A friend came to me for a piece of gifting advice the other day. “It’s my girlfriend’s birthday coming up,” he said, “and I’ve written this beautiful song about her, but I really think it’s too much, more of a Valentine’s material, so how about I get some flowers and take her to a picnic?”
I almost yelled at him angrily “Yeah, sure, if you sing that song there – otherwise it’s boring!”, but I saw such genuine confusion in his eyes that I realised a much bigger societal issue was hiding behind it.
How many times have you thought “That’s it!” about a gift for your loved ones and then took a step back and started doubting yourself with “This is too much, he/she will think I’m showing off/guilty of something/overdoing it”?
I have, many times, until one day I finally got the point why gifts exist in the first place – to convey an emotion – a perfect moment in time when all your thoughts are concentrating on one person, and all you care about is to make him or her happy. I imagine it broadly as a ‘heart-to-heart’ action of giving.
Any subsequent thoughts about the wrong time, the wrong place, the wrong amount of money are all artificially created by our brains, which, in turn, use information from the media (TV, magazines, Instagram, the list is way too long) and our immediate surroundings to figure out what is acceptable. A complete ‘brain-to-brain’ process that can kill the most creative gift idea.
The more layers of this ‘cultural knowledge’ you apply to any gift, the more likely you are to end up with cliché presents liked red roses on Valentine’s and photo albums for weddings.
My friend, totally in love and unafraid to express it, has written this beautiful song about a girl he met a few months ago. But no, the limits of our society state that saying to someone that you love them early in a relationship is “too much” and that you better keep it to yourself until the most appropriate time of the year – Valentine’s Day (which in itself is a manmade, commercially-driven celebration). A very twisted, inhuman logic, don’t you think?
Screw all the rules that are making us a homogeneous faceless crowd! Gifting (and many other things, in fact, but I’m keeping other subjects to experts) should be about expression of our personality, however silly or “inappropriate” it may seem. Make mistakes, but own them fully – you’ll learn more that way than making a mistake based on the cultural norms only to find out that your mistake hasn’t changed the norms, but you missed an opportunity to be yourself.
I propose we stop looking at our smartphone calendars to see what’s coming up, and instead embrace spontaneous acts of gifting, based on our emotions. This is how I try to live my life at the moment, and I’m still learning myself, but the amount of happiness around me has increased already, so I strongly suggest you give it a go.
Oh, and yes, if you ever write a song, a poem or draw a painting (or anything else that’s an expression of you beyond the limits of your daily life) because someone has inspired you – don’t wait, share it with them!