Get me whatever I, er, you want

first_imgT’is the season to annoy the people we love and, in turn, be annoyed by them. Not that this is deliberate, mind you. It’s part of the seasonal sport known as holiday shopping. Herewith, some common grievances. “You’re impossible” or “hard to please” are among the epithets widely heard at this time of year. On behalf of those implicated, I’m often amused by the stubbornness of our accusers. I gladly provide hints and clues to those who ask; I’m forever searching for the best strawberry jam and Medjool dates. But how often do our critics come through with the very thing they begged to know? Approximately never. Then last week, another friend suggested that we modify our holiday exchange of gifts. “Malawi,” she proposed as an alternative. She asked that I make a donation, if I were so inclined, to feed people in Malawi. At first I bristled at the idea. A charitable donation is lovely, to be sure. But aren’t there charities closer to home that urgently need our dollars? Further, the request seemed remarkably close to dictating how I should spend my money, an odd overtone for a gift. Yet that’s the nature of donations. Unlike tangible gifts, donations are cash without the window dressing. Of course, I came around. My friend’s idea made perfect sense, summoning us to less greed. That I ultimately nixed it, however, reflected something else. I had already bought her gift and, separately, chose to donate to Katrina victims. Which gets to the heart of the matter. Gifts can be an expression of many things – thanks, whimsy, thoughtfulness, elan. While suggestions may help, they can also thwart the giver’s need to find, or make, or choose something of one’s own devising. This may be a point of pride, a show of insight or a gesture of solidarity. Suffice it to say, gifts often function on multiple levels, many with subtext. So, how to negotiate the thickets of gift-giving this season? Listen closely to talk of slippers and charity. Consider dates and jam. Then do what gift-givers have done for years – whatever you please.— Joan Silverman is a writer in Boston.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake Do people really want gift ideas, or does such intervention undermine their wish to surprise and impress? I’d say the latter. The perfect gift isn’t necessarily the thing you want; it’s the thing you didn’t know you wanted, which requires both stealth and cleverness on the part of the giver. “Slippers,” the message proclaimed on my voice mail. It was a friend announcing her discovery of the ultimate comfy footwear, which she was giving her sister for Christmas. Perhaps I, too, might like a pair? I quickly jotted a response, defending my favorite moccasins and thanking her nonetheless. “Dear Foiler/Spoiler,” she replied, exasperated, “You’re just the sort of person I send moose lawn ornaments to!”last_img read more