I’m a good gift-giver. I wanted to put that out there before I get into a rant about why I prefer not getting gifts. I used to think it was a no-brainer to get a good gift for someone. You just think about what they like and get them something from those categories. I can take hours to find the perfect gift if I’m not careful. And, I’m pretty dang good at it.
In return, very few people are good at getting me gifts. I’ve done Secret Santa twice in my life. Once in college when I was a Junior Counselor with my corridor and once in my first job. I went overboard both times and got nothing in return (first time) and things I didn’t want for the most part (second time). In the former case, I can make a direct comparison because the person I got had me as well. We were supposed to give little gifts to each other throughout the week in our PO boxes in the main center building. I gave my person something every day whereas she gave me nothing. I think she gave me a big candy cane at the end when we gave each other a big gift and revealed who we were. I did puzzles or a maze or something like that. I think I did a “On the _______ day of Christmas list”. For the job one, I think that’s the one I did the maze? The person who had me misheard me saying I hated Christmas stuff as I loved Christmas stuff, apparently. I had one friend at that workplace who I bitched about the whole Secret Santa thing to and it turned out she was my Secret Santa. Whoops. She did give me a yin-yang poster, though, which I appreciated.
Here’s the thing. I’m a terrible person to buy gifts for. There are many reasons for this. One, I have a whole mess of allergies that makes it nearly impossible to give me anything related to the senses. I’m allergic to almost everything in the great outdoors, for example.
Side Note: All the people who enthuse about the great outdoors crack me up. I did a hilarious rant on white people and camping on Twitter many years ago. I got a bunch of people of color chiming in with me and it was so much fun. But, it’s also real talk in that I can’t walk around outside without being reminded that many of the things are not good for me. I’m allergic to almost every flower. I like to say I’m allergic to air itself.
My brother is really into essential oils and likes to insist that I smell the bottle he carries around. The first time he did that, it was lavender, which I’m really allergic to and hate the smell of. My head snapped back and I pushed the bottle away with prejudice. I’m also severely allergic to poinsettias.
I’m also allergic to alcohol and hate the taste of it, to boot. I don’t like being around people who drink, either, as many of them are not as fun and convivial as they think they are. I gave up drinking completely a decade ago and could not be happier about it. To be clear, I only drank a few times a year before that so it wasn’t as if it was ever a constant in my life. And when I did have a drink, it was one–maybe two over the whole evening. I’ve never liked drinking nor thought it added much of anything to whatever I was doing. My allergy is because I’m Asian. It’s very common for Asians to be allergic to alcohol, but it’s also pretty common for Asians to ignore the fact.
It’s also the norm for Asians to be allergic to dairy, which I am as well. I used to be able to take care of it by taking a Lactaid pill before eating dairy, but that became less effective as I got older. Five or so years ago, I gave up dairy for good–along with gluten (which had also been giving me difficulties as I got older), which means that food is not good on the list of things to give me, either.
You would think that would be restrictive enough when it came to food, but I have had other things become problematic for me to eat as I get older as well. These foods include cauliflower, onion, and garlic. They all mess with my digestive system to varying degrees and I prefer not to ingest any of them. This is difficult, though, because garlic and/or onion are/is in almost everything. Cauliflower is easier to avoid except it’s often substituted for wheat-based foods such as pasta.
So, basically any food or drink is a no-go as a gift for me. Same with any fragrances. ANY. I only use fragrance-free products, ranging from soaps to washing products. I am also allergic to most jewelry except stainless steel (I no longer wear jewelry, so I don’t know about more recent products). I also find most clothing irritating so I try to stick to cotton. In addition, my style is weird and I’m incredibly picky about what jewelry I wear. So basically, just don’t bother giving me jewelry or clothing. Oddly enough, my mother is the one exception to this. She has given me clothing and jewelry I like about 75% of the time, which is incredible. Oh, of course, this means flowers are off the table as well.
Any time I read on Ask A Manager about gift giving, I mentally cross off any suggestion that would not work for me. Bread, cheese, chocolate, wine, and flowers are all a hell no! Someone argued (not with me, but in general) that if you’re given something you don’t want, you can just pass it on. Someone pointed out the fallacy of this logic, such as giving alcohol to an recovering alcoholic or flowers to someone who might be allergic to them. I did comment something similar because I feel so strongly about it. In addition, this was a post about holiday gifts and what better way to make your employees feel undervalued by giving them a gift they don’t want/can’t use? That’s why I’m a big believer in cold hard cash or a gift card, I guess. Who couldn’t use more money?