Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Birthday Conundrum

This is a double post day.  Other post is Here.

Yesterday was my 32nd birthday.  As is usual for me I didn't have a party nor did I open presents.  I don't generally find birthdays to be stressful as getting a little older doesn't bother me but I don't bother with making a big deal out of it either.  Mostly a birthday is just a nonevent for me, though last year a bunch of people showed up at my house for unrelated reasons and I sort of had a party.  Wendy and I have decided to no longer get each other presents for birthdays and instead have special activities or events - we both found shopping for presents more stressful than it was worth to receive them.

The trick is that two sets of people still get me presents for my birthday, my parents and my parents in law.  Neither of them has much of an idea of what to get me most times so I end up suggesting things for presents instead.  This last Christmas I sent around a big list of things that I would be happy to get and got a bunch of them, which worked out all right.  However, for my birthday both sets of parents asked me what I wanted to get and I ended up feeling like this wasn't really achieving the goals of a birthday gift exchange.  A gift exchange can be about finding a special item that the receiver would not find on their own or not purchase on their own or it can be a more obligatory transfer of wealth on a particular date.  I am pretty normal in that I very much enjoy random presents here and there that are appropriate but I don't find I like the required transfer of funds even when they are being transferred my way.

My parents are getting me shoes for my birthday.  Since they are far away and are not entirely sure what sort of shoes I want I am going to go buy the shoes myself and let them know how much they were.  My in laws have asked me what I want and presuming I come up with something in a reasonable price bracket they will get it for me.  I do appreciate that these people want to give me gifts but I find this way of doing so isn't what I am looking for.  A part of the difficulty is that I don't get people birthday gifts; just as my parents and in laws don't know what I like/need and thus have to consult me for gifts I don't know what they like/need and my gifts would probably be poorly chosen.  Another complication is that I am living a very low money lifestyle and they are not - so ritualized exchanges of money are not affecting us equally.

The simplest solution from a purely selfish standpoint is to simply tell everyone that I don't want birthday gifts.  I am always happy to receive presents at any time that are particularly appropriate but stamping Aug 17th as a mandatory day to find the right gift seems unnecessary.  The trick is that buying presents on birthdays is something they want to do and it makes them happy so cutting that off may be helping me in some sense but it isn't helping them any and I want everyone involved to be satisfied with the outcome.  I don't want to force my low consumption lifestyle on someone who isn't entirely comfortable with it - there are plenty of fights over values I am willing to have but this is one I don't feel is important enough for that.  At the moment I am probably going to sit just for the status quo and ask for a Civilization 5 preorder for my birthday present since from everything I can see it seems like a game I would enjoy playing.  I like the fact that people want to get me presents but I wish there was some better way for that to go.

Civilization 5 screenshot below:

1 comment:

  1. I have a similar problem. Why not make a webpage or something like that where you can post random things that you want. If its a Google-doc, people can even erase things if they chose something from the list? That way at least its somewhat of a surprise, and people can still get you things you actually want.