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The practice of gift-giving around this or any other time of year can be a tricky proposition. Excellent gift ideas abound, but giving the right gift to the right person (at the right price) often requires a certain element of finesse that tends to come and go, at least for me. Gimmicky gifts only make matters more complicated, with their often-overestimated merit invested more in novelty than practical use. Sure, that Christopher Walken bobblehead seemed ironic and amusing back in December, but when someone opens up their gift in a bag because you couldn’t be moved to wrap it yourself (sorry, Mom), is it really going to produce the “audible gasp and speechlessness” or “hyperventilating gush-fest” reactions you were hoping for?

I’ve always thought that if a gift can be given to a wide variety of people and be equally effective, it’s not the right gift — hence my disdain of “dozen red roses” as a Valentine’s Day gift. (I prefer custom arrangements, regardless of what scholars or Wikipedia say about the symbolism of red roses.) Although I suspect my insistence on highly personal presents is responsible for a great deal of stress and head-bashing (around finals time, no less), I find it to be a very necessary concussion if I’m to show the appropriate appreciation for my family, friends, and significant other.

Besides, going out gift shopping also almost always inevitably nets me something worth buying for myself. Those who know me will recognize thrift store visits as the logical extreme of the bargain-hunting gene I inherited from my parents, although I’m certainly not above buying a pair of shoes brand-new on rare occasions. Especially when it’s a pair of black Converse All-Star high-tops. Those who know me will recognize the giddiness in my tone. Heeheehee.

Then there’s always the thorny issue of deciding precisely who does and does not receive a present and when to give the gift. If I had to buy personalized presents for all of my Facebook friends’ birthdays, I’d probably end up ignoring my rather powerful need to eat, living off of free dinner Thursdays and Sundays from The Tech’s budget. More than that, I’d probably lose all of those Facebook friends who would inevitably come under the impression that I was some kind of creepy stalker. It’s not my fault I had to do some digging in order to find their mailing address. Sheesh.

Few ordeals are as particularly frustrating as trying to conjure gifts for those people who are seemingly impossible to shop for. You’d buy them clothes, if you only knew their sizes. You’d buy them meals, if you only know their tastes. What else could you get them? Gift cards? Is that really original? How much is enough? And from where? Twenty dollars spendable at Best Buy might be nice, but it’s not exactly a guilt-free flat-screen in an envelope. Decisions, decisions.

I once bought my best friend a cookbook as a gag gift. Apparently, it had slipped my mind that she and her family are positively prodigious chefs. I wish I were making this up — I’d probably have a lot more dignity left.

As it stands, I’m pretty happy with the gift purchases I’ve made in the past few months. In the process, I’ve also bought myself a few things. Among said self-motivated purchases are the music CD to which I’m currently listening (the Hook sound track, if you’re wondering), for which I’d been prowling the thrift stores for ages but never found; trading cards; and a sticker for my laptop that says “Geek Power” on it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go do some more shopping. Giving personalized gifts also means giving personalized cards, and I learned after a middle school fiasco that 3x5 index cards just aren’t good enough. I wish I were making that up, too.