Credit: Jade Seah

You know those people who manage to find the most thoughtful gift – either something you always wanted, but for some reason never bought for yourself, or something you never knew you needed till you got it – then present it to you, perfectly wrapped and beribboned? I have a few lovely mates like that.

Sadly, I am not one of those people. Gift giving shows up last on the list of the five “love languages” for me, and while I truly appreciate such presents from friends, I’ve never been the best at coming up with the perfect gift to reciprocate.

In fact, I’ve noticed that – save for the few friends I’ve mentioned previously – many people struggle with gift giving. The onslaught of the festive season, where this tradition is in full swing, is when I’ve noticed that this pressure of gift giving can make people act strangely.

For example, I have been on shopping trips with friends who, in desperation, buy something – anything! – just to tick a person off their shopping list. Whether the intended recipient would want or need said gift does not seem important to them, which is bizarre to me. Isn’t delighting the receiver the whole point of getting a gift?

The other strange behaviour happens on the part of the receiver. Some gift-givers insist that the recipient open the present right before them, because they’re sure that they have bought something perfect. The trouble happens when this isn’t the case, then there is that overly enthusiastic, “Oh, I love it!”, to cover up the disappointment.

Me, I never insist that people open gifts in front of me – perhaps that also stems from a lack of confidence in my choice of a present? – and I try to make gift giving easy on myself and my mates.

With close friends, we simply ask for a list of things the others might like, which takes so much pain and guesswork out of the process! There is still that element of surprise, in terms of design and the actual item, but it guarantees that it is something we really want.

The favourite gift I’ve received this way was a thermal swimsuit, a game changer for wakeboarding at 7am in the open sea! The girls picked a design I really like and, most importantly, it saved me the trouble of online shopping for something so specific, sparing me a chore I don’t enjoy. Double win!

Many times, I simply tell friends I don’t need gifts, mostly to spare them the pain of gift shopping, but also because I truly feel blessed in so many ways with just the gift of their presence in my life. Another suggestion when stumped: Make a donation in their name to a worthy cause – it’s meaningful, thoughtful and environmentally sustainable.

Happy holidays, everyone!

This story first appeared in the December 2021 issue of Her World.