Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Inappropriate Gift Card Love

I'm relieved that Christmas is over.

I'm not good at the whole gift thing. I'm really not. When I'm walking out the door with a gift, wrapped as to be covered but not really decorated with care, I feel myself looking around the house for some abandoned item that might not be just a little bit better than the thing I chose. Pretty soon, I'll be wrapping up the cat and Jello molds like the dotty old aunt on Christmas Vacation.

I never was good at choosing gifts for people at Christmas in the first place. The gifts that used to fly out at me with a recipient's name on it as I was shopping or wandering some festival came at random during the year. They were timely, so when I would buy them and save them for the Christmas season, they began to look dowdy or weird when I tried to wrap them and stick a tag on them six months later at Christmas. Or worse, I forgot about them and bought my best friend something else. Then, I'd dig around in the secret place in my closet and find what used to be lovely and perfect a year and a half ago, but now is all cat-chewed and squashed. So, even if the idea of that gift was still perfect for my best friend, it was no longer perfect.

Some Christmases, there were people whose names on my list never inspired a thing, not a damned thing. Every year, I run into this same wall. I would be sitting on the couch watching TV with Mike and I'd have my pathetic and empty list in front of me. Anyone who liked books, my kind of books, was immediately covered. It was great. I could pick books until the cows came home.

By the time I was past the easy ones, the book lovers, my stomach would begin to roil. Lumps of the hockeypuck hamburger we had for dinner would flop, then settle down into a lump low in my gut. Gas would bubble up. Do I get gassy when I'm nervous? I can nearly burp my ABCs as it is. Add a little Perrier and I threaten to burst like a balloon before I vent.

The past couple of years, I've begun to buy most of my Christmas gifts online. Do you know how hard it is to browse when online? Oh, Amazon has it down with books. I look at one book and there are sixteen others that appear at the bottom of the screen, just bloating my reading list beyond what I actually have time to read. But when I'm looking at scarves, the sweaters and hats and totes and even belts don't come along the same way. They just don't. Amazon just shows more scarves, thousands of scarves.

And you never get to touch anything to see if it's really nice. Last spring, I went on Etsy for the first time and ordered a hand-painted silk scarf. Silk. That just exudes a nice feel doesn't it? A silk scarf should easily be silky. Nope. That thing arrived and it was a hunk of stiff fabric, a little like what I imagine a crinoline hair shirt would feel like on my skin. What happened to silky? It was beautiful, but there was no silky about that silk. I gave it to my best friend anyway. What was I supposed to do?

So now, I've noticed I'm getting worse. I'm old. I don't like to shop. The mall is a perfumed, high-heeled Botoxed, pushup bra nightmare, but you can't get good Christmas gifts at the grocery store. I buy a lot of gift cards, but even then, I'm not entirely sure if the recipients would actually shop at those stores. Wouldn't it be easier to hand them a wad of cash? But then they'd hand me a wad of cash and existential angst would make my gut begin to rumble.

So, I buy Old Navy cards for my nieces, the ones who don't like to read, hoping that the Old Navy styles are as cute in real life as they look on TV. And I love the look on Amy Shumer's face when she runs into her ex at the mall in that commercial. Yeah, Old Navy cards. But my nieces don't send thank you notes so I can never tell by their enthusiasm or tepid responses whether I've nailed it or not.

Then, there's the need to keep all the gifts at about the same value. Except that I forget, when I'm buying for one, what I already spent for another last week. I just hope that it's about the same, but I'm pretty sure it isn't. Do I have a niece who's heart is broken because I loved her sister just a little bit more than her this year?

That's the problem. It's never good enough because every pathetic gift and gift card could never match up with my love for them. And for those in-laws that I can only pretend to love, will they see right through my pathetic sham of a gift and know the truth about how I feel?

And there is Mike. Mike is so good at thinking of the perfect gift. He can really think about that person that I'm lamenting over on my list. He can think of their interests and side interests. He can imagine what they like to wear. He knows that I should never buy a gift for that family member who's an expert woodcarver from among the woodcarving tools online because everything that expert already has is going to be better and more finely tuned to his needs that what I can afford. A commercial will come on and I'm uselessly repeating a person's name from my list, my gut settled into a hard lump like an extra cat on my lap.

"Susanne, Susanne. What do I buy for Susanne. I have no idea what to get Susanne this year. Last year, I got her a scarf. Do you think she'd notice if I bought her a new scarf to replace that hair-shirt scarf I bought her last year?"

"Why don't you get Susanne a leather tote bag?" Mike would say. "She's got to have a lot of stuff to haul back and forth to class."

A tote bag for Susanne! It's perfect. She'll really know how much I love her if I buy her a leather tote bag. And then we move on to the next recipient. Mike is behind any good idea. I'm telling you now. Otherwise I'd be getting inappropriate gift cards. And inappropriate gift card love is never perfect.

Thank you for listening, jb

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