I Suck at Christmassing

Buying Christmas presents for people, even the ones I love, fills me with more anxiety than anything else in my life combined -- and I used to work exclusively with suicidal people.

Dec 8, 2011 at 4:00pm | Leave a comment

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My name is Emily, and I hate Christmas shopping.

Not because I'm a Scrooge or a Grinch or other otherwise non-denominational jerk, but because I am the worst present buyer in history.

Exhibit A: In high school, I had a boyfriend during Christmastime for the first time ever, and wanted to get him the perfect thing. I ended up amassing a wealth of horrible knick-knacks (scented candles, guitar strings, a Dinosaur Jr CD that had been made into a paperweight), and became so embarrassed about how terrible they were that I put off our present exchange for two weeks. When we finally traded gifts, he was nonplussed by the cornucopia of randomness, and pretty confused as to why it took so long to be ready.

Exhibit B: For an office Secret Santa exchange, I bought my mark, a near stranger to me, a bottle of wine. He had been sober for almost 3 years.   

Buying Christmas presents for people, even the ones I love, fills me with more anxiety than anything else in my life combined -- and I used to work exclusively with suicidal people.

I want to find the gift that will show the person I know their interests, remind them of times we've had together and be useful to them. I get so caught up in finding the perfect gift that I somehow give up and buy something terrible, reverse engineering the worst-est gift.  

Now if you know me, you know that in no other aspect of my life am I even slightly concerned with perfection. If I get a manicure, I ruin it before I leave the building, without fail. But for presents, I'll spend days agonizing over websites, bookmarking dozens of items, filling tons of virtual carts. Then I take it to the streets, strolling through indie flea markets, and as I get more desperate, through Targets and Kohls. I make no decisions, I just gain "possibilities," none of them appealing. I decide that anything I might actually get the person is probably already something they own, and then start questioning how well I know the person to begin with. 

Three days in, I rebel against price limits and spend $75 on a co-worker I barely know just because I found one thing that I know he'll like. Four days in, I'm questioning the very concept of friendship. Five days in, I either buy something intentionally terrible ($50 of chewing gum) and hope it'll be funny, or I buy something vaguely related to their interests (a stuffed animal of Yoshi for a gamer), wrap it, and then start dreading the day I have to watch them open it. I'd much prefer to leave a present on a doorstep, old school, in order to avoid that moment of watching someone's genuine anticipation turning into fake enthusiasm.  

I envy the people that know how to buy presents for others. I envy the people that carry around notebooks to take down ideas for presents all year round. I tried that once, and I swear, all it says in it is "Pete thinks 9/11 was an inside job- T-shirt?"  

It's the holiday season again, and I felt the stirrings of a panic attack when it was decided that the tiny theater I run will do a Secret Santa exchange. I drew the name of a charming tech guy who I've talked to a lot about the movie "Drive" and about Tim Burton, and who recently shaved his impressive afro.  

Is it too soon to buy him a fake afro wig?