Saturday, December 19, 2009

be good for goodness' sake

Except for the rarest of instances, when I happen upon a good or a service that perfectly corresponds to a family member, friend or lover, and it's within the acceptable price range for giving to that person, and available for purchase then and there, and not on back-order, so when you present the present, you get to see its revealing in that person's company -- you get to experience the immediacy of his or her reaction to the gift, which confirms exactly how correct you were in thinking -- yes, that is the perfect gift for x ... except for those rare instances, I fucking hate shopping.

And I know how very original I am for expressing this sentiment during the holiday season. This is the time of the year when you hear even people who were born to shop say how much they hate it -- even people for whom a "Born To Shop" T-shirt would make the perfect gift outlined in the scenario above.

But most people don't really hate shopping. People rail against the crowds in the stores, the traffic, the hundred-million other things they have to be doing that have yet to be done... but these don't get to the heart of the problem. In fact, with online shopping, there's no excuse to bitch about these things anymore. Anything can be obtained and shipped for free from Internet retailers for the most part during the holiday season. Anyone who doesn't opt to do so, and bitches about how terrible their experience at the mall was, needs the opposite of a sympathetic ear. It's as indefensible to bitch about your shopping experience at the mall as it is to bitch about how cold you are after doing something like shoveling your driveway with nothing but your slippers on.

But people can legitimately bitch about the struggle of trying to buy perfect gifts for those nearest and dearest to them. Because it is hard. It requires effort, and there's an undeniable pressure in making the right selections. Even for those who are easiest to shop for. Because the perfect gift requires insight, creativity... it's when shopping transcends shopping and becomes art. And art's tough to make... or, at least, make well.

For those family members that are farther removed, you have justifiable reason to bitch about the compulsory nature of holiday gift-giving. Though you see these people only once a year at the family holiday get-together, you've got to buy something for them. Ask anyone visibly stressed in the final shopping days of shopping, and after sighing, they'll say something along the lines of "I still have to get something for Uncle Joe, my Aunt Audrey, Dave and Lorrin ... and Ryan, I almost forgot Ryan. What do you get for a six-year-old boy nowadays, anyway?"

In response to the holiday absurdity, a group exists -- the members of which all fly into a pre-designated city each Christmas season dressed in Santa's best and carouse, creating "santanarchy" by behaving in very, unSanta-like ways. You can learn more at

I would likely be one of SantaCon's regular attendees if not for the fact I'm compelled to return to my parents' house each year. It is something I look forward to doing -- in large part because we don't buy one another Christmas gifts. It's a relatively firm holiday pact. No one buys anyone else presents because, if you do, you make everyone else feel like an asshole. And making your family members feel like assholes is, well, just not in the spirit of the holiday, unless perhaps your family stars in its own reality TV show.

That doesn't mean we don't unwrap gifts, though. The unwrapping of gifts has been a tradition we've held onto, and though it has waned since the years I was looking forward to things like Star Wars figures and new video games, that joy is still there.

My mother goes through a closet full of drug company giveaways she and my father hoarded whenever they would attend some drug conference as a tax-free holiday. Things like Immodium mousepads, plastic Prilosec paper clip holders, Zantac solar-powered calculators, etc... Each year my mother spends hours wrapping this junk up to look like authentic presents and puts it all under the Christmas tree. Then, bombed on nog and wine at the tail end of our annual Christmas Eve celebration, we tear into the gifts under the tree, sardonically crying out how shit like the Viagra oven mitt is exactly what we'd been hoping Santa would bring.