Dear Metro: "My friend didn't like the gift I got for his 30th"
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One of my best friends is about to turn 30 and organised an extravagant trip overseas, which I couldn’t afford. That was a whole thing, but we’ve since both become okay with it. But I don’t know what to get him. He likes to spend a lot of money on things so I got him an experience but I can’t help but feel like he was disappointed and that I should have got him something different or known him better? It’s actually making me feel quite inadequate as a friend.
Ah, money and friendship. One of the biggest causes of tension in any relationship, and something we are almost uniquely bad at talking about, thanks to the weird shame which surrounds both being poor and being (relatively) wealthy. It can be especially hard if an historic friend begins to out-earn you, and a life which used to run more or less parallel with yours begins to speed ahead to glamorous and unreachable destinations.
Mix that with mismatched expectations people can have around gifts and it’s a recipe for hurt feelings all round. Some people hold a lot of store in a gift; seeing the perfect present as a reflection of being truly known and loved. That can be a difficult expectation to meet, and it’s not an entirely reasonable one to be held to. Sometimes I think we get so wrapped up in the performance of friendship and making the “big” moments special that we skew their importance out of proportion. Knowing what to get someone for a special occasion isn’t the same as being a good friend. Some people are excellent gift givers and kind of shitty at actually turning up and doing the hard parts of friendship when the going gets rough. I know who I’d rather have in my life.
As an aside, I actually think experiences are really thoughtful gifts – especially to give to people who already spend a lot of money on material objects for themselves. Who needs more stuff when they could have a fun day out with one of their best pals?
All this is to say you’re being a bit hard on yourself. You obviously do know your friend – you tried to get him something he liked and maybe you missed the mark, but it really is the thought that counts! He may have been disappointed in the moment, but it’s not reasonable for him to hold this against you – and I’d wager you’re likely thinking about it more than he is. Which again, just goes to show you are an adequate friend – one who wants to please the people they love and show they care for them. That’s more important than finding some elusive perfect gift.
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Illustration: Loryn Engelsman