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Advice & More October 2016

Gray Matter

Stink at Buying Holiday Gifts? You’re Not Alone

By Jody Lebel

Don’t you hate people who always buy the perfect gift? And it’s always so prettily wrapped in some shiny paper, that you have to special order over the summer, with a little gift memento entwined in the gorgeously twirled ribbon, all held together with one tiny delicate piece of tape. I buy my ribbons at the dollar store and I tape my packages like I’m afraid something inside the box will escape.

Here come the holidays; a time of good tidings and joy. A time to buy everyone in your life the best, most fabulous, most interesting gift they’ve ever gotten. Yeah, right. Every year around Halloween I tack my gift-giving list on my refrigerator with a little pencil on a string so I can quickly run and jot down whatever fantastic idea I come up with. Traditionally by Thanksgiving an annoying tic develops in my left eye whenever I catch a glimpse of my blank list.

By December 1st I’m in full panic mode. Listen, I watch all those shopping networks, I look at catalogs, I scan the gift shelves in department stores. I know time is ticking by how badly my heartburn kicks up a notch. I stink at buying gifts. I know it, my friends know it, and my family knows it. This year my daughter suggested we not exchange gifts. It’s not because she wants to go easy on me, it’s because she’s never liked everything I’ve ever given her.

Don’t you hate people who always buy the perfect gift? How do they do that? And it’s always so prettily wrapped in some shiny paper, that you have to special order over the summer, with a little gift memento entwined in the gorgeously twirled ribbon, all held together with one tiny delicate piece of tape. I buy my ribbons at the dollar store and I tape my packages like I’m afraid something inside the box will escape.

And what about those people who say don’t get anything for me this year, but you know they really want you to? I always say, okay, if that’s the way you want it, Grandma, no gift this year. And then come December 24th and I’m dragging myself through the 24-hour Walgreens groping desperately for the last box of chocolates. I pop one of my dollar store bows on it and hate myself all the way to her house, where her gift (although we agreed no gifts) will be fabulous and well thought out and perfect. Arrrgghh.

And how about those people who have everything? I know what you’re going to say. Gift cards. Listen, nothing says you have no imagination and know nothing about your loved ones or friends more than a gift card. Time is flying folks, tick-tock, and I haven’t done any shopping yet. What to do? So per usual, being I’m a savvy gal who knows her way around the keyboard, I go to the Internet to get some help.

Site #1 advised that I do a little stalking. Stalking? Isn’t that against the law? This site says the Internet is a powerful tool that will quickly assist me to harmlessly learn all about my peeps, what they like and what makes them smile. I don’t know about this. I do know what makes Uncle Harold smile and I’m not buying him that. And what if I learn something I don’t want to know? Like Aunt Ginny was a bag lady once. Or Cousin David went on a “special vacation” for two years. The site said to check out their Facebook or Twitter accounts or see what my family and friends pinned on Pinterest. My Aunt Flo doesn’t have a cat, but I found out that she sure loves cat videos. Oh, I get it! I’ll get her a cat for Christmas. She’ll be thanking me for years.

Site #2 told me to simply ask my family and friends what to get all my other family and friends. Nothing says you’re totally clueless more than calling all of your sisters and asking what mom wants for Hanukah.

Site #3 tells me to go in with a bunch of other family members and get dad one humongous gift for Christmas. How humongous? Are we talking a car here? Or a set of golf clubs? My family is pretty cheap. Even if we all chipped in, we’d still fight over what to get him and end up stuffing a card full of money. Come to think of it, that’s the perfect gift for him.

Site #4 said to offer experiences instead of gifts. If you're really stumped on what to buy someone, they advise, consider offering them an experience instead of some doodad that'll take up space on the corner shelf. This site suggested hot air balloon rides, wine country tours, and tickets to the local zoo. Although my daughter says she got bored and just left to sit in the car, I’m pretty sure my son-in-law got kicked out of the zoo last year. I close my eyes and picture Aunt Mildred with a death grip on the balloon lines, cursing me and cutting me out of her will. Hmmm, maybe the wine thing, but my family are big drinkers. It’ll cost me a fortune.

Site #5 offered the gift of subscriptions. Nothing says I love you like a year-long bombardment of magazines you would never buy for yourself. Or how about a fruit club? Every month your giftee will receive some different type of exotic fruit that they’ve never heard of and will let rot in the fridge. I decide to forgo the monthly gift thing because I don’t want to get a whiny call from my mother every month begging me to make it stop.

Site #6: Craft gifts. Need I say more? No one wants them. No one wants to make them. No one keeps them. Shelves at Goodwill are filled with discarded craft gifts. Knitted socks. Seashell framed mirrors. Crocheted doll toilet paper covers. Are you getting the picture yet? Maybe some handmade jams or jellies or infused vodka or gin would be okay. Wait, that’s not a bad idea. Yum, right? Once I make that I’m keeping it.

Okay, maybe a gift card isn’t so bad. Wait, it says on my screen you can even order them online. How lazy is that? I love it. And I saved a dollar on a bag of bows. Now if this eye tic thing will just go away by New Year’s.

 

To balance out her dark days as a criminal court reporter, Jody Lebel writes romantic suspense novels and humorous short stories.

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