The Christmas Dilemma

Is it always the thought that counts?

By Alywin Chew        6 December 2021

It’s December. It’s typically that time of the year when people chill and let their hair down a little. It’s supposed to be all festive and fun.

But December is the most challenging time of the year for me, because this is when I have to tackle what I think is the most challenging first world problem ever – buying Christmas gifts for people.

Why is this difficult? Because I take my presents very seriously. The perfect gift for me would be something I want. I’m sure you feel the same way.

Note that the word I’ve chosen is “want”, not “need”. The former implies that the item should be somewhat of a nice-to-have, perhaps even something a little indulgent that makes you feel pampered. That’s what makes a good present.

I say this because needs don’t usually translate into good gifts.

Here are some of my current needs: shampoo, handwash, toilet paper and ART kits. I think you would agree that these would make terrible presents.

I also need to lose some weight and pass my IPPT. I’m not sure there’s a gift I want that solves these two issues.

No, please, do not send me a PTI.

Yes, Christmas is all about the spirit of giving. But I believe that we need to give presents that would make the other party happy, and not do so simply because it’s Christmas.

The saying “it’s the thought that counts” has never made sense to me. Trust me, you’d be saying the same when you receive an unused but unfashionable pair of running shoes as a Christmas present.

Perhaps the person really meant well. But the way I see it, this person didn’t see me as a friend. He saw me as a recycling bin.

Come to think of it, don’t you think this phrase is an awfully convenient excuse for gifting crappy presents? It’s like the ultimate chope we can use to protect ourselves from flak.

“Aww, I’m sorry to hear you didn’t like the mosquito repellent I gifted you. But hey! It’s the thought that counts, right?”

Now, the problem about wants is that they are usually rather unaffordable. I mean, this is usually why they are wants and not needs.

What do I want? I want a Playstation 5. I want a 60-inch 4K Ultra HD TV. I want a new sound system that is so powerful it generates sound waves that repel the secondhand smoke coming from the apartment below.

Unfortunately, no one is going to buy such things for me.

I’ve checked with my wife, too. She won’t be gifting me any of these items. She thinks it’s ridiculous to gift something if I already know what I would be receiving.

“A gift has to be a surprise,” she said.

“I don’t like surprises. I’d rather get something practical that I will definitely use. Don’t you think our TV is so old? It takes forever to start up these days,” I replied, while doing the household chores.

“Really? Are you sure you will definitely use something practical?” she retorted.

“Of course!”

“So, tell me, why are you wiping the television with that?” she said, pointing to the rag in my hand.

Well, it’s technically not a rag. It’s the white tee my granduncle gave me for Christmas a few years ago. I’m sure he bought it from Taobao, because emblazoned on the front are the words “Kelvin Cline”.

I would’ve worn it, but I don’t have a pair of Balanciacga (sic) sneakers to complete the look.

“But I am using this T-shirt,” I told the wife. “Just not as intended.”

What can I say? Perhaps I really am a recycling bin.

LOL Mondays is an ongoing series of slice-of-life stories from freelance writer and NSman Alywin Chew. Look out for the humorous tales which will be posted every first Monday of the month, to help you drive away your Monday blues!

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