Sunday, October 6, 2013

On Gifts and Narcissism

Hello, audience. Happy not-quite-Halloween. It's been a little while since I've posted anything...Like since August. I haven't forgotten my blog, though. I'm still here to spew my nonsense into the ether by force. I've just been somewhere between unmotivated and busy. Not that anyone reading my blog is wildly invested in what I do outside of my blog. NO! We are here to be amused, not regaled with accounts of my monotonous daily life!

Any, this is actually a combination post of something I've been considering writing about here for a while and something I've been considering privately due to recent events fringing my social circle.

The second shall be discussed first!

Everyone likes presents, right? Gifties that other people give you that are both free and pleasing. That's why we go so freaking berserk over gift-giving events (Christmas, birthdays, weddings, baby things, and so on). But the other side of gifts is the giving part.
If only these weren't both right hands...

There's two sides: the giving party and the getting party including at least one person each. Unless this is a present to oneself, in which case, the whole discussion here is moot.

(Which is, on a total side note, one of my favorite words to say for irrelevant nothing things. Like jack, squat, and BUMPKIS!)

This is possibly because of my upbringing (and my mother's upbringing), but I have a very turtle-parenting approach to gift-giving.

You all understand this comparison, right? Turtles--sea turtles, I believe--have a hands/flippers-off parenting method: they lay their eggs on a beach, and then take off. "Good luck, fetal turtle spawn! Come find us if you ever hatch!" Once they lay those suckers, their job is done. Off they go to frolic in the ocean and be endangered.

This is how I give presents. I choose something I think the giftee will like/appreciate/use/etc, I give it to them with or without any kind of ceremony or pretty wrapping (usually without either, because I procrastinate). The end. Once I've given something to someone as a gift, it's theirs, no strings attached, no expectations or conditions about what happens after that. They can cut up, regift it, or leave it in their garage for the next fifty years for all of the involvement I expect to have. Yes, I'll be somewhat hurt if they don't like it, but that's not the point of giving a gift.

Recently, someone received a gift from relatives, who promptly sent a note a month later to explain what a selfish douchwaffel she was for not sending an effusive thank you note. Because everyone knows a GIFT is actually an exchange of goods/services for thanks/services.

WTF, bro?

I've actually known a few people who get really butt-hurt about not getting thanked in the form of a card, or who don't get a return present at the next possible opportunity. This irks me because you are as obligated to give people gifts as you are to feed wild animals.

Barring those "gifts" that are actually help when people genuinely and desperately need it, but I would call that help, not gifts.

The point is that they're not necessary. If you don't want to give someone something, don't. It's that easy. The thing about gifts is that they're not supposed to even involve obligation or entitlement. Gifts are not deserved, and they're not relational commerce.

And that was about all I had to say about that. It seems remarkably self-centered to give someone else a present and then have expectations and demands for something you freely gave.

Speaking of self-centered: Narcissism!

As much as my siblings joke about being narcissists when referring to our vanity and general fabulousless and self-assurance, we are aware that there are other people who also important and living their own lives totally separate from us.

We're probably not always aware of this, but I don't think anyone is.

Because I have news for you, people (assuming you've read this whole post, which is not inconsiderable in size)

YOU ARE NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN OTHER PEOPLE. Your time is not worth more; your agenda is not more pressing; your plans are not more important.

Unless you have managed to earn a place at the top of the human pyramid, you're just as worthless as all those people you speed past in traffic and all those people you thrust your money at without even glancing at.

I'm beginning to have this theory that everyone is some level of sociopath. Yes, we sometimes experience empathy for people we already care about, and we can sometimes dissect other people's actions until we can understand and condone them, but we all operate from our own little world of me, me, me, me, me, and me. We are the only person we consider about 90% of the time.

And, honestly, I'm mostly cool with that. I think Ayn Rand had a lot of things right (unpopular and insane as she might be), but as one of the millions of people on this planet regularly treated like crap for a paycheck, and as someone with what looks like Tourette's in heavy traffic (or light traffic. Or any traffic, really. If there are other cars in the street, I hate them with a fiery and very verbal passion), I'm noticing more and more just how much we seriously don't give a crap about people, because it doesn't even occur to us to consider them as fellow human beings. They're props and inconveniences in our story, not people with lives and plans and hopes and motivations and needs all their own. (See Cracked's article on the Monkeysphere)

It's kind of appalling.

That prick that swerved in front of you is just a bloody moron, but if you abruptly swing into another lane, it's because, crap, your turn is coming up, and you didn't realize it. Or when someone zooms past you, weaving lanes and cutting ahead, they're  inconsiderate and irresponsible, and that idiot shouldn't even have a license, but when you're late, you can rush through traffic in whatever way gets you there quickest. It's okay to leave your table in a restaurant a mess, but if you have to sit down at a dirty table, someone is rude and disrespectful.

We have these absurd double-standards that dictate that we can do no wrong, and everything that inconveniences us is because everyone else sucks.

There's some fantasy novel I read at some point. It may have been Green Rider, where there's this water bucket hanging from a tree by the road so that travelers can drink, and above it is a sign asking whoever drinks to refill it for the next person, so that no one has to come to it without being able to get a drink. So don't be a douchebag. People come before and after you, and they matter just as much to themselves as you do to you. It's the frickin' "golden rule" that everyone leans as a wee, little child. Just apply it, and everyone will hate each other less.

Also, here's an article with some nice suggestions to do just that.