Dear Mrs. Gift,
It's not as though I don't like getting gifts. I love a surprise as much as the next person. But the kinds of gifts I have been getting over the last few years show an alarming lack of attention to my personality. It's not like I'm hard to read or anything. I have numerous and marked interests. In fact, I love weird, quirky objects that people should find it fun to shop for at antique stores or rummage shops. I'd even be delighted with a gift someone made me by hand! I so look forward to ripping off the wrapping paper and finding something different. But I get presents that are without personality. Mass-produced. Dull. They're not gifts, they're just things. It leaves me feeling hollow and really sad. These are the people who are supposed to love me the most. They say I'm "hard" to shop for. Am I? Or do they simply lack imagination?
' Stuff is good
Shopping is good. Giving is good. And you are eager to receive. But it strikes me from your letter that the givers in your life are neither good givers nor good shoppers. They may, as you suggest, lack the imagination to fully surprise you. In fact, your letter is wrong about one thing: You claim that you love a surprise "as much as the next person," when in fact the next person does not love a surprise at all. You love surprises much more than the average person does.
It is not a sentiment the modern American recipient often expresses, the desire to be surprised. We see more and more occasions that sanction gift registries, and witness people charging the aisles of Target and the like waving wands over the UPC codes of the exact items that they want their friends and relations to usher into their lives via a computer-generated list. There's no element of surprise in that. In the sense that you have not generated a computerized list, you are hard to shop for, even if there are a lot of things you'd like. How, then, can you escape that hollow feeling? And better yet, get something that you'd like? The way I see it, you have two options.
A) Give up. Try to suggest you want money so you can at least buy yourself something fun.
B) Back them into a corner. Threats may be necessary. Something like "Surprise me this year or you'll get nothing. Do you hear me, nothing! Mua-ha-ha-ha-ha."
Well, it might work. Good luck.
One thing that really bugs me about the holidays is the tremendous waste of resources involved in wrapping every freakin' present. Any suggestions?
Oddly, the tradition of wrapping the present ties in with the idea that we need to keep the gift a surprise, which, as we know from Stuff's plaint above, is seldom the case. While the tradition of gift-giving at Christmas stems from the presents the Wise Men gave the baby Jesus, nowhere is it written that the gold, frankincense and myrrh came with curled ribbons and patterned paper. In fact, before the invention of Scotch tape, wrapping presents was a difficult job accomplished with sturdy brown paper and sealing wax.
I take it from your letter that you are still interested in some kind of a wrap job, just one that's not so wasteful of paper ' and your time.
Using the Christmas stocking is a perfect compromise. The socks that we still hang by the chimney with care can "wrap" a multitude of smaller gifts, which can be placed inside unwrapped, yet remain a surprise. Larger gifts ' such as cars and bikes ' are traditionally wheeled out at the last minute with nothing but a ribbon attached.
If you must give a medium-sized gift, embrace the gift bag. They're reusable, they retain the element of surprise, and they eliminate the cutting, recutting, folding, refolding, taping and self-recrimination for having created an object so lumpy and unappealing.
Dear Mrs. Gift,
My four siblings and our spouses long ago decided to adopt Secret Santas as the way to limit the number of gifts we are obligated to buy, and it's worked out pretty well. Instead of getting small things for everyone, we get one big thing for someone, within a price limit that seems reasonable. It's fun to work out how and what is perfect for our giftees each year, and there is usually an element of humor, which is a nice stress reliever during the holidays. Now that some of our kids are getting older, what age do you think is appropriate for getting the next generation involved in the exchange?
' Uncle Fun
It's never too early! I take it you mean that the younger set in your family receives gifts from all their aunts and uncles rather than just one special Santa ' but do you perceive that these children really need more toys? You yourself point out that more is not necessarily better. Begin immediately!
After years of attending dual holiday celebrations at my own parents' and at my in-laws, my husband and I are fed up. By the time the last gift has been opened at the last house, the forced cheer has turned to frayed nerves. Why can't we enjoy the holidays by ourselves? I've thought about trying to circumvent the whole "Christmas Eve/Christmas Day" thing by planning a holiday trip away to someplace warm, but I know what would happen ' Christmas would just be "rescheduled" for either before we left, or after. How can we stay sane this Christmas without alienating the rest of the gene pool?
' Alone again, naturally
There is no cure for a mother or mother-in-law determined to get the family together. While the great escape to a tropical clime would necessitate a full-scale rescheduling, a sudden need-to-be-elsewhere-in-one-hour on Dec. 24 or 25 will limit your family merrymaking and give you and your hubby more time together. If you don't actually have another commitment, make one up. Don't want to lie? Leave the iron on (literally!). There isn't a mother in the world who wouldn't countenance your departure to save your domicile from that potential catastrophe.