Posts Tagged ‘happy birthday’

It’s what I always wanted (and other lies we tell on our Birthdays)
So it was my birthday recently and no this rant will not be about getting older, the trepidations of the impending THREE ZERO or the quarter life crisis that I am in at the moment (although given the fact that the age expectancy in this country is about 51 I’m pretty much middle aged at 27 – but that is something to complain about in another blog, I promise).

What I do want to discuss, although it will be a rather one sided discussion unless you take the time to comment and please feel free to do so. (I generally only publish the comments that pander to my ego –FYI) is the matter of gift giving.
Now I’m sure we’ve all received some really amazing gifts but I hazard to guess that just as memorable have been the absolutely terrible ones.

Sometimes bad gifts come from the people closest to us. I once got a mixed tape from my brother for my 18th, entitled “Songs of your Life”. A great gift idea, sure, but the implementation left something to be desired. First of all it was written on one of my blank CD’s, contained only about 4 songs I actually liked, the rest were songs only he enjoyed and a few of the songs were repeated. (We’re even though because I once got him a game that was subsequently deleted).

However, the worst presents generally seem to come from people who don’t really know you that well and that is why probably the worst corporate business tradition (and there are numerous) in my opinion is the tradition of “Secret Santa”.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the hallowed tradition of “Secret Santa”, you basically draw a colleague’s name from a hat (invariably one of those crappy Santa’s hats with the bobble on the end). Then the aim is to buy that person a gift, within an agreed budget and you are meant to keep it a secret.

For my sins I spend a lot of time picking up clues, asking people who may know the person who I am buying for, to try and get an idea of what they would want. This can be frustrating for numerous reasons. Firstly the decided budget is always ludicrously small and never takes into account any kind of inflation (I think Secret Santa has been set at R100 for the past 20 years). Secondly, after you end up receiving your gift you actually can’t believe how little time and energy some people put into the process. At which point I normally wish that I had simply addressed my gift to myself.

Some of the “truly inspired” gifts I have received…

Last year I received a set of highlighters (because we all know how much men love highlighting things) that was obviously regifted (or stolen from the stationery cupboard at work). The year before was only slightly more personal, where I was given a far-too-big green T-shirt that had the incredibly subtle wording “24-7 party hunter” (which really sums up both me and my non-stop party hunting ways). The person who gave it to me then remarked “I know how much you like green” (I don’t)

The list goes on, unfortunately. The only positive is that I now have an extensive backlog of completely impersonal and generic gifts ready for any future “Secret Santa’s” I may be forced to endure. So if you get a set of highlighters, a key ring or giant green T-shirt, maybe its from me, but I’ll never tell, it’s supposed to be a secret.

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This my best friend…um… wutsisname

I’m really bad with names, I always have been. Maybe that’s why my parents didn’t give me any middle names in case I forgot them. Look, I’m not as bad as my one friend um… Paul? Peter? Um it’s something with a “P”, I’m sure. I’ve tried many different techniques for remembering people’s names from the “using it as you greet them” technique (Hi Paul, pleased to meet you), to the linking them to a physical trait (It’s Paul with the huge nose). I’ve even tried the “tag and release” technique I saw on the Discovery channel, but none seem to work (in fact the last one usually gets me into a bit of trouble).

Has it ever happened to you that you really hit it off with someone you’ve just met, like at a club, and now it’s the time to exchange numbers and you have no clue what their name is? (My phone is filled with names like “blonde girl from varsity” and “brunette from coffee place”). So trying to be smooth I’ll ask something like “So, how do you spell your name?” and it’s always something simple like Jo or Beth.

Or when you walk into a room full of people and have to introduce someone and you forgot their name. “Hi everyone, this is…” at which point you are hoping they introduce themselves.

Sometimes the problem is not actually the remembering, but that you’ve known them for so long it would be too awkward to ask their name. I remember this one girl (whose name escapes me at the moment) who I used to go to ballroom dancing with. You may think that ballroom dancing is kind of nerdy, but when you went to an all-boys school, like I did, you did whatever you could to interact with girls, plus the ratios were awesome (ok talking about “ratios” is pretty nerdy).

Anyway, there was this girl who I would dance with most weeks and we really hit it off and were quite friendly and often spoke about other things besides the usual awkward teenage pleasantries and small talk. This continued for about 3 years and yet I never knew her name. I would always use the classic “hey you” (which is probably the most obvious clue that you don’t know someone’s name, but I thought it was pretty “ninja” back then).

It would get so awkward trying to hear other people call her, but I never managed to hear her name and I’m pretty sure after 3 years you can’t simply pop in the question: “By the way, what is your name?” I even remember I received an invitation to her 18th birthday party (back in the day when you actually received written invitations). “You are cordially invited to my birthday party” Damnit! Why can’t people address invites in the third person anymore!

So I went to her party with a gift that had no tag on it, except “from Gareth” (so “ninja”) except when I got there the mother, who knew I played guitar, asked if I could sing happy birthday to her daughter. It all went fine till the third line of the song when I panicked and smashed the guitar on the table and screamed “ROCK ‘n ROLL BABY!” (“ninja”, I know!) I was a shiny golden god that day.

But worst of all is if you end up sleeping with someone and you can’t remember their name. I usually end up searching their clothes for name tags as they’re lying on the floor (the clothes, not the girls), at which point they normally wake up and ask “Gareth, what are you doing?”

“Ssssh go back to bed Calvin Klein!”

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