Monday, December 20, 2004

Don't Get Me Anything

What percentage of adults actually enjoys giving and receiving Christmas gifts? No one in my sphere needs any more stuff and I sure as heck don’t either. I’ve managed to convince most people to strike my name from their Christmas lists, but my old college roommate LT sends me a gift every year. She’s a wonderful person, but she gets me stuff that 9 times out of 10 leaves me dumbfounded.

I just received a Chandler’s Box from her. We all know what that is, correct? You may know it as an Escritoire du Shipchandler or as Die Chandler Box. Still puzzled? It’s a wooden box containing everything an 18th-century scribe would need to write a letter (except foolscap or parchment or whatever they wrote on back then). Here’s what’s in a Chandler’s Box if you need to jog your memory:

  • Six miniature wax-sealed bottles of ink in colors such as Verde and Tobacco (picture the "Drink Me" bottle from Alice in Wonderland)
  • Brass nibs for all occasions
  • A glass stylus
  • Two brass styluses (styli?)
  • A bar of silver sealing wax
  • Sealing wax pellets
  • Three brass seals
  • A brass sealing-wax burner that looks like a lipstick
  • A snuffer (for the wax burner)
I could start a meth lab with all this stuff. Actually, I would have loved this gift when I was 12 years old. But now? I never write letters longhand now that we have this newfangled Internet. What am I to do, seal my electric bill with a blob of wax and with an anchor imprinted into it?

On some level, I can appreciate the Chandler’s Box. It definitely falls into that category of “Something I Would Never Buy for Myself.” However, LT also sent me these “collectible” kitten figurines. Things like this are just so much not me. I cannot have them in my house.

By now you are probably thinking that I’m the most callous ingrate in the universe. It’s the thought that counts, right? I don’t buy that. Too many people dole out Christmas gifts out of a sense of obligation to friends, family, and slight acquaintances. I’ve been listening to people whinge for weeks about Christmas shopping, and I have concluded that all this gift-buying crap does is induce:
  • anxiety
  • competitiveness
  • crankiness
  • debt
  • depression
  • guilt
  • insecurity
  • resentment
  • wastefulness
LT is the last person who should feel obligated to give me a gift. She has a very serious neurological disease that has already robbed her of her veterinary practice and will continue to take a toll on her quality of life. It’s tragic. She has told me that every morning she wakes up with about a dollar’s worth of energy and that just taking a shower uses up about 75 cents of it. And this woman is running around buying me Christmas presents? That is insane and wrong.

And yet...I cannot bring myself to tell her to stop and, worse, I probably perpetuate the cycle (out of guilt) by sending her a box of comestibles every Christmas from the Made in Oregon store. (Hypocritical chest-thumping sidenote: If you have to give a gift, a box of goodies from the Made in Oregon store cannot fail. Who doesn’t like to eat chocolate and cheese and drink wine? Most importantly, because the gift is entirely consumable, it doesn’t clutter up anyone’s house.)

I would very much like to relieve LT of this obligation she feels to me, but I am equally certain that her feelings would be terribly hurt if I told her to stop. She’d think I didn’t like her gifts-- which is true--but, gosh, I just can’t do that to her. It’s so complicated.


Blogger Jamie said...

You are absolutely right, especially about the anxiety and wastefulness. We already have too many things--I think almost everyone does. That doesn't stop me from buying a psychotic amount of stuff, though, because I don't want to be a "bad gifter." There is something very unhealthy about this whole thing.

Those kittens are appalling!

5:22 AM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

It is extremely hard to not feel guilty about not getting people gifts--that's exactly what the advertising industry and all the manufacturers of appalling kitten figurines and bull scrotum candy dishes want. Here's my suggestion for reducing anxiety and wastefulness next year. Since you're such a great cook, why not just give everyone a jar of homemade jam or pasta sauce or chutney?

What is perhaps most appalling about those kittens is that they cost 19.95 British pounds. I'm not current on the exchange rate, but it could mean that they cost as much as 40 bucks! That is a crime.

9:09 AM  
Blogger noodge said...

Maybe you could tell your friend that instead of buying you a gift she could make a donation to somewhere in your name.

...Or just rewrap it and play it off as a coincidence that you got her the same exact Chandlers Box that she got you.

9:16 AM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

You know, I'm sure she'd like to have a Chandler's Box. Don't people often give others a gift that they themselves would like to receive? Sadly, she can't use a Chandler's Box. Her illness has affected her motor skills and she can't really write anymore. Her saintly husband takes dictation.

I like the idea of having her give a donation in my name, but I'm not sure how that would go over. I think it would still hurt her feelings.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Jamie said...

Ah, Rozanne...I *do* give jars of jam. And cookies. But I also give other gifts. It's a sickness.

I did think of one clever cheapie thing, though. Since not everyone has all the Indian spices I have in my pantry, I made "samosa kits" for a couple of folks on my list. Spice packets, dough mixes, peanut oil, and diagrams. :-)

12:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, my one question is if you cannot have the kitten thing in your house then where is it now?

I guess I am the 1% of the people that like to buy gifts. I don't really care about receiving them, but I like to buy them. Hmm...maybe not buy them, but give them. I actually like to make gifts if I can. For example, a couple of years ago I made my mom a wedding album because she had been keeping her wedding pictures in a manila envelope.

Even worse, I like to shop. But I fully admit I am crazy on a daily basis.

And So It Goes

1:45 PM  
Blogger Jilly said...

Oh dear, yes the kittens are not the kind of thing I would want on my mantlepiece either, heres hoping you have a charity shop nearby.

There's always the fact that your friend finds great pleasure in buying you gifts, so just smiling and accepting could be seen as doing her a favour. If she's going to continue buying, maybe some heavy hints would help starting around October next year! ha!

I totally agree with the list, if that's not a good enough reason to ban the completely out of hand antics we put upon ourselves every year, then nothing is.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Betsy said...

Y'know, I don't buy gifts for anyone any more (save for one couple who are very good friends of mine.) And people, knowing my anti-gift stance, don't buy gifts for me, either.

Of course, I got around it by saying we weren't celebrating Christmas any more and doing the Hanukkah thing, and people just didn't expect Hanukkah presents from me, heh.

Can you say that you've had a religious conversion and the new religion prohibits accepting gifts?

5:57 PM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

Samosa kits. Now that is one gift idea that gets the Rozanne Stamp of Approval™.

Good question. You caught me dead to rights. The hideous kittens *are* in the house--for the moment. I may try to eBay them after Christmas. Sounds like that wedding album was long overdue and much needed. That, too, gets the Rozanne Stamp of Approval™.

Good point about the people who enjoy giving gifts. I tend to forget that they exist. For the record, I have no quibble with the giving of birthday gifts--it's much easier when you can actually concentrate on what one person might like and can shop at a less hectic time of year.

A religious conversion. Hmmm. Wouldn't I have to say I'd become a Jehovah's Witness or something? I have this vague idea that the JWs have some prohibition against birthday celebrations, which I assume would include Jesus Christ's birthday.

I think I'd have a hard time getting people I know to believe I'd become a Jehovah's Witness, though.

9:20 PM  
Blogger Cagey said...

In my social group, we tried what I called a Teeny Tiny Gift Exchange - we each brought a gift that cost under $10 to lunch and then took turns choosing. It was low stress and fun. I actually liked what I received, too. It also has the added bennies of establishing that you WILL not be buying a gift for all your friends. Also, something I do for my Christmas party is have what I call a Bring Your Trash Christmas Bash - you just bring a white elephant item you have lying around your house.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

I've participated in those types of gift exchanges as well. I don't mind them--I always contribute something chocolate--but I do find that I've often ended up with something that I have to fob off at the next White Elephant party. Still, gift exchanges are a good solution for eliminating a lot of the craziness.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Cagey said...

The trick is having the Teeny Tiny Gift Exchange BEFORE the White Elephant. AND, of course, ensuring the two social circles do not overlap. :-)

Seriously, though - I do agree that the whole gift giving has gotten out of control! When does the madness stop? Just last night, our neighbors dropped by a Santa figurine. A fairly large one. That doesn't match our decorating senses. We were then reduced to furiously digging up and wrapping a bottle of wine. Then, we hiked back across the street to recipriocate their very thoughtful (but not needed and certainly inconvenient) gesture.

9:09 AM  
Blogger Rozanne said...


"Out of control" is the correct phrase. I suppose you're going to have to keep that Santy figurine and put it out each year in case the neighbors drop by. It just doesn't make sense.

11:07 AM  

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