Thursday, December 04, 2008

All I Want for Christmas is...

Well, this year it's not my two front teeth (or the two teeth flanking them), since I took care of that for myself.

Of course, if I'd known we were in a recession, I might have deferred $8K worth of short term optional/long term necessary dental work. But the teeth look great, and having to spend big bucks on them more or less serves me right for a lifetime of using them as a sort of Swiss Army knife - cutting, twisting off, chomping down. If only I hadn't used my teeth to secure the wire coil that held that backpack belt in place... If only I hadn't used my teeth to open that tiny bottle of hotel room shampoo...If only I hadn't used my teeth to snip all that thread...

If wishes were dental laminates, then I'd have another $8K in the bank.

Of course, I could have helped defray the cost if I'd registered on a gift site, where I could have put my list up next to a convenient PayPal link.

Registries, it seems, have gotten really popular.

They have, of course, been around for a while.

In olden days, brides registered their silver, china, and crystal patterns, in hopes that friends and family would buy them that Lenox Monroe pattern gravy boat, or a pair of Waterford Lismore toasting flutes. (Actually, in olden days, brides probably would have been happy to get an eggbeater or a set of measuring cups, but - like everything else - there's been serious gift inflation over the years. No more buck-in-a-birthday-card!)

Now of course, brides - grooms in tow - register for everything that their greedy little hearts desire: espresso machines, ice buckets, 2000 thread count sheets. A year or so ago, I saw a young couple in Crate & Barrel trying to decide on a wastebasket.

Although I've certainly done it, I'm not a huge fan of ordering wedding gifts off the list. I'd rather get something that, when I'm dead and gone, someone will look at it and remember who gave it to them. But wedding gift registries are convenient for both gifter and giftee. (However, given today's more casual life style, I do sort of wonder when and if the young couple is ever going to drink out of those $75 a piece goblets.)

These days, as  a recent article on CNN reminded me, people register for just about anything - new baby, birthday, housewarming, just because.... There was even a reference to people registering to have their dream vacations subsidized.

So I don't think my teeth would have been out of line.

As I mentioned, I'm not philosophically opposed to gift registries. But, still.

There's almost an element of insult in there, no?

As in, I don't trust you to buy me something that I'll like.

It seems to me that if you don't know someone well enough to have at least a glimmer about what they'd like, you probably don't know them well enough to buy them a gift to begin with.

There are, of course, exceptions. In general, it's not a bad idea to assume that - unless they have explicitly stated an explicit brand, size, and color preference (e.g., black short Uggs, size 8), it is generally wise not to buy something for anyone between the ages of 10 and 20.

Your idea of a cute, hip outfit will not likely be the same idea of what constitutes a cute, hip outfit as, say, your 11 or 12 year old niece. (Lingo alert: once you reach a certain age, you and your 11 or 12 year old niece will likely consider the same things "sick", with two entirely different meanings in mind.)

But registering for a housewarming party?

No, thank you.

Not that I've ever been invited to a housewarming party, but I have gotten presents for friends and family members when they took the plunge and "bought". But these are people I know well enough to buy something for that they'll like and/or need. And, of course, since I am purchasing it, the gift will be sublimely tasteful, and no one would even think of returning, re-gifting, or rejecting it.

Gerette Braunsdorf, of Shaker Heights - or is that Shakedown Heights - Ohio, was interviewed in the CNN piece. Gerette had an understandable reaction to the housewarming par-tay registry. She thought "it was a bit tacky."

"These occasions should be about celebrating with the people who are nearest and dearest to you, not a gimme."

Others see registries as a way to ward off unwanted gifts. Maria Nardi:

...created an any-occasion gift registry for herself at exclusive crystal designer Waterford a few years ago -- and wasn't shy about telling close friends and family about it.

"Honestly, receiving gifts had become a bit of a nuisance, because I have a specific style and the presents I got didn't always match it," says Nardi, director of marketing and events for a San Francisco information technology company.

Nardi successfully registered for crystal, and is now thinking of expanding into china.

She's single, and doesn't see why she doesn't deserve nice things.

Maria's got a point. But registering?

You can certainly tell your parents and others who are close to you, 'you know, what I'd really like is a Spode tiered cake plate.'

We all have a sense of what someone spends on you, and parents and other relations (especially, I'm guessing, older ones) may be delighted to know that they're getting you something that you'll really use.

The last few years of my mother's life, we all let her know what we wanted from the LL Bean catalogue. This made life far easier for her - and for us.

Remember what I said about those closest to you knowing what you'd like? My mother didn't generally fall into that category. "Thanks, Ma, this is great," we'd tell her as we opened up yet another unwearable object. I'd hold the sweater in front of me and think, gee, when did you ever see me wearing a mold, puce, and Crayola-flesh color anything?

The LL Bean catalogue worked perfectly - plus it had the added bonus of keeping one lousy driver out of the mall parking lots during the Christmas rush. (Sorry, Ma. Wherever you are, at least you're not driving.)

The Christmas after my mother died, we used her checking account to get everyone their last pair of slippers, nightgown, or plaid flannel shirt from Liz.

There are now also sites, not tied to any particular retail outfit, where you can put your general, all-purpose wish list.

Brandt Halbach posted his on "so his wife would know what to buy for his birthday or other holidays."

Ah, isn't this a case where a simple "honey, I'd like...", or a good old-fashioned paper and pencil list with some "ideas" on it, would have worked just as well?

I guess if it's not virtual, it's just not real.

My favorite mention in the article was of Emmy Friedrichs, who

...includes two registries in her profile on, a news aggregate Web site, where she uses an online persona. "You can arrange it so that the people who buy you a gift don't see your real name or address," says Friedrichs, who estimates that she has received eight to 10 anonymous gifts from people in the Fark community, including an Ella Fitzgerald CD compilation that cost close to $100.

I must away to Fark and see if I can get strangers to send me things.

Note to self: shave 25-30 years off Fark persona. And don't put things like an Ott geezer-bright reading lamp on my list.


Maybe I can get a complete stranger to buy me a pair of  Uggs.


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Fan O'Maureen said...

You do indeed give great housewarming gifts. I know. You gave me 2 mug/saucers -- one blue (in my kitchen since 1994) and one peach (which has faithfully housed my tooth brush and paste in my bathroom). I got an offer on my home last week and I have to find a place and go there by January 14th. Needless to say, I'm in a panic and thinking of what I can jettison into a Salvation Army truck. My aunt's Hummels are on the list, but not my beloved saucers are not. They remind me everyday that the best gift of all is true and nourishing friendship.