The Emotional Exercise of Gift Giving

It is an annual tradition that I bring gifts to my fellow adventurers on GFW. They never asked for them. I just started one year. It first started off as a joke, as most heartfelt emotional things guys do for one another start. I was shopping in a store and came across some shirts I thought would be funny to see them in. And at a $9.99 per shirt price tag, I felt like the laugh was well worth the price of admission.

It was. Many of the guys still have that first year of shirts to this day. One of which has George Washington eating a hot dog. But if that wasn’t American enough, he tore the damn sleeves off. ‘Murica!

Over the subsequent years, I bought more shirts. Each set signified a different year in our journey together. There was never really a theme, just “make me, the guy giving the gift, laugh.” And if I could get them to laugh, even better. Imagine a 50 year old male wearing a Brittany Spears t-shirt asking a fly shop worker what flies he should purchase. It made me smile to see them smile.

But then the shirts stopped. Frankly I ran out of funny cheap ones to buy. And since I am a recovering addict who chases the next dopamine rush, this addiction wasn’t giving me the same high. So, I bailed on the idea. Besides I am not so sure I bought those shirts just for a laugh.

The next year I wanted to go a little bigger. I have always been a creative guy, so making something was a sure fire way to get a stronger dopamine hit. I decided that making a vinyl sticker would be a great idea, with the theme being our destination that year. Meeker, CO was our destination, and I made a green vinyl trout with the name of the city and year emblazoned across it’s torso in black spray paint (fyi if you are going to replicate this project, it ain’t good for durability).

While bad ass looking, a sticker by itself felt like a little bit of a let down.

Since every year someone forgets or loses sunglasses, I bought some Knockaround sunglasses and attached a matching vinyl decal on the side. I painstakingly trimmed out little trout decals and GFW letters and stuck them right to the side. I thought they were sweet.

The Boys thought they were sweeter!

Fully expecting another shirt, when they saw them, they were blown away. While this was just another small gift, it changed the trajectory of our gift giving forever. I still have these bad boys to this day. Not sure if anyone has lost them yet, but if so, no one has fessed up to date.

The next year, now knowing I had become a fully-addicted, gift-giving dopamine seeker, I stepped it up a notch. I built my first mass produced wood project. I made magnetic fly boxes out of maple with an inlayed tigerwood trout. I nailed them… but I missed the mark. No one wanted to use them because they were too nice… so much for giving them something they could use on the river. Hello paper weight.

Then most recently, determined to get them to use one of my creations, I made wooden fishing nets. Gorgeous. I crushed them. In a way they were a crown jewel of all the gifts I have given, possibly untoppable for future gift giving years. But upon completion I realized I made them too long to travel with, and the only way to get the across the country was in my golf club travel bag. I looked out of place rolling into GFW, but the guys loved them. In my mind, I again missed the mark, as I am not sure anyone will take them off their walls.

But it was during the net making process that I realized what the gifts were always about. They weren’t about the laughs (although I still giggle like a school girl when someone breaks an old shirt out). Nor was it about the dopamine hit. Not even sure it was about my love to create shit.

Looking back, giving these gifts was my only way to say “I love you.” Something that certain parts of society has told guys they can’t say to another guy without saying, “but not like that.” It is hard to connect with one another. We aren’t good at it.

Our whole lives we are told to toughen up and emotional interactions make you soft. Shedding a tear at a movie is sacrilege and even starting a sentence with the words “I feel” is an exercise most men have to spend hours at a therapist to learn how to say.

And it is a shame.

We as men by definition are meant to be able to protect the ones we love. This creates a lot of tough and macho guys who cram down emotions into a the smallest box possible. But we guys get it wrong. Protecting the ones we love doesn’t start with the protecting. It starts with the loving.

And guys, loving is ok. I promise.

So with that, I learned my gifts are one form of communication. My most honest attempt to just let them know I love them.

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