Jenny is sometimes Mary Poppins level nice. People like that do exist who aren’t complete saps – now you know. One of the reasons I say this is because she writes to sick children for fun (through Post Pals).

As part of this she sometimes talks to other volunteers on the organisation’s Facebook group. Today someone asked about ideas for Halloween-themed gifts for a teenage girl which resulted in me being asked too.

Normally I can come up with all sorts of fun ideas but this one ran into an artificial roadblock and got me thinking. What to get her depends on much more than her age and gender and without more information it’s intensely difficult to get it right.

Thinking back to my own time as a teenager I remember how much it would get to me if I was treated as younger than I was. This would usually be through being patronised or lumped in with younger children. It still annoys me today but it’s nothing compared to the kind of anger it would elicit back then.

The issue here is self identity. We live in a society where consumerism is king. We’re encouraged to buy things to act as more than merely status symbols – they’re external indicators of our chosen identity. Fancy clothes, accessories, phones, foods, electronics, on and on.

Of course as a teenager we can rarely afford these things and so have to shout a lot louder. Furthermore we’re not necessarily certain who we are yet. To have an adult then address us in a way other than how we’re currently defining ourselves puts us in a precarious emotional position.

So trying to suggest a Halloween-themed gift for a girl between thirteen and nineteen isn’t exactly easy if we take the time to consider her feelings.

Perhaps it’s not that interesting to others but I like to be able to understand why certain things annoy me so much. Being patronised is easier now that I’m an adult because a basic level of adult-ness is assumed. As a teenager the baseline tends to be “uppity child” at a time when internally the self image is fluctuating wildly.

I’m so glad I rarely have to give or receive presents.


Recording of this post.

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