I realized about 15 seconds too late that my best friend is a present person — 15 seconds after I had given her a stupid gag gift that would’ve made gift-indifferent me laugh, and one that made gift-loving her grimace and sink.
I felt bad. I knew I had messed up. I wanted to do better. And so the next year, I had a perfect gift planned out and then forgot to buy it. Don’t get me wrong — I planned a dinner at a cool restaurant, I bought booze, I did all of the things I would have wanted for my birthday, but I forgot about the gift.
I’ve given a handful of gifts I’m proud of: a cheese-of-the-month club from my mom’s favorite feminist cheese producers, a three-year supply of my brother’s favorite organic hand soap, a pink tie-dye fidget spinner and Kahlua, watermelon vodka and a crumpled Snapchat selfie.
But now I have Christmas, Hanukkah and whatever else you want to call a bunch of agnostic 20-somethings giving each other presents in December to worry about. And believe you me, I am stressed.
Presents have never been my thing. Obviously, as a kid, I waited all night for Santa to come and bring me a bike or a Hula-hoop or more of the fancy dolls I collected that I recently found out scared all of my childhood friends. And now I desperately want yellow rain booties that my mom might get me after reading this. But I Iike presents in a capitalist sort of way — I just want stuff.
If you haven’t been forced by your annoying friends or your S.O. to take it yet, the 5 Love Languages quiz tells you how you give and want to receive love and affection. I am what is scientifically called a “Ho-for-Affirmation.” That means I send my close friends Snapchats that read “I had a midterm and then did a problem set today, send me affirmation” and then literally glisten when one of them messages me back “gw press” 16 hours later.
Gift-giving is last on my list — or tied for last with touch, because, like, ew, don’t touch me? It’s first on hers. (And yes, I am the Girl on Fire, if you are an intense follower of fringe Daily Cal columns and were wondering.)
The Old Pressly used to think she didn’t have to be good at gifts — she was a good friend in so many other ways: editing your paper, planning your events, telling you she liked your shoes, all the things she wants from her friends. But I’m sorry, the Old Pressly can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because she’s working on improving herself.
Taking the time to remember that she likes Golden State Gingergrass Hard Cider or that my brother likes a Snapchat harkening back to an old inside joke or that my roommate likes a “I miss you” text when I haven’t seen her for eight hours makes them feel good. And that makes me feel good.
And as sort of dumb as categorizing our affection into weird categories is, the premise of the love languages, it’s built on a pretty cool and important idea. Loving people right is really hard — everyone communicates differently. Learning how to love someone takes times and work.
Because for her, love is a vape pen or cookbook or lavender goat cheese. For me, it’s noticing that my lipstick perfectly matches my socks or taking the time to ask me how my econometrics midterm went or listening to you talking about the Game of Thrones books for 15 minutes.
But it’s also walking from the freshman dorms to the Rockridge BART station together for the first time and just missing the train, forcing us to nervously chat about our conservative hometowns and love of baking. It’s cleaning up vomit left on my futon after choosing vodka too many times in a night. It’s digestive cookies and black tea in your room when I’m stressed out and not OK but not quite able to say that out loud. It’s answering when I call at 1 a.m. because it’s either going to be hilarious or really bad.
Or it’s doing the extra dishes when I know you hurt your thumb or you doing mine because it’s my birthday week and I had a midterm. It’s bringing up my Imperfect Produce because I always forget. It’s ranting about how the world isn’t fair. It’s hearing Ilana Glazer say that some friends are just meant to find each other and thinking of you.
I know I sort of side-tracked from gifts, but at the same time, I don’t really think I did. Because here comes my pretty cliché column pseudo-thesis and life lesson: Gifts don’t have to be physical.
But here’s the twist: Sometimes the thought really doesn’t count, if it’s not the right thought. The people I love deserve the most, and the most normally means going out of my comfort zone — not condoms in a mason jar.
This birthday, I think I finally did well: a fancy dinner and fun and five or six weird cookbooks I spent so long picking out at Half Price Books that two old ladies had to scoff at me until I moved out of their way. She’s a hipster and a foodie. Getting it right felt really good.
But who knows — I could still find a way to ruin Christmas.
Pressly Pratt is the special issues editor. Contact Pressly Pratt at [email protected].