On 2 January I went to the beach with my neighbour. He’s an avid surfer and came knocking on my door first thing to join him for the day. To give some background, my plan had originally been to go to the beach on 1 January, but in the coastal areas of South Africa, that is one of the few days of the year that it seems everyone and their friend is at the beach. Thousands of people descend upon the beach, making traffic and finding parking and a little spot on the beach a veritable nightmare. So postponing this outing for one day seemed reasonable.
This is the talk of the week, I guess, this Black Friday thing. On social media and everywhere we go, posters up, newspapers splashed with deals coming, and pamphlets … You name it, we’re aware of it. Big bargains coming …!
But I’m not so sure. I’d like to think it’s a symptom of the society we live in. The one where we buy without turning the thing we are buying around.
We all know the song, “Twelve Days of Christmas.” My ‘true love’ (and anyone who knows me fairly well) wouldn’t dare give me any of the items on the list that follows. Maybe they have merely been oblivious up until now. No more excuses then… Perhaps your nearest and dearest have asked a few times already this season: “What can I buy you for Christmas?” and you’ve not been sure what it is that would make you genuinely smile when you unwrap your gift. Maybe you have a few ideas. But I can bet you that there are a few items that will make you crumple up on the inside should you open the gift, and feel compelled to force out a delighted exclamation! Here’s my list of those very items (and a partridge in a pear tree!).
Ornaments, or as I call them, dust gatherers. If you give me one of these, I have to assume you don’t like me and that you want me to be miserable. Please don’t give me an ornament or trinkets! They just clutter up my space. Even if you thought it was super cute and I would just love it. You are wrong and are being lied to by an inanimate object. Henceforth, there will be a little voice that will tell you to not go there. But should you go there, I will keep the ornament in a cupboard for a few years (if lucky) and then donate it to charity.
Jewellery. It’s not that I don’t like jewellery, it’s just that I have particular taste. And in all the years I’ve been gifted baubles, they’ve been widely off the mark and are just parking off in a shut drawer somewhere, crying into little velvet beds every day.
Makeup. My parents tried for years to nudge me into the direction of being a presentable lady by buying me makeup sets. And I take my hat off to them for their optimism, foresight and resilience. Alas, these lipsticks, eyeshadows and blush powders (ewww!) just went dusty (much like the ornaments) and eventually … you guessed it, they went the way of the charity. I do it to myself too – I bought a makeup bag for myself a few months ago and it too is gathering dust. Seems I prefer a dirt smudge or two on my cheeks and under my nails.
To this category I could add other cosmetic preparations, as often when I am gifted these, they are not natural or organic in nature.
Sweets. I don’t eat them. They just turn into a gooey fluff magnet wherever I keep them and hence are no good to anyone. In this category, include that horrible stuff that goes down as chocolate. You know, those bars named after planets, shoes and rhythm terminology. They, my friends, contain mostly cocoa butter and often lead to disappointment.
Not a long list, but it’s amazing how many gifts fall into these categories.
What annoys me about most gifts (not all) we get on Christmas (and other gifting opportunities), is that they are just given for the sake of giving. And hence, more and more is senselessly added to landfills. Nevermind that it encourages excessive consumerism and buyer insanity!
I offered to buy vouchers for tree planting for everyone on my list this year and well, the response was a few degrees off depressing. Zero takers. Zero. Perhaps some see it as a hippie thing, intangible and therefore lacking in the feel-good experience you get when unwrapping a physical gift? I see it as an excellent investment. As in, oxygen factory everyone? Best remedy against climate change? Natural air-conditioner? Open to hugs 24/7? Home to all kinds of creatures? Great for climbing and gaining a different view on life, treehouse base, etc. You get the idea.
There are many options like this. Sponsor a destitute animal’s food and shelter for a year (e.g., the donkey sanctuary in McGregor, your local animal welfare society), a ticket to a (local) theatre production, or buy someone a decent car wash, a voucher for dinner at the excellent new restaurant down the road, babysitting for an evening for friends with small kids, henna tattoos, a cleaning service for someone’s home for a day, a boat trip on the river (with wine and snacks!), have a white elephant party, etc.
Or, if you’re on the receiving end and someone asks you again, just say exactly what it is that you want or name a few items so that opening your gift has some element of surprise. For example, I’m hopefully getting a new handbag because mine’s looking pretty shoddy. And shopping for these things is not my favourite pastime! And if I’m lucky, I can say “Oh, it’s from London!”
But I digress. Who’d want these type of gifts, right? Pfftt …
What are your “non-gifts”?