Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Birthday present manifesto

It is markgritter's birthday. His birthday card from me is footnoted. That is the kind of relationship we have.

I've been wanting to talk about birthday presents. chance88088 was talking about writers putting links to their wish lists in their journals and soliciting presents from their fans. She was against it. So am I. I'm always against soliciting presents. Nobody ever owes anybody a present. Ever, ever, ever, ever.

So I just want to go on the record with this one: if I give you a birthday present, it is because I wanted to give you a birthday present. Because I saw something, thought of you, and decided I wanted to give it to you. Sometimes I go out of my way to see things that might be good to give to people (by looking at their Amazon list, by asking them what they might like, etc.), because I want to give them something that will make them smile. But I don't give presents out of obligation, period and full stop, because gifts are never, ever obligatory. And if I catch myself thinking something like, "Oh, well, I suppose we have to get something for so-and-so's wedding," I back up and think some more: either I really want to and should change my attitude, or I really don't want to and should reconsider the whole thing. Most often it's the former.

If I give you a birthday present, it is not a signal that I feel that you owe me one. It is not a declaration of intent to give you one every year. It is not a guilt-trip because you didn't even e-mail me on my birthday. It is not any of that. That's not what I'm thinking. It is a present, because I want to, or else there is no present at all.

My parents believe that birthday presents from close family should be a nice mix of clothes and books, which is their shorthand for useful and fun, respectively. (They do give other presents in both categories.) I think this is a decent plan. I know people who didn't get anything utilitarian for their birthdays, but I didn't usually get fewer fun presents than they did -- it was just that a larger chunk of back-to-school shopping came as surprises with bows on. My birthday and Christmas are spaced out very neatly in the year (I was born in July), so it worked out well that way. I think they'd have done it differently if my birthday had been in January, but we didn't have to deal with that.

We have dinner reservations for a brewery downtown tonight, and markgritter will open his presents. (As a summer birthday kid, the idea of having to work on one's birthday is horrifying to me, but I recognize that this is the way of the world.) Tomorrow we'll go down to Winona to meet our potential puppy. And amidst that I will be shopping and cleaning and baking and cooking and trying to make things go together in time for the party. (And if it stays dry-ish long enough, pruning and mowing and weeding. Eep.) I'm hoping to have at least two new bookshelves to put together before people get here. It sounds like a reasonable plan from where I'm sitting. I guess some of you will find out whether I'm right about that or not.

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