The question each year I most dread asking and hearing is, “Honey, what do you want for Christmas?”
Forget that I was raised Jewish; that’s not the point. (In fact, it's a whole other blog post, not that it's anyone's business.)
The problem is that I have no idea what I want to find under the tree. Nor does she. It’s not a lack of imagination – though it might be a fall-off in brain cells; it’s just that I already have everything I need. I still haven’t used all the Gold-Toe hosiery my in-laws bought me ten years ago. She doesn't want an iRobot vacuum cleaner, or Dyson bagless. My golf clubs get an annual scrubbing to keep away the rust. My latest car came with a leather-covered steering wheel. (Can you believe it?) I never wear the robe I got three years ago; well, maybe on Halloween to scare the tykes who come to the door. Ties are okay, but they don't really go with t-shirts.
Our son is easy: books and music. Weird clothes. "And don’t forget the laptop when I graduate."
Our situation is two-fold. We just don’t care anymore, and we’re in the decluttering phase of our lives, not the acquisitive. A toss-out a day keeps the Closetmasters away. Flowers for the wife and a romantic dinner is all we really need. And that works any day of the year. And we still like to . . . you know.
Okay, never say never. Who knows when a combination power screwdriver/drill that works on mental energy generated by stress alone might sound appealing. My wife tells me the jewelry well is very very deep. But generally our covetness for manufactured goods has disappeared with age. If I want a new computer or to upgrade my cell phone, I do it myself. If she wants to hit an outlet store, she goes. I buy the books and music I want. We’ve already got a couple HD TVS, and those were gifts my wife and I bought together. I think we even have a love seat bought by the same arrangement. This year she wants a grout cleaning in the kitchen and bathroom, but I don't think that qualifies, especially since she's always turning down my request to add a second story to the house. Still, an in-common gift is always good for the big ticket items. Lately, crazy vacations seems to satisfy our needs – but I don’t think we’re going to get a video camera and a Mac to make home movies.
My wife and I used to exchange holiday wish lists, leaving room for inspiration and surprise, but now we mostly look at each other and shrug. Then we feel bad because we can’t come up with anything. “Okay, this year just little gifts. Surprise me.”
I got a great telescope once. She got a camera. Those epiphanies are few and far between.
But why do I have to feel bad just because I’d rather get a tin of cookies for the holidays than a gym membership to work them off? There comes a time when all you want for Christmas is not to have to think about what you want for Christmas.
Besides, there’s the shopping itself. In the San Fernando Valley, the old ritual called for going to the mall. But these days I don’t want to have to go to the old Woodland Hills Promenade, renamed the Westfield Shoppingtown Promenade, now renamed the Westfield Promenade. The name alone is off-putting, not to mention the crowds, the parking, and the woman who sneezed on me last year and gave me a week-long cold. The same naming transformation occurred with the old Topanga Plaza where I used to hang out when I was a teenager. “Hey, let’s go to the Plaza and meet some girls!” Now it would have to be, “Hey, let’s go to Westfield Topanga Shoppin... oh forget it!” Just ties your tongue. (I hear Westfield also owns the Sherman Oaks Fashion Square, now renamed as well. At least we got rid of the “Shoppingtown.” That was too Podunk, Ohio even for Valley standards.
I could shop by catalog, but from September through New Year I spend most of my time throwing out the third and fourth copies of each, in every iteration and recombination of my wife’s and my name. That's a lot when she's kept her given name. Oh, and don’t forget “Resident.”
And online shopping? It’s a good thing. I do it all the time for myself. But I still hate the Christmas rush more each year. I still haven’t checked out what’s new on Land’s End, the Red Envelope, and the Cattaneo Brothers Beef Jerky site. I know I’m going to hate myself in a couple weeks, and pay extra for shipping.
Maybe it’s a good thing to no longer be plagued by seasonal desire, like an animal in heat. If only I wasn’t wracked with guilt and despair when, as it usually happens, one night in early December, between the end of dinner and settling in for three hours of mind-numbing tv, my wife and I turn to each other and out of force of habit ask the dreaded question knowing we’d rather watch tigers chase soon to be carrion through the verdant grasslands on the Discovery Channel than waste one more minute on gift ideas.
Don’t even get me started on birthdays.