Friday, December 19, 2003

Drop that Generic Bubble Bath Gift Set, Right NOW

Christmas shopping is such sweet misery for me. It's just so easy to shop for some people on my list, that I find myself getting quite carried away. On the other hand, there are some people that I am constantly scratching my head over, wondering what on earth do they need/want/will not instantly bring to the exchange counter or Goodwill drop-off.

The degree of closeness to the person isn't that much of a help, either. I have one friend I've known for years and years, and yet our taste in everything is so darned different, that I agonize over purchases for her. Would she like this? Does that look cheap? Is this too extravagant? Does this match her kitchen? Would she think this is cute, or would her kids just end up breaking it? Would she think it's a "dust collector", as she calls anything that isn't functional for the home? Maybe something practical. What doesn't she already HAVE? On and on this goes in my head, ad nauseum. I usually end up giving her gift certificates, which feels like a cop out, but is probably the best thing, so she can get what SHE wants, instead of me trying to find the elusive "it".

I have another friend who loves to eat and drink , and usually does not pay much attention to what he's indulging in of either. Sounds like a slam-dunk, right? Oh but no, he's a diabetic, so I feel guilty, like I'm enabling him or something, if I give him food, alcohol,or gift certificates for food things. Not into sports, has to try on clothes before buying them, fussy about things he puts in his apartment. Nevertheless, he has lots and lots of clutter, yet has very specific aesthetic standards. What the hell do you get this guy? I get a headache trying to figure it out.

On the other hand, I got completely carried away last year buying things that I knew would be great for J, and I think I embarrassed him with the overkill. Money's tight for him this year, after all his medical bills, and I'm not really expecting much on his end, so I've made a conscious effort to dial back on my effusiveness. Still, I have all these other things that I'd love to get him, but there aren't any other traditional gift-giving holidays coming up for a while. His birthday wasn't too long ago, and I surprised him with something he had mentioned he wanted, but which he never expected me to get for him. He was so shocked and pleased. Of course, I immediately starting feeling that my Christmas presents would now look sickly and pathetic in comparison, but I've already warned him that I kind of "Shot my load" on his birthday present (what a pretty mental picture just now, huh?), and that he shouldn't expect the same for Christmas. Still, I have to really stop myself. "Oh, just one more stocking stuffer... NO, that's how you got into trouble last year, put it down!"

The funny thing is, I'm not all that greedy about presents myself. Sure, I love to get things, and surprise things are the best, but it could be a pack of cool pens, refrigerator magnets, or a bag of flavored coffee, whatever, and I get all excited. Someone at work gave me a pair of socks she found with my name on them, and I was just as pleased as can be. I was practically dancing around with my little name socks! And I mentioned the pens, because J brought me back Bic pens with monsters on them from a dollar store he went to with his Mom, just because he thought they were funny and because they reminded him of a conversation we'd just had. I LOVE these silly pens! I love that he was thinking about me in the store, and that he wanted to bring me back a wee gift about our private joke. I'd so much rather get things like that than a generic expensive gift that is not even remotely personal.

That's the crux of it all. I think gifts should be personal above all. When I give someone a present, I want it to fit the person, their likes, their quirks - even the paper it's wrapped in should be about them. So many people seem to give gifts that are an extension of how they want people to see them, the giver, and in my book that's just so egotistical and rude. For example, "Here, here's an expensive handbag for you, with the logo stamped on it many times, so that everyone who sees you carry it can see how important and wealthy you are. See how important and wealthy *I* am, that I have furnished you with this wonderful gift? Now you many lavish thanks and praise at my feet, and I will feel important in your eyes. Never mind that you hate trendy status symbols like this, or that you work in a crappy neighborhood and this bag makes you a target, or that you are a social worker, and this bag is totally inappropriate for your normal use - it makes ME look good for giving it to you!" Blech.

Equally pathetic is the quick, thoughtless gift, something that you so obviously bought in bulk and gave to everyone, regardless of appropriateness. "Oh look, Uncle George bought everyone bottles of wine again. Including Bob, who's just out of rehab, and little Sandy, who is just beginning to crawl. Sandy will sure enjoy that present in a couple of decades, Uncle George. Big savings down at the Buy In Bulk when you get it by the case? You don't say." If that's your gift giving style, please save your money, don't bother. You may as well pee on people's shoes. Won't cost you a thing, and it delivers the same message.

Oh well, I'd better get out there into the fray and finish agonizing over my purchases before time runs out and there's a long line a the Buy In Bulk.

I hope you have happy holidays! And please don't drink and drive. That's my job.


Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Several Ways to Show Your Ass

Ah, the Christmas season is upon us, and it is time for folks to make merry at their company holiday parties, and general get wildly drunk and ... show their asses. At our office party, one woman who is infamous for becoming blindingly drunk, hurling insults and just stopping short of physically molesting the male co-workers, was in HIGH! spirits at this year's shindig as well. Since we look forward to dishing about her antics the day after these parties, she did not disappoint. Many arms and backs were bruised from over-hearty slaps of goodwill, many unwelcome hugs and kisses were spread around, and the boisterousness was in top form. Except for actually mooning the assembled party-goers, she showed her ass in every possible way.

Of course, there are many ways to show one's ass. In some cases, people do so quite literally.

I just heard this story: One young thing was seen to be celebrating this week in a particularly hearty fashion, while unbeknownst to our heroine, the zipper down the back of her trousers had broken, and she was proving once and for all to her assembled co-workers that yes indeed, she does go commando. (Slang for going without wearing underwear, in case you aren't familiar with the term.) An equally drunken gaggle of girlfriends was called upon to remedy the situation, and the collective stewed logic seemed to dictate that scotch tape was the answer to her problems. A most unfortunate window effect was the end result, pardon the pun, and I believe that our heroine was finally wisely convinced to call it a night and go home.

This story reminded me of my own most unfortunate episode, wherein I too showed my ass (or more accurately part of it), however unwillingly. Years ago, I worked for several months as a secretary in a small office with a printing shop attached. There were all men working there, except for the other secretary and one artist. Otherwise, it was an estrogen-free zone, and the guys sometimes acted like they were in the audience of "The Man Show".

There was one fellow there that was flirty with me, and although I enjoyed his attention, young and inexperienced at spotting immature losers as I was back then, I still refused to date him while we were working in the same place. All the same, we carried on a flirtation that eventually ended with me consenting to date him when I quit that job to go to another.

But I am getting ahead of the story. One day, I realized I heard a stifled snicker behind me while I was crouched down to file some papers. At the time, I was wearing what I thought were the cat's meow of jeans and a top that just skimmed the top of the jeans. I turned around to see Mr. Flirty & Immature standing there with a giddy look on his face, and next to him, the owner of the company, a generally decent yet often disheveled middle-aged man, looking goofy and guilty simultaneously.

"What?" was all I could think to say, since something was definitely going on, and I was pretty sure that I was being made the object of fun in some way.

"Nothing. Just keep doing what you were doing," was the suspicious answer I got from Mr. Flirty, who had the nerve to giggle at the end of his statement, not even bothering to hide his mirth.

I looked to the owner to see if he would give me a clue as to what was going on, but he wouldn't meet my eye, surely a bad sign. Still, since he was usually a very decent fellow, I (wrongly) assumed that he wouldn't be party to anything unkind or childish.

I turned back to the filing cabinet and crouched down, ever so briefly, intent on ignoring them and continuing my work, but I soon heard another stifled snicker, and then I knew for sure that I was being made fun of. They were clearly intent on enjoying a laugh at my expense, instead of letting me in on the joke, so I abruptly went over to my desk and sat down, facing them, so that they would at least have to have a tremendous amount of nerve to remain in the room and ridicule me to my face. My strategy worked, and they shortly went about their business.

Flash forward a few months, to a drunken outing shared with Mr. Flirty, by then my boyfriend, and my cousin, Ignorant Laughing Girl. (My cousin has been envious of me our whole lives, for reasons that only she would be able to explain, but she carefully covers her core of envy and calculation with a facade of loving familial attentiveness. In that way, she was passive-aggressively adept at thoroughly enjoying my trials and tribulations, particularly my most excruciatingly embarrassing moments, while affecting a caring and conciliatory front. Oh, most pathetic villianess, how many years it took me to work out your crafty, undermining ways! But I digress.)

As we sat around drinking and telling stories, my gallant boyfriend decided the moment was right to share the tale of That Day, the day of the filing and snickering in the office. It seems that the jeans that I thought were oh so flattering and stylish were also affording Mr. Flirty and The Boss a most interesting view down the gap at my waist, an ass cleavage shot to beat all. Not only did Mr. Flirty figure that this sight was hilarious, but he went into the boss's office to bring him over to enjoy the view with him!

Now, I can and will regale you will many, many self-deprecating humorous stories. I generally have a good sense of humor about such instances, and as you can see from the stories that began this post, I enjoy hearing about embarrassing gaffes by other people, too. And asses are just funny, you know?

But what made me embarrassed and sad was that this guy who professed to like me had changed a funny little episode to one of compounded small indignities and betrayals. It would have been funny to me, even if embarrassing, if he'd noticed my unwitting self-display and pulled me aside to prevent others from seeing it. Wouldn't that have been sweet and kind? The kind of funny story we could have laughed at together privately later? I would have loved that. Instead, he chose to seek someone else out, our boss, ferchristsakes, with whom he could ridicule me. They call that sexual harrassment these days, but back then, it was simply being a boorish asshole.

To add insult to the injury, he chose to betray me by relating this story in front of my cousin, rather than while we were alone. Being fair, I realize that he could not have known with what relish my cousin would have scooped up this embarrassing vignette, or how jolly she would become for literally years afterwards while rehashing the tale yet again. He could not have known how much mean-spirited mileage Ignorant Laughing Girl would have gotten out of that, but that is beside the point. If he had an ounce of respect for me, he never would have told the story at all. Their raucous laughter at my expense would not still be ringing in my ears all these years later, brought out from my memory by the butt-baring story at the beginning of this post.

I'm suddenly smiling now as I type this though, because I finally see who really showed their asses in that story.

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