The Big Issue : Edition 551
THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 4–25 DEC 2017 13 PHOTOSBYJAMESBRAUND AH CHRISTMAS. TIME for ye old giving of gifts, or as we call it with our inside voice: World of Pain. I used to love it, because gift buying was my super power. I was so good at finding The Perfect Thing it was unnerving. It was as though I’d inhaled someone’s essence, rolled my eyes back while I processed their soul, then let the unholy light blaze forth on The Gift. Skill level: advanced stalker. My friends, of course, hated me. They loved their gifts. Of course they did. I was a genius. I’d stand by grinning madly, watching them unwrap The Perfect Thing – and of course they had to do it slowly because my wrapping skills were State of the Art – and then we’d mutually bask in the “wow” moment. Then I’d love myself sick, and they would be swamped by a tsunami of fear as they realised they had to reciprocate. Good times! I’ve dialled it back. I used to start shopping in June. I got much pleasure from the hunt, but times change. I don’t have the vast numbers of intense friendships that I used to. There’s a telescoping of relationships that happens as you age; the herd of intimates you run with in your twenties and thirties pair up, have children, pursue careers, and the tribe evaporates. Poof! And there are definitely benefits to lowering the stakes. In retrospect, I had a slight case of Rose Byrne in the film Bridesmaids. No-one could compete. You can, it transpires, totally shit people by putting in too much effort. That doesn’t mean, btw, relax to the point where you’re buying up big on Christmas morning at a 7-Eleven. I presumed that kind of under-thought was an urban myth until my friend Lach turned up to a Kris Kringle with a can of WD40 from the boot of his car wrapped loosely in an old T-shirt/oil rag. Peeps can be lax. But what’s a gift for, in the end? » Fiona Scott-Norman (@FScottNorman) is a writer and comedian who knows that with a Great Gift comes Great Responsibility. FIONA Jingle Belle “Inappropriate presents make the best anecdotes. The first Christmas present from my mother-in-law was a pair of novelty handcuffs.” At that Kris Kringle, Lach’s can of hardly used engine lubricant was the hit of the evening. Not that anyone wanted it, but we couldn’t stop laughing. There were some rather posh chocolates and gift-boxed this and thats in the mix, but who cares? Nice and all, but not memorable. Inappropriate presents make the best anecdotes. The first Christmas present from my mother-in-law was a pair of novelty handcuffs. High five, Nina. My parents appalled me every year with their weird-arse gift buying. A Reader’s Digest road atlas. A mother-of-pearl shell and pink bead hippy necklace. An embossed framed tiger print. I had no idea who they were buying for, but it wasn’t me. I received their gifts with a singular lack of grace. Instead of thinking “hilarious”, I thought, “They don’t know me, and they don’t care.” Children, no matter our age, are the worst. An ex once unwrapped a large box in front of his folks at Christmas. “Oh. Towels,” he said, in a tone so wounded they might have gift- wrapped a turd. He was in his thirties. Fact is, buying gifts for people is hard. It took me six months of every year to nail. There’s a reason why shops bristle with novelty socks, handcreams and sports biographies. No-one has time to inhale your essence, okay? It doesn’t mean you’re not loved or appreciated. This Christmas, try gracious receiving. If a gift is clearly grabbed in a department store panic buy, consider that the giver did their best. Afraid of getting it wrong, they went for inoffensive. If the gift is bizarre, good on them for giving it a crack. And when in doubt, reach for the WD40.