Chaos Attraction

Gift Issues Galore

2004-12-25, 5:28 p.m.

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What can I say about Christmas Day?

Well, this was the first Christmas ever in which we never did presents. At all. Everyone was so tired they went to bed rather than stay up and do gifts. Then in the morning, Mom dragged herself out of bed by 10:30 looking horrible, saying she was still exhausted, but couldn't possibly let herself sleep any more. Dad didn't wake up until noon. We were supposed to be at Tammy's by 3:30, and Mom had to get Dad into the shower, dressed, herself showered and dressed, AND get food made to bring over by then.
I knew around that time that we weren't going to be doing presents that day. There wouldn't be enough time.

What the hell else could I say to Mom? "We'll just have to do without. We can't do presents like normal people any more." She claimed we could "just have Christmas tomorrow." Yeah, whatever. What can you say.

I ended up telling her (inadvertently) what she was getting. I was getting on her about how she REALLY NEEDS A PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZER and she was going on that she would never let some stranger in the house, and it ended up with her saying, "Well, I have a book by Julie Morgenstern..."
Anyway, I ended up telling her that people off the Internet she didn't even know sent me these books for free to help her, and she was startled and flattered. As to whether or not she reads them, I figure I'll have to go through them and highlight bits or something anyway.

We had the requisite "Merry Christmas" family phone calls to get through, each of which sucked an hour of time needed to get ready, it seemed. Grandma was out of it and had no idea if she'd received her gifts or not (she hadn't. Go US Mail), pouted that nobody was up there to see her, said they weren't doing a tree, pouted some more, had no idea Ron was coming to visit her for New Year's, and claimed she'd seen Uncle Tony (who lives in California) from time to time. Sigh. Later we talked to Janelle, which was much more pleasant. I told her what Uncle Bruce said and she was all, "Hey, look at me! I got married at 36 and I'm happy! You can tell him that if he brings it up again."

We didn't get to Tammy's house until 5, when dinner was starting. Naturally we got some crap for that from Auntie Dolores, who had clearly had something crawl up her ass and die sometime between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. She was out for blood all day, I swear, and Tammy said (when I was filling her in on what Uncle Bruce had said the night before) that she was being worse than usual. I mostly tried to avoid her. What the hell can one say when she demands to know why we're late? "Um, it takes 2-4 hours on a good day to get him cleaned up and dressed and in the chair and fed and pilled and out the door, and Christmas isn't a good day?" Honestly, if you haven't done it, you probably aren't going to get it. I was ravenously hungry because we hadn't done lunch and I started raiding the appetizer table, and she was yelling at me that "We're going to have dinner! Didn't you eat lunch?" NO, I did not eat lunch. What time did we have to eat lunch? Takes two damn hours to eat a lunch with Dad anyway when you have to feed him by hand and he laughs and loses the food and takes 15 minutes per bite a good chunk of the time.

Most of the time, it wasn't actually all that bad- when cute kids are running around with pets it tends to distract people. And I am happy to announce that B&D did NOT ask about my love life the entire evening. That's a first. Uncle Bruce also said to Mom that he was amazed that she got as much done as she does. Mom was flabbergasted. "I think they think I just sit around watching TV all the time."

We eventually did gifts, rather late, and I got... more bath stuff! I don't know what's with the bath stuff, but Les couldn't help but ask if I thought everyone thinks I stink. I said, "YES."

By this point of the night, after Dad had finally made it here and I was avoiding Auntie D, I was actually pretty mellowed out and enjoying the holiday season for once. But of course, something had to come up to ruin that.

Most of them were sitting around the table, eating dessert and bitching. I was avoiding them all in the corner and knitting, when their conversation got to the point of, "Hey, let's start doing a gift exchange!" One of those ones where everyone only gets a gift for one person. Only, they wanted to do "nice" gifts on their one person and make there be a mandatory minimum/maximum spent that was high ($75-100), instead of spending $20-30 on each person. Blah blah we spend too much money, blah blah Ron and Laurie only give us all $15-20 gift certificates apiece every year and we're tired of them being cheapasses, blah blah whine whine whine.

I only heard this when Auntie Dolores starts yelling loudly that "Jennifer should be treated as an adult and start sending out cards and giving gifts BY HERSELF." Um, what? Apparently they'd want me to drop $100 on one person as well. (Later Mom was all, "She's just jealous because you were the only person who actually GOT a non-gift certificate from Ron and Laurie.")

I um...well, in Mom parlance, I Got Snippy. I didn't want to do it. I said that I don't want to get gifts by myself because I have present anxiety, and I don't want to say, draw Ron and have no clue what to get him, plus it has to be a "nice" gift, and that being the ONLY damn gift he gets, and have everyone thinking, "God, she sucked" when I bugger it up. And Auntie D started yelling at me- she evidently thought I didn't get the concept of Gift Exchange and wanted me to say I'd do it immediately right that second- what it meant. I snapped back, "Yes, I get what a gift exchange is. I get that it means I'd get ONE GIFT, OR NO GIFT. YES, I GET IT." Uncle Bruce tried to rein it in and said we didn't have to decide until Labor Day or something (hah, like you think I'm going to spend Labor Day with y'all if I can at all help it?), but I was just pissed off, and it ruined the rest of the night.

I'm saying right now that I'm not going to do it. I'd rather go presentless and get ragged on for not being in the gift exchange than get ragged on for the gift I screwed up. I don't think thinking about it until Labor Day's going to change my mind on this.

I was the only one who wasn't all "Yay gift exchange so I can be cheap!" Frankly, I'm against it, and I'm the only one who isn't wholeheartedly for it, I will lose. Not because I'm necessarily against being cheap, not because I like getting gifts (as Auntie D bitched at me), but because of the following points:
(a) I don't want to buy only one person a really expensive gift. I'm already bad enough at picking gifts for someone, but $20-30 is easier to figure out than $100. It's less of a big deal to have a gift bomb when it was $20 than it would be to do $100. Hell, I'd rather buy everyone $20 gifts than one whonking expensive one for one person.
(b) I haven't the faintest idea what to buy most of these people that would be a "nice" gift. Not. A. Fucking. Clue. Not even if Mom helped. (Sure, I could get all the chicks jewelry, but the guys?!) And no, a $100 gift certificate to Home Depot doesn't seem like that easy of a way to get off on the "nice gift" mandate. If I drew a guy, I'd cry.
(c) Let's face it, certain family members mentioned above are going to be cheap no matter what gift minimum you set, or at least spend the bare minimum. Whoever is unlucky enough to get drawn by a cheap person is going to get something crappy, while most of the rest of us get fancy shit. That doesn't seem right to me. You can't make someone spend more money on you when they don't want to.
(d) $100 gifts rules out getting stuff like, say, handmade scarves. I like stuff like that, dammit. I don't want stuff like that ruled out because we feel obligated to buy someone something at Ye Olde Fancy-Ass Jewelry Store due to the $100 amount. Or some such.
(e) Uncle Bruce was all, "Well, if you want to get gifts for your parents or the kids or something, you can do that on your own too." The kids is one thing, sure, but for the adults, I dunno. I couldn't help but think, "Oh, so some people are going to get lots of gifts, while other people get one to open in front of everyone and then just sit there?" Admittedly this already kind of happened last night- Mom and Dad got 2-3 things from D&B and 3-4 things from T&L and I just sat there and felt kind of weird- but since the parents and I do that sort of thing away from them, I knew we'd be sitting there while a bunch of people got overloaded mostly. This strikes me as kind of rude.

Of course, nobody's going to listen to me on this, but here's how I'd reformat this stupid idea:
(a) Make everyone buy each other cheap crap. Have a $5 maximum or $20 maximum or something that made sure everyone got a gift of equal value. I don't think we can reform Ron and Laurie's spending ways, so we might as well go with it and have everyone feel equivalent, at least. Hell, I'd be okay with that- it's what we do at 3WA, after all.
(b) Make everyone buy each other $100 gift certificates to Place Of Their Choice and leave it be. Everyone gets an equal amount spent on them mandatorily, it'll be obvious HOW MUCH was spent so the cheap people can't be cheap, and nobody has to figure out what to get each other. That's about the least heinous way I can think of to make this idea almost kinda not heinous to me.
(And if I had my druthers, I'd enforce another rule, MAKE EVERYONE MAKE AN AMAZON WISH LIST AND HAND IT OUT TO PEOPLE, but I know better than to get my hopes up on that.)
I told Mom these ideas, and to the first she was all, "But they want to get everyone NICE GIFTS! They said that!" I think that one's hopeless. As for the second, she thought it would be better to make everyone draw the gift certificates out of a hat at random and then go trade with everyone else. I was all, "No. No trading. That's ridiculous."

At this point, it was 1 a.m. and I was in a bad mood, so I went to bed so we wouldn't argue about it any more.

Merry fucking Christmas.

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