Monday, May 7, 2012

It's the thought that counts.

So that job I just quit... it was at a sorta cool paper store.  We sell lots of different types of papers, pens & pencils, stationary, greeting cards, books, picture frames, journals, note pads, party goods, gift wrap & ribbon, and other gift merchandise.  We also custom design and print invitations and announcements.  We receive a wide variety of customers with an even broader scope of needs.

My absolute favorite customers are men shopping for their wives or girlfriends.  They come inside, often so timid, wanting to be creative and having elaborate ideas, but not knowing exactly what to do or how to do it.  One young man said he felt like "a bull in a china shop."  I like to watch them wander around for a few minutes - some are on more of an exact mission than others - and then swoop in to offer help when I sense uncertainty.  I admire their honesty and their humility, but most of all, their open love for these women just warms my heart!

So many people don't believe in gift-giving.  I've heard the words "commercial," "superficial," and "unnecessary," used to describe giving gifts on any holiday.  While I suppose there is a grain of truth to that belief, it's also very disappointing.  Certainly, if the only way we show our heartfelt affection for one another is through spending money, intentions are in the wrong place.  But if that gift is an extension of our love?  Well, nothing could make someone feel more special.

We have this stereotype of men forgetting birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries: one that includes doing things at the last minute, hastily and carelessly, or accompanied by the excuse "I didn't know what to get you."  The last time the spouse said that to me, I asked him a few very short questions like "what's my favorite store?" and he knew all the answers. There is no excuse.  Take me to Anthropologie and let me sniff the candles for half an hour, and I'll be in a haze of soy ecstasy for the rest of the day.  IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THAT HARD. 

On the other hand, when someone gives me something that is "so me," when I can tell they really hunted high and low for it, or when I know that serious thought and effort went into selecting or creating something they knew I would really, truly appreciate... it almost takes my breath away.  I can feel their love.  Sure - we might say "love ya!" every time we see each other, but gifts just reinforce that love.  Actions can speak louder than words.

I love to give gifts. In fact sometimes I think about all the things I would buy for people if I had the money! Often when I'm shopping I see more things that remind me of folks I know than things I would like to have. It's not selfless, it's kinda selfish. I'm not looking for praise, I just like buying things that remind me of people. It makes me happy and it's an expression of my luuuuurv.

I think two recent experiences with extraordinary young men shopping for their "others" are worth sharing.  One guy about my age came in with a stack of dusty books for his wife's birthday and begged us to gift wrap them.  We don't usually gift wrap, even for a fee, but we took pity on this charming newlywed and agreed to wrap his books.  He proudly showed me that one was a first edition Norman Mailer he had hunted high and low for.  Then he asked me to help him find a birthday card.  His choice was a "Happy 1st Birthday" card with a couple of chubby animals and a single candle on the front. 

"This is it, this is the one, she'll love this one." 
I said, "First birthday?"
"It's her first birthday as my wife!"

The second gentleman entered the store in full head-to-toe cycling attire. We're talking Lance Armstrong.  He was also quite possibly the most freckled person I have ever met.  It was a little hard to take him seriously (with the helmet, the spandex, and the freckles), but come to find out: this guy was a serious gift giver.  He wanted me to explain all the different types of specialty paper to him, so he could decide what to use when making a homemade card. When I asked what gift the card would accompany, he explained that he always has to be very creative when giving his "Ladyfriend" (his words, not mine) presents, as she is wealthy and he often can't afford her tastes.  So this year he went to Origins (very expensive natural skincare line) and had the sales rep give him free samples of aaaaaaaaall the different types of face creams so his Ladyfriend could try them all and decide which one she liked best.

I melted.

As if that wasn't enough...
The card he was hand-making was to accompany a set of Sharpie permanent markers, and include a homemade certificate granting the recipient a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to play connect-the-dots with his freckles.  all.  over.  his.  body.

I suppose I have several points here:
  1. Gifts are OKAY.  Giving gifts is a really nice gesture.  It's not a sin to spend money on material items to show your affection.
  2. It doesn't always have to be a commercial holiday that you're celebrating.  "Just because" gifts are the best kind, actually.
  3. You don't always have to spend a lot of money or come up with elaborate outings.  Creativity is free and goes a long way.  Personally, I would be in heaven if someone allowed me to connect the dots with their freckles.  Heaven.
So spend a little time, especially on your spouse/other.  Do something creative -- not because you have to, but because you want to.  I mean, if that's not . . .

I don't know what is.

1 comment:

  1. What a great post! As a fellow gift-giving-lover, I feel you. The story of the first birthday card is fantastic!