"List, list, O list! If thou didst ever thy dear father love..." Kiki ClarkI’m in the middle of my holiday gift shopping, and here’s my question for today. Do you like to tell people what to give you, or be totally surprised?
“I have everything I need. Just surprise me.” Those are words you will never hear from me. While it’s true that I don’t need a thing, I want plenty and can provide a list of fifty items spanning the entire price spectrum. I’ll forget half of them by the time I start shredding snowman-themed paper, so what’s with this devotion to getting me something completely unexpected? If I would never, ever expect it, it’s probably not something I want. I don’t want a subscription to the 12 Beers in a Year club, or a calendar featuring pigs in costumes of many countries, or a candle shaped like a Great Horned Owl. Other people, perfectly nice people with good taste, may want those things. I do not. This is why I prefer that people buy things that are on my list. If someone doesn’t want a really specific list (the store, the price, and the stock number), then I can give them a themed list that outlines certain parameters. There’s the tea list, the book list, and the underwear list. There’s the CD list and the chocolate list. My family can buy me something I’ve never clapped eyes on, perhaps never knew existed, but which, extrapolated from my tastes and hobbies, is sure to be a success. For that reason, most people love the list.
There are exceptions. My friend Heather says she’ll buy certain things from a list, but she has to get something that’s a surprise, as a test of how well she knows you. Well, okay. Make it small. Make it inexpensive. I understand that it’s a fun challenge. If someone doesn’t give me a list (and most people don’t), I absolutely enjoy trying to find something they’d like. But if the list is provided, should you ignore it because you want the fun? In that case, it really is better to give than to receive, because you had a great time finding something the receiver may not like.
In the final analysis, being unsurprised doesn’t disappoint me. Asking for things I really want and not getting them does. My advice to all you gift-givers out there – don’t fight the list. It’s for everyone’s own good.
(The quote in the title of this blog is from Hamlet, act 1, scene 5, lines. 22-3. Shakespeare probably bemoaned the fact that his children gave him Turkish dates and a new kerchief instead of the quills and ink he asked for.)