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"I brought you a delicious bass" - The Fucking Bluebird of Goddamn Happiness [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Zoethe

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"I brought you a delicious bass" [Jul. 11th, 2011|09:58 am]
Zoethe
For our first anniversary, John (first hubby) bought me a Webber barbecue grill. I was delighted.

His mother was appalled. "That's not an anniversary gift! There's nothing romantic about a barbecue!"

Her reaction surprised me because she was, on the whole, a very down-to-earth sort of woman, not enamored of jewelry or baubles. She could make two dimes do the work of a dollar, and looked askance on any purchase that wasn't at least on sale--and preferably on clearance.

Yet the notion that John would give me something as sensible and useful as a grill for our anniversary left her dumbstruck. It took a fair amount of reassurance from me for her to believe that I was actually happy with the gift and not just covering for the boy's ferocious lack of good graces.

It was the first time I experienced the dichotomy in gift-giving philosophies. But it would not be the last. It was brought home to me not long ago when making suggestions to a friend who was brainstorming a gift for his sweetie. He immediately dismissed my first suggestions because "she doesn't like getting practical household items as a gift."

To me, that's odd. But for a lot of people, that's second nature. I was overjoyed to get a pressure cooker and a quality saute pan for Christmas. Other people would be hurt or insulted by such gifts.

I'm not sure what makes the difference. Is it nurture? I grew up in a household where it wasn't unusual to get things you needed as gifts--oh sure, we got fun things as well, and I still enjoy getting jewelry and such as presents, but there were always practical things under the tree as well, and we were poor enough that items beyond a baseline functionality were a bit of a luxury. We were happy about pretty new socks. Do people who dislike practical presents come from households where they were never given--or conversely, from households where nothing but practical gifts were given and their reaction to them is in rebellion to such an upbringing?

Or is it in our natures? I have an allergy to knickknacks. I prefer very clean lines and minimalism in my decor. So lots of impractical gifts are not to my taste: please don't buy me gewgaws! I'm also not interested in "fine" jewelry, only striking, unusual pieces, so I'm not a great candidate for most people's jewelry purchases. That kind of leaves books and movies (of which I've received lots in my life) and practical items. Other people, who like such things, have a wider variety of gift possibilities, and might not be so over-the-moon as I am when I receive a saute pan.

Also, I have a tendency still to make do with what is adequate while lusting in my heart for superior items. But for the most part I won't spend the money to replace what works okay for what would be more esthetically pleasing. So while I greatly desired a set of 10 glass mixing bowls, I wouldn't buy them for myself. Therefore, getting them as a gift (thank you again, Steve and Heather), filled me with a delight quite incomprehensible to anyone who doesn't like practical gifts.

The other part of this is that when Ferrett and I first got married, he had little use for practical gifts--presents were supposed to be fun things! The combination of becoming a homeowner and living with someone who was sort of blind to that distinction has brought him around some. But I remember the Christmas when I bought him a leaf blower. He was perplexed by his own reaction, because he was kind of excited about it. It was the first step down a slippery slope that has him thrilled to get vacuums for Christmas. (Okay, they are admittedly robotic, but ultimately they are very practical gifts!) He still thanks me on occasion for the set of good kitchen knives he got a few Christmases back.

And I think that's part of it. When I pick up that saute pan, I smile because Ferrett bought it for me. When I use the pressure cooker, I'm grateful to my mother-in-law. When I use those glass bowls, they give me the double thrill of being awesome and of remembering dear friends who sent them to me.

(Though I do have to say that I feel the same happiness and ongoing gratitude when I wear a lovely piece of jewelry made by a dear friend, or carefully selected with regard to my tastes. It's not a mutually exclusive thing for me--like most of life, these things are not absolutes.)

So what's your gift style/preference? Do you loathe practical gifts, or wish for them in your secret heart?
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[User Picture]From: greybeta
2011-07-11 02:08 pm (UTC)
I'm a practical gift sorta person. Granted, I asked for my fair share of video game consoles growing up, but I was thrilled to get a new cell phone as an early birthday present.

I'm also one of those people who don't mind gift cards at all, so I have to remember that quite a few people consider gift cards a product of laziness.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-07-11 03:22 pm (UTC)
A gift card to a bookstore is one of my favorite things, because when I have it in hand Borders becomes Schroedinger's Bookstore: I both own and don't own every single item in the store. The possibilities are endless!
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[User Picture]From: sylphon
2011-07-11 02:13 pm (UTC)
Heck, I'm currently prepping meat for a brand new slow cooker (programmable and HUGE - so nifty) that had been my birthday gift from my partner. Practical or whimsical, they both work for me :-) Course since my office is overrun with my geeky knicknacks, finding space for non-practical stuff is always a trial.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-07-11 03:23 pm (UTC)
That's awesome.
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[User Picture]From: sarapada
2011-07-11 02:17 pm (UTC)
For me, the breakdown isn't practical/non-practical, it's more about generic/specific - I'd much rather get a practical gift that says "I know you, and this reminds me of some part of you" than a non-practical gift that could be for anyone. I love practical gifts that help me with goals I'm trying to achieve (cooking, gardening, etc.), or that make chores I hate easier.
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[User Picture]From: madlori
2011-07-11 02:32 pm (UTC)
This, a thousand times this.
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[User Picture]From: tylik
2011-07-11 02:26 pm (UTC)
Definitely a practical gift person... trending over to a "no gift" person. I'm in a place in my life where I'm really not into acquiring much stuff. Been there, done that, want to travel light. So I mostly prefer not getting gifts, and the bar for practical is pretty high, as my own bar to own things right now is something like "would I want to ship this to China with me" with the exception "or is this something I can easily find a home for". (No, it's nothing like a given that I'm moving to China when I finish up here, it just makes for a handy reference point. So I own a hot air-rework station*, and I might pick up a kiln... but I'm generally not into having things, those are just things that serve useful functions and I know I can find homes for.)

One friend gave me a canvas tote bag with an Amanita Muscaria on it - that was a lovely gift. My sister gave me a mug made at a ceramics studio next to the circus school she will be attending come fall. I'm kind of in an ongoing discussion with some of my Taiji students about gifts, as they want to give back for the time I spend teaching, which, after some discussion, I'm kind of convinced I'd bee a boor not to see and respect. But even being bought tasty treats is kind of difficult.

* Which I very nearly love enough to ship to China. Best tool ever. (I am including the attached fine temp control soldering iron. OMG.)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-07-11 03:28 pm (UTC)
I understand your compulsion to travel light, even though I certainly do not do it anymore. That's what comes from owning a house. And my sibs and I have all come to present detente: each of us knows that buying things for the others that they neither need nor want is a good expenditure of our limited funds. So there is pretty much no gift-giving within my family, with the limited exception of if someone sees something that they KNOW one of the others would love/need, it will be bought without regard to occasion. That doesn't happen often now that we are older and more settled, but it does every once in a while.
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[User Picture]From: bart_calendar
2011-07-11 02:29 pm (UTC)
For me, I want fun shit. Particularly if it is selfish fun shit. The two best gifts Rome Girl ever gave me were:

1. DJ Hero - even though she was appalled at the thought of another plastic musical instrument in the house.

2. A real vintage Misfits T-shirt - even though she's appalled by pretty much everything Glen Danzig has written/done/thought in his entire life. (This is a girl who listens, for the most part, to Frank Sinatra and Rat Pack albums and gay icons like George Michael, Madonna, Cher, etc...)

Rome Girl is the opposite. When we first started dating I found out that no boyfriend had ever given her jewelry. So I fucking showered her with jewelry on any excuse for a special occasion until she finally said "can't I have something fucking useful?"

Since then she's said the best and most romantic gift I've ever gotten her is a maid to come in once a week and do the dishes, clean the apartment and do most of the laundry. It baffles me that she finds this romantic but three years later she still showers me with kisses every Wednesday afternoon when the maid leaves.

My overall theory on this is that boys don't grow up and continue to want toys while girls tend to like grown up shit - as long as it presented to them as grown up shit and not as "you are expected to cook for me so I bought you a crock pot, bitch."
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[User Picture]From: pghbekka
2011-07-11 02:56 pm (UTC)
A maid is a HIGHLY romantic gift!
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[User Picture]From: lady_guenievre
2011-07-11 02:30 pm (UTC)
I think for me the line is whether or not I'd buy something for myself, with some nuance as to whether if I *did* buy it for myself, it'd be an "ordinary purchase" or a "splurge". So something I'd use *and enjoy using*, like kitchen knives or whatnot, is a lovely gift, esp. if they'd be nicer than ones I'd buy for myself. So is a gift certificate for Lush or Bare Minerals, both things I use and like, but don't often purchase because they're pricy...

On the other hand, I don't think I will ever be practical enough to appreciate a leaf blower as a present, because while it's something I might need or want, it's *not* something that the actual use of would make me happy.

Perhaps that's the answer - it's not a question of whether the item is practical or not, it's whether it brings the recipient joy...heck, even "nice" jewelry could be considered more practical than joyous, in certain circumstances (the sort of thing that compliments ones' "interview suit" and is never worn otherwise...)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-07-11 03:33 pm (UTC)
I can see that. It's definitely been "upgraded" things that I remember most among my practical gifts. Though as a poor college student, I couldn't wait for Christmas when there was always a box with a new toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, etc., under the tree. I was very grateful for those things at the time!
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[User Picture]From: k425
2011-07-11 02:31 pm (UTC)
I think what sarapada says has a lot to do with it, but there's more to the "practical gift". For me, a vacuum cleaner is something for the house, and if you buy one and gift wrap it and give it to me for my birthday it looks very much like you're saying "here, you need to do the vacuuming". But last year for my birthday OldBloke got me a set of small gardening tools and they were fab because he knew I'd use them for my hobby. Vacuuming will never be a hobby.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-07-11 03:34 pm (UTC)
And I would be happy to receive a really nice vacuum for a gift. It's definitely a difference.
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[User Picture]From: madlori
2011-07-11 02:32 pm (UTC)
I'm an equal-opportunity gift-receiver. I love getting jewelry but I also love getting socks. One of my best gifts ever was when I got a KitchenAid mixer from my grandmother. Actually, when there's a gift-giving holiday approaching, I hardly ever spare a thought to what I'd like to receive, only what I plan to give. I get about ten times more pleasure from picking out a great gift for someone and seeing them open it than I do from receiving things.

My family doesn't typically give fancy gifts. Either it's something useful or practical (clothing, books, robes, kitchen items) or something really unique. One year my aunt spent hours on eBay scouring the Internet for a used copy of a cookbook that my alma mater put out in the 1970s. My grandmother got my aunt a vintage lemonade set one year because she remembered her admiring one in an antique store. Then you have to tell the story of why you thought that'd be a good gift, and where you found it, and so on. That's part of the fun.

Nobody gets ties or gift certificates in my family. It's always tailored to the person. Last Christmas my mother gave her mother a quilt she'd hand-embroidered. I got a hand-knitted afghan one year from my grandmother. My cousin made soaps one year and gave everyone pretty wrapped soap. Last year I got my dad a super awesome insulated travel coffee mug. Me and my brother went in together and got him an iPod Touch because he'd been wanting one but would never have sprung for it himself. If I get jewelry from my parents (I looooove jewelry) it'll be something oddball or unique they found in some remote gift shop in Arizona.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-07-11 03:36 pm (UTC)
I definitely think much more about what I'm giving than what I'm receiving--giving an appreciated gift is so much fun!

I like your family's approach. It makes gift giving real instead of just a ritualized chore.
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[User Picture]From: pachamama
2011-07-11 02:42 pm (UTC)
I love practical gifts, but I admit I love them much more when they are indulgent practical gifts -- things I just wouldn't splurge on for myself. If my partner gave me another vacuum cleaner to replace the vacuum cleaner I just broke, I wouldn't appreciate it. But if he gave me a Roomba I'd be thrilled.

And yes, we always got socks and underwear under the Christmas tree in my family of origin.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-07-11 03:37 pm (UTC)
Indulgent are definitely better.
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[User Picture]From: pghbekka
2011-07-11 02:59 pm (UTC)
I love practical gifts for all the reasons you mentioned. I have requested, and been thrilled to receive, long underwear. I agree they're more exciting when they're indulgent (the long underwear was silk, the sheets are high thread count, etc.).
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-07-11 03:38 pm (UTC)
Ooo, silk long underwear is lovely!!!
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[User Picture]From: redstapler
2011-07-11 03:00 pm (UTC)
Of all the stuff I asked for for this year's birthday, the only "splurgy" thing was a box of Vosges toffees I saw mentioned on a friend's LJ that sounded amazing.

The rest of the list was comprised of giftcards or otherwise practical items.

There is no shame in that game. I lose jewelry pretty easily, but something I'll actually use? Awesome.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-07-11 03:41 pm (UTC)
Giftcards are underrated. Particularly when the giver knows that it's someplace you love to shop.
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[User Picture]From: channonyarrow
2011-07-11 03:01 pm (UTC)
I probably tend toward practical gifts, giving and receiving, because my ultimate goal with a gift is "Do I think you will use and enjoy this?" This is why I have given people: a copy of the Art Of War for a birthday where the recipient was going through problems at work, a (garage sale) box of the large, asparagus-size canning jars that are no longer made, or two different pitchers on the same holiday for someone who collects and uses pitchers, among others.

Either I am a terrible person or my nature is to be pretty practical. I mean, I shot for "fun" as a secondary value in the above examples, and "beauty" is often a consideration as well, but I have a LOT of experience with family members defaulting to things like bath sets, which I hate and never use, that I have to say that my real wish for any gift is that the giver looks at it and things "I'll use that," whether the use is practical, fun, or aesthetic. Financial value is my least consideration, and I tend to put gifts of jewelry into the "financial" category, honestly, unless it's exactly to a person's taste.

And in my family, we did a lot of practical gifts as well as fun ones; it was a nice mix, and I always like getting a pair of socks or whatever from "Santa" (I'm unmarried, so my parents still think it's their obligation to fill up a stocking for me, and I have to admit I enjoy it) because it's something they thought I would use.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-07-11 03:44 pm (UTC)
I'm with you on the gift sets--please don't buy me perfume! I can't wear it and don't need it! Though I don't mind a good body wash in a yummy scent, because I will use that.
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[User Picture]From: funwithrage
2011-07-11 03:09 pm (UTC)
I'm a mix with a twist, as the cocktail menu says. I like stuff I can use, though jewelry and clothes are fine. (Growing up, we pretty much had lists for our birthdays and Christmas: we could put whatever we wanted on them, and our parents would get some of the stuff for us. Stuff in Christmas stockings was a mix.)

My thing is that, as far as the current technology allows, I don't like having a lot of physical stuff. I've moved too often, and I don't think I'm going to stay in my current apartment for ten years. Clothing and jewelry pack down easily, are somewhat practical, and have no virtual equivalent, so they're good, but knickknacks and similar...well, pretty, and I definitely like the thought, but I can never quite help thinking that it'll be one more thing to put in a box someday.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-07-11 03:46 pm (UTC)
I feel like life is all about acquiring stuff, and then disposing of it again. I am trying to limit the acquisition of impractical things now, and I do so by trying to look past the "shiny!" to "will I still love this in 10 years?"

We don't plan on moving again ever, so it's easy to fill the place up in a slow but steady fashion. I have to fight the urge.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-07-11 03:47 pm (UTC)
Passing along is something that has to happen, definitely. And a well-considered gift is always much more appreciated.
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[User Picture]From: gythiawulfie
2011-07-11 03:16 pm (UTC)

I'm a bit of both.

But I am an extremely difficult person to shop for. (that will change once I get my house in a year or two, anything for the house will make me estatic). To me a practical gift is actually a gift card to some place I use alot. I know people HATE gift cards, but they ask for lists of CD's, DVD's, Sheet Music and such I want, and of course, they can never find them or there are so many versions/renditions they are afraid to choose the wrong symphony performing. So I usually say, "Gift Card to xys" and they go, "Are you sure?" And I assure them I am, and sometimes, I get enough of them to one place I can actually afford something on the high end and really nice. (Like the complete set of Beethoven's Symphonies as directed by Bernstein.)

I love unusual gifts that people know would fill my quirky side, but if someone bought me a set of pliers or a dewalt reciprocating saw, I'd be squealing past New Year's. (Not to mention anything from Williams and Sonoma... I have expensive taste... it's all their fault.)

I don't collect 'trinkets' but I do collect gems and minerals, and I know full well they have no idea what I'm looking for. Hey, 12 pack of compressed air for cleaning them? AWESOME!.

Oh cool, new high end cutting scissors for my sewing projects! YES! How did you know?

Yeah, practical works alot better and I'd rather get things I needed than things I don't. (Or things I don't like which I end up donating 6 months later.)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-07-11 03:51 pm (UTC)

Re: I'm a bit of both.

I think that giftcards get a bad rap, because they do serve an excellent purpose if they are chosen for places that the receiver loves to shop. Like Williams-Sonoma [drool].

And you will find that having a house leads to an appalling amount of stuff piling up.
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