Sheldon's view on gift-giving

Published February 13, 2013

As you very well know, we recently got hooked on The Big Bang Theory. One of the very first things that caught our attention, and made us realise this could be a show we can get on board with, was Sheldon’s view on giving gifts. It’s exactly the same as ours, and although I’ve tried to explain it on many an occasion, I’ve never quite had his eloquence.

Penny: Uh, Sheldon, I didn’t see your present.

Sheldon: That’s because I didn’t bring one.

Penny: Well why not?

Howard: Don’t ask.

Sheldon: The entire institution of gift giving makes no sense.

Howard: Too late.

Sheldon: Let’s say that I go out and I spend fifty dollars on you, it’s a laborious activity, because I have to imagine what you need, whereas you know what you need. Now I can simplify things, just give you the fifty dollars directly and, you could give me fifty dollars on my birthday, and so on until one of us dies leaving the other one old and fifty dollars richer. And I ask you, is it worth it?

Howard: Told you not to ask.

Penny: Well, Sheldon, you’re his friend. Friends give each other presents.

Sheldon: I accept your premise, I reject your conclusion.

Sheldon: Wait! You bought me a present?

Penny: Uh-huh.

Sheldon: Why would you do such a thing?

Penny: I don’t know. ‘Cause it’s Christmas?

Sheldon: Oh, Penny. I know you think you’re being generous, but the foundation of gift-giving is reciprocity. You haven’t given me a gift, you’ve given me an obligation.

Howard: Don’t feel bad, Penny, it’s a classic rookie mistake. My first Hanukkah with Sheldon, he yelled at me for eight nights.

Penny: Now, honey, it’s okay.You don’t have to get me anything in return.

Sheldon: Of course I do. The essence of the custom is that I now have to go out and purchase for you a gift of commensurate value and representing the same perceived level of friendship as that represented by the gift you’ve given me. It’s no wonder suicide rates skyrocket this time of year.

Penny: Okay, you know what? Forget it. I’m not giving you a present.

Sheldon: No, it’s too late. I see it. That elf sticker says to Sheldon. The die has been cast, the moving finger has writ, Hannibal has crossed the Alps.

Of course, in later seasons, Sheldon appears to be becoming a bit more human. I’d like to hear an update on his views on gifts soon.

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