Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Stellar Contents - by JORDAN BAKER and AL­LEY PAS­COE

Is that voucher for Bo­tox a gift or just a thinly veiled in­sult?

Pamela Noon, who was a TV pre­sen­ter in the 1980s, now runs a thriv­ing cos­metic and plas­tic-surgery busi­ness. One of her more pop­u­lar prod­ucts are her gift vouch­ers; she sells about 100 a year. Usu­ally, it’s men buy­ing Bo­tox treat­ments or breast im­plants for their wives or girl­friends (de­mand is strong in the lead-up to Mother’s Day), and oc­ca­sion­ally it’s girl­friends buy­ing for friends, or bosses for their sec­re­taries.

The most ex­pen­sive voucher Noon has ever sold was worth $22,000. The re­cip­i­ent, Gold Coast woman Krys­tale Ar­mao, had seven chil­dren by the time she was 32, and each one took a big­ger toll on her body. The birth of baby num­ber seven was a stress­ful time for her, too; she nearly bled to death in child­birth, and then her fa­ther died a few weeks later. So when her son was four weeks old, her hus­band de­cided to cheer her up. He sat her down and pre­sented her with an en­ve­lope.

In­side was a voucher for a tummy tuck and breast en­hance­ment. “Some peo­ple might think their hus­band was not happy with the way they look, but I was over the moon,” says Ar­mao. “It’s a life-chang­ing gift to be able to trans­form your body. It gives women back something they would have lost a long time ago. I looked amaz­ing [af­ter the surgery] – I still feel amaz­ing.”

Once upon a time we would have given our loved ones a mas­sage voucher, a scented can­dle or perhaps a ride in a hot-air bal­loon. But in this age of self-im­prove­ment, we are turn­ing birthday or Christ­mas gifts into an op­por­tu­nity to im­prove other peo­ple, too, with cos­metic surgery, a life­coach­ing ses­sion or a gym pass. There is, how­ever, an edge to this new type of present. De­spite the best of in­ten­tions, we might be gift­ing an in­sult, as well.

It piv­ots on perspective; is Bo­tox a gen­er­ous present, or a hint about a fur­row? Is the mother who of­fers to pay to freeze her daugh­ter’s eggs lib­er­at­ing her from her bi­o­log­i­cal clock, or lack­ing con­fi­dence in her abil­ity to find a mate? The self-im­prove­ment gift is fraught with dan­ger: at its best it’s life-chang­ing, but at its worst it’s re­la­tion­ship-end­ing.

While men might give women gifts to im­prove their ap­pear­ance, women are more likely to give men gifts aimed at im­prov­ing their lives. Noon has never sold a cos­metic en­hance­ment gift for a man, but Chris Edwards, a Can­berrabased life coach, of­ten sells vouch­ers to a mother buy­ing for her son, or a wife buy­ing for her hus­band.

“In these sit­u­a­tions there are re­la­tion­ship is­sues, and she wants to

deal with them in a way that’s not so con­fronta­tional,” he says. “Rather than say­ing to them, ‘You are not do­ing this,’ or, ‘I think you are hav­ing an af­fair,’ some of the more as­tute ones would buy a gift voucher. I work with the hus­band – as­sum­ing he is happy to do that. Coach­ing works best when the per­son is will­ing to be coached.

“I just fin­ished a six-month con­tract with a guy whose de facto bought it for him. He was hav­ing is­sues with his ex and she wanted him to sort them out.”

The pop­u­lar­ity of such gifts has grown, says so­cial com­men­ta­tor Mark Mc­crindle, from a col­li­sion be­tween three trends: the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion’s pref­er­ence for ex­pe­ri­ences over things; the resur­gent pop­u­lar­ity of the per­sonal-de­vel­op­ment move­ment; and the in­creas­ing lack of em­bar­rass­ment when it comes to is­sues of van­ity.

“The less awk­ward end of this trend is the voucher for a cook­ing course or a mind­ful­ness colour­ing-in book,” says Mc­crindle. “But it is still an area where peo­ple ought to tread care­fully. It is of­ten an un­wanted en­try into some­one’s life to make a sug­ges­tion, or of­fer a so­lu­tion un­in­vited. When that gift comes, whether it be a gym voucher or laser hair re­moval, peo­ple ask the ques­tion: ‘Do you think I need this?’”

The more brazen of these gift-givers might an­swer: “Yes”. Syd­ney woman Mel Mar­shan’s grand­mother had firm ideas of what her then 28-year-old sin­gle grand­daugh­ter needed, so seven years ago she de­cided to help her get it.

Un­der the Christ­mas tree was a card ad­dressed to her grand­daugh­ter – a sur­prise in it­self as she wasn’t usu­ally a gift-giver. In­side was the mes­sage: “For your fu­ture, have a chat to me.”

Cu­ri­ous, Mar­shan sought out her grand­mother, who handed her money to buy an on­line dat­ing sub­scrip­tion. “She had seen an ad­ver­tise­ment for [dat­ing site] ehar­mony on tele­vi­sion,” says Mar­shan. “She thought the man on the ad was quite good-look­ing, so maybe I could find some­one ‘suit­able’ on­line.”

The not-so-sub­tle sub­text, of course, was that her grand­mother felt the men Mar­shan was meet­ing were not suit­able. “Look, none of them were the type I would set­tle down with, but I didn’t want to get mar­ried and have kids,” she says. Mar­shan laughed off the gift with her cousins that day, and un­der­stood her el­derly grand­mother’s mo­ti­va­tion. “She ob­vi­ously truly be­lieved that I needed to be mar­ried and have kids, and she just wanted me to be happy.”

Mar­shan had no in­ten­tion of us­ing the gift. But a month or so later she was pro­cras­ti­nat­ing while work­ing on her the­sis and had a look at the site. She signed up, for something to do, and be­gan mes­sag­ing a man called Aaron Pow­ell. Now, seven years later, she and Pow­ell are mar­ried and they have a one-year-old son, Reuben. “My grand­mother passed away four and a half years ago, but she was ab­so­lutely smit­ten with Aaron,” says Mar­shan.

The cen­tral is­sue, says psy­chol­o­gist Jo Lam­ble, is con­text. Grand­moth­ers, with their quaint, old-fash­ioned ideas, might be dis­tant enough to get away with gifts that a par­ent, whose judge­ment hits closer to the heart, might not.

Sim­i­larly, giv­ing a Bo­tox voucher to an in­ti­mate part­ner who has been want­ing it for years is far less risky than giv­ing it to some­one who has never ex­pressed any de­sire for it at all, while a life-coach­ing voucher might be fine for a part­ner who re­alises they have a prob­lem, but in­sult­ing for one who doesn’t.

And “im­prove­ment” gifts for one’s less-in­ti­mate friends or even em­ploy­ees, as in the case of an IT man­ager who bought $3000 worth of vouch­ers from Noon for his two sec­re­taries, is prob­a­bly the riski­est op­tion of all.

“If in doubt, don’t,” says Lam­ble. “If your part­ner, or who­ever you are giv­ing it to, has said, ‘I am so lost, I have no idea what I am go­ing to do,’ then something like a life-coach­ing voucher might be a thought­ful gift. But if the per­son you are giv­ing it to is happy just be­ing a surf bum, then it’s a sig­nal you don’t ap­prove of what they are do­ing.

“I have even seen [vouch­ers for] pedi­cures and man­i­cures taken the wrong way – ‘What are you say­ing about my hands?’ If the other per­son would kill for Bo­tox but can’t af­ford it, then maybe it’s the right gift. But if it’s un­so­licited, just don’t.”

Some of those who re­ceive Noon’s vouch­ers never claim them, but she says she has re­ally only seen one gift back­fire. “The hus­band came in be­fore Christ­mas and said his wife had al­ways wanted her breasts done,” she says. “She came in for her con­sult, but it turns out that she didn’t want to get her breasts done at all. It was a sad thing. He didn’t know his wife as well as he thought he did.”

THE GIFT THAT GAVE Mel Mar­shan, with baby Reuben, met hus­band Aaron Pow­ell af­ter she was gifted an on­line-dat­ing voucher.

OH BABY Krys­tale Ar­mao was gifted a cos­metic surgery voucher af­ter the birth of her sev­enth child.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.