happy boxing day!

27 12 2010

today is boxing day in various nations around the world. today is also a different kind of boxing day right here in the USA. today is the day that people haul home their xmas loads, grab a big cardboard box, and start sorting out the shit that they’re going to drop off at the goodwill ASAP. (a friend of mine brings 2 bags to her in-law’s house- one for stuff to bring home, one to ditch at the goodwill on her way home).

for example, my boyfriend’s parents have a large extended family. and even though trying to celebrate everyone for xmas is expensive and extremely inconvenient, several family members refuse to give up the tradition. unfortunately, it’s not the family members with large disposable incomes or most intimate insights into their wants and interests doing the gift giving. mostly it’s distant and out of touch (often with reality) relatives without much to spare in the gift giving budget. now, as a person who writes a budget blog, i am certainly not one to poo poo an inexpensive gift. however, any gift not given with care is likely to end up discard bin, and the only thing you’ve really given your friends and relatives is the task of writing an awkward thank you note that won’t reveal the fact that your gift is already donation fodder.

so to you coworkers, extended family, in-laws, acquaintences… my gift to you this year is a cautionary tale of three ceramic polar bears:

so as i was saying, my future in-laws get a lot of crappy relative presents. so much so, that my boyfriend’s mom stacks them all up and tucks them away until the last moment because she just can’t bear the guilt and sadness that they bring with them. this year’s greatest tragedy however, a festive ceramic statuette of 3 polar bears. BROKEN. also, hideous. also, in a priority express box that cost $23 to ship. it was heartbreaking. i’ve never even met them, but i just wanted to run to NY and shake aunt X and uncle Y until they promised to save their money and snap out of their delusional state.

the reality is that nobody should have to deal with such awful moments during the holidays. the desire to be generous is a beautiful thing, but without the proper cautions, it can turn ugly FAST:

1. try to avoid identifying a person with singular hobby or predilection. i never more greatly regret telling people that my favorite color is pink than on christmas. oven mitts, xmas ornaments, figurines…my friend xine had a similar problem with penguins, and my boyfriend’s dad apparently once mentioned he liked polar bears. it’s a trap! i still love pink (shockingly), but people are not one dimensional- they still have styles and tastes and standards! just because it fits one vague criteria does NOT make it a good present. plus, your buddy who loves golf probably gets like 250 golf related calendars, mugs, and bath towels every year. do him or her a favor, and pay for a tee time at a nice course- or at least get a gift card to a sporting goods store (see item #4).

2. if it isn’t thoughtful or useful, it doesn’t matter how much you spent on it. if you’re resorting to fatally flawed tactic #1 to check off your xmas list, your budget becomes magically irrelevant.  for example, this is equally as stupid as this. possibly worse, because you paid more for it but the result is the same-  the bin of no return! expensive doesn’t necessarily always equal good if the gift is not appropriate for the receiver. if you want to drop cash, give cash. or for the love of god ASK SOMEONE for a little help.

3. nobody wants a tchochke. NOBODY. you may come to my house and see that i have various bits and pieces lining my shelves, and ASSUME that they are tchochkes. in reality, those items are carefully hand selected and edited collections of very specific things that i love. unless i point to one specifically and say “I WANT THIS”, don’t go there. your desire to help me further my collection is sweet but misplaced. misplaced directly into the trash can.

4. when in doubt, gift card, gift card, gift card. if you absolutely can not avoid giving a gift (see #5), cash or a gift card are always welcome. even if you get a crap giftcard to applebees, there’s always someone else out there with questionable taste that will be willing to swap with you. at least a gift card practically guarantees that the receiver will get something that they want.

5. sometimes no gift is the best gift of all. i wrote this funny article a while back about teacher gifts. the punchline is that teachers don’t want anything more than a sweet note from their student telling them that they’re doing a good job. point being, emotional connection trumps a physical gift any day of the week- assuming that the sentiment is from the heart. believe me, if your family knows you’re strapped- it will be a gift to them that you’re not putting yourself in debt to buy them presents (especially crappy ones). don’t have any sentiment to spare? go with the gift card. either that, or just know that if you can’t muster up something sweet to say- why the hell are you giving this person a gift in the first place?

anyway, the broken polar bears ended up being thrown into the woods out back of the old shed. but of course, a sweet and thoughtful thank you note will be dispatched as if the bears were still intact and proudly displayed. WHY DO WE DO THIS TO OURSELVES? we as a nation create so much wasted stuff and waste so much precious time going through motions that cause us more harm than good. we’ve got a full year to sort it out. next holiday season, let’s all commit to celebrating with a little honesty, a little reality, a little thought, and NO BROKEN POLAR BEARS IN 2011!

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13 responses

28 12 2010
sweetersalt

People get so carried away with gift giving. If I haven’t seen and/or spoken to and/or thought about you in the past 6 months, you probably don’t need a gift. Fact.

29 12 2010
bessmarvin

that is a very excellent guideline that we should all follow.

28 12 2010
~K

A very well written post, and great points. I hate gift giving done for the sake of obligation rather than true thoughtful generosity.

I regret telling people I like fairies. I still get figurines even now as an adult, and I have NO PLACE to display them, nor do I really fancy having a giant fairy-covered shelf in my home.

29 12 2010
bessmarvin

thank you! we have so little time here in this awesome place, it never ceases to shock me how much of it we waste with senseless obligations. i wish i could just convince my boyfriends parents to send out a firm but gentle and loving cease and desist letter to aunt x and uncle y, letting them know that it’s time to let it go. so much energy wasted trying not to hurt feelings! wouldn’t their feelings be more hurt to know that every single gift they’ve ever given you went to goodwill?

also, my deepest regrets for your fairy problem. that totally trumps polar bears or penguins. unless of course they give you this, which is the only acceptable fairy gift i can think of.

28 12 2010
Catherine

Oh, woman. You read my mind. I have so much to say on this subject I’m practically choking on it, so I’ll save it. You said it all anyway. Besides, I’m too busy gearing up for my rant about people OVER COOKING on holidays. And I don’t mean the turkey is dried out. I mean cooking in extreme excess. At 2am. While I’m trying to sleep.

29 12 2010
bessmarvin

it’s tough! i just wish we could reroute all of our holiday energies into something more useful. how awesome would it be if we could all just be honest for xmas. like : “i can’t afford to buy anyone presents”. or, “i don’t know you well enough to get you something you want, so i’m just going to get you nothing”. or what about “screw these tchockes, i’m going to make a donation to a worthy cause instead”? as for 2 am cooking… i got nothin. sounds like someone in your extended family needs some counseling… or at least some ambien.

29 12 2010
Evelyn

I have to say that I find your rant a bit ungracious. Everything you say is true, but a gift is a gift, nothing more. If you don’t like it, fine. Donate it, trash it, whatever. Does your boyfriend’s extended family read your blog? I hope not. Or maybe this is your way of communicating with them.

Last year for the first time, I told almost everyone that I didn’t want to exchange gifts. This year, I told everyone. I can’t describe how great that feels. If I see something during the year that I think someone would love, I may give it to them then, or on their birthday. But, I no longer feel the obligation of gift-giving.

A few years ago I started “adopting” a foster child each Christmas from the Dept. of Human Services. Total anonymity – all I know is the first name, age, sizes and their preferences (which are always ridiculously practical – a 12 year old boy asks just for sweatpants and a sled). I always ask for a teenager because they seem to be least popular with the adopters. I can go to town and pick great stuff, use creativity to wrap it, and fantasize that I gave a child who doesn’t have much a terrific Christmas. No one to complain that they have to return the gift or that it’s not suited to them.

Life is too short to complain about unwanted gifts.

29 12 2010
bessmarvin

i actually worried a lot about how people would take it, so i’m not at all surprised at your reaction. i admit that i’m a bit heavy on the snark, and sometimes my real point gets lost in the sarcasm. however, my point was not that i want better gifts. in fact, my point is that i wish that my family would stop breaking their backs and their budgets trying to get me something that i don’t need or want. i appreciate the thought for sure, but it kills me to know that their efforts end up in the donate bin and that they’ve wasted money that they could probably really use for something else. i would much rather stop the gift giving all together (thus, my last bullet point). my boyfriend’s parents have tried unsuccessfully many times with their relatives… and no, they don’t read my blog. they don’t even know my name, and i would never write about such a thing if i thought there was any chance that they might read it. it was just such a heartbreaking story, and i thought it could open up some discussion about why we as a society do this to ourselves and our loved ones! you’re right, life is too short to complain about unwanted gifts. i just wish that we could steer our efforts away from tchochkes and hickory farms meat logs, and put our money and our goodwill into something more meaningful.

p.s. i think what you’re doing with DHS is pretty awesome. i will definitely be looking into that next xmas. teenagers do tend to get lost at the holidays, and it’s totally sad and unfair (and what my makeup project was really all about).

29 12 2010
InfamousQBert

“i wish that my family would stop breaking their backs and their budgets trying to get me something that i don’t need or want. i appreciate the thought for sure, but it kills me to know that their efforts end up in the donate bin and that they’ve wasted money that they could probably really use for something else.”

THIS is exactly the point i have in mind too. i LOVE that people think of us (especially my godmother’s random catholic friend thinking of the lesbo couple), but i hate seeing all the waste, especially in this economy. and i know some people really don’t like giving gift cards. i’d appreciate a card and personal note much more than another christmas mug. the holidays (whichever, if any, you celebrate) are supposed to be about spending time with/on your loved ones, not money. i know we’re not all creative/artsy, so not everyone can come up with a handmade gift to both save money and show love, but everyone can pick up a pen and paper and slip a nice note into the card. and THOSE are the kinds of gifts that packrats like me will painstakingly preserve in little boxes and scrapbooks to run across later and really enjoy rediscovering.

29 12 2010
bessmarvin

amen! it breaks my heart to see people i love who don’t have a lot of cash, spending it on crap. i would also much rather get a card where they tell me that they love me, or share a favorite moment, or tell me about something exciting that’s happening in their lives… instead it’s ANOTHER CRAPPY MUG without so much as a post it note! i can’t even remember the last time i used a mug.

29 12 2010
InfamousQBert

ohmigawd YES. we get SOOOOO many christmas mugs filled with cheap cocoa every year! this year, we both got the same little gift mug from a woman NEITHER OF US KNOW. she’s a friend of my godmother. we’ve met her ONCE. why on earth does she feel the need to gift us?! and one woman who actually is a really good family friend, who i would much rather have just SEEN on christmas, sent us mugs, too! what is it with christmas mugs?? i think they know i drink a lot of coffee. dammit.

at least i’ve successfully nipped all cat themed presents in the bud. i may have cats, and even have a VERY FEW (like, less than 5) cat related decorations, but i WILL NOT abide a house full of cat crap, literal or figurine-al.

29 12 2010
InfamousQBert

i’m a comment whore today, okay?

anyways, just wanted to say that i LUST after your hair in that ezine pic. so cute! and shiny! and purpley-pink!

5 02 2011
um…AWKWARD: the new rules of regifting. « broke 207

[…] i got a lot of shit the last time i complained about bad gifts, and this particular gesture was in essence not entirely different (in terms of thoughtlessness) […]

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