Friday, December 24, 2010

Give A Little, Get A Little (Love).

I saw a special on gift-giving and the Christmas present tradtion on BBC news last night that was really eye-opening. Their human behavior expert was adamant about how we started giving gifts because they cement social relationships. It's a way of enforcing bonding for us, a tangible reminder that we care a lot about that particular person. However, once the gift is out of our hands, the way it's received is a little more ambiguous: The recipient can see it as a token of appreciation, or an admittance of guilt, apparently, which is what makes us so anxious as we give it and they open it. (High adrenaline stakes, perhaps?) Effort, thoughts and feelings that go into finding the right gift that show how much, or how little, we care about the person we're buying for. Or, at least, that's how it's supposed to be.

You can't just buy the esteem that comes with real bonding, as I've found on numerous occasions. While our society places the whole gift-giving dynamic on men treating women, for the majority of my life, I apparently mis-read the memo, and did all the treating while reaping absolutely none of the rewards, other than that "oh my god, does he even like this?" feeling. For my last long-ish term on-again, off-again guy, I bought him a leather jacket in Italy. Its wear-life already has outlasted our relationship. It's a nice coat. He stills wears it. I'm still don't regret buying it for him. But that's just the tip of my over-spending on the less-fair sex.

It all started with my first boyfriend. I was 16, didn't even really like him all that much, and yet still dropped over $80 on him for our first Christmas-- an Irish necklace, new boxers, a stuffed dog to replace the one his very real beagle had ripped to shreds, a 6 pack of his favorite beer, and on, and on, and on...just to find out he got me NADA for the holidays, and to also find out he was cheating on me 6 days later. I bought another guy a new hoodie...which I ended up keeping because I loved it so much (we shared custody of it for awhile, anyhow). I couldn't resist buying two soft-as-second-skin t-shirts I found in the most complimentary colors of blue and green for a guy...even though we'd only been seeing each other for a month. I also sent him a care package at college, which facilitated the beginning of our blow up. I used to buy my senior year of high school boyfriend chocolate covered gummy bears, his favorite, and sneak them into his soccer bag for after practice. Needless to say, I've always found it nearly ridiculously easy to drop money on guys. And usually, they drop me soon thereafter.

As I pointed out to my mother today, in the current economy, dating has kind of died. Three years ago, I was making more as a part-time sales associate at American Eagle than I am now working 20 hours a week as a peer writing consultant and Champlain's Writing Center. Three years ago, people our age had the ability to take a potential new beau out to dinner at places like Sweetwaters or Halverson's or VPB. Now, as our paycheck shrink and our gas bills get higher and higher, we have to be a little more creative. My roommate was recently taken on a very romantic winter walk in the newest snowfall. My friend Julia's favorite date was at a laundromat-- getting food delivered as they did their laundry. Movies and eating in are becoming in vogue again, because with Netflix and torrenting and streaming online, it's cheaper than going to the movies. Going out to eat and seeing a show has become a thing of the past. Brunches and bowling have replaced them. Dollar drafts at 4 PM are king, and if you can't understand why I want to treat you when I can buy you four beers for the price of one at 10 PM, we're done.

This also means that this year, I'm going light on the Christmas gifts-- I'm doling out small things (mostly, new hats, because they all need them,) from Italy that I bought for Christmas presents for my best guys way back when I left la bella Italia in May, or lending out books to friends that I think will interest them. Alli and I decided we obviously love each other enough without having to prove it with gifts. A girl's night out is the method of choice for holiday cheer with my girls-- nothing says "holiday love" with your set like getting dressed up and drunk. And as for the romantic interest? My smitten-ness will have to be enough...for now.

Merry Christmas to you and yours-- be safe, have fun, make merry! And one ever went wrong giving the gift of great sex. And it's absolutely free! Amen!


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