Friday, December 9, 2011

Humbug!: The 2011 holiday edition.

This coming birthday/holiday season marks a significant milestone in my life. I'll be officially eligible for a senior citizen discount at a certain nearby restaurant. Finally I feel able to unleash my inner curmudgeon.  I've always wanted to be a grouchy, grumpy old man, it is my birthright, my certain destiny. As this milestone is reached, I feel I can at long last start saying and behaving as I see fit without the petty, vain concerns about what people might think of me doing so. Thus, if you find this missive disturbing, sad, bitter or angry, just remember, I'm a relic of the past, a quaint reminder of an archaic and dying generation, just another grouchy old fool. I've earned it.

Some people sure know how to give and receive gifts. I’m not one of them.
I know people, mostly women (an observation, not a criticism or stereotype) that practically thrive on thinking up or shopping for perfect gifts for other people. They seem to put a lot of thought and time into the effort, and also, to my complete confoundment, seem to actually enjoy the process.
To me gifting is a lot like dancing, I hate it. Some people enjoy dancing, others enjoy merely trying to dance, some, many I would venture, are lousy at it but don’t know or care and they do it anyhow. Some people are artists at dancing. One thing I’ve come to learn over my many handsome years is that most dancers cannot seem to understand why some of us would choose not to dance, ever. They can get quite animated and even angry. “Anyone can dance if they just try! It’s fun” they’ll scream over the music. And they would be wrong.
I have tried dancing, playing football, painting landscapes, plumbing, and towing a trailer. These things all have one thing in common with gifting. I have tried all of them and found myself to be woefully lacking in whatever chromosome or neuron/synapse connection it is that makes someone able to be good at any of them, or more importantly, even to want to be.
This doesn’t make me something more or less than a dancer or plumber, it just means I’m wired differently. We’re all wired differently in many ways and in most regards it’s not a big deal. Dancers dance, non-dancers don’t. Trailer-pullers tow, those that don’t simply avoid the need, or get someone else to do it for them.
But now the dreaded season of giving and receiving is upon us, all of us. Whether we are competent, capable or enthusiastic about it or not. This is grossly unfair. For some reason it is widely assumed that ALL people are born with, or have developed not only the requisite skills, but also the desire to gift and be gifted.
I’ve tried gifting, I’m lousy at it, my brain just doesn’t ever resolve all the intricacies correctly. I have even once or twice talked myself into believing I was good at it and went on a tear, confident that I was coming up with the perfect gift for someone. The gifts were, in hindsight quite lacking, off the mark, if not completely un-appreciate-able.
I’m no better at receiving gifts. In my memory, I can recall only a few occasions where I didn’t end up lying, sometimes emphatically. Receiving unsolicited/ non-requested items just does not seem natural at all to me. I do not know how to behave even when the gift is appropriate, sincere and welcomed. This is perhaps a rare and severe character flaw, it certainly wouldn’t be my only one. I’m fine with working towards a goal then being suitably and fairly rewarded for it, but just a gift out of the blue because of a date on a calendar? Baffling, quite perplexing.
Angel is pretty much compatible on this. She’s much more diligent and competent at finding gifts for people, but she’s also a little reluctant in the receipt of same. She too doesn’t quite get, or covet, the non-useful trinket. I queried her years ago about flowers and jewelry and such obvious things. She has no real interest. Flowers tend to fire up her allergies, she doesn’t really ever go anywhere, or want to go anywhere baubles and beads would be called for. Instead, I usually theme her gifts. A couple of times I’ve gone for cold-weather gear. Scarves, caps, outerwear to keep her warm. In her mantel-stocking would be some chemical hand-warmers and flavored teas. She spends a lot of time outdoors but doesn’t suffer the cold well.
   This year we have decided on a family common theme. “As seen on TV”. Our gifts to each other will be primarily from items that pop up in those loud, cheesy, "but wait, there's more!" TV commercials. We each know which items the others of us favor, it’s all stuff that we wouldn’t buy for ourselves even on a whim, but they all target specific and relevant household problems. I’ve shown an interest in a ceramic Yoshi knife. I’d never on my own buy one because I’m inclined to believe that it will eventually disappoint, and we already have several perfectly good, though mostly dull kitchen knives. Angel's expressed curiosity about a hands-off foot washer-brush device. We’ve both shown interest in some of the tool-gadgets. It’ll be simple, inexpensive and non-disappointing if the products don’t exactly wow us.
I can handle a theme and I already know several of the specific items she’s curious about. That’s 95% of the chore. I can deal with that.
We don’t have small kids around much. We’re sending gift cards mostly to the families with our grandkids. We’ll let the moms sort it all out, they really know best anyhow. Our kids often received some pretty loud, pointy or unusable stuff from geographically distant relatives. We knew they meant well, they just didn’t have the hands-on or face-time an actual front-line parent has. I would not presume to know what would please my grandkids AND be tolerated by the parents. Perhaps it’s a lazy way out, but it sure reduces drama and stress.
I do not begrudge those that enjoy giving and receiving gifts for whatever reason. Please continue to do so at your pleasure and amongst yourselves. But do me one little favor; if you indeed believe what you often say, that it is the thought that counts not the item, then please just pass those thoughts along, no ribbons or wrapping required. Let that be enough at least if you are referring to me. Your nice thoughts and well-wishes are far more important and substantial than any shelf-trinket or gift card could ever be. In return I will spend some time thinking of you, and likewise wishing you well. I can promise this because I already do. If you are lucky enough to be on the list to receive this link, then I already consider you to be someone I care about in mostly positive terms. I honestly and sincerely wish every one of you luck, success, happiness, good health, long life and prosperity. If this is not enough just let me know and I’ll pick up an extra foot-wash thingy for you. But please let me know pretty soon, if I place my order in the next twenty minutes I can get an additional one free (plus shipping and handling). 

If you really, really want to exchange tangible gifts then I’ll go ahead and tell you exactly what I want. An essay.  Just write up your thoughts and feelings, expose a bit of your mind and heart in writing, express yourself!
What’s that? You don’t think you write well? You have trouble expressing yourself in words? You’re embarrassed about your grammar and spelling?  Fooey I say! Anyone can write! It’s fun!