Problematic

December 26, 2011

I knit for the pleasure of it- but when it comes to gifts, I need positive feedback. There’s nothing worse than giving people something they have to pretend to like. It’s a waste of money, for one thing- and it makes gift-giving feel like an empty ritual. (I once spent Christmas with a boyfriend’s family, and was gobsmacked watching them give each other completely generic stuff, casually noting that the receipts were in the box).

With handmade gifts, what you’re giving is love, and time, and your own vision. (Why yes, I did pick out this gorgeous yarn. And altered the pattern to make perfect for you. And ripped it back a few times when it didn’t turn out right. What? It’s not the awesomest thing you’ve ever seen, much less had the pleasure of receiving? What kind of asshole are you???)

I'm not this bad. Hopefully.

I'm not this bad. Hopefully.

Of course you can ask your recipients what kind of thing they might like, but they’re apt to tell you. In my experience, they usually want something that’s difficult or even impossible to knit given the limitations of the craft or the materials available or your knowledge and experience.

A few nights ago I was knitting a requested item, altering the pattern as I went along, trying to make it perfect and getting a little frustrated. I was imagining the recipient looking at it and seeing the one thing I got wrong instead of the million things I got right. I hadn’t even given it away yet, and already I was feeling underappreciated.

It bothers me that I can’t come up with a solution to this problem.  Gift giving is just like that. You have to choose between a thoughtless item that’s likely to be returned the next day (with no skin off your nose), or something you’ve invested time and thought into, something you can’t help wanting appreciated.

I know in some families the adults give each other charitable donations and save the real presents for the kids. That practice has a kind of Buddhist appeal: it’s perfectly generic, and there can be no expectation of significant feedback. But my family and friends are various: they’re not all going to be on board with that.

For now at least I’m not going to stop making gifts, or stop wanting people to love them- maybe more than they possibly can. The best I can do is try to strike a balance between things I make to suit other people and things I make to please my own fancy.

So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to put down the gift knitting- at least for today. (Yes, I still have one thing left to finish. No, it’s not late yet).

I’m going to work on the sock I started weeks ago. It’s for me.

all for meeeeeeee

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7 Responses to “Problematic”

  1. This is so sad! Just so you know, I’m not talking to you if you ever give money to a charity and tell me that was my present. That’s just wrong.

  2. I like navel lint hair.

    This reminds me of an email sent to me by my sister-in-law, who described why she doesn’t throw cookie party exchanges around Christmas. “Nobody I know bakes like me – I hate to give out awesome chocolate chip cookies to return home with a box of Keeblers.”

    “Oh,” I said, feeling my world perspective challenged. “I haven’t told you about the way I choose my friends. Once I meet them, I give them a cook book. If they bake well, they move up on the list. If they can’t bake well, they dwindle down my best friend list, so that solves the cookie exchange problem each year.”

    I suggest you do the same, lovely Charlotte. Create your magnificent creations, and if said recipient does not respond with the kindness, warmth, thoughtfulness and love you deserve, you can feel free to move them out of the Top Ten Friends list that moves you to create for them. Next year, give them that “I donated to my favorite charity on behalf of you” empty package under the Christmas tree, and then when they strike the appropriate disappointed look, you can think – guilt free – “why you selfish bas$^&%”.

    Peace and Love!

    • Ha. Hahahahaha! I am so going to do that. And when they ask me, ‘why for do you treat me so wrong?,’ I’m going to blame you. Or maybe tell them I’m becoming a Buddhist.

  3. Lynn said

    I know exactly what you mean. BTW, I still have the cute little blue hat you knitted for Natalie once upon a time. I saved it with her baby stuff I can’t seem to part with. Some people really do appreciate you AND your hand made items.
    -L

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