Forgotten presents

What do people buy as presents to take to a birthday party now? Particularly, boys, in times of virtual reality, what do people give? Are actual physical items bought, or are the gifts in the realm of online activity?

In my teenage years, reaching one’s eighteenth birthday was the big milestone.  Being eighteen meant that one could officially buy a drink in the pub where some of us had been drinking since the age of sixteen. It probably meant other things as well, but officially buying a pint was the most important.

But what presents did people take to an eighteenth birthday party? I cannot recall anyone taking gifts. What would we have taken? It was hard to remember what could have been taken to a birthday party. I remember being given Armed Forces by Elvis Costello and the Attractions, (I still have it in pristine condition) but that was as an Easter present. Could we have just turned up empty-handed at birthday parties? Was it acceptable to come without even a small token of affection for one’s host?

Birthday parties were in pub discos.  The pub provided the venue and the DJ (and sometimes even the invitations) and the person celebrating provided lots of customers for the bar. Perhaps the fact of being present at a party was a gift to the person. Being able to promise the pub a crowd of customers who would spend a lot of money at the late bar enabled the person to celebrate their birthday at no cost. But would you really have arrived and said, ‘happy birthday’ and passed them by to go to the bar?

It’s not as though the options for presents were plentiful. If gifts were bought, surely they would be remembered?  There were records, but what else? A bottle of wine in those times would have been something foreign and exotic. There were certainly bottles of Mateus Rose at student parties (a wine then considered the height of sophistication), but no-one would have considered it as a present, would they? Maybe chocolates for a girl? Maybe jewellery, if the girl commanded a particular place in the affections?

It is troubling that it is impossible to recall anything taken by anyone to any of the parties. If there was money for drinks, then some sort of gift would have been possible. Perhaps we all took gifts that we now prefer not to remember.

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