Friday, August 01, 2003

I continue to wait for NTL’s response to my request to become a member of their obviously exclusive club of paying customers. So I come before you now with the intention of enlarging this current period of alternative Charging Through The Midfield entertainment. That is, with no time to surf and thus unable to proffer the usual linkage fantastico, please find this text-only entry as my gift to you. And a fine gift it very much is.

And with gifts very much at the top of my mind, I will now strive to meander my way through some sort of gift-related piece of writing.

Um… Well, here is me believing I can choose a subject matter at random and then write entertaining prose for public consumption without any prior planning or ideas. And naturally I’m failing miserably. Of course there is much I can write on the subject of gifts, but it is mightily dull fare. For instance this weekend is my housemate’s girlfriend’s birthday and the dilemma that looms (well, “looms” is a bit hyperbolic really but it makes for a more interesting read don’t you think?) before me is at what level of gift (or even mere acknowledgement) I should be striving for (too many bracketed comments in this sentence by far). By level I mean - and I ask you to at this point to correspond with me here regarding the actual boredom you experience here - this:

There is the top level of course, which is always reserved for one’s partner. This is a breaking of the bank arrangement and the gift equivalent of the US military’s DEFCOM 1. Any given person will always be prepared to strive higher and higher in order to show a loved one (who can realistically leave you at the drop of a hat should you fail to butter on enough attention) what they mean. Not preparing a gift for such an event is the personal equivalent of a state accidentally dropping its entire nuclear arms cache on another bigger and richer country containing lots of religious zealots who have just slightly different religious beliefs (massively different and it wouldn’t be so bad; it’s the ones that differ only fractionally that hate you the most). So quite bad then.

Next in the hierarchy is the parent’s gift. Instead of the sole emotional necessity to keep one’s lover close to you, here the motivation is also a moral one. It would be simply wrong not to present a gift for a parent’s birthday (unless they’re estranged of course – if so, fuck ‘em in the ear). However failure to do so would probably not result in a catastrophic abandonment by your parent of you. Although be warned that repeat offences will result in many minutes of upset pleas and questioning. Basically though, this is another must-buy gift situation. Not buying a parent’s gift is the state equivalent of an all-out trade war and diplomatic fall-out. Highly damaging, concerning, and liable to take up lots of emotional energy. But usually alright in the end with only the tiny danger of things going completely tits up should foolish action continue unabated.

Below this comes a sibling’s birthday. Some would put this close to the level of parent’s. Not me however. My brother and I have a long-standing agreement that we needn’t bother buying each other presents. We can realistically put the money to better use by purchasing for ourselves (this point drives a stake square into the philosophical heart of the matter of gift purchasing, but we’ll smoothly glide past this with only this tangent as a healthy nod toward the real cornerstone of the issue at hand). The illusion or reality of fairness is of paramount importance when it comes to relationships between siblings. So bit of an odd one this. But my brother’s existence is important to me and thus the position of this category remains high. Although I buy no gift, it is still vitally important that the situation is squared one way or another. Not buying your sibling a gift without some sort of arrangement of equality is the state equivalent of a particular Government falling out with its religious leadership. Ties usually get repaired in the end else you end up casting the whole relationship into the dustbin; but if you let it get to that stage you obviously never gave a fuck anyway so why worry?

Now come your friends. The question here is what import do you give the gifts that you receive yourself. If you buy generous gifts, you will be very likely to get equally generous presents in return. And this arrangement can be applied across almost every adjective. You go for imagination and you increase the likelihood of receiving a gift borne out of your friend’s imagination somewhere later down the line. So if you hate receiving books, don’t bloody buy them for all your friends first. Of course you want your gifts to your friends to be an embodiment of your friendship, so they are important. But failure to buy coupled with a reasonable excuse will lever you out of the situation nicely enough; not like in bastard category 1 (despite what your partner may publicly claim). Failure to buy a friend’s gift is the state equivalent of arresting and trying a foreigner from a country with an active media in dodgy circumstances and for murky reasons. You can probably get away with it then, but you will not be a popular bunny. And you’ll never hear the cunting end of it.

Another consideration must be bloody kids. The self-centred little fuckers always expect a whole array of presents when their birthday comes rolling around. And how is it possible that their day of the year appears to occur more frequently than your own? You don’t have to be a close relative or friend to feel the pressure of the present buying situation here. If somehow you’ve been dragged out to be with them at any point during their birthday week you’d better be carrying a gift, else be prepared for silent and unspoken grumbling from child and parent. Luckily however the little cunt will probably be satisfied with some cheap shit you picked up from Woolworth’s (unless you’re the child’s parent or grandparent of course. Bwahahahahaha!!!). Not bringing a gift is the state equivalent of closing the pits and putting everyone out of work. Not popular, not pleasant, but you get the feeling that you’ve done the spoilt brat a favour in the long run and everyone will forget your foul deeds soon enough.

Finally comes “accomplices”. That is the term I have decided to use and stick with it I will. Now “accomplices” represents a whole rainbow of those people in your life who are not represented in the categories above. Neighbours, work colleagues, teachers, distant relations etc. And just because this is the final and lowliest category does not mean the people within it are unworthy or not liked. This is a list of people to buy gifts for remember. Small tokens of your acknowledgement of their birthday should be enough - often expressed in the form of the classical birthday drink. Marvelous. Of course the danger is that the person you regard as nothing more than an accomplice regards you as a fully blown paid-up member of the friends category. So they’ll be pretty peeved to discover you’ve only given them an accomplice offering. Sadly where to place people in these categories is wholly down to you. Charging does not accept any responsibility for any crap you may experience should you blunder. Failure to offer up gifts to your accomplices is the state equivalent of the Government not providing a spokesperson on the BBC’s political discussion show “Question Time”. No one will care but even those lonely and sad enough to notice will forget within the hour.

There is another category. Hatred gifts. Filling a brown paper bag with dog shit, putting it on your enemy’s front step and setting it on fire before ringing the doorbell is such a hatred gift. Failure to occasionally serve up a hatred gift is the state equivalent of not declaring a pointless war in order to satisfy your arms dealer and oil baron sponsors. Everyone will like you, but you may not get very far. Think about it: arms have a shelf life of about 9 years anyway so if you dump them on a country once every decade that war is practically free. Likewise, dog shit is also free, so why not put it to good use?

For the record, my housemate’s girlfriend falls between accomplice and friend. So I shall be providing a gift this year, or at the very least a nicely written card. Not doing so would be the state equivalent of not providing a fireworks display on New Years Eve. I wouldn’t attain popularity or gratitude, but everybody will be far too intoxicated to spare even a second’s thought on the matter anyway.

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