I’m on the spectrum. The present spectrum. I haven’t seen anyone about it but I have self-diagnosed myself as a three on the ten-point scale. ‘What’s this about, Sharon?’, you ask yourself. Well it goes like this: Everyone is on the present spectrum – if you score a one then when somebody asks you ‘What do you want for your birthday?’ you say ‘I don’t know. Nothing really, I’m fine’. Your loved one/ friend knew that this is what you were going to say and buys you either a gift voucher (which stays in a drawer until it expires/ you spend on someone else) or flowers (which die through malnutrition) or a pair of socks/ smellies for the bath (either of which you give to someone else). However, if you are a ten on the spectrum then when someone asks you the what do you want for your birthday question you get out your iPad look down your ‘present list’ and reel off a couple of options and offer to send hyperlinks where said person can buy the gift.
As I said I have self-diagnosed myself as a three on the spectrum – I don’t resist presents but I don’t have a ready-made list. I have to think very hard about what I extra item would give me joy, when asked. Also, although I realise that buying birthday gifts is a long-standing tradition – it’s not something I expect that those nearest and dearest have to get me – I just figure it’s not a prerequisite of them showing that they care. Part of my relationship with gift giving is because I have memory and processing problems and even if I saw the ideal thing that I wanted in an advert I wouldn’t remember it anyway (not a bad thing) but I also realise that part of the reason why I am rated three is because I have a a natural tendency not to want so many things. It’s innate. And I believe that other people’s relationships with gift-receiving is also innate as well.
Now I could get all grouchy about this. I mean, as I explained in my last blog regarding gift-giving at children’s birthday parties, there is an assumption that if you give a present to someone, they will spend a similar amount of money on you in return. The problem is in the adulting world is that even if you say that you only want to spend a certain amount of money on a gift, in truth, the way it works out is that the value that you get from your gifts depends upon where your fall on the present spectrum. Thus, an adult who is a ten on the scale is likely to request something of a higher value than an adult lower down on the scale – who indeed might not request something at all. So, in the end what happens is that, financially at least, those lower down the scale over a year end up making a net loss from this presenting game.
However, I have decided not to get grouchy about all of this. As a great book (the Torah) says, ‘Who is wise – he who learns from everyone’. And although I’m not wise, for the sake of personal growth, it would be useful for me to learn from those further up the spectrum. I mean they have got a point – every now and then it is nice to treat yourself. My inclination is not to, but perhaps that’s why it’s especially important for me, and others like me, to have a birthday (apart from the obvious reason of being reminded of my age) – so I can go outside of my comfort zone and just be spoiled a little bit. I don’t think I’ll ever reach a ten – I’m a three because this is my innate level – but I could try to shift to a four. It would be hard but I could try.
Also, somewhere in this great birthday giving hullabaloo I seem to have lost the plot and forgotten why we give presents. I have 21 members of my immediate family (including nephews/ niece, in-laws etc) and the present giving thing now just seems like an administrative process of depositing money into other people’s bank accounts after they/ their parents have sent in their requests. As someone with memory problems, this often seems overwhelming – but even if I didn’t have these difficulties I think somewhere in this administration process and the fact that it is assumed that the gifts will be given I have forgotten the meaning of gift giving and that is to be thankful for that other person in your life and to want to make them feel special, for one particular day.
Thus, whilst I am happy to disclose that I am a three on the present spectrum I do think that for the sake of personal growth I could try and move myself up the scale just one notch and, in around all the confusion that I find the present giving spectacle, I should try and refocus and remind myself why we do it – and that is to show the special people that we love that we care.
Ps – Happy birthday Shona and Liz!!!