Category Archives: Speaker’s Corner
Every year at Christmas I struggle with gifting and the dichotomy of the thrill of receiving versus the trauma of giving. I know that giving is supposed to feel good, and sometimes, when I’ve really thought about it and found the perfect present for someone – something that they actually really need and like and find useful – then it does give me that warm and fuzzy glow inside. Unfortunately, “giving” at Christmas too often turns into a last-minute frenzied trip through the mall with a list of 20 people (most of whom I only vaguely know), frantically trying to find something that is both generic enough (so they could actually use it) and tasteful enough (so that my own aesthetic isn’t horribly offended.
Oh dear, that last bit made me sound (as the British say) like a right twat, didn’t it? I know it sounds terrible to say it, but if you really think about it, you know you’ve had to buy a present for your second-cousin’s boyfriend of 6 weeks who you’ve only met twice and can’t really remember his name … and is that really in the spirit of Christmas? On the converse side, getting a present from your second-cousin’s boyfriend of 6 weeks who also doesn’t know my name is no great shakes either! I’ll likely end up with a pair of socks or a pair of dangly earrings that I’ll never wear. Or, god forbid, another fuzzy blanket. See? It goes both ways. So I guess I was wrong to say that there was a “thrill of receiving” because in fact, getting a bunch of crap that you don’t really want is just as stressful! And that doesn’t even address the issue of where you’re going to put it all.
Okay okay, I admit it. I’m totally a grinch. I don’t really like Christmas. Bring out the cat-o-nine-tails and I’ll flagellate myself while you go and enjoy the turkey with all the trimmings.
I don’t mean to suggest that I hate everything about Christmas. I can do without the religious bits, obviously, and the blatant commercialism I find offensive. But some of the carols aren’t so bad (Carol of the Bells and Drummer Boy are quite nice actually), and holly can be quite festive, if used in a tasteful decoration. And I quite like the idea of preparing a special meal for your loved ones, even though I’m about the world’s worst cook. See? I’m not a totally awful person.
This was supposed to be a post explaining about the gift thing. Instead it’s been a bit of a manifesto, hasn’t it? Hopefully you’ll all forgive me, because hey, if you’re mad, it’s probably because you’re offended, which means you really love Christmas, which means you buy into all that Christmas spirit and stuff, which means you HAVE to forgive me because it’s the Christmas Season, so there! (That was totally awesome logic, wasn’t it?)
Basically, to make a long story even longer: we have developed a new gifting philosophy. There is only one rule, and it’s pretty simple. Any gifts we give must fit into one of the following categories.
The gift must go into:
A. A tummy
B. A bathtub
C. A bank account
See? Now is that so bad? If you simply follow these three rules, you are guaranteed a more pleasant and stress-free gifting experience, on both ends of the transaction. Option A is totally a win/win because everyone loves food and drink! Option B is definitely biased towards women, but then guys usually complain that women are harder to shop for, so it’s a good tactic for them. And I’ve never heard of anyone, man or woman, complaining about a gift in the C category. Best of all, it helps you avoid the pitfalls of the hideous Christmas sweater, which we’ve all fallen victim to at one point or another.
Please know that we’ll be thinking of you all and sending out happy thoughts of you into the universe. And if (or when) I’m ever forgiven for writing this post, we will gladly accept happy thoughts from you too. Also, we’ll be on Skype all day on Christmas Day, so hop online and we can have a chat. That would be a gift we would really and truly appreciate.
Christmas is one of those tough holidays. Some people celebrate, some people don’t, some people think it’s super-religiousy, others just like the commercial aspects. Finding the golden mean can be tricky, and I’ve struggled over the years with various office situations and how the professional environment acts and reacts to what is essentially the most unprofessional event of the year.
First of all, I don’t think we should have Christmas off work. It’s not fair to those people who don’t celebrate. While working in New York, there were a lot of Jewish people in my office and in my community. They didn’t want to take what was, to them, some random weekday off. They’d much rather have taken off Hannukah, or Rosh Hoshanah, or any number of other Jewish holidays. I think it would be nice if the government said “You can have 3 or 4 or however many days off each year for whatever religious – or non-religious – belief system you personally hold, and you can take them whenever you want.” That way the Pagans could be off for the Solstice, the Muslims could be off for Eid, and I wouldn’t have to go to work on Darwin Day!
Unfortunately that is not going to happen. Instead, we’re stuck with that awkward week where most people are gone (especially those with little kids), everyone is stressed about spending time with the family, and there aren’t enough hours in the day to go last minute shopping.
I think I went off on a bit of a tangent there. This was supposed to be about Christmas in the office. One place where I worked was a very small company, maybe 18 people in total. It was a huge surprise to me when, a week before Christmas, I showed up to work to find lots of little bags of candy and a coffee mug and some candy canes on my desk. Apparently, every one put together little packages for all the other coworkers, and that was the day we were supposed to exchange. Except no one told me. It was really awkward, because everyone gave me something, but I had nothing to give. I never really recovered from that faux pas, socially at least.
The next office I worked at was a pretty big corporate place, with lots of rules and regulations. Now, I was never able to actually find this in the employee handbook, but one of my coworkers swore that it was official company policy that you could only gift down the ladder of hierarchy. So the president gives something to the vice president, who gives something to the middle management, who gives something to the regular worker, who gives something to the receptionist, etc etc etc. This made sense to me. Otherwise the one person at the top (who, let’s face it, has the best office and salary anyway) gets all the good gifts. It can even become a competition to see who can suck up the most with the best gift, and I’m sure when promotions were announced in January there would be a few sideways glances. I also liked giving a gift to someone below me, because it emphasized for me that I was no longer at the bottom of the ladder! It’s nice having someone look up to you.
My current job here in London is a mid-size place, but it’s fairly casual and informal. We’re doing a Secret Santa, but it’s a little different that Secret Santa I know from the States. Here, it’s just one day – one gift – worth no more than £5. But the kicker is that you never have to reveal yourself! It’s completely anonymous, 100%, even after the event is over. I kind of like that. In the US, at least how I always knew it, you had to give 5 days of gifts, and on the 5th day you revealed your identity. My only problem with the plan as it’s done in my current job is that £5 doesn’t get much! And my person is my boss! So I broke the rules and splurged … I spent £12. But don’t tell anyone!