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A selfless soul searcher suggests:

With the Christmas holidays right around the corner, I was wondering if you have any advice on how to tell people that you just don’t want any presents.  I have plenty of stuff, if I see anything I want I just buy it right away, but I don’t have all that much anyway.  What would you suggest?


I think the increasing (miniscule, but increasing) move from people screaming about not getting what they want to people whispering sweetly that they lack nothing is one to be enthusiastically supported.  Wouldn’t it be lovely to spend all that money this holiday season on charity, education or infrastructure as opposed to cheap, useless trinkets?  Perhaps that’s what you can say – “Oh, I would love it if you would consider making the tiniest donation to my favorite charity ______________.  The work they do with (whatever they do it with) is so inspiring!  I have everything I need, but those poor _____________s don’t even have __________s!”


The deal is this – people want to give you presents – or if not you, specifically, then people want to give presents as part of a deep-seated human emotion – you may have just been slipped onto an obligatory list somewhere along the way due to proximity or carelessness – who knows?

But it’s part and parcel of being alive and being part of a society.  From altruism, the parental instinct, the familial bond to blood-brothers, brothers in arms and sisters from other misters, there are hundreds of reasons why we partake in gift-giving.  To commemorate a special occasion, to celebrate getting out alive and to mourn and remember those that have passed.  From this point of view, Christmas is just as good an excuse as any, and it’s the symbolism you’re after, not the thing itself.

Of course, diamonds, furs, flat-panel television sets, luxury cars and exotic trips are always nice symbols, too.

But there’s something else in the tone of your letter.  Something that says to me…not that you don’t want to receive gifts (which you assuredly do not), but that you don’t want to give gifts.  And that is being broadcast as you don’t want to be bothered.

And that’s fine, if a bit mean spirited.  Not that you don’t want to give of your own bounty, but that you would be so curmudgeonly as to deny other people the pleasures they seek by giving to you.  Actually, curmudgeonly has too cuddly a sound to it – and what this sounds like is you’re being an asshole.

Fine still, that’s your right.  But when you get presents, accept them gratefully and send the giver a thoughtful thank you note.  Just because you can’t be arsed doesn’t mean you should go about ruining it for everybody else.

Maybe I’m just putting my own shit into this, because I do so love presents.  I love buying presents for people, and when I’m broke, I love making presents for people.  I love it when people buy or make me the simplest things, and I certainly wouldn’t turn down a MacBook Air.  But I’m just as happy with a jar of homemade mustard.

Because what this all symbolizes isn’t riches, or even generosity – though they certainly play a part.  What it symbolizes is love, affection, memory, esteem, nourishment and time.  These things are in short supply, buddy, and here you are trying to cut it off at the source!  Perhaps you should do some serious introspection and figure that out.

Until then, buy some animal shares from Heifer Project International and pass those around as reciprocal gifts.  Do something good while figuring out why it was good to begin with.


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