Secretly Wanting to NOT be the Office Santa
It’s that time of year again - not for another Hallmark Christmas film countdown (though I have watched some absolute corkers this year) - no, it’s that time of year where we have that dreaded drawing of the names from a hat to nab yourself the recipient, of let’s face it - a rather shit Secret Santa present.
I’ve played different roles in the Secret Santa process over the years - from organising the draw (made SO much easier now that you can log on to an app to sort the logistics out, meaning I’m not traipsing round an office with an envelope of hastily scribbled names on pieces of paper); to the manager role of buying extra gifts when that one team member drops out at the last moment and you can’t bear to think of someone missing out. And of course, being the enthusiastic recipient of said gifts.
Now I don’t want to seem ungrateful - and I’m very aware that this is a first world problem - but you should all know by now that this blog is just me rattling on about life’s foibles and how I struggle to navigate them sometimes - and my thoughts on this Christmas tradition are no different!
Gone are the raucous days of my time in the city, where this activity was a massive giggle and not taken too seriously. It was entirely acceptable to purchase a bag of penis shape pasta from Ann Summers (incidentally an actual gift that I bought for the person who I also had to explain what cunnilingus was to - just a typical day in a HR office...), Or the time that I was bought a “grow your own boyfriend” - I’m sure that was a subtle message about how my ex (who wasn’t my ex at the time) probably should have actually been an ex…. Joke cigars, medals for world’s worst boss, photos books of animals dressed as strippers that are meant to be read on the toilet - it was all a bit of fun, relatively cheap and certainly not something to spend too long agonising over.
So when did Secret Santa presents become….well, thoughtful?? People actually taking the time to find something that says, “I saw this and thought of you”, rather than “I have no idea who you are, but I reckon your wife would find it funny if you wore these nipple tassels”.
To make it worse, I am one of those people who really likes to get under the skin of the recipient when I’m buying presents, so I can get something that actually means something to them. Which is fine when it comes to family and loved ones - but feels a bit extreme when it’s just Brian from Accounts (no offence Brian). But my brain is now wired to make sure that I don’t just get any old tat - in my desperate need to be liked* - as I really don’t want it being re-gifted in next year’s Secret Santa or dropped off at the charity shop in the new year. Or even worse…being used against me at my next performance review…
But I think the biggest problem for me now is the price limit. For the past 20 years it feels like the limit has been £10 - which in this day and age (thank you inflation and cost of living crisis - insert rant about incompetent government here) doesn’t get you a huge amount. Not that I was looking for Secret Santa prices to be pegged to the Retail Price Index (not entirely sure what that is - or how it differs from the Consumer Price Index, but it makes me sound sort of knowledgeable). No, I just want a little more leeway to be able buy something a little more, well, nice.
Not that a bigger budget means it’s easier to find a gift. Just means I’ve got more options of presents to agonise over - overthinking the meaning of every single item I pick up. So now I generally play it safe - a candle, a pot plant, a fancy mug with their initial on. Nothing that’s going to get me branded a cheapskate or potentially fired. (Not like the person, who, as someone recently told me, chose to give their colleague a furry tail butt plug. Can you imagine?? Opening that up in front of your boss and direct reports?? Who on earth thought that would be appropriate - and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t within the £10 budget...)
And now, my other half has just thrown into the mix the idea of a “Grab Bag” Secret Santa - where you buy a gift, put it in the sack and then everyone chooses a present at random. This feels infinitely more exciting that spending half of December dithering about whether buying your boss a book on “How to Manage People Better” would be career suicide**. This then leads us onto “Dirty Santa”*** - which again, feels much more fun (unless your Jim from The Office and you’re planning on using Secret Santa as the tool to tell someone specific how much you fancy them. You really don’t want Brian from Accounts holding your deep and emotionally charged love letter).
I guess ultimately, I’ve got to stop overthinking this. It’s a £10 fun gift for a colleague - and chances are, it’ll be someone I speak to twice a year. So, I should really open up the app to check who I’ve been drawn for this year’s office party…. Oh good grief… I’ve drawn the top dog - the Director of HR… Please excuse me whilst I spent the next 3 days exploring every shop in the south of England, trying to find a gift that will convey the message that I’m capable, sensible and ready for promotion….
Merry Christmas ya filthy animals!
*For gods sake Mandy, it’s SECRET - they won’t know!
**My hunch is yes. Yes it would be.
***Yankee Swap for my US readers