This is ridiculous, and I mean that in every way: I’ve been around 32-years now. That’s enough time to have started a family of ten or twelve and got myself nicely onto a colossal stack of socially questionable benefits, learned to fly a helicopter or commercial aircraft, or, according to Google, have become a fully-qualified doctor 3 times in a row. Assuming that I kept bumping my head and had to start my training again, I mean. Which would be hilarious for all my superiors at the school, not to mention students repeating years, but probably a lot less hilarious for me, what with my constant feeling of dread and doom and deja vu. But still, at least I’d have some first-hand experience of what it’s actually like to suffer from an affliction, unlike a lot of the doctors I have met.
Speaking of suffering, our next amazing Christmas will soon be upon us all, and, if you’re anything like me, you’re suffering in the what-to-buy-for-who area of life which drags us all down and refuses to let us live a happy and carefree existence until it has drained every last kind of enthusiasm and will-to-live out of us once and for all, forever. Or maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re one of those annoying people who, as you read this, already has everything. Because you planned it all bloody months ago, didn’t you, you maniac, you oddity. And I’m sorry, but nice as you are – I mean, you do always buy us nice things – we do still hate you. It’s not even intentional, it’s just the way things are, so please don’t take it personally. A bit like the way big dogs do really big poos and you only really understand how awful a fact that is when you have one yourself and it goes and does a huge one, when you only have a small bag, and it’s raining hard, and it’s on someone’s front lawn…
There’s nothing like linking the nice things people do for one another with great big stinking dog poos, is there?
The big question: how am I now 32-years old and just as clueless as I was as a child, a teenager, and a post-20-something when it comes to the task of buying my friends and family presents? It’s a mystery, or at least mysterious. I could blame it on 50% of the genetics which make my body and mind up – my dad and his proven inability to buy the right grocery items without my mum’s approval, sorry dad but we both know that’s true, even if it isn’t really your fault because it wasn’t your list – but although more than likely true, that’d be avoiding the issue. In fact, you could say that these first 3 paragraphs are and have been avoiding the issue. And the sentence previous to this one, and, come to think of it, the one I’m typing now. Avoiding the issue has never been so easy!
It’s not even because I don’t know my family and what they like. I’m not thick, I pay attention. I mean, I know that mum loves Strictly Come Dancing, and I know that my sister’s boyfriend likes spending time in the shed at the bottom of their garden, or out drinking with his mates (I’m not suggesting he doesn’t like spending time with my sister, by the way. He loves doing that, although he is strangely absent whenever Strictly Come Dancing is on in their house). So it’s not about me not knowing what they wouldn’t like. So what is it about, then? Obviously I don’t know, but this post is an investigative attempt at working that out, so if you’ve invested a couple of minutes reading this so far then you might as well stick around for the rest of it. One thing’s for sure: I’ve managed to write another full paragraph avoiding yet more things.
Don’t get me wrong, on a philosophical and logical level, I know why I struggle buying presents. It’s because I know, in my heart, that we are all liars and cheats for taking the notion of traditional Christmas and reinventing it as our commercial perverted own, and that really, I know for a fact I’ll get at least a few things this year that I will likely never ever use again. Sorry family Pink, and don’t even try hard to make that not happen, as we all know that’s when it takes an even greater turn for the worse and we get things we actually need to sell. But somehow, that seems to be avoiding the issue too, because let’s be honest and transparent: I love receiving presents, even when they’re not what I wanted. Like our dog, I just like the boxes and the wrapping paper. Unlike our dog, probably, I like the fact that someone has bothered to spend a few minutes in wrapping-paper-hell trying to get it all nice and stuff. I also know that somewhere inside me is a basic need for acquiring stuff, just so I can have it as company. I know that this isn’t good and I know that it doesn’t really have a point, but I still know it to be a fact, just like my semi-hoarding — something like the opposite of OCD. Here, I’ll prove it: I just looked around my desk and found a load of old crap. To my right is the discarded and utterly pointless wrapper of a mint-chocolate Club bar I ate last month that holds absolutely no relevance. I see it every day, and me and it have become friends when I can’t think of what to write or just don’t want to write. To my left, however, is something more sentimental: an old letter from HM Revenue & Customs saying how I overpaid £1.98 on my last tax return. Truly something to be treasured. That same £1.98 was paid into my account a few weeks ago, so the letter, now, is just a trophy of a tiny sum of money which, for some bizarre reason, feels like a lot when it comes from the government while admitting they were wrong and I was right. Ah…
Yep, I’m still avoiding the issue, but now, after all that, I sort of realise that that’s also the point. The reason buying Christmas presents is my most hated dreaded thing is probably quite simple if you could actually turn my brain inside-out and spill all its reasoning out on a table: it’s because I always avoid the issue every single year. Not once have I ever managed to fulfil my goal of buying all my presents a month or two in advance. When it comes down to it, present-avoiding is something I have refined and honed. So it’s no wonder that although I do really hate it, I also sort of like it, too.
So why this is all the case, I am actually well aware, even if I can’t fully explain the psychology behind it. I’ve got myself well and truly stuck in a routine, is the problem. It’s a charade inside my own mind, you see. I remember thinking, this year, back in September, I‘m going to buy all my presents nice and early this year and show everyone. In fact, I remember saying it out loud and someone, I don’t recall who, laughing in the way you do when you just can’t do anything else. They had every right, of course. They’d seen me say this countless times before. If you want to get abstract and far-fetched about it, it all comes together to form a grim picture of being cursed by some kind of Christmas-hating-witch at a young age — do witches hate Christmas? — and now, whatever the hell I do, I am forever doomed. I don’t know why I bother, so really, when you think about it, it’s incredible that I do.
Part of it, as well, there’s no getting away from this fact, is the widely-held belief that in order to buy Christmas presents every year, you have to first try to understand what your friends and family want, so you don’t go and fuck it up. So instead of just using your own brain and thinking something up – which you’d think would be fairly easy, considering that you have known these people all their lives and seen countless examples of what they do and do not like – you have to wait for them to first give you some kind of a clue or hint. Except we all know that no matter how many bloody times you ask people what they want, they never really tell you. They might give you some idea, but it’s always only a vague thing, and you both know it might change by the time you have bought it. Complicating matters further is the other thing: Christmas should be a time of giving people things which you think they should have, because you love them so much that you don’t mind almost killing your own brain trying to think of stuff they haven’t got. Except at that avenue it also falls apart: inside your childish soul, I’d bet that you, like me, think that people shouldn’t be able to dictate what they want for Christmas. For me, I’ve always preferred the idea that I am doing this on my own, yet when left to my own devices, I realise that that’s bullshit. I must face facts: I need all the help that I can get.
I know what you might be thinking now, which sounds like a big arrogant statement but is in fact just a little bit arrogant but also probably a little bit true, I think you will find (I don’t really know, I realise. You could be thinking about what it’s like to be Spiderman or why it is that you always see Meerkats standing up stationery in one place but you never see them running on two legs like would make sense if you were born a Meerkat): you’re probably thinking that I hate spending money, and that this is at the core of the issue. Except I don’t hate it at all. I actually quite like spending money. Sometimes. When I have it. The only time I hate it is when I have to give it to the government, or if I was to get mugged, but I think that’s normal. Either that or it’s summer and I’ve just bought a chocolate bar from a shop and then I get outside, open it, and discover that it’s melted into a hideous monster mess that looks nothing like its original shape, because the shop, criminally if you ask me, doesn’t have air-conditioning. Those shops should have the biggest of book’s thrown at them.
Here I am, at the end of this post, and I still feel in the dark. Who knows, maybe it’s the amount of presents I have to buy which is the problem (it isn’t) or maybe it’s the organisation thing (it also probably isn’t, after all, writing novels has got to be harder to organise than buying a few Christmas presents). And I can hardly blame it on a lack of choice, either – desperate website salespeople spend their entire lives formulating websites designed with the explicit purpose of making us almost wet ourselves with the excitement of finding things cheaper online than they are in the high-street shops. I do hate wrapping sodding presents up, but come on, however much you hate wrapping you only have to do it once a year. There are even people in shops who have a sickening love of wrapping and will happily do it for you, smiling and performing the task with suspicious precision, making you question their allegedly human origins. For an extra £2 per item that costs £1, of course. Although some do it free. They are the worst…
To be honest, I’ve given up caring now anyway. Balls to it. I think I’ll just get on with it and get it done. Now, where have I heard that said before…?