It’s the receipt that counts – Christmas gifts – Brief Article
Two words that fully define why I hate the holidays: flavored coffees. Nobody I know will touch the stuff. Still, I guarantee that each of us queers will receive at least one pretty parcel of perfume-doused pseudo java sometime during the rapidly descending gift-giving extravaganza. Best-case scenario: a quarter pound of vanilla Worst: two pounds of mango-kiwi-hazelnut. Decaf.
Call me Scrooge–or worse. Every year about this time I begin a two-month-long whinefest. First I moan about the blatant consumerism that crowns Christmas as the most clever capitalist creation in the histories of both religion and money. Next I curse the cloud of tiny twinkle lights that college coeds and giddy gay men cause to blanket the world like the ganglia of an evil giant. Mid December I banish the television: I can no longer stomach another animated home appliance speeding down a snowy mountain. The holiday season: Glory in the Excess–each and every day-O.
Having knocked my teeth out at an early age (“ice-skating,” in the bathtub, in socks), until I reached double digits all I really did want for Christmas was my two front teeth. Needless to say, I didn’t get ’em. Because of this early conditioning in disappointment, I can’t bear to receive stuff I don’t want.
Nevertheless, receive I do–and with grace and generosity and just a soupqon of insincerity. “Neat? I exclaim, unwrapping a gift set of eight green-and-gold mugs jauntily festooned with glowing red reindeer snouts. “Pretty? I call to my brother-in-law, who has fancied me a babyblue polar fleece kind of gal. “Thoughtful!” I chirp as I unwrap a four-foot rainbow wind sock from my mother’s well-meaning college roommate. This is a true confession: For two days–until I returned it–I was owner of one of those really crazy creepy multicolored sailcloth flags suburbanites fly proudly off their squeaky-clean porches.
“It does look just like Lucy,” I tell my mother, who’s practically gloating over her gift of wall hanging featuring a black Lab that–yes!–looks remarkably like my own beloved, as I immediately turn the gift box inside out praying to find a receipt.
Which leads me to the to the service portion of what you thought was mere ranting: The Art of the Return. Or, how to spend the days after Christmas fighting your way through bargain-starved shoppers so that you get a small hunk of cash that you can only hope to turn into something marked with the word Prada. (I can see the banners now: MILLENNIUM BLOWOUT! LAST CHANCE THIS CENTURY!)
Last year I received so many unwanted items that upon leaving my mother’s house, I secretively organized the plethora of rejected gifts in my car so that I could, on the trip home, efficiently make a speedy round of returns. No receipts, no problem. The poor college coeds and giddy gay men who do penance at the postholiday store return counters are working off centuries of bad karma. Rummage through your bag as if you had a receipt … somewhere. The people behind you in line will complain so loudly that Miss Thing at the counter will practically pay you to vamoose.
And what of gift-returning guilt? You must, I think, retain one item that you truly dislike. I have a handmade framed fish print (yes, scales and all) hanging right now on my basement wall. Honest.
OK, I hear you: If Louise is such a smarty-pants, what useless items does she give? I don’t. No, I’m not strong enough to boycott the gift-giving charade, because I want all those folks who make my life work–ex-girlfriends and family and dog-sitters–to realize how much I appreciate them. And how can I join the reindeer games feeling this way?
Two words: chocolate and steak. Perfect gastronomic gifts that keep on giving (and not just heart trouble). And the ideal shopping venue for an agoraphobic like me who dreads the marketplace even in the best of months (February) and who can’t actually set foot in a store filled with wafting holiday Muzak without suffering a seizure? The Internet.
Doesn’t eat steak? Her dog does.
Rafkin’s book Other People’s Dirt (Algonquin) is titled Dust Sheep Under the Bed in French.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Liberation Publications, Inc.
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