Just received a Christmas card. From the milkman. I think we both know what it’s really about.
In some situations, you get a card from someone and think ‘Oh – must write them one back!’. I’m pretty sure the milkman isn’t after a card in return. In fact I’m pretty sure he’s not all that fussed what sort of Christmas we have. How could he be? Swinging by at 5am he’s never even met us.
It’s all part of the strange cloaked world of the gift. He couldn’t possible come knocking for his Christmas tip, nor even mention it. A card makes it obvious, without being explicit. I could get all high-horse about it and bemoan his participation in the destruction of the real gift economy… Where a tip was a tip freely given for great service, a little unexpected extra. But it’d be silly to think that any of us are entirely above it.
Beware the ‘season of goodwill’, the season of ‘the gift’. It’s rarely that simple. And as ‘silently, silently, the wonderous gift is given’, the rest of us will doubtless be less subtle than bulls in china shops as we nonchalantly make it clear what we want, and feign surprise, gasping ‘you shouldn’t have!’