By Bunmi Sofola

Now that the season of giving is with us, if you sniff hard enough, you can actually smell the New Year!  The shops are bursting with gifts, despite almost abject poverty, despite the thinness of foreign exchange on the ground. And the kids are back from school, their expectant, almost accusing looks, tugging at your heart strings.

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Yes, it is the season of giving. But it also might well be the season of getting—that is, getting your feelings hurt. This is particularly true if you give something no one really wants. Anxiety certainly is high at this time of the year.

These days, it is stressful enough just sorting out limited budgets (Christmas bonuses notwithstanding) to make sure we include all of the people we think we need to include on our presents list. And that is after widdling and widdling the list into an impossible number.

No matter how little or how much we spend, the really hard bit is making sure people will be happy with the gifts we choose. Odds are stacked against their being happy. According to experts (and believe me, there really are people like that who give deep thoughts to this sort of thing!), people most times, are not happy with gifts. First on the list are your offsprings. A 16-year-old recently told her dad she’d seen just the outfit to celebrate the New year’s eve.

“Just where was it written that you must usher in a new year with new clothes?” The dad demanded, instantly on the defensive. “But dad, last year….” “That was last year!” snapped the father. “This is now. You should all thank your lucky stars that I can still afford to pay your school fees. And paying for the days you spent in hospital when you had typhoid fever, not to talk of the cost of all the laboratory tests you had to go through doesn’t leave that much for presents. I would forget presents for now if I were you. Look in your wardrobe, you’re bound to see a clean dress you can wear for the new year. Hard times are here and I’m not putting myself into impossible debts for any gifts.”

Present-re-cycling is what a lot of us will resort to this yuletide. Most families who still have things they haven’t used happily re-wrap them and send them away. A friend still isn’t able to live down the embarrassment of a present she re-cycled. Actually, it wasn’t strict re-cycling. Out of sheer generosity, her boyfriend bought her an expensive present for Christmas. My friend re-wrapped his gift and gave it to another boyfriend who she wasn’t so hot about. He came to thank her and to hand over the previous lover’s business card which she forgot to remove from the present before she re-wrapped it. Her face burnt with shame as she remembered all the naughty things he put on the card. The wounded-puppy look on the other man’s face will stay with her for a long time.

“We’ve all been given inappropriate presents,” says the expert. “Some people stop giving presents altogether because they are so afraid of getting it wrong. There is an embarrassment and a feeling you have not read the person correctly. On some toys, there are labels that say they are suitable for say 4-year-olds or whatever. Well, in other shops, may be there should be labels saying suitable for obnoxious yuppie or semi-sophisticated woman of 38….”

So if you are one of the hopefuls, patiently waiting with bathed breath, for presents to start rolling in, maybe you should tone down your enthusiasm. People are just not generous as they used to be. Even cash gifts aren’t what they used to be as they fetch you precious little when you spend them. Still, it is the season of goodwill. You should feel real good because year 2020, is around the corner. I bet housewives would be lucky to get the once dreaded pot and pans as presents from hubby. And parents would have to suppress screams of horror at the hideous gifts their kids’ teachers at kindergarten encouraged them to make for the homes. Still, I bet we are all filled with new hopes.

Angela, married for four years thought she would give her husband a hint of what she wanted for Christmas so she wouldn’t end up with nothing like last year. “Instead of expecting yet another present from me,” the husband  explained as if it were to a child, “Why don’t you give me one instead?” “I was flabbergasted,” Angela later said. “Dad always gave us all Christmas presents, I never saw mum give him one!”

She never hid her flightiness from her husband

That might just be the olive branch we all need. Give your tight-fisted partner a Christmas present that would blow his mind and patiently wait for the reward!


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