It’s that time of year once again. The time to make out the Christmas List. To compile and whittle down all the desires that build up, into one list. If you’re like me, the list is distributed to family (mostly for my mother in law), so I can avoid the awkward pause upon opening yet another calendar (usually involving cats, dogs or horses in some fashion) and forcing out, “Wow! Thank you! This is great!”
The dilemma with this is that… I reached a point about five years ago where when I asked myself “What do I want for Christmas”, I’d respond with, “I don’t need anything…” And that’s just it. I don’t NEED anything (well, other than my own camera lenses so I can give back the ones I’m borrowing). One time, when I asked my brother what he wanted for Christmas, he had responded with, “I don’t need anything. If I need something or see something I want, I buy it.” And, that is where I’ve drifted to… if I need it or want it, I buy it. The caveat to this is that I make those purchases if I can afford it. Sadly, what I usually want, as long as it’s not makeup, nail polish or lip gloss, I can’t afford.
When I was younger, it was easy to ask for things. Breyer Horses, books, music CDs… Now, I’ve stopped collecting Breyer Horses, my books have gone electronic and so has my music. My taste in clothing is generally monochrome (though colored items DO make their way in) and simple; the exception to this is socks – I have a collection of knee-high socks that I adore, and wear them often. I love receiving new socks. I know I’m not the only one out there who does. A former co-worker, after Christmas one year during the discussion about what we got, beamed when he said, “A new pack of socks!” After questioning his sanity, he responded, “There is just something wonderful about putting on a brand-new pair of socks… they feel like nothing else.” How true.
Hats are another item that I enjoy adding to my wardrobe, and scarves have joined those ranks. I also enjoy the snarky goodness of Anne Taintor items. Oooh, look – just gave out some ideas and I wasn’t even trying!
The last few years, I’ve attempted to simplify my list to things like gift cards/certificates for my favorite salon, iTunes, various stores, and then a few other things that I collect, like Amaryllis bulbs, The Family Guy seasons on disc, The Simpsons seasons on disc and Identiflyer ID cards. Yes, I count “birding” amongst my hobbies, all of which seem to be expensive.
Some have criticized me openly in the past for being selfish by compiling a list of things I want, but I see this as insurance against receiving horrible gifts and putting them in the “donate” bag as soon as the tree comes down. Someone, somewhere is enjoying a “sweatshirt jacket” with an appliqued snowman on it that I donated to Goodwill about 11 years ago. That was the longest awkward pause I’d had when opening a gift. It was from my mother in law, and the thought, “Wow… she really DOESN’T have any clue about me”, came to mind. From that point forward, the list was compiled and given to her. I wanted to avoid hurt feelings if the question, “Why don’t you ever wear that sweatshirt jacket I gave you”, ever arose. The other awkward situation is when people give you things that you don’t need that plug-in, or are knickknacks that you’d never have purchased for yourself (because it’s one more thing to dust): “How come I haven’t ever seen that statuette I gave you out on display?”
I also have this issue with allergies. The list of things I’m allergic to is long and grows every year. The biggest issue is that I’m allergic to what the allergists call, “Fragrance”. This is not to say I’m allergic to all things with a scent; no, I have my two favorite perfumes, which are discontinued and I have to scour the internet and buy them in bulk when I come across them. Thankfully, I was also told by a photographer I work with frequently, “You don’t smell bad… I like that.” This made me laugh, but I digress.
The problem with fragrance is, what do people like to give out at Christmas time to women? Gift baskets laden with scented lotions and body sprays. I don’t even step foot into Bath & Body Works because the Wall-of-Scent is so strong I find it virtually impenetrable. Those occasions that I had stepped across the threshold had left me feeling itchy even though I hadn’t applied anything to my person. I still receive gifts of body lotions and sprays, etc., from time to time from people who are newly acquainted with me. These make great “re-gifts”, and there is no awkward pauses on my part. They are the gift that keeps on giving; though in my case, sadly, it’s the gift that gives me hives for about 6 weeks.
The other part of my dilemma is that once something is on the list and the list is distributed, it’s as if there are “no take-backs”. It’s already out there. I feel a bit like Ralphie in A Christmas Story after he’s told Santa what he really doesn’t want…
Thankfully, my family knows me pretty well, and though Mom feels I’m the hardest person in the world to shop for (and has told me just that), I think I’m pretty easy to please. I like things such as:
*items that I don’t need to dust or plug-in (well, there are a few exceptions to the “plug-in” rule – but I don’t think those will end up on the Christmas list – see below)
*wine and spirits (the kind of spirits you drink)
*food gifts (I like to entertain and I’m a Foodie)
*gift cards to my favorite salon, restaurants, etc.
*experiential gifts, like tickets to the symphony
*hats, silly socks (the taller the better), scarves
I’ve also come to realize that there are some things you just don’t put on the list sent to family.
*Lingerie – I really don’t want my mother in law picking out a frilly little number for me… okay, I don’t really want my own Mom doing that either (though she probably has a better idea of what I like)
*Things that plug-in. I’ll leave those to close, personal associations… Though I won’t refuse the new Cuisinart Food Processor!!
*Gift certificates for a boob job. Okay, I don’t want or need one, but still… inappropriate to put on a gift request list to family.
*Gift certificates to the local adult “gift” store. Somehow I just don’t think family should know that you are jonesing for the latest installment of “Debbie does Dallas: 20”
*Any novelty, fake animal, mounted on a wooden block and hung on a wall that sings. Why? Why? WHY do people think these things are funny??
The dread I had when it came to gift opening at my in-laws is much diminished from what it once was. Perhaps I’ve mellowed, and that has come in step with them actually gifting things that were on my list, and some pleasant surprises like tickets to the theatre for whatever show we wanted. Gone are the days of snowman appliqued sweatshirt jackets and coming home with 10 different calendars (half of which have something to do with cats). No more computer mouse pads, picture frames and decorative tchotchke to dust. I’m sure someone reading this will think, or just tell me outright, that I’m ungrateful.
The question is, are you better off just telling people what you like and want, or just leave things up to them, knowing that when they come over and don’t see the precious knickknack they purchased, out on display, questions will come up and hurt feelings ensue? Then you’re stuck with being honest, ‘I don’t think you know me at all, hated the Troll Doll and gave it to Goodwill.” The alternative, which isn’t better, is lying, “Well, I came home from work one day and the cats, who KNOW they aren’t allowed on the tables… well, one of them jumped up on the coffee table where I had the Troll Doll, and they knocked it off and I found it broken.” First of all, the Troll Doll wouldn’t break falling 16″ to a carpeted floor… any partially-observant person would see that, and you’d be caught lying. SO, to spare hurt feelings AND save myself from having to make up bogus stories and blame the cats for things they didn’t do… I opt to give out the list. I don’t think this is being ungrateful… it’s not like I’m asking for a Cartier bracelet (though… truth be told, I wouldn’t refuse); $2 knee-high socks with monkeys (okay, in this case, they’re $10… but I bet Walgreen’s has them or something similar for $2) on them makes me smile and laugh (and they’d go with my sock monkey hat… but do they make lingerie that matches too? I should look into that.). I think it’s better to help people who have no idea what to get you than to leave them wading about in a sea of indecision, hoping they get you something you like that won’t end up in the “donate” bag as soon as the last needle from the tree is vacuumed off the floor.