Monday, November 27, 2006

Christmas Shopping Blahs

I've got a beef with people. Or, more specifically, people with cars and shopping lists on the long weekend.

I've done a fair amount of driving in mall-laden suburbia over the past few days. And you know how I was all happy about the humanization of the food service experience on Thanksgiving Day? Well, that happy holiday mood went out the window on Black Friday, and it has been stomped to pieces since then. Oh, the honking and swearing and cutting off and rush rush rushing! It makes me want to cry. And occasionally, makes me want to step on the accelerator and slam into the side of that woman who is busily screaming and swearing at me for something that is half her fault and half the fault of the woman in front of me, and the murderous anger upsets me even more than the sadness.

I handed out free samples at the mall on Friday. I'll just let you just imagine what that was like. And I've been working every day since then, and the magical tingle of that holiday Thursday is completely, utterly gone. Everyone is in a hurry, now. And grumpy.

I'll let you in on a secret: I hate Christmas shopping. There is such a negative, "must buy", rushed, demanding, and forced spirit to the whole holiday shopping experience. I feel like we've turned Christmas into the absolute antithesis of the person whose birthday we are meant to be celebrating. I hate being forced to buy so many things at one time. I hate trying to force inspiration to strike again and again as I seek out those perfect gifts. Every once in a while, in the middle of the summer, I'll be in a store and something will just jump off a shelf at me screaming someone's name. So I buy it for them, but I am completely incapable of keeping it in a closet until Christmas, which leaves me both giftless and inspirationless when the holiday arrives. And that's just the gifts. The gifts, on their own, would just be an inconvenience. But coupled with the stressed-out shoppers and drivers, the whole gift-buying part of the holiday season just gets me down.

It doesn't help that I'm completely broke this Christmas. Jeremy has been out of work for months, and as much as I love my job, it's not exactly what my law school loans anticipated when they dug me the huge debt-hole that I am currently living near the bottom of. I don't buy myself things. I do spend my tips on things like spending time with friends, and I try not to feel guilty about that, because I need that for my sanity, and they are tips, which implies a certain permission for frivolity. Every penny of my paychecks goes straight to my student loans, and even then it's not enough, so our savings has been shrinking every month to make up the difference. This month, it will reach zero.

So honestly, I don't want Christmas to come this year. Every gift that I receive will just be an additional helping of guilt, to add to living under someone else's charitable roof and eating someone else's food for going on a year, now. You eventually get dulled to that, because there is nothing you can do about it, but Christmas present opening time is so much more in your face. I want to skip out of the whole thing. Both of our families keep asking me for wish lists. I finally succumbed to Jeremy's parents and gave them a list of clothes I need for work. I don't know what else I need. I told my mom she could get me a new memory card for my digital camera, which I think of as sort of a "need" because without it, the camera is just a paperweight. What I really want for Christmas is the removal of obligation. Tell me that you'll be happy with a hand-made card and a plate of Christmas cookies. Buy yourself something that you want, and put my name on the card.

But I know what will happen instead. People will buy me gift cards, ostensibly so I can pick out what I want for myself, but really, because they don't know what to get. (Which is fair, since I don't know what to get for me, either.) But I'll let you in on another secret: I hate gift cards even more than I hate Christmas shopping, and almost as much as I hate holiday shoppers with cars. Every gift card in my wallet is like another item on my to-do list, another burden to be borne. I need to find exactly the thing that I want, at exactly that store, that costs exactly that much money. Gift cards stress me out, because I have to keep track of which stores I need to get to, and how much I have to spend there, how much extra I need to spend to squeeze the last few pennies out of the card so I can finally throw it away. And I can't use them to pay for rent or buy an evening out with friends, or even to get the thing that I found that I wanted more that costs less at the store next door. As impersonal as money is, at least it doesn't tell me how to spend it. And I can use it at a thrift store, which is a huge bonus for me. I can never seem to bring myself to spend $30 on a pair of pants when I know I can get pants for $6 at a thrift store. If only thrift stores had gift cards.

Wow, this entry sure has been a bundle of positivity, hasn't it? Alright, let's try and see if we can turn it around a bit. I've been toying around with the idea of making a blogging wish list here, which started as a meme that has been making the rounds of my blog roll. Basically, it's a list of things that I would like that my readers may possibly be able to do something about at little to no cost to themselves. And, since I'm on the topic of not wanting to make wish lists, I think I'll go ahead and do that now. I thrive on irony.
  1. I wish my blog would make me money. It's not the primary reason I write, of course, but it sure would be a nice side effect. I have ads on my website, and in case you were wondering, I don't make any money off of those ads just being there. I only make money if you actually click on those ads and go visit my sponsors. And, in the nine months that I have had those ads up there, I have yet to make enough money for Google to cut me even my first check. I'm about halfway there, though, and if people started clicking on just one ad every time they came to visit, I might just get a check sometime before 2009. If you can't see my ads, consider disabling ad-block just for my page every once in a while. Really, my ads aren't so bad. They're kindof amusing actually, because Google tries to match the content of the ads to the content of my entries. It's fun to see what Google thinks I might be interested in sometimes.

  2. I wish I had my own domain and a self-hosted blog. It might not seem like much to most of you, but I know that some of you understand the desire for full artistic control and access to the database of your blog. If nothing else, I would like to not have to trust a free service, who owe me nothing from a legal standpoint, with all of my archives. (And the answer to the question you are about to ask is, no, I don't have them all backed up on my hard drive. I'm a stupid, lazy person.) If my website ever starts making me any money, I will be able to afford to do this, but right now I can't. In the meantime, though, I bet someone else will snatch up the domain I want, which was actually still available the last time I checked. Does anyone have a hosting service that lets them register multiple domains, not all of which have been used? 'Cause that would be a pretty sweet gift.

  3. I wish I was famous. Okay, maybe not exactly famous, but I do like being read. It makes writing so much more meaningful. Do you know someone who you think might like my blog? Referrals are lovely gifts.

  4. I wish for feedback. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Comments are like gold stars on a blogger's chart of life. Commenting occasionally would be a lovely, lovely gift. Even if your comments are just things like, "I feel the same way about red lights!" or, "Ew, you like egg nog?" or, "Oh man, my brother did the same thing!" Comments fill my inbox and make me feel loved.

Now that I've posted my blogging wish list, feel free to post your own, either on your own blog or in the comments here. The internet is a lovely place, and there are so many cost-free ways for us to show our love. And it sure is nice to be able to give a gift you know you can afford!

18 comments:

jon said...

i feel the same way about egg nog!

susie1998 said...

Black friday is the worst part of November and this year my birthday happened to fall on black friday. So Friday we went to the local thrift stores and stopped by the animal shelter to love on some animals that needed a home. I'm sorry that you had to be out among the masses on such a money driven day.
I try to comment on your journals as much as possible and I promise to click more often on your ads :)

I try to comment every time I read someones post because I like to feel read.

adr0ck said...

i really needed to get out of the house on friday so i braved the streets. it wasn't too bad in my neck of the woods. of course i went out at like 7 pm so maybe all the crazy shoppers were nursing their wounds at home by that time . . .

for alternative christmas gifts -- could you do something more personalized that isn't quite as expensive? maybe go to a craft store & get pic frames that you can decorate . . . or create some holiday themed scrapbooks, waiting for the pictures to be placed.

or if you have a special treat you're great at making, make them in bulk & give them out, wrapped in holiday paper. one year when i was young & broke i made tons of cookies, put them on holiday paper plates & covered in red & green wrap.

also -- another thing to do, even if it is in a small amount, is to donate to charities in people's names. you can probably do a lot of it online and thus avoid the shopping and materialism . . .

abigail said...

I LOVE egg nog, and I drink it by the bucketfull as soon as it shows itself.

I read your blog, and I'm a miserable excuse for an electronic presence because I never comment.

Keep writing! (And now I have to go and click on an ad so that I feel better...)

abigail said...

p.s. I've never clicked on one before and never knew their purpose or really noticed them, which is weird, because now that you've drawn attention to them, I can't notice anything else. They're funny.

M said...

I too am a miserable excuse for an electronic presence because I never comment either. I do pop in fairly often, and enjoy your writing.

Rebecca said...

Jule ann...you are a highlight of my day :) Thanks for your honest, genuine and often times very entertaining musings.

you betcher buttons i'll be clicking on ads from now on!

m said...

So, in clicking on some of your ads I found a link for something I had been looking for ... the Gifts of Hope catalog. My mother-in-law is tough to shop for and she had mentioned last year that she doesn't really need stuff, she'd be happy if someone just bought her a goat for a family in a 3rd world country. Now I know where you can actually buy a goat. Thanks!

jd said...

The only ads I saw to click on were to do with writing, but I clicked on the Children's Books one, anyway! But I'll hope to see something more useful in the future!
We all assumed you are giving us Starbucks coffee for Christmas, and we're all happy with that!
You could also make stuff for the house you're going to visit.
As for YOUR list, just give me ideas of things you HAVE to buy (like soap, deodorant, toilet paper) and I'll be happy to get stuff like that.
I'm glad you spend your tip money on keeping your sanity!

jd said...

One more thing...
I enjoy Christmas shopping more because I buy and put away the gifts in the cupboard and leave them there until Christmas!

Alana said...

Hmmm. This was my first Black Friday in the U.S. I live in Vermont. I think I just discovered another reason why Vermont rocks. It was a super-relaxed, fun, festive day out on Church Street where all the shops are. Children gawking at live reindeer, people chatting over hot chocolate, families shuffling jovially from store to store in an "I overindulged in turkey yesterday so I can't move spritely" kind of way. Come, all you huddled masses of mall-weariness, come to Vermont. Come for the cows. Stay for the syrup.

mike.timonin said...

Ick, Black Friday. Shortly after we moved to Virginia, I worked at Wal-Mart over Black Friday, and it sucks. This year, being much closer to the border, we drove to Kingston for Friday, and it was lovely, because Canadians are working on the Friday after American thanksgiving, oddly enough.

(I'm not sure why it won't let me log in with my g-mail address. Grrr.)

Kate said...

I love the Blogger and Gmail ads. Today, on an email thread between me and Jordan, there were some on the side about learning how to kiss. We then had more emails about the funniness of the ads. It's all so silly.

twilighttreader said...

Well, I would be perfectly content with a card and cookies, but seeing as how I'm on the other side of the continent they'd probably be stale cookies by the time they got here. And that would make me murderously angry!

LydiaJayne said...

Hi! M sent me over, and I found a fabulous baking link. Thanks!

Also, "Ew, you like egg nog?"

Hamameliss said...

Let's see, this is the first blog I have ever read regularly. So, I obviously enjoy reading your comments on life and the world. It helps that it comes from such a great writer! I've been trying to think of some way to maybe stop by and chat sometime, it's been so long since I have had a conversation with you and so much has happened in my life since I we toured together with Dayspring. I unfortunately don't have a blog I can refer you to.

I understand the whole feeling broke at Christmastime and having nothing to give feeling. I went through that last year when I was a student again, but still had to start paying back my loans(mutual ugggh!!) and pay rent and buy food and stuff. Yeah, I similarly just wanted money to pay rent so I wouldn't have it on my credit report. But, my family really surprised and blessed me and I learned that sometimes you have to be on the receiving end even when you can't give anything comparative back. And that surprisingly enough our family and friends understand and love me even when I am not a financial wonder who can produce elaborate and thoughtful gifts because my monetary value is -$250,000!

It's pretty amazing to realize that my value is not really caught up in what kind of gifts I can give (even though American culture can give us that impression).

You know, one of the things we have that is the most valuable is our time, maybe an idea for gifts would be an addition to the hand made card like: good for one home cooked meal and time to listen; or good for a cookie making session of your choice; or good for one long walk in a park or something along those lines.

Anonymous said...

What? Ewww?? Doesn't everyone LOVE Chicken Milk???
But yes, I know people who like to eat powdered bevarages dry, I being one of them, especially powdered milk, uuumm, I think my whole family likes doing that. Just sitting around watching TV with bowls of powdered milk.
Or when playing five-star Soduko,
stirring milk into my chcolate pudding, yet knowing that even if it gets thin enough to swirl, the coriolis effect is too small to have any substantial effect on the direction of swirl, though I be anywhere in the world, North or South of the Equator. Be it Australia or Canada or Columbia or Ireland or Honduras or England or Japan or even Croatia.
Then, before eating even one of my multicolored candies, taking the time to sort them by color in neat little rows, then enjoying eating them in various ways determined by their color. All the while, Laughing unreservedly at the stupidest things, in company that laughs along with me.
Then later, after all of that, rubbing my belly to fall asleep, whilst dreaming of vehicles driving through the unlikeliest of places, maybe the Blues Brothers driving though a mall on Black Friday.
Then waking to the smell of anything baking!!
Wow!!Life is grand!!I'd say?Eh?
Don't Worry, Be Happy
From the Movie "Cocktails"
Performed by Bobby McFerrin

Here is a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don't worry be happy
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy......

Ain't got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don't worry, be happy
The land lord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate
Don't worry, be happy
Lookat me I am happy
Don't worry, be happy
Here I give you my phone number
When you worry call me
I make you happy
Don't worry, be happy
Ain't got no cash, ain't got no style
Ain't got not girl to make you smile
But don't worry be happy
Cause when you worry
Your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down
So don't worry, be happy (now).....

There is this little song I wrote
I hope you learn it note for note
Like good little children
Don't worry, be happy
Listen to what I say
In your life expect some trouble
But when you worry
You make it double
Don't worry, be happy......
Don't worry don't do it, be happy
Put a smile on your face
Don't bring everybody down like this
Don't worry, it will soon pass
Whatever it is
Don't worry, be happy

Eh?

Alana said...

Just for the record, I'm a member of this family and I don't eat powdered beverages. Except for ovaltine. Oh crap! I DO eat powdered beverages.