the end of gift giving (as we once knew it)

by nikki meredith

Juleaften The Royal Library, Denmark

According to the New York Times, the recipients of gifts are no longer content with leaving it up to you to decide, they want what they want and they want you to get it for them. We the givers, writes Penelope Green, are being treated like “catalogs or department stores, brandishing lengthy wish lists, demanding gift cards or boldly asking for cash.” Social scientists who study this phenomenon have various explanations (according to one theory: what matters is having the exact right stuff — the clothes we wear, the object d’art we display, the lamps we light — because of what our stuff says about our style and identity) but Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, calls it is “blatant greed” and, in the article, labels it our number one etiquette problem.

You’d think I’d welcome this specificity. On November 20, 2011 I wrote about how difficult it is for me and my husband to get the gift-giving thing right, even after 36 years of marriage. But the mercenary approach horrifies me. I first noticed it when a relative got married a few years ago and along with the invitation came a request that guests contribute to the car she and her future spouse wanted to buy. I figured this was just my crazy family but then the daughter of a friend got married a year later and this kid wanted us to contribute to the purchase of a condominium. Read the rest of this entry »