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People get nuts around this time of year trying to use gift-giving to compensate for their unhappy childhood or unfortunate marriage, so shopping often becomes an exercise in personal pathology rather than an expression of generosity. You think now they will really, truly love you if you get them this perfect gift. Sure, I've actually done that myself. But I'm better now, aren't I, Dr. Phil?
All of us must know someone like this: Leda, an underemployed acquaintance of mine, scrambling and struggling to pay for basic necessities like food and rent, actually started her compulsive holiday gift shopping in July and spent way beyond her means to buy present after present for long-suffering friends who inevitably then watched her periodically crash and burn, since she barely has enough to eat.
As for me, I've passed through indiscriminately purchasing presents for the masses and gone way beyond worrying if re-gifting is all that tacky. What currently concerns me is the process of ungifting"“ unloading leftover gifts from the formerly fabulous Old Boyfriend Collection after I can no longer stand to keep the items under my roof.
I mean, do you believe objects have lives of their own? Do they become imbued even temporarily with the essence of their possessor? Anyone who's ever seen movies like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants knows what I'm saying, right?
Lauren vs. Hammacher-Schlemmer
For instance: Finally— yes, happily— I broke up with Ted, AKA Grumpy Guy. Ted wasn't particularly a gift-giver, unless you picked it out for yourself at the Dollar Store while he was standing alongside you.
Anyway, I was stuck with his cast-off ratty flannel black-watch-plaid Ralph Lauren bathrobe he had given me when I got him one of those lusciously thick unbelievably luxe imported Hammacher-Schlemmer white terrycloth Turkish bathrobes— now as grungy as its predecessor.
Yup. The Robe!
Well, once our relationship was definitely over, I decided I just didn't want Grumpy Guy's grungy old Ralph Lauren black-watch plaid flannel robe hanging around in my house any more. Wearing it felt creepy, like a clingy, smothering embrace from the Undead or something. At first I thought I'd mail the robe back to him— Ted lives a few states away"“ and even went as far as packing it in a large padded envelope, which, natch, lay around in the living room for more a month, mocking me.
Then I realized: Why bother sending it back when I can barely even bring myself to speak with him?
Kindness of strangers
I briefly considered re-gifting it to a good male friend of mine. But nah, all the complaining that Grumpy Guy did probably lingered in the robe. Better disperse it among strangers. Someone else might be happy to be wearing a Ralph Lauren label while remaining innocent about the garment's pathetic romantic history.
Eventually I put the robe out on the street, hoping a needy person would avail himself of this fashion opportunity. Alas, it was still there when I returned from my errands a few hours later. No one bothered to take it.
Last week I visited a thrift shop in my old Rittenhouse Square nabe and noticed a sign on the door: "NO DONATIONS UNTIL AFTER THE HOLIDAYS." But when I told the manager about the Ralph Lauren robe, she smiled conspiratorially and told me just bring it on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
Free at last
I realized it would be happy there— a Grumpy Guy's robe at the grumpy old guy store. The next day, I deactivated and recycled the cell-phone Ted had given me to remain in constant contact at the time. I can't tell you how much lighter I feel now. Ecstatic, even. Free!
Sounds cold, huh? Unfeeling? Uncaring? Narcissistic? I'm not. Really, I'm not. Much.
Which reminds me, would anyone out there be interested in a precious-looking Tiffany-style stained-glass candleholder from the Old Boyfriend Collection? Perfect for, um, Valentine's Day? Cough, cough, cough.
So, dear ones, near and far: No more presents, please, ever. If you should feel the need, kindly pick a charity in my name, instead. No dilemmas, no angst. Me, I'm downsizing. Like my spiritual advisor Sforza Destino, I aspire some day to live in one room. A cat, a computer, a few books, some simple clothes, a plant or two. Gimme-Gimme has become Gimme-a-Break. Is that so wrong?♦
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