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No gifts, please

November 27, 2011

A few years ago my family was veering into dangerous gifting territory. It was the year my oldest son was almost 2, and everyone in the family, my parents, my brother, and my brother’s wife, was buying outrageous, huge presents for him. He was more into the boxes than the presents, of course, and we kept cajoling him to hurry up and get through the huge mound of presents. It was actually pretty unpleasant since he was a focused little nerd kid and didn’t see the point at all.

But it didn’t stop there. It was also the year that the wine opener which looks like a bunny and can remove corks in a single deft move was on the market, but it’s cheaper copycat version wasn’t. I spent an outrageous amount of money buying that for my wine-collecting father on ebay, but what’s even more outrageous is how much time it took.

At the end of the orgy of opening presents, I don’t even think we could fit all of the wrapping paper and packaging into one garbage bag. And that was with one kid, who was crying because the best stuff was thrown away. Since I was pregnant at the time, I could see where this was going.

I waited a few months, and then I made a motion: no presents for grownups. At least I wasn’t going to buy any presents for grownups. And moreover, nobody spends more than $50 ever. It was passed.  Since then we’ve been able to concentrate on how cute our kids are playing with their boxes. Really the presents we give to each other, to the other grownups, is the effort we make in showing up in the same town and dealing with how annoying we all are (read: they all are) for 2 full days (maybe 1 if I can pare it down to perfection).

I just don’t get the holiday gift giving thing. I mean, I think I’m actually a pretty generous person, but it doesn’t mean I need to go overboard at Christmas. I pretty much like to give people stuff all the time. I cook for them, I knit things, I immediately give away books that are awesome to people who would get something out of them. Why focus on Christmas? I say share a meal in March instead.

What really ticks me off are the commercials which indicate that you should give someone a new car for Christmas. What? Who does that? Who even buys new cars? Don’t they know how much money they’re throwing away? I’m seriously anti-that. Luckily our TV is gone (our 3-year-old, then 2, pulled it off the stand onto the floor – he’s fine) so I’m not seeing those commercials any more. Nor the diamonds-are-a-girls-best-friend commercials. I told my husband 10 years ago that if he ever buys me a diamond I’m divorcing him immediately. We shook on it.

I’d like to say a word against “showers” as well, since I’m on a roll. I am proud to say that I’m married with three kids and I’ve never had any kind of shower, wedding or baby, nor did I have wedding presents (actually one of my relatives ignored my request not to give us anything but what can you do).

I think the idea of wedding presents is fine- it was created for the purpose of setting up a household for a young couple who has nothing. But in modern times, where I lived with my husband for months before we got married, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we already had a bed and dishes. If that’s not the purpose of wedding gifts, then what is?

Back to showers. The basic idea is, come to my house for the purpose of giving me presents. It’s like having a party where the guests do all the work. How about you just have a party? And if you have time to knit a cute little sweater for the new baby, bring it over one day and we can have coffee and talk about contractions and epidurals or something while we admire your handiwork.

I’ve gone to one good wedding shower; it took place in a karaoke bar in Koreatown, and there was a cake shaped like a penis and both men and women attended. So in other words it was just a raunchy party. That’s my kind of wedding shower.

Categories: rant
  1. November 27, 2011 at 7:33 am

    It remains my fond childhood memory that I could give my mother a present on any day of the year except Mothering Sunday. Any attempt at generosity to mum on that day would result on a sequence of ear-bashing reproaches starting with the recent origin of mothering Sunday and ending with refusal of the gift via the evils of commercialisation of the religious calender :)

  2. madalife
    November 27, 2011 at 11:06 am

    I’m not a fan of gifts giving/receiving because it’s Christmas. You end up getting something you don’t want and need. TV commercials make us believe that “we don’t love our family, friends unless we buy them stuff”. It puts a lot of pressure to so many people, some even go into debt around this time of year. We are “born to buy” as Juliet Schor wrote in 2004 https://www2.bc.edu/~schorj/btb.html

  3. LawProf Downstairs
    November 27, 2011 at 11:40 am

    You said it all, Babe.

  4. Michelle
    November 27, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    I want to agree with you; I really do. But at the same time, I don’t. I do like the tradition of giving gifts on Christmas.

    First, my family is so far dispersed that we *don’t* … we *can’t* … make the effort to get together on the holiday. It’s simply not possible. And if we did try to get together, the expense that would entail far, far exceeds what I spend on gifts.

    Second, I like my gift giving method. I listen all year long. When someone admires something, or expresses interest in something, or considers buying something and then doesn’t… those are the things they get for Christmas. They’re surprised that I remembered. Usually I bought the thing in that moment and just held on to it. I could give the gift that day or that week, but it’s somehow more satisfying to do it a couple of months later when it’s unexpected. (My husband does this for my gifts as well. I’m always completely surprised by what he gets me, yet it’s always something I remember wanting and talking about.)

    I’m with you on the extravagance issue (no new car, no diamonds… we eloped, not even a wedding for us). But small gifts that say I know who you are, I know what you like, and I’m thinking about you… those are nice to get over the holidays.

    Plus, my mom is a terrible gift giver. And her disastrous efforts every year are fodder for that year’s stories. I don’t want to give that up!

  5. Dan L
    November 27, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    I’m not nearly as anti-consumerism as you are, but I’ve had an intense hatred for those surprise car-gift commercials for many years. I keep expecting the recipient to say, “What the FUCK, honey?! You bought a $40,000 car and didn’t even consult me???”

  6. jb
    November 28, 2011 at 1:26 am

    Amen! (Great blog, btw.)

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