monstrosities all those years ago.

And that’s probably the best gift I could ever give myself. 


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