Either I’m a giant Scrooge, or this is a giant racket.
Can someone please explain to me why, because somebody chooses to get married, or have a kid – two undertakings that are, with a few notable exceptions, elective activities – I am required by law to shower them with gifts?
Where is it written that I am compelled to reward people for managing to turn 13, or for getting through high school with that impressive 1.7 GPA, or for deciding to produce a short film about gay rodents? Aren’t these activities that should engender their own sense of internal pride/joy/accomplishment, and not require commemoration with online donations, Chipotle gift cards and training bras?
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not always this cranky and cheap. Contract a disease, get hit by a bus, lose a loved one, find your home burned to the ground by a chain-smoking hobo, and I’m your man. I will throw money at you like twenties would smother the flames. People who are suffering through no fault of their own deserve all the love and support – financial and otherwise – we can give them.
And I can even get behind two twentysomethings who are coming together to form a household for the first time and really, truly need things like duvets and crock pots.
But this whole, “We’ve decided to have a mini-me and now you need to reward us for bumping uglies til the job was done” business, or the “This is our third wedding but, for gift purposes, let’s just pretend the first two didn’t count” nonsense, or the “Please give us money so we can do a project to further our own careers, but don’t expect to own a piece of it or anything” schemes are a crock.
I recently went to a gay engagement party for a friend and his partner. I love these guys – they’re funny, charming, kind people who I’m sure were not at all aware that their gift request could be construed as mercenary. But they do not plan to actually get married. They are in their 40’s. This is not their first time at the relationship rodeo. They both make six figure incomes. They already have two homes together. And yet, they asked that, in lieu of toasters, we give them money so they can make another $8,000 trip to the South Pacific – like the one they just had three months ago.
Several friends have asked me to contribute money to their personal creative projects – short films, web series, that sort of thing. In theory, supporting someone’s creativity is a beautiful thing. But I don’t ask people to donate money so I can take six months off to finish my second book. Is it really appropriate to expect others to pay for your dream? I have a dream for ya – a dream that one day, I can give all my spare money to people with tumors, and crime victims, and families whose houses are currently floating around the Pacific ocean.
Oh, sure, I DO reward all these things. I buy wedding and baby and graduation gifts, and I give to people’s creative projects, and I do it all with love and good wishes and hearty congratulations.
At least, to their face.
But I’ll tell you, it makes me NOT want to invite any of these people to my bookstore events when my second book comes out. It makes me NOT want to ask them to take time out of their busy lives to come sit through a reading. And then stand in line for half an hour to have me sign the book. And pay $24.95 for the hardcover when they could get it for half that through Amazon.
It makes me NOT want to ask them to repeat what they all did, so very thoughtfully and generously, when my first book came out.
I sure would like to buy a graduation gift right about now. Is somebody looking to get hitched? Anybody got a kid being bar mitzvahed?