Agenda: Goldfrapp; Open East Festival; lidos; Katie Hopkins; novelty sex paraphernalia


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The Independent Culture

Middle-class problems: Presents

By Nicholas Barber

What would you like for your birthday? As a child, you couldn't conceive of a more glorious question, but nowadays is isn't quite so welcome. Because, if you're honest, what you'd like is a new laptop. Or a car. Or a fitted kitchen. Or a bigger house. And unless the person doing the asking is Bono, they're not likely to deliver the goods.

 No, when a friend asks you what you want for your birthday, they're talking about something that you could easily afford to buy yourself. And that raises the issue of why you haven't just switched on your computer and spent 47 seconds buying it already.

The depressing truth is that when you ask for a present in the Amazon era, you're asking for something that you don't really want, just so that someone else can order it online instead of you. And then when their birthday comes around, you go through the same charade in reverse – not that that stops you being bitterly offended if your friend doesn't respond with a fawning hand-written thank-you letter.

Shouldn't you break this destructive, consumerist cycle? Shouldn't you ban all future presents? Well, yes, you should – but you're only human. The prospect of a birthday with nothing to unwrap is even more depressing than the alternative. No wonder the environment's in such a terrible state.

And when I say "environment", I don't just mean the forests and the air and so on. I mean your home, which has got far too much stuff gathering dust in it already. Which is why you need Bono to buy you a bigger one…