Latest 3 Things

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

3 Gifts I Don't Want

I’m impossible to shop for. No, seriously, I am. As the season of giving also marks the season, whether intended or not, of receiving I am reminded of just how truly challenging it has become in the intervening years for friends, family and loved ones to come up with gift ideas for me at this time of year. I’m by no measure a simple man, and the simple pleasures which I do actually have are intangible to the point of not really being helpful in determining possible presents (neither country bars nor evenings in them are readily wrap-able). My taste in tangible objects runs on the pricey side, though not particularly fancy. I see no more value in a pair of shoes, wallet or tie just because it was designed by someone in Italy or France - but, if you can turn my cell phone from a simple voice communications device to a miniature computer with nearly limitless functionality, you can probably name your price (you got that, Steve Jobs?). Nonetheless, the special people in my life are undaunted by my finicky nature and the retail marketplace, eager to mark the economic upswing with the holiday season, is coming on strong with a veritable buffet of gift options. And with that in mind, and in the interests of avoiding that awkward post gift-opening moment, here are 3 Things I Don’t Want For Christmas (nor any occasion for that matter):

1. Clothes Hoarse. There is a time in most men's lives when you really should avoid buying us anything to wear, and that time is from age 30 to age 50. Here’s why: most of us, after three decades of living and at least a decade and a half of dressing ourselves, have figured out (a) what we should be wearing, (b) what we like to wear and (c) what we look good in. Unfortunately, most of us have also been similarly unsuccessfully in impressing any of this knowledge upon the folks that know us best. I love my family to death, but they haven’t successfully picked out an item of clothing for me in ten years, and when they do attempt to break that streak without including a receipt, well they might as well be burning the money they spent. Unlike women, a man cannot reliably out-cute his clothes, no matter how attractive he otherwise might be. An attractive woman can wear a dirty blanket with a rope belt and still be cute - but even Brad Pitt in a cheap suit, ill-fitting pants or a novelty oversized t-shirt looks like a complete asshole. And I couldn’t be further from Brad Pitt if he were permanently stationed on the dark side of the moon (don’t worry ladies, he’s not going anywhere - just a little hyperbole). On the off chance you’ve gotten to know the man in your life well enough to at least know where he shops for clothing, the best garment gift you can give is an associated gift card. Because unless you know a grown man who’s still wearing skateboarding shoes as evening-wear, the only thing you give when you’re giving clothes is Goodwill donation.

2. Inspired. As a writer and at least well-intentioned reader, I certainly do appreciate the gift of a good book. What’s more, based on principle alone, a book is the one gift I am guaranteed not to throw away - no matter how horrible, poorly selected or otherwise ill-considered the title is. However, giving a religious, inspirational or spiritual self-help book is either (a) a thinly veiled attempt at proselytizing based on your belief that I’m a heathen and destined for eternal damnation of some variety, or (b) the result of your determination that I am in significant mental, emotional or spiritual distress. Both are about as welcome as a kick to the groin, and will inspire me to want to smack you with something pointy. Honestly, this is like giving someone a gym membership and trying to explain it’s not because you think they’re fat. Listen, I recognize that it’s part of the religious process to go out and recruit, er, “share” your faith - but you have no doubt learned by now that you can’t convert us all, and you can just go ahead and safely account for me amongst the “already damned/doomed” crowd. As a corollary to this, I wouldn’t be in on the Tea Party if we were in Wonderland and I was personally invited by Alice. So, please also spare me anything written by anyone who regularly appears on Fox News - I get all I can handle from The Daily Show. The only thing you can make me do to lose all respect for you as an intellectual any more quickly than giving me a Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin book would be to show up to my house dressed as a Nazi. If you’re looking for book ideas, steer clear of all of the above and anything recommended by Oprah, and look up the Pulitzer people - they have a solid idea of what we all should be reading.

3. Seriously. I’m not quite sure when giving games and toys to people over the age of twelve went out of style, but there are 364 days each year when I wake up worrying about very serious things, like work, my professional obligations, the health and welfare of my family, etc. But one day a year, I want to wake up to nothing but fun and joy. And though any delusions I held about a fat, old man shooting down my chimney with a bag full of toys are long since gone - the thought that there will be toys under the tree with my name on them (even if I had to buy them myself) gets me bouncing out of bed like I did when I was seven years old. So, here’s a heads up for all the serious people you know, who have serious jobs, lives and lots of serious things to think about (present company included). The very last thing we want to think about on Christmas is any of that. I don’t want a business card holder, a law degree frame or a really nice pen to sign stuff with. I don’t want anything that has to do with the law, pharmacies and especially not Stanford. I don’t want a reminder that I’ve kicked through thirty five Christmases already, and that I might not have as many left. If the first thought in your mind when you look at it isn’t “that will be fun!”, put it back on the shelf and move on.

* * *

Christmas gifts are about both showing and telling; showing someone that you care, and telling them what, how and that you think about them. It’s important to remember both when you’re out there picking presents. Too often I hear the words: “I have no idea what to get for him/her” when that seems like as good of a reason not to get someone anything at all as any. Shopping for Christmas gifts isn’t an occasion to realize that you don’t know a loved one well enough - it’s an opportunity to actually get to know them well enough to buy them something that isn’t generic, affected or horrible. And if that sounds like way too much trouble, you’re probably better off just giving money. In the end and contrary to what you may have been told, what you give is as important as that you give - because no one’s wishing for “good intentions” on Christmas morning, and the best thing you can give anyone is really knowing who they are.


Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree with you more about those Spiritual, Self-Help, Nonsense books! I get a lot of them! Maybe everyone IS trying to tell me something. I'm such a no good dirty heathen.


Anonymous said...

thank you.
Feel this way every year at christmas, i almost have started to hate this time of the year since i expect to get at least one thing i could either actually use in my day to day life , or just something fun, and instead the next day turns into a return or toss day as many things look like they were purchased for someone else.
So sorry to sound rude, but if i never showed interest in something ever , why buy me a pile of it. Yet when it does come to something i am interested in , i get something that would be put on the most pointless end of it.

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