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Sometimes, particularly at Christmas time, people ask me what I’d like for Christmas. I ask my friends what they’d like for Christmas. I ask my mom. I ask my husband. We all ask each other what we want for Christmas. But nobody ever knows.
The question always comes as a surprise.
“What is this ‘Christmas’?” my friends might as well respond. “Why are you springing this on me now?”
One would think we didn’t want anything. And maybe we don’t. Most of us have enough body lotion, enough candles, enough kitchen gadgets, enough sweaters, enough ties. This is why calendars are such popular gifts – you need a new one every single year. And chocolate, because it turns out we can never have enough chocolate.
I’m not saying adults are beyond wanting the new iPod nano or a Santa hat with their football team’s logo on it. I’m saying adults buy these things for themselves.
When we’re picking up that pancake turner we need to replace the one we snapped in half in the presence of a particularly sticky pancake, we also remember that our contract with Sprint is up and we can finally get that LG Lotus we’ve been suffering without.
When we head out to Pet Pangaea for some more large breed puppy chow, we also grab that pair of gloves we’ve needed since that fateful day on the bus, as well as a pack of wool socks, the color of which reminds us of our husband’s hazel eyes. We might even buy some gourmet lip balm while we’re out, because our lips are dry.
Why put up with dry lips until Christmas? Or thin white socks? Or ownership of only one glove? Or the inadequate storage capabilities of a two-year-old cell phone?
So when someone asks, “What do you want for Christmas?” what do you say? Most people don’t want to ask their friends for cash. Or a new car, or another large item you’re more reluctant to pick up on your way home from the post office.
Most people hate answering the question, so they just don’t. They say, “Whatever.” They say, “You don’t have to buy me anything.” They say, “Gift-giving is a ridiculous tradition.” But then they give YOU a present.
Like a jerk.
All that being said, I love giving people presents, even though I have approximately no chance of guessing what they would actually like.
I like thinking about my friends while I’m shopping and wrapping, pretending that I know whether they would prefer the journal with the turtles or the roses on the cover. I like handing them pretty packages, ideally with ribbons and something puffy on top, a miniature tutu.
I even like buying presents for my husband, who a) doesn’t like anything that costs money and b) seems extremely uncomfortable opening gifts, probably because while he was a kid, his family flouted the whole ritual. He grew up sleeping in on Christmas morning. Now, he’s got me waking him up at 7 a.m. and demanding he unwrap bags of boxer briefs for which I obviously overpaid.
But I see Christmas-gift-buying not as a dense jungle of parasitic consumerism. Nay, it is an expression of deep feeling. I see each bar of goat’s-milk soap as a tiny, scented sign of affection. If I buy someone a witty T-shirt, I imagine that every time that person wears it, he or she thinks of me, just for a second, and that we’re a little closer.
I suppose the “Buy Christmas” ad campaign worked on me. I naturally blended years of midnight Catholic masses with years of JC Penney newspaper inserts, and concluded that both Jesus and a nice pair of leather leggings represent perfect love.
If you ask me what I want for Christmas, I’ll probably say, “Huh? It’s Christmas Eve!” But if happen to ask me early enough in the day, I have, with the above “whatever” problem in mind, prepared an addendum: “I have a wish list at Otowi Station Bookstore, which closes at 3 p.m. today.”
I don’t want anything. I certainly don’t need anything. But I love books. And I love Christmas. And if you haven’t read David Sedaris’ “Holidays on Ice,” I hope someone buys it for you, even if you were too taken aback by the sinister Christmas question to ask.
E-mail Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.