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.


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