How To Gift Delight

Sunday Stories From The Next Stage — Issue N008

In Theory

Here’s one thing you don’t know about me: I’m an expert gift giver.

Have you heard them say giving gifts is an art? I say they’re full of shit. The only reason they say this is because that’s the type of stuff people say. It doesn’t mean anything. Ask anyone. They won’t tell you what it means. Because they have no clue what the hell it means. That phrase is horse shit. Or bullshit. Or whatever shit is the shit you personally prefer.

Why I’m telling you this? I’ll get to it. First, let me tell you about the ins and outs of proper gift-giving. I’ll start with the theory.

The solid foundation for giving gifts the right way is a comprehensive collection of precise data points. That’s right. The objective here is to gather enough markers to precisely map out the state of the potential delight of the person you intend to give your gift to. Ok? The integrity of this set of data varies depending on your familiarity with the individual. The closer you are, the more accurate your fact collection will be. Combine all your data points to form a theory.

This leaves you with a steadfast hypothesis to outline the desired state of happiness of your subject.

Alright.

Now it’s a simple matter of reverse-engineering the recipient’s forthcoming joy to its root causes and connect that source to a trigger. The trigger translates to your gift. That’s it. It’s that simple.

You following?

Ok, here is the summary in case you’re still catching up: decide that making the target person happy is the goal. Collect information on what causes them happiness. Get a gift that supports that cause. Voilà.

For example, your subject feels joy when she can prove herself. I don’t mean, like, the actual act of proving herself. I mean the feeling, you know, after she has proven herself, to herself. Makes sense?

Adrenaline leads to accomplishment, leads to assuredness, leads to all the selves: worth, confidence, esteem. Grandeur. Feelings of magnificence and glory all around. And there you go. There you have your data points. You have just mapped out her state of delight. That’s what makes her happy. In this random example, it does.

Now look at what prompts those reactions: self-worth, and confidence, and esteem, magnificence, and glory. Use these data points to frame your gift selection process. Connect the dots and find the perfect gift right where your connections intersect.

I know this is a lot of dry theory. I could draw a diagram. But you get it. Right?

So, what you’ll find within this gift-giving frame of reference you just drew up, at the intersection of the data points you connected, what you’ll end up with is a gift certificate for riding shotgun in a Nascar, somewhere in Kansas, or Kentucky, or Daytona perhaps. If she’s less of a redneck maybe something more progressive is more suitable, like learning how to fly a jet-pack. Something like that. For instance. In this example.

Anyway, you get it. Giving gifts is more like starting a company. Identify your target market, define your customer, anticipate demand, build a product to cater to their needs, supply the market. Yada-yada. In a nutshell.

Hedging Principles

Alright, so, without a question, this procedure will lead to many solid wins at gift-giving. The simple logic of cause and effect at the heart of this procedure leaves little room to miss the mark.

One. Step. After. Another. Reverse. Engineered. From. The. Desired. Goal. This approach is a best practice and certainly a recipe to be adored for. Take my word for it.

The caveat, however, for whatever reason, sometimes, some individuals, in some instances, in certain cases, have a peculiar response. They display an obvious ignorance of this applied methodical technique and its infallible results. Which is weird.

It is for that reason, and for that reason alone, that the worlds lightest suitcase, a state of the art margarita maker, a cyclonic vacuum cleaner, internet-connected smart scales, the most versatile gaming console, a lime green velour tracksuit, a best-intentions-self-help-book, or, for that matter, the cutest rock that reminds you of her and only on second glance looks like a duck, make your recipient get a hold of the wrong end of the stick. Instantly.

So, in rare cases, you might find yourself in a precarious situation. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. You might find yourself in a situation where not giving a gift is the preferred option. Opposed to giving the wrong gift.

It’s the exception that proves the rule. I guess. It must be.

Still with me?

Ok. The process I laid out gives you a stellar chance of hitting the bullseye. However, we’ve got to talk about this: there’s an almost infinitesimal chance that you end up completely fucked.

Not giving the right gift is worse than giving no gift at all. That’s what I’m saying. It’s the difference between jumping butt naked into a sea of boiling stomach acid, let’s say, or just solitary confinement in a snake-infested cave for a couple of days. Your choice. That is the fundamental principle here. A rule of nature.

What I’m saying is, this approach doesn’t always and in every case lead to absolute and total irrefutable triumph. But outliers like the one I described don’t automatically question the process either. That’s the disclaimer here.

So here’s what I do. And this makes all the difference. I apply a strategy called risk mitigation. It’s a tactic to prepare for and lessen the effects of threats faced by giving the wrong gifts. It’s like hedging stocks. Like buying corresponding assets to offset the risk of another.

Yes, this is going somewhere. Stay with me.

So, you can employ the following measures to counteract the risk of involuntary skinny dipping in a pool of seething gastric acid. In other words, balance the chance of being banned from sleeping in your own bed for a few nights. That’s the point.

Accomplish this by adhering to the minimum requirements of the gift approval guidelines. Set the baseline. Create a solid foundation upon which you can build to achieve instant gift ratification. This will get your gift approved instantly.

Let me explain.

De-risking gift-giving is easily achieved with lustrous metal objects of the personal kind. Gold for instance is a safe bet. Golden might work. Silver gets risky. Earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings. Any of those will do just fine.

Giving any of those, even without any particular thought attached, is always a safe bet. Always.

You can stop right there. Be done. Have a lukewarm gift-giving experience. Safe. But boring. Many stop here. I don’t.

I don’t because it’s a waste of resources. You have just created a safety net to catch you on your way down into the boiling acid pool. You might as well take advantage of it.

So, once you have this insurance in place go all the way, ascend to the gates of gift-giving Valhalla, and claim the throne on the back of a gilded pegasus. You know what I mean.

Needless to say, there’s a foolproof way to get this done: you simply build on previous success and iterate from there. That’s it. Dead simple.

In my case, I’ve had a decent result with a DNA testing kit a little while ago. You know, one of those sets where you spit in a tube, send it to a lab and they return your personal genetic code encyclopedia detailing your health risks, personal traits, ancestry, stuff like that. She thought that was pretty cool. I thought I was pretty cool.

Why am I telling you this?

Because today is our anniversary. And I want you to be part of it. I mean be there to see all of this in action. Get to witness how this process plays out in the wild. See what I just preached in all its glory and watch me plant my flag on the summit of Mount Awesome. So you can do the same.

Ready? Alright. Here we go.

Practical Implementation

I got her a bracelet. It has some sparkle to it. Nothing fancy. Simple. Safe. It comes in a small box. With a thing on top, a bowtie thing. Black. Classy. Safe. This is my foundation and my safety net.

And here’s the crux of the biscuit.

I’m cooking dinner. That’s right. I usually don’t make dinner. So, heck yeah I’m making a big deal about it. Look, you’re here to observe. So let’s stick to the plan. Ok!

Right. Let’s get on with it.

Grilled rib eye, baked potatoes, roasted veggies. A simple classic with a twist. The kids are staying with friends. But that ain’t the twist.

I’m making a sauce. That’s not necessary but it’s a way to elevate a simple dish and score extra points. Nothing too complicated. But not just lipstick on a pig either. That would be disrespectful to this wonderful piece of meat I got. Saucy you could say. Anyway, I combine ginger, shallots, carrots, and celery in a saucepan. Medium heat. Sauté. Slowly add some balsamic vinegar. Stir. Reduce by half and add some broth. Boil. Season. Done.

The potatoes go in the oven. Russets are perfect. Their thick skin bakes deliciously crispy. Much like myself. Ha, ha. Never mind. The secret is to bake them twice: 25 minutes until the skin gets dry and wrinkly. Much unlike myself. Ha, ha. Forget it.

Now take the potatoes out, brush gently with melted butter, sprinkle with coarse salt, be generous, then put them back in the oven, opposite site up. Take them out after 20 minutes, slice down the middle, squeeze open, fluff the inside with a fork, add salt, sour cream, and finish to perfection with a sprinkle of freshly chopped chives.

The veggies just go on the grill. Evenly sliced zucchinis, carrots, peppers, onions. Oil them up, close the lid, flip once, cook evenly. A walk in the park.

Same with the steak. No need to overcomplicate things. I got a whole rack. In fact, I got five. That’s the minimum order when you go custom. So I put four in the freezer and cut a couple of juicy pieces for my wife and me.

This is exciting, I’m telling you. I got it all dialed in this time. Down to perfection. I followed the whole process to a tee. Collected my data points, mapped out the zone of delight, framed the gift selection, connected the dots, and reverse-engineered the perfect gift. Check.

But that’s not all. I built my safety net. I got her a metal something with a golden glint. Check.

And I’m going to put the icing on the cake with my cutting-edge awesome gift. Carefully iterated from past experiences and personal gift-success stories. Check.

“Here you go, Love.”

A big smile cuts across her beautiful face. I made that smile. That makes it even more beautiful. Inside the small black box is a token of love, sitting right on top of a little dark velvet cushion. There’s my safety net right there.

Her eyes gleam. I’ve already won.

We clink our muscular, full-bodied Cabernet. She sips to my token of love, I drink to this initial success.

She doesn’t know that I’m not done. Completely unsuspecting of my intentions to enter the annals of gift-giving with this feast. And who knows what else after dinner with the kids gone and all.

Anyhow.

This twosome of accurately baked starch and the precisely balanced acid of these plants is a chamber concert for our palates. The potato fluff and the mild char of the grilled vegetables are the perfect background choir for this delectable mouth-melody. Dude, let me bask in this for a moment, ok? It’s perfect.

The steak sits center stage. And if you are listening you can hear it sizzle, “I want you,” in a delicious foreign language. “Slice me, take me, eat me, let me melt around your tongue, let me entertain your mouth,” that’s what I’m hearing.

I watched her. Closely. She sliced it, she took it. Now I can tell from the expression on her face: she’s relishing it. It’s melting around her tongue. Her mouth is savoring this exclusive entertainment. She is. Her whole everything is.

She puts down her cutlery, gently embraces the stem of her glass with the hand that’s wearing my insurance gift, and says, “mmmmh…this is the best, it’s sweet, just a touch of bitterness, and so soft. It’s so cliché,” she giggles, “but it literally melts in my mouth.”

We both smile at one another, look each other deep into our eyes. Symbiosis. The perfect anniversary.

Her voice aspirates of its own volition, “you’ve outdone yourself,” she exhales.

I smile. I can’t help it. She’s right.

I lean forward, my elbows perched on the table, and cup my hands around hers.

I say, “no Sweetheart, YOU have outdone yourself.”

This is the grande finale. I know she’ll love this, she must.

Her benign smile looks a little confused. Just how I like it. She’s waiting. Expecting. Innocent and trustful.

“Remember the kit I gave you last year?” I begin.

She nods and her face makes a friendly where-is-this-going expression.

“I know you loved that idea.” I continue, “So, I took it, your data, and sent it to this company down south. They do amazing work. Like, I mean, mind-blowing!”

I’m getting all giddy. She’s getting suspicious. I decide to explain a little more. Give some more background.

“So, I mean, imagine the impact on the environment, and global warming, and feeding billions of people and whatnot.” I know she doesn’t care about that, but I mention it anyway. It’s important, you know. “They have literally taken this process and made it clean, sustainable, and ethical!”

She has no clue.

“This is one of the biggest advancements in human history and we are part of it. I mean, you are. Literally.”

I nod at her with a smile that says ‘congratulations,’ she slowly pulls her hands out from my gentle clasp and gradually leans back with skeptical eyes, and skeptical everything.

I better get to the point, “so, they make meat, right! They can 3D-print a whole rack of meat, perfectly balanced, marbled, red-white, fat-and-muscle-ratio, nothing is left to chance. It’s perfect every single time.”

I take a quick breath. She crosses her arms.

“And they do custom. You know, like you can get a t-shirt printed with your name on it,” I feel this is slipping away so, I nod at her to convince, and to validate my own argument, “so, you send them your DNA data and their meat engineers use that base to compose a lookalike culture. Right? This gets fed into a mainframe to compute the chemical composition that goes into the printer. And — boom — you get a clean, tasty piece of meat. Amazing, eh?!”

There. I’m done. I fork around on my plate, mop up some of my sauce reduction with a piece of meat, slide it into my mouth, and lean back. I’m waiting for the praise. I’ve earned it.

She leans forward, furrows her brow, and says, “are you saying that I’ve just had a bite of….”

I finish the sentence for her, “YOURSELF. Yes! Isn’t that awesome?!”

My wife’s shoulders pull up and forward, just slightly, her torso leans in a bit more, all one motion, she’s growing in her seat, then shrinking, stretching, her chest, her diaphragm is contracting, twice, three times, her mouth opens as if she wants to says something, but instead a full-bodied, dark red gush of ginger, shallots, carrots, celery, potato fluff, charred produce, sour cream and chunks of herself gurgle out from the depths of her mouth and pours onto her plate, and spills into the wine, and all the way across the table, and onto my lap, and splatters everywhere and everything, soaks the table cloth and puts out the candles, and spatters into my face, and onto my hands, and I feel a wave of warmth flood my thighs, and then cold stickiness, and then silence.

Stillness.

Except for the drips, and drops, and little red meaty bits that pitter-patter onto the ground, like the first moment after a monsoon shower passes through.

Our eyes cross. She just stares at me. Empty eyes. Empty stomach. Strains of soggy hair stuck to her face.

She wipes her mouth, gets up, throws the soiled napkin into my face, and walks away.

I sit.

What’s in front of me looks like a zombie just exploded on our dining table.

What’s ahead of me is an extended soak in a sea of boiling acid.

What’s behind me is failed attempt at getting it right. Again.

My safety net didn’t hold.

Links from this story:

  • Cultured Human Meat: Steaks grown from human cells. The project Ouro Chef didn’t just spark interest, but a ton of outrage. Check it out HERE.
  • Eat Celebrity Meat: BiteLabs grows meat from celebrity tissue samples and uses it to make artisanal salami. Or do they? Check it out HERE.
  • DNA Test Kits: many companies will test your DNA these days. Just google them. 23 And Me is the one I used: Check it out HERE.
  • First Cultured Meat Hits The Market: Not quite human, but close. The Singapore Food Agency approved Chicken Bites by the company Eat Just a few months ago Read about it HERE.

About the Author: Nick Lions is a former hero. Now he is middle-aged and tired. He writes Sunday Stories From The Next Stage. Every other week. Subscribe here to get them delivered right to your inbox.

The first-ever story in a bottle: The Spirit of Connection

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Nick Lions

Narrative is the code to program reality. I Publish News From The Next Stage. Every other week. — www.nicklions.com