It would be a great understatement to say that people find it difficult to think up clever gifts for me. Whether it’s Christmas or my birthday, even my family and closest friends have the hardest times wracking through their minds of what to give me. And when they do give me something, it is most likely something I don’t even want or need. I would appreciate the thought or effort, if there were thought and effort, but there are just some gifts that seem to not have any thought at all–more like, “ooh, I think she watches stuff from this show / knows something about this franchise. I’m not sure if it’s her favorite, but I’ll get it anyway, because I couldn’t think of anything anymore. I don’t know what she wants.”

I don’t intend on coming across as an ingrate. What I’m trying to say is that people shouldn’t try so hard to guess the things I like, if they don’t know them.

Gift-giving season is nearing, and I’m usually a big gift-giver myself. I always fuss about what I give people, and I make sure that what I give them would be–oh, what’s the word? That’s right–awesome. Okay, it isn’t that. But I made sure that what I gave them had a lot of thought.

Last Christmas, I gave Therese a red Tory Burch wallet, and a year before, a bag with a vector print of a red cat.I gave Jovanni a red leather journal with crisp, cream paper. I gave Yssa a teal shirt with gold print that says “Music is Life”. I gave Shai a plastic file case with a Sanrio Kuromi print. When Xela celebrated her birthday, I baked her a custard pie, decorated with a blue bunny wearing an eyepatch. And when my mother celebrated her birthday, I baked a chocolate ganache cake, decorated with blue lilies.

Gift giving is easy and doesn’t have to be expensive, and only takes a little thought. The question is not, “what does she want?” The question is, “would this be something she’d appreciate?” And under that question, there are sub-questions to guide:

  • Is it to her taste?
  • Will she be able to use it?

The question of its use and practicality is essential, because if you give her something you think she’d need, then it means you’ve thought about her daily life and what she does, and you are close enough friends to know what it is that would convenience her.

The first question however isn’t exactly thinking of what she likes. Remember this: you never know what anyone likes. Despite living under the illusion that you know someone and what she likes, you never do. Never depend on that instinct. And don’t go for that “what you like, she will like too” because that’s barely ever true. It is true that you have to pick a gift that even you would find interesting, because if you don’t want it, who would? No, the “is it to her taste” question should be re-written in the imperative form as, “make sure that it reflects her trademark or personality”.

The way I see it, gifts are a test of showing how much you know someone, and how well you could reflect them on a piece of novelty item. Besides, if you got something new, regardless of it being a gift or just something you bought for yourself, you’d love it most if it was suited to you, tailor-made as it were, or something that goes along the lines of, “Oh my gosh, this is so me!”

Looking at the past examples I had listed down regarding the gifts I gave before, we see that there are small details for each friend. Therese’s favorite colors are in shades of red–crimson and scarlet are specific tints, if I got them right, but I should never assume that I know her favorites–and she enjoys cats and witty statements, and was, at the time, looking forward to become an editor, and was in need for a wallet. I didn’t need to think about her love for comics, music, anime or games, because even though we share commonalities in taste, I should never assume that I know the specific things she might like. And I really didn’t need to dwell on fandom, because our friendship was based on our working relationship, so the gift was to be designed to reflect what kind of friendship we had. Not only does the gifts remind her of herself, she is also reminded of the times we had over work.

For Xela, her favorite color was cerulean, favorite animal was a bunny, she loved characters with eyepatches like Ciel Phantomhive, and had a sweet tooth that craved for all things creamy. This should be a sufficient explanation for the custard pie with a blue bunny in an eyepatch. My mother likes the color blue and lilies, thus: cake with lilies.

Shai is a student, so the file case came in handy. And Kuromi was her favorite Sanrio character. I did not assume this–she told me.

Yssa likes music. And when I slept over at her place and raided her closet, she told me that she just liked simple clothing the most. And she always went to school with any cool shirt with a statement or a print that suited her. And I thought she needed another shirt. Along with that “Music is Life” shirt, I also gave her a shirt with a print of a caricature chicken mascot. Why? Because her father is an agricultural veterinarian, and takes care of poultry. They have three chickens in their home kept as pets–and they live in the city. And I always have a pleasant feeling when I see her wearing those shirts.

And Jovanni? Why did I gift her with a red, leather journal from Old Navy if her favorite color is blue and when she already has a journal? Simple. Jovanni is an impeccable gift-giver, and always knows what to give. And the reason behind that is because she is a really smart shopper, and takes great delight in finding great . . . well, finds in thrift stores and the most unlikely places. Knowing those Old Navy journals couldn’t even be found at Old Navy anymore, and also knowing that she just generally has a keen enthusiasm and insatiable fondness for high quality items of such rarity, what would be better to give her than something even she couldn’t find on one of her bargain hunts?

It’s always about thinking not only of the other person, but the strength of your friendship. A gift is a reminder of that. It’s always best to go back to the basics and start simple. Then when you know, just build your way to her personality. Don’t buy some cheap gadget just because you think it’s cool. Don’t buy an album or fandom paraphernalia just because you think they might listen to something similar around that genre.

So for those few friends who might have been reading on just to know what to give me next time, I’ll stop beating around the mulberry bush and hand you the ring of roses. What would I like for Christmas?

A pocket full of posies. A mug.

Yep. A coffee mug. Once in class, during the draw-lots for the Christmas exchange gift, my classmate Gerald announced in Filipino, “I have only one thing to say: don’t get me a mug. For god’s sake, anything but a mug. Stop being cheap.”

Okay, fine. Maybe for him, he wouldn’t appreciate a mug. And perhaps, for a lot of people, it would seem all too cliché and un-thought of. But what I’m surprised about is that only very few people ever thought of getting me a mug. A mug to me is my best companion. I’m Thoughtspresso for a reason. Caffeine is a basic need in my book, and though I’ve been advised to cut down on it, who’s to say I wouldn’t have decaf or herbal tea? Warm beverages are the best friends of desk leeches, and those of my kind. When the mushroom field of tea cups and mugs blossom on my desk, it’d be nice if they were designed to suit my taste, like bunnies, or Tigger, or statements, or abstract art, or music labels. But no, the mugs collecting on my workspace are those communally owned within the household, often chipped or with broken handles, because other people may have broken them. Yes, I’m rather possessive and territorial.

What this means is that I don’t really ask for much. It doesn’t take a car, a condo unit, jewelry or new gadgetry to make me happy–they would, but that would be on a general sense; it would make any person happy to afford expensive items. But I don’t need people to get them for me. I don’t need for people to throw me surprise parties, or spend hours in the mall’s craft section or comic book store, looking to see if there might be something I’d enjoy.

That’d be nice. But keep it simple. Something like a mug. Or a coffee tumbler. But with a nice design. Something that may remind people that I (a) like coffee or other hot beverages, (b) enjoy art and literature and (c) have a hectic lifestyle that requires a certain caffeine dosage to accomplish.

Other than mugs and tumblers, I always look forward to cards more than gifts. I’m really not that hard to gift. If you don’t have cash, write me something witty, sweet, funny or appreciative. I keep my cards in a box or a drawer. And sometimes, even the mindless gift tags get transferred to my closet door, and are stuck there on display for a year until the next gift giving season. The letters and cards are kept safely. And sometimes, the thought that went into the letter meant more than the thought that went into the gift.

So about gift-giving. It takes a bit of simplicity, creativity, and thought. Creativity would be really nice. I saw these around deviantART, and I’m fairly certain that anyone would like them, just for the sake of aesthetics.

This last one here is a personal favorite.
I know, I should’ve written about the impact of art on an otherwise lackluster object, like design and artisan craftsmanship on simple coffee mugs, and used it to illustrate a point on the philosophy of aesthetics and its key role in the valuing of otherwise dreary living. But I just wanted to rant about how badly and often mindlessly some people tend to give gifts. Oh well.

2 thoughts on “Unclichéfied

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