Monday, December 14, 2009

Wrestling with consumerism and feeling American.

This was a jam-packed weekend, but mostly I did Christmas shopping. Believe it or not, it's a pretty foreign concept to me. My family never really did anything big for Christmas or Chanukah. I'm an only child and didn't grow up really close to my few cousins. I was amazed when my friends would get 10-15 presents each, all big-ticket itmes like Nintendos or computers. I was happy with new underwear and a Hawley-Cooke gift certificate (and I still am, for those of you shopping for me. Except Hawley-Cooke is long gone, so if there's any way you can give me gift certificates for Library Fines, that would be awesome). Even in grownup life, my family is not big on the gift-exchange, and I haven't made a real Christmas list since I last wrote to Santa Claus.

But Friend-with-a-Truck's family is pretty big on the gift exchange, so I am learning how this works day-by-day. I am troubled by it, and I feel ridiculous that it's bugging me. You'd think it would be a simple concept, right? Not so for this over-analyzer. I'm confused by lots of things, but mainly it's the logistics. Are we supposed to buy presents directly from other people's lists? Doesn't that take the fun out of it? Or is the list truly a useful device, like a wedding gift registry, so they don't end up with 20 salad spinners or Wii Fits? What if you find the absolute perfect gift, but it's from a Thrift Store? Is that rude or weird?

Anyway, I spent the weekend wrestling with these questions and stressing out a bit over something that I know deep-down is really quite simple. Buy presents for people. Don't worry about it too much. It's the gesture that's important.

Oddly, I feel like I understand American Christmas much better now. I always wondered why people were stressed out during the holidays, or why they felt the need to buy-buy-buy, and this whole Jesus-Consumer Debate, which I never understood because, well, we were neither into Jesus nor Extreme-Gift-Giving, so it wasn't really an issue. I get it though, and I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing. It's a nice excuse to buy something reeeeeeeally nice for someone.

I'm staring at a corner of my house which is now piled up with packages (and lots of packaging, which makes my stomach turn a little as my mind drifts to landfills and all the wrapping paper that will be used and thrown away this year) and I'm feeling a few things. First, I am sick at the sight of all the packaging and gift wrap and I'm wondering how weird Friend-with-a-Truck's family will think I am if I try to recycle the wrapping paper or if I wrap all of their gifts in the Sunday comics like my dad always did for me. Secondly, I feel oddly American and looking forward to seeing a big Christmas morning. Thirdly, I'm kind of excited to give these folks their gifts, to play with some of these toys. Fourth, I clearly need to get more presents for my parents. I really think the Library should sell Overdue Fines Gift Certificates; that would be perfect for them.

Off to the shops!

1 comment:

  1. Funny you should blog about this. I just wrote a piece of the Philadelphia Inquirer about how I quit buying and accepting holiday gifts two years ago and how much easier this time of year is because of it. I will send you a link when it runs.