Boyfriend’s birthday will be next week so I need to figure out what to give Karl to help celebrate. He’s fairly well-off, so he does not have a wish-list. There are a couple of items that he likes that are replenished occasionally. Buying one of them would be taking the easy way out. He’d appreciate the gesture, but I want to give something more meaningful.
As I mull through birthday gift possibilities, the general topic of gift giving comes to mind. To give gifts or to pay tribute are some of the oldest customs known to humanity–indeed to other species as well.
There is the gift of prey that a cat will give his owner. Dolphins have been known to give food to humans. Male penguins gift pebbles to females as part of their courtship ritual for lifetime bonding. Bonobos are famous for their pro-social behavior. They share gifts of fruit with other bonobos who are members of their own and other groups. They do this in order to expand their social networks. Meanwhile, we humans have given each other gifts since posterity.
We famously give gifts on major holidays like Christmas or Saint Valentine’s Day. The gifts may be obligatory or as sincere tokens of appreciation. Some people give stuff away as a way to manipulate people or to play one-upmanship. Other gifts are outright bribes. The gifts I’m thinking of are gifts given from the heart with no malice nor manipulative intent.
In his book Anger, the Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh provides one of the best scenarios for gift giving to a significant other that I’ve ever read. He suggests buying a small, meaningful, but inexpensive gift for your SO on a day that you feel most grateful for him or her. Place it in a small box and wrap it in fancy paper and a ribbon. Don’t give it to him or her, right away. Put it away in a private place like a drawer for later. You can buy another one and another one whenever you feel the most gratitude for your SO and set each one aside, just like the first.
Meantime, as you contemplate how wonderful and special your SO is, begin to compose a letter. Take your time. It may require several rough-droughts, but be patient. Thich Nhat Hanh advises that this letter be treated as an extremely important document. After you have carefully proofread the letter and are completely satisfied that it accurately and elegantly conveys your love for him or her, seal it in a fancy envelope. Place it next to the gift or gifts you have stashed away for later.
After a quarrel with your SO (don’t instigate one on purpose) take a time-out, and fetch one of the small gifts and the envelope. Then present them to your SO. Again, do not do this as a way to manipulate or bribe your SO. You can reasonably judge when the time is right to perform this act of gift-giving. The gift-giving should be done without any expectation of reciprocity nor fawning behavior. Nor, should you give it as a signal of submissiveness or defeat. You should only give the little present and the letter as a sincere gesture of gratitude and appreciation for your SO. This type of gift-giving should be done mindfully in a mutually beneficial manner.
I have already obtained three small gifts; fancy-wrapped them; and stashed them away in nooks and crannies. I have the letter next to the first gift. I have not had the right opportunity nor reason to give one of the gifts and the letter to my BF, but they are ready, just in case. Simply knowing there is something physical and positive that is ready to give, is reassuring to me.
Although I have the “emergency gifts” ready, there is still the small problem of what to give Karl on his birthday. Perhaps some gourmet coffee beans or a nice shirt. I don’t know yet. I need to get the gift soon so I don’t have to thoughtlessly panic-buy something at the last minute.
It’s time to put on my thinking-cap again.