The majlis: In the Year of Giving, what do you give?

So, really, what do you get someone who has everything? Or someone who just leaves you clueless on what to get them?

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Gifts are the one of the easiest things in life to make someone happy. Who doesn't love it when you get a wrapped box or a colourful bag (or big, expensive bag)? We all love the excitement and the curiosity of opening it up. A gift almost always draws a smile on its receiver's face. But I say "almost" for a reason, because they might already have what you got them.

We live in a time where people can afford, and will always get, (almost) anything they want. So buying the perfect gift has become a challenge. I spend a few months prior to my close friends’ birthdays with my concentration on the level of “not-gonna-miss-out-on-a-word-you-say”, just to know what to get them for their birthday. I’m not saying that all of them leave me clueless, but the ones I’m closest to won’t keep anything on their wish list for long.

When I ask my other friends: “What are you planning to get her?”, one of the most common answers is: “What do you get someone who has everything?” or “I don’t know. I’m not sure what she likes.” I know I have said the same thing at least 13 times in the past seven months.

So, really, what do you get someone who has everything? Or someone who just leaves you clueless on what to get them? In college, my group of friends would agree on what to get each other on our birthdays, which is the best thing ever. We would all chip in. But now, I try asking what my friends want, in an “I’m-joking-but-not-joking” kind of way. The dreaded reply is usually: “Aww, that’s nice of you to ask, but I don’t want anything except a happy birthday”. My solution: concentration overdrive.

Personally, my favourite gifts come in the form of an experience – something to do, a memory to create. Those gifts are the ones that last a lifetime in our memories. I always pass by the place of the experience and zone out for a few minutes, remembering that day when I did something amazing for the first time. My favourite gift ever, which I gifted to myself, was a skydiving experience. I booked it for my birthday and went skydiving in Dubai with a friend.

The other favourite type of gift is the “this-reminded-me-of-you” kind, which usually comes in the form of bracelets, key chains, a shirt or maybe even a car. Anything that brought me into someone’s mind. I adore them. It’s a simple way of letting me know I was in someone’s thoughts. After all, it’s the thought that counts.

I loved it when my cousin, for my last birthday, printed out a picture of me with “I’m your biggest fan” written in the ­background – it really meant the world to me. She also once gave me a plastic genie lamp and ­Photoshopped her face onto the genie’s body. She wanted to tell me that she is always there for me. I consider that one of my favourite gifts, because it was personalised and also because it was simple, yet it had a strong meaning. I keep it in my room and I smile every time I see it, which in itself is like getting a new gift every day.

Of course, there are also presents we don’t want. I really don’t like it when people give me clothes. It makes me feel very awkward because they’re always either too big, too small, or in a style that I’d never buy because my taste would not allow it. It’s hard to pretend to like the gift when I really don’t. Unfortunately, my disappointment always shows on my face. This doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the effort, however, just that I just feel bad for not liking it. Here’s a hint though: if you ever want to buy me clothes, go for gym clothes.

* As told to Jessica Hill

Muneera Al Hubail is a CrossFit champion and police officer who lives in Abu Dhabi.

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