Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Picking A Gift

I got to know H's mom by way of ballet lessons J and H took a couple of years ago. We've become friends since - she is one of the few desis I know in my little town that I like well enough to socialize with. A few days ago it was her wedding anniversary and that was coincidentally also the day I pick J & H after their lesson on the way home from work - she drops them off in the afternoon. I don't know her well enough to pick the perfect gift for her and her husband and yet I did not want to show up without one. This is the kind of relationship where you need to mull over a gift that is both appropriate and gracious - its not something that comes to you naturally.

Thanks to poor planning and a busy day at work, I was not able to make it to the store to pick up something - so I had nothing to give them. Within minutes of my reaching there with the kids, two other couples dropped by with surprise cakes, cards and flowers for H's parents. It made for a happy, almost festive atmosphere. Since H and her parents were supposed to go out to dinner, I had made haste to drop her off as soon as I could. However, with unexpected company those plans changed to ordering food so we could all have dinner together. It was much too late for me to stay, so I excused myself (and with great difficulty I might add).

The whole sequence of events that evening left me feeling unusually stressed. I wondered about how socially inept I had managed to look around friends and strangers, about how your personal circumstances can never be an excuse for how you present yourself publicly. H's parents are really nice people and will in no way be offended that I neglected to bring them a "gift" on their anniversary. They might have even been taken aback if I had shown up with one.

The rules of engagement are well established for one married couple wishing another on the wedding anniversary, for singles of a certain vintage it might be a little more nuanced. When you have been married before and are single now, it seems immensely hard to strike the right note - the genuineness of your happiness for someone else's thriving marriage is somewhat inherently suspect and so it is essential to have a light touch. Yet you may not be so "light" that you appear aloof or even flippant. The occasion must be treated with the gravitas it deserves without turning so serious that you appear downcast contemplating your own marital situation (read the lack of one). It was hard for me to decide on a gift that conveyed the warmth of my feelings toward H's parents and stood exactly midway between formal and effusive.


Priyamvada_K said...

Dear HC,
Don't let your marital status determine what to gift someone. Yes, they're having an anniversary - but it is a celebration like any other. Pick up your favorite kind of cake and/or some flowers - and you're good.

Don't get stressed by thinking too much :)


Heartcrossings said...

Priya - This a couple rather prone to PDA and I would have loved to give them a gift that suggests or celebrates that aspect of their 10 year old marriage :)

In the desi world that would not be a good idea coming from one such as myself. That fact that I have to worry about such stuff is what causes some of the social angst.

I could have played safe with cake, flowers etc but then I like giving gifts that are uniquely meaningful to the recipient and that only makes things more complicated.