Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Crisis of the Satisfied

This is not exactly a fresh observation, but like many people I am having a hard time in recent years producing the annual Christmas wish list. My family practices a vigorous -- some might say "excessive" -- Christmas gift exchange, and of course it is only fair to give people an idea of what might be appreciated. The problem, of course, is that we've all reached enough of a comfortable level of grown-up success that when we want something in the reasonable $20-$80 gift range, we generally just buy it. In other words, shy of such big-ticket items as "a canoe and a place to store it" or "to live free of a mortgage," I've pretty much got everything I want. Which is great! Don't get me wrong! But this list....

Books aren't bad, I guess. Coffee table books, anyway. Regular old books for reading, I can just get from the library anyway, though, so what's the point.

Music used to be a big wish list item, but now if I want a recording I just get it. Time to appreciate music is a bigger bottleneck than money to purchase it.

Clothes... well, I really prefer to dress myself, is the thing.

Yard and home improvement tools... I pretty much already have all of those.

Really cool old stuff dug up at some estate sale or thrift shop? Sure, that's probably the best. But how do you put that on a list?

So, here's my plea to you the reader: can you suggest anything I might want? Any new gadget that will make my life easier, or more importantly more fun? Any must-have work of art, literature, or bric-a-brac that would make me happier? Help me out.


gl. said...

perhaps some of those books from the reading project?

Chance said...

I would suggest to friends and acquaintances just what you've just said: that you're looking to be surprised by art or kitsch or gadgetry, something you didn't know you wanted but will appreciate once you see. Offer them a challenge. Why not?

Rebel said...

I think you need some sheep. Or at least, I would love a gift of sheep... or rabbits, or even a cow.

My friends and I have decided not to do gifts this year, but to all donate to the Food Bank (they're really hurting right now). We all get to feel sanctimonious, and no one has to cart stuff home that they didn't want in the first place.

Just a thought.

Rhetorical Twist said...

I know exactly how you feel about that. I have nothing to put on a Christmas list. Here's a possible suggestion that I use rather often:

If you really don't *need* anything, ask relatives that are hell-bent on getting you something to take the money they would have spent on a gift and donate it in some way. They could pick their favorite charity. Maybe it's a food bank, maybe it's the gingerbread express, whatever. Doesn't matter (of course, be careful: there are some relatives that you might have to give specific instructions to. Ie: "No, Aunt Edna, you may not donate my Christmas money to the KKK...")Then they can tell you about what they did, and there's your gift.

Just a thought.

mhwitt said...

First, regarding your sentiment, I say "ditto!"

As for helping you with a gift idea, I like the donation idea from allie.

Some more selfish options might include experiential gifts, like museum passes, tickets to an event, or a hot air balloon ride (which would probably cost a lot more than $20-$80). You might be able to come up with experiential gifts that you'd especially want, or you might ask to be surprised instead.

Or consider edible or potable things: wine, cheese, restaurant gift certificates, etc.

With all of these things, you at least won't have an object you feel you must keep on display or wear during future family visits!

Michael5000 said...

@gl.: Hmm....

@chance: Actually, everybody in my family knows me pretty well, and is a pretty good gift-giver. So they know that, really... it's just that you can't expect 'em to hit 1,000 every year. Some year they'll need the escape valve of a known winner.

@rebel, allie, and to an extent mhwitt: So much virtue. Very admirable I'm sure.

But, you may have misunderstood my dilemna. Christmas is, as I have carefully taught each of my nieces, the Season of Getting. I have no particular urge to, as it were, reduce my take. The question is, what material things should I stoke my desire for? Happily, the process of writing the post got my imagination flowing, and I eventually came up with a most handsome list.

Rex Parker said...

I have been recommending the following, as it is practical AND stylish:

Briefcase Go-Kart Track


Michael5000 said...

@rex: Now we're talkin'.

mhwitt said...

OK, I found this goofy thing on eBay.

mhwitt said...

On a billboard in Huntsville it says:

Plastic surgery: the perfect gift for anyone.

Dan Nolan said...

grinch alert:

My XMas list problem is similar in its level of irritation and my desire to get my appropriate take, and yet a bit dissimilar in my need level. As a currently self-employed artist scraping the barrel, all I really want and need for XMas is gift certificates to the art store, assistance in paying my rent/utilities, or some things that are over the acceptable price range. What I will get instead are coffee table books that I don't want, which will end up in my growing collection pile of coffee books I don't want. Oh and books about how stupid Republicans are. Real edifying. I will also get some funny kitsch items which I will add to my pile of funny kitsch items that have an amusement life span of 5 minutes. I will get some sort of art supply that I do not need and will not use. I will get a gadget, and a drinking vessel of some sort. And a moderate assortment of comestibles that aren't particularly nourishing and will not help me lose 15 pounds. All of this will be given out of a sense of traditional obligation, without any measure of personalized care. I, for my part, will give similar gifts, with similar emotional expenditure. I am not a fan of this holiday. I'd rather just pay my rent and buy my own boxer shorts.