I am having a lot of trouble with this piece by The Minimalists. It’s definitely forcing me to critically examine my habits and intentions, as all things that push our buttons are an invitation to do so. I admit my “love language” (perhaps the idea of love having a specific language is the true absurdity) is gifting. I do not understand at all how “gift-giving is by definition transactional.” The definitions I found describe it as NON transactional, and that is how I have always understood & practiced gift-giving, even though sometimes I am disappointed when a dear one chooses not to express their love to me in that way.
When you choose words like vapid, pernicious, grotesque, & nauseating, and make blanket statements like we gift because we are troubled by real love…well, that will stir people up and frankly, you can’t expect to follow that with “doesn’t mean there’s something necessarily wrong with buying a gift” without sounding insincere about one concept or the other.
I would like to distinguish between BUYING a gift and GIVING a gift, which are not necessarily synonymous. A gift could easily be a poem, a serenade, a meal, an experience, a service, and so on. I would counter that gifting itself is not the commodification of love, but rather marketing & advertising is, but we’ve already heard that said so much as to make it feel…
The “grotesque idea that we can commodify love” is not the idea of celebrating with a gift as it is the idea that the only or best acceptable way to express love or gratitude is with a purchased trinket. It’s a g-dam course of study in “higher” education how to manipulate people into purchasing things they have not, on their own, identified a need for. Welcome to America! It is marketing & advertising that proposed the idea that we MUST gift for every obscure holiday, and turned gift-giving into gift-exchanging. But like I admitted before, that’s nothing new to write about. Unless it is to you, in which case…email me! I have links for you!
There is such a thing as minimalist gifting. I think when a pronouncement like The Commodification of Love is made that offends a lot of people (or just me,) it’s worthwhile to examine it with more subtlety. It seems clear to me that many people have been hurt by the practice of exchanging or even giving gifts and carry a bit of resentment. If you feel gift-giving turning into gift-exchanging in any of your relationships, perhaps it is the relationship that needs deconstructed. I believe love is not transactional, just as The Minimalists state. What that means is that if you are experiencing a transaction, then you are not experiencing Love. First identify the love, then appreciate its many forms of expression, often including gifting. If you have misidentified not-love as love, it’s not the fault of the gift or even the practice of giving gifts. Gifts alone do not love make. Sometimes the people giving gifts have misidentified their own feelings as love. That is not the fault of the gift or practice of gifting either. Just because we have had our hearts broken by someone who has gifted us, does not mean gifting is wrong. Just because someone has taken offense to us abstaining from exchanging gifts does not mean gifting is wrong or even that it conflicts with minimalist philosophy.
Tangent: Another idea to consider regarding love and broken hearts is this. What if we actively practice mindfulness in heartbreak. By that I mean, let it gooooo let it goooooo, you are one with the wind and skkkkkkyyyyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeiiiiiiiiiiiii. It is OK to have enjoyed feeling loved or even loving regardless of how it evolved after that. It is OK to have compassion for those who broke our hearts and to give them the benefit of the doubt. I have broken some hearts along the way. I am not proud of it and I carry shame for it. I’m sure the one who broke your heart does too, even if they can’t dare greatly enough to show or admit it.
One can identify love by its true markers if one is mindful and thinks critically. Which I do believe is a hallmark of The Minimalists, but to quote my friend, the language in this piece pisses me off. And frankly the read feels like a church pamphlet. I’d benefit far more in my minimalist journey from a piece on reimagining the spirit of various holidays as well as the practice of gifting from a minimalist point of view. OH LOOK! The Minimalists included a link to JUST SUCH AN ESSAY at the bottom of their own essay, which proves they are not just cranky, dogmatic, idealists. Do enjoy the more palatable tone. And perhaps in good time I will have my own piece on minimalism as it applies to holidays and gifting, and hopefully no one will find it vapid. XO.