Tuesday, December 4, 2012

No More Boxed Sausage: A Guide To Thoughtful Gift Giving

None for me thanks. 

           It’s really quite remarkable just how many retailers, magazines, and websites have all the answers about what you should buy for your loved ones (And unloved ones - who doesn’t love those people you feel obligated to get gifts for? It’s worse than paying taxes). They have catalogs and lists of “The Perfect Gifts!” “The Chic-est Gifts,” “The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide,” etc. I never cease to be amazed at what an impersonal collection of semi-useless crap is collected and pushed at the buying public. I have some news for y’all, the thought doesn’t count if you didn’t put any thought into the gift!
It’s one thing if you’re trying to send a message. You really don’t like someone, but for whatever reason you are obligated to get them a present. Let’s say it’s your boss or your mother-in-law. This is a great time to take advantage of that passive aggressive quality you’ve been trying so hard to get rid of. Think about things these people really don’t like. Perhaps your boss is allergic to nuts but loves chocolate. Maybe your mother-in-law has a ruddy complexion and despises the color yellow. It doesn’t get much easier – your boss will be receiving a lovely gift set of Swiss chocolate covered almonds and ol’ not-your-mom an ever so soft cashmere sweater in the color of mustard. The key to making passive aggressive really work for you in this situation is to give something that the person would really want. You then juxtapose that thing with something that completely ruins it for them.
Passive aggressive gift giving is usually not a first course of action. That kind of hatred usually bubbles from years of mistreatment (or a very concentrated dose of horrific experience in a short time). I find that I want to send gifts like this to people who I once gave lovely gifts to, who didn’t return the favor. There are a lot of thoughtless people out there. (Those would be the masses targeted by all of these lists I keep encountering.) I must say there is not much more frustrating than spending the time making a lovely gift for someone or picking out something you think they will really enjoy and mailing it off only to receive in the mail the next day a box of shrinkwrapped meat. Not the kind you would want to bring home from a European vacation and hide from customs. It would more be the kind you would buy from your child who was selling stuff to raise money for the PTO and then feed to the raccoons as soon as you took it out of the packaging and realized it was inedible. Nothing says, “Happy Holidays!” like a box of prepackaged, nitrate filled pork and beef. Especially when you don’t eat meat. Or are Jewish. Or Muslim. So thoughtful.
Maybe the issue for some is that they just don’t know how to transfer their knowledge of someone into a gift. They want to buy a thoughtful present, but they are stumped. Thoughtful gift giving is not something to be afraid of. Let’s take me for example. You want to buy me a present, but you’re not sure what to get. And I won’t tell you, of course, because I’m one of those frustrating people who love surprises. Start by brain storming things you know about me. I believe that each broad concept can lead to multiple gift ideas. I LIVE AT HOME. Okay, so I live with my parents. How easy does this get? You can go the gift certificate route. While somewhat impersonal, it can be a nice way to say, “I’m not sure exactly what you want, but I’m pretty sure you can find it here.” I don’t think that my psychiatrist or therapist offers gift cards. Liquor stores, however, do. I’m sure. So does the Walgreens Pharmacy. As does Bliss Spa in Boston, where they have some nice relaxing treatments that allow me to forget that I exist in a world outside of the spa. 
So, now you’ve come up with several places where gifts can be purchased. If you want to be more personal, go to the place to pick out a gift. As much as it might be entertaining for you to go and pick out some things for me behind the pharmacy counter, I’m guessing that’s not the best idea. Additionally, you might get arrested. The liquor store has lots of safer options. If you know what I like to drink, you could get me something you’ve seen me enjoy. If you want to broaden my horizons, you can get me something that you like and you think I might. You could take this out of the box and go somewhere to get an alcohol-related present, such as a cocktail recipe book, or some glassware for the particular beers that I drink. If you want to take this one step further (and you’re certain I like spending time with you), you add yourself into the gift. Instead of just buying me liquor to drink by myself, purchase something for us to share. OR take me out to dinner somewhere that I will get to leave my house and we can also consume plenty of fine wine. It’s like a gift giving flow chart from unspecific to specific.
I happen to consider myself quite easy to buy for, especially if you’ve been reading my blog. I like fire scented candles, cashmere, and high quality bedding. I also quite enjoy Chanel nail polish, diamonds, and shoes.  To make things simple for you, I have compiled a list of things that you can choose from to buy me Christmas presents this year. They range in price from very affordable to ridiculous. You can choose based on how much you love me.
$5-25 Options 
*For $5-15 Gift Cards to Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts for coffee (if only they made a cappuccino like that one.....
*For $6-10 Philips 100 Ct Mini String Lights Multi color or White, Twinkle or Not. NO LED - because I can always find somewhere for more Christmas lights
*For $12 Caudalie Lip Conditioner  
*For $16 Gift card to NE Yoga for 1 Ashtanga class
*For $15-25 Belgian beer – I like Grimbergen and the price has recently gone up to $16 for a six pack. You could also get me a gift card to Harrington’s Liquor store.

$26-350 Options
*For $26 Chanel Nail Polish - I have all the whack colors. You're safe buying reds and pinks.
*For $39.50 Pottery Barn’s Fireside Leather Scented Candle   
*For $50 Johnstons of Elgin Cashmere Fingerless Mittens
*For $99.99 Criterion Collection DVD Set: Ingmar Bergman – Four Masterworks
*For $100-350 iPhone / AT&T gift cards so I can get an iPhone and still pay my phone bill

$359+ Options
*For $359 Attila Gnome Stool by Philippe Starck for Kartell - isn't he cute?
*For $400-1000 Lufthansa tickets to Munich or Zurich
*For $1000-15000 Diamonds –Tiffany & Co. has a lovely selection. You really can’t go wrong. Nothing yellow, please. The $4500 starfish earrings I have pictured - I'm pretty sure my friend Beth is buying those for me for Christmas. She laughed at me when I sent her an email suggesting them, but I know that was just to throw me off track so I'd be surprised when I opened the box.
*For $15000+ Lyon & Healy harp. I would prefer a Style 11, but as they are quite expensive, I’ll settle for anything with 7 pedals and 47 strings, as my practice break is going into its 7th year.
*For $50,000+ Become my Benefactor. This is really a unique opportunity, a bit like adopting an endangered animal. I will send you a framed picture of myself and a certificate of thanks. I will also send you a yearly letter about how I have chosen to spend your money. 
            If you put any thought at all into the gift you give, it is obvious to the gifted (provided they don’t suck as a human being). And that’s the whole point isn’t it? To show the people you adore that you appreciate them. And for those people who you intentionally buy horrible gifts for, they’re getting a lot of thought put into their gifts as well. It’s magnanimous that you even think of such nasty elves at all. Good luck with the gifting.

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