‘Thank you! It’s just what I wanted’ is a commonly heard phrase at Christmas time. Families the world over use it to veil their disappointment. This creates all sorts of problems: it enshrines the gift giver in a bubble of Christmas hubris, adds to their obliviousness, and perpetuates the cycle of bad gifts. But do not fear: the cycle can be broken. You, my friend, can become a Gift God.
If you’re not sure that you’re an inferior gift-giver, you most likely are one. Folk have been too polite to tell you. I’m telling you now because subpar gifts make subpar lives, and nobody wants that. I know. I used to be just like you—a shocking gift giver. A textbook overthinker who second-guessed every decision they made. I stood in shop aisles frowning, picking up items and placing them back on the shelves, while shoppers buzzed around me filling their baskets. I fretted over the implications of my choices: Will my son grow up to be a freeloader if I buy him this toy piano? Will my baby daughter show this giant purple dinosaur more affection than me? Will my wife attract other men with this seductive fragrance? Will my coworker think I am making an advance if I buy him these boxer shorts? Will my mother-in-law think I hate her cuisine if I buy her this slow-cooker?
Stop, stop, stop. Derail those swirling trains of thought, right now. That’s what I told myself, and it immediately improved my outlook– brought everything back into focus. I realised that, whether it was a toy piano, a giant purple dinosaur, a bottle of perfume, underwear, or a slow-cooker, the best thing was not to overthink it. Which led me to the Gift God mantra: if a gift calls out to you, go with your gut.
I had to learn to trust my instincts again–pluck them out of my dank brain cave and polish them up. I’d been paralysed by choice for so long—stuck in a nightmarish reality where catalogues bit at my ankles, shelves towered over me, and beads of cold sweat ran down my forehead as doe-eyed shop assistants asked, ‘Can I help you? Can I help you?’ Decision fatigue left me unable to act, unable to complete the simple task of choosing a gift. But not any more. Now I am a Gift God swooping down from on high, scooping up gifts aplenty. Gifts that satisfy. Gifts that bring a warm smile to anyone’s face. A smile that says, ‘you really get me, don’t you?’
I started by developing an understanding of what people love by closely observing their behaviour: I snooped around on their phones and rifled through their waste paper baskets for morsels that would reveal their tastes. I found out what brought them joy, wonder, and pleasure by closely monitoring them. For your information, this is not legally considered stalking at the time of writing. And, no, it is not creepy behaviour when you consider my intentions. Tailoring a gift that fits snugly involves getting your hands dirty. If you’re ever doubtful rummaging through a co-worker’s drawers, listening in on private conversations, or following your cousin around the supermarket, repeat this affirmation to yourself: I am a Gift God and I will provide. One more time. I am a Gift God and I will provide. Yes, that’s it. Come Crimbo time, you’ll have gift ideas coming out of your ears. All thanks to the insider knowledge you’ve gained from simply observing.
For me, it was about getting into the right mindset. I used to despise Christmas. My rational brain didn't understand why Christians celebrated a Pagan holiday that God forbade in the bible, and the rampant commercialism only confused matters. But having children changed my view, and I began to see Christmas as being for them. I transformed from Christmas curmudgeon into Gift God. I learnt that I could use gifts as leverage. My children behave well all year round because they wish to receive their dream presents come December. Those of you wondering about the role of that house-invading gluttonous geriatric in the red costume can forget about it. There is no mention of him in my house. He plays no role in my children’s lives, and I’ll be damned if he takes credit for my miraculous work.
Onward, bad gift-giver. A question remains. How does one buy gifts without directly asking potential recipients what they want? Or reading their minds? Don’t fret. During my own transformation, I pioneered several techniques to that end. If, at first, they sound manipulative, then I’d like to draw your attention to what advertising does to us on a daily basis. The media manipulates us left, right, and centre. They induce cravings subliminally. To be clear, it’s not my intention to prepare you for a job on Madison Avenue. No. But you will be climbing inside people’s minds, in a fashion, and these techniques will help lay the groundwork for a fertile Christmas.
A subliminal technique that involves selecting a gift and then brainwashing the recipient into believing they want it more than anything else, using phrases like ‘you really suit green’ and ‘I think you would look lovely in a dress.’
2) Reverse psychology
This works particularly well on children. If you suggest that you can’t stand a particular toy or hobby, they will inevitably pine for it. For example, those skateboards are really lame. Skating is for losers.
3) The cookie monster
Influence the cookies on your family’s electronic devices. Search for a gift you’d be willing to buy them, and ads will constantly bring it up. Through repetition, they will eventually take a shine to it. This is how the pop charts work.
You might be thinking, Christmas is not a huge deal for my family like it is for others. I don’t need to be an amazing gift giver. Well, my family weren’t Yuletide maniacs either, but I could sense their disappointment when presented with the 13th or 14th iteration of my overthought gifts. I started out with good ideas, but I talked myself out of them, fearing that they would not be well received– that they might have negative effects on the lives of the recipients. Unicycles became colouring books. Trampolines mutated into socks. Boxes of chocolates morphed into satsumas. My white, middle-class, well-mannered family spared me their disdain, leaving me believing I’d done alright when I hadn’t. I was the rotten sprout on the Christmas wreath due to my poor gift-giving abilities. But you don’t have to suffer the same fate as me if you employ the tactics outlined above. They will ensure every success with your gift buying and giving. If money is an issue, remind yourself that the splurge is worthwhile; that you are investing in your loved ones, and thus in your own happiness and well-being.
So as you push your way through shopping centres with sharpened elbows, armed with your newfound decisiveness, trust your viscera; don your spryest footwear and leapfrog the dilly-dallying shoppers. Perhaps you’ll even recommend my guide to them after you’ve beaten them to the punch. You’ll spot the constipated and indecisive ones a mile away, hemming and hawing as if their lives depended on it. Try snatching an item from under their noses and telling them if they snooze, they lose. It’s not mean-spirited; it’s teaching them a valuable lesson. One I wish I’d been taught sooner.
Take it from a former humbug: There’s nothing more gratifying than receiving heartfelt thanks from a loved one who has received your meticulously tailored gift. Their smile will send tingles down your spine. They’ll say ‘Thank you. It’s just what I wanted’ with absolute sincerity, joy, and love. Because you, my friend, are a Gift God. And you settle for nothing less.