Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The (White) Elephant Under the Christmas Tree

“There is only one fruitcake in the world and people keep
sending it to each other.”    --Johnny Carson

Everybody loves the spirit of giving during the holidays . . .  don’t they?
I’ve been particularly interested in corporate America’s approach this year.  We all know the economy is challenging, but, sheesh.  A friend of mine was delighted to hear her name announced among the many employees whose names were drawn at random to receive a gift from the “Elves in Human Resources.” When she happily trotted to the next floor to claim her gift, they handed her an obviously recycled desk calendar, complete with a cable company’s logo (she does not work for a cable company) and some kind of deteriorating packing material stuck around the edges.  It made her wonder, is business really that bad?  She spent the weekend sharpening her resume.
It is perhaps because of these kinds of corporate gifts to employees, customers, and vendors that we now have National Regifting Day.  It is officially designated as the “Thursday before Christmas” and is promoted as being both economically and ecologically sound.  I’m sure it’s true.  I read it on Wikipedia.
I know people mean well.  I’m sure they do.  But have you ever wondered where some of this stuff comes from?  In the spirit of the season – and because I like to make lists – I’ve made a list of things I would prefer not to receive this year – or any year.  If your favorite thing is on this list, I do apologize.  If I happen to wind up with such an item, I’ll gladly regift it in your direction.
Martha Jean’s Please-Don’t-Give-Me-For-Christmas List
A Salad Shooter®
I know, I know, it’s a wonder.  It slices.  It dices.  And I am assured by its maker that it works even better if you accessorize it.  But I promise you, on the most innovative cooking day I ever had, I’ve never had the need, nor even the urge, to shoot vegetables across the room.  If you have one and love it, please let me know.  If you have one and don’t know what to do with it, please don’t regift it to me.
A Snuggie®
People who love these things, love them without reservation.  Members of my own family belong to that group, but I do not.  It is, in fact, one of my recurring nightmares – I’m zipped up in a blanket that has holes for my head and arms, sitting comfortably on the sofa in my 25th floor living room, when the fire alarm sounds.  I wake up shuddering from the vision of my rear end in high def on CNN, slung over a fireman’s shoulder, swathed in my leopard print Snuggie®.  (It has just been pointed out to me that the reality could be far worse – it is possible taht Snuggies® do not close in the back, like hospital gowns.  I’ve never gotten close enough to one to find out.  And hope not to.)
Any item that combines an 800-number running across the bottom of your TV screen with your credit card expiration date
All that stuff is sooooo tempting, especially when it’s 3 a.m. and there’s no chance you’re going back to sleep.  You just know, you’re sure of it, that kick boxing training is just what you need to turn your life around.  Of course, you’ll devote at least an hour each day to it and follow the program diligently, all 26 DVDs.  And how have you ever lived this long without the full collection of hit songs from your high school years – I mean you can’t buy those individual songs anywhere, just like that gray-haired singer is saying (and you know you remember him, it’s right on the tip of your tongue).  If you feel yourself reaching for the phone and your credit card simultaneously, especially if you’re trying to stretch across the couch without disturbing your Snuggie®, don’t.  Just don’t.  If you have to call somebody at 3 a.m. – call me and I’ll talk you down.
Women love shoes and I’m no exception.  But, really, we each need to buy our own shoes.  You have to walk across the floor of the shoe department while the guy sits patiently on that little stool and twist around in front of one of those little floor mirrors.  You have to be sure you can a) stand upright without throwing your back out, and b) take several successive steps without twisting an ankle (or breaking a hip – some of those stilettos are high).  Socks are great gifts – but shoes, not so much.  (Besides, every woman hedges her weight and her shoe size, so they’re guaranteed not to fit.)
Any item or product that promises to make me look 10 years younger and/or 20 pounds thinner
First, there’s a good chance I’ve already tried it.  You can tell by looking at me that it didn’t work.  Second, it’s probably going to violate the 800-number-credit-card-expiration-date maxim I declared earlier.  And finally, although I’ve got pretty thick skin, I don’t particularly relish the message that comes with receiving a miracle undergarment or magic wrinkle cream.  Whether you meant it as an insult or not, there it is.
Anything that comes with directions on how to keep it alive
I have enough guilt in my life without adding the moral failure of killing off a perfectly healthy sour dough starter – or ending the 50-year life cycle of a single Friendship Cake – or being the final, fatal  stop in the life of a jar of fermented fruit.  They’re all lovely in the prime of their lives.  Please let me enjoy them at your house and move on.  For the record, I feel the same way about poinsettias, amaryllis bulbs, and hamsters.
Any item designed solely to make my life easier
That’s because it will absolutely be something involving work.  Vacuum cleaners fall into this category, as do magic mops and dust cloths, clever kitchen gadgets, laundry aids, ergonomic pruning shears, and car polishing sets.  Things designed to make my life more pleasant . . . or luxurious . . . or decadent . . . or safer . . . those things make great gifts.  But if the claim to fame is that my life will be easier, it can only mean that I must use it when I’m doing something hard.
And, finally, one last thing I hope not to find under my tree . . .
Anything that’s there because somebody felt obligated to give me a gift
We talk a lot about “taking the commercialism out of Christmas,” but when push comes to shove, most of us play right into making sure the Christmas bells everyone talks about are really the electronic dings of  credit cards swiping.  I’ve only known one person in my life who actually walks the talk.  She and her partner make their gifts each year on their ranch.  Then they traipse out through the snow and hand deliver them to people who make their lives brighter by being around.  I loved them already, but I really love them for doing that. 
My Christmas wish for you this year is to be all the way in every moment you live.  Take nothing for granted.  And make sure you have one good belly laugh each day – it’s better for your health than any diet or gym can ever be.
God bless us, every one.