What I Want for Christmas: Not a Damn Thing

Another in my series of “post once, refer people to later” entries, this time on gift giving:

For a number of years, I’ve told people who have been thinking of getting me something for Christmas or whatever holiday excuse they have for gift giving that I’d simply prefer they not get me anything at all. The reaction to this often ranges from confusion (i.e., how can you not want gifts?) to exasperation that my insincere “no, no, you don’t have to get me anything…” ways just means they will have to be extra crafty in getting me a gift, since I’m not helping them by hinting at what I want. This is when people ask my wife what I want, and she tells them that I told her years ago to stop getting me Christmas gifts. At which point I suspect their heads explode.

So, honest and truly: If you’ve ever thought about getting me a Christmas/holiday gift, stop now. The best thing you can get me (with one small exception, to be detailed below) is nothing. And no, it’s not because I’m an agnostic and/or communist and/or have environmental concerns and/or had the “seasonal joy” sections of my brain removed as a child. The reasons are somewhat more mundane than that, and I’ll be happy to detail them to you now.

1. When I really want something, I buy it. Because why wouldn’t I? I want it, and can generally afford to buy it, and I’m not patient enough to hint to other people that I want it and hope they get it for me. It helps that most things I want aren’t hugely expensive; even so. What this means for everyone else, however, is that all the really obvious stuff to get me is taken off the table, because I’ve already gone out and gotten it. Done and done. What’s left then is a whole bunch of stuff I don’t really want, and I don’t see why people should feel obliged to buy me something I don’t really want, just because it’s the holidays.

Well, you say, surely there are some things you want that you don’t have. The answer: No, not really. The things I want that I don’t have fall into two categories: Things that money can’t buy (happiness, world peace, a spousally-sanctioned hotel room romp with Julie Delpy and Kate Winslet, in which Julie and Kate, you know, actually show up and are in a romptastic frame of mind), and things that are a multiple of my average monthly income, a category at the moment which currently has only one object of desire in it: the 2008 Bullitt Mustang (Warning: the first one of you jerks who whines about wanting a car with a solid rear axle is going to get such a smack). Pretty much everything else that I want, I already own.

Now, to be clear, if you want to buy me the 2008 Bullitt Mustang for Christmas, I won’t stop you, although I’d probably ask you if you don’t have better things to do with that $32,000, like your retirement account or your kids’ college fund (if you can arrange the spousally-sanctioned Delpy-Winslet romp, you are a master of time-space manipulation, not unlike Dr. Who, and you really shouldn’t be wasting your time with trivialities like my own increasingly middle-aged perversions). But let’s just say I would be surprised if anyone actually likes me that much. Short of the Bullitt Mustang, though, you can basically assume that if you think I would want it, I probably own it.

Which brings us rather handily to the second reason I don’t want holiday gifts:

2. I have too much crap already. Because, you know, even most of the stuff I want I don’t really need, and once I’m done playing with it, it just takes up space. Right now my office looks like a bookstore exploded in it, and then an electronics store was dropped on it to smother the flames. This is a good thing, in my opinion (my wife is somewhat less enthusiastic about it), but it reinforces the point that I don’t really need more stuff, especially when, as noted above, it’s likely to be stuff I’m indifferent about in any event.

3. I don’t like people feeling obliged to get me stuff. This is actually a big one for me. One, of course, I don’t pick friends on the basis of who is liable to produce gifts on holidays and special occasions. Second, it’s money more profitably spent on people who want something in particular, or (if you’re in this frame of mind) to a charity, or just kept in their own pocket. Third, well, you know. The holidays are stressful enough without me adding to the stress. Why would I want to stress out my friends and family? I’d like them to think “Oh, Scalzi. Don’t have to get him anything. Wow, that was simple.” See, a ray of sunshine in their lives, I’ll be.

Actually, in the real world, it doesn’t always work out that way; some family were stressed about getting me something every year, but they were even more stressed when I said I didn’t want anything — because it’s not natural to give people nothing, especially if they’re family. People like to give other people stuff. It doesn’t help that we buy gifts for friends and family — my not wanting to get gifts is not rooted in cheapness — so people feel like they should reciprocate. But eventually it gets sorted out.

But this does bring up a secondary point, which is that I sometimes will send holiday gifts to people, just because I feel like it. If you get one, don’t feel you have to reciprocate. I’m not sitting there with a clipboard, checking off the people who have hurriedly run out to Target to get me a bauble because I sent them a CD or whatever. Relax, folks; it’s not the way I work.

4. Because I know some people won’t listen to or believe me: Now, after all of this, let’s say you still really feel like you want to/have to get me something for the holidays. Go right ahead. I don’t think anyone should feel obliged to get me anything, but I’m certainly not going to have the poor grace not to accept a gift and to appreciate the spirit of giving behind it. Because that would just make me a dick.

That said, here’s a suggestion: I’d rather have, say, a mix CD of your favorite songs, or a picture that you took that you think is especially artful, or a goofy drawing, or whatever, than just about anything you could buy in a store. Because I have enough stuff I can buy, and can get stuff I can buy easily enough; there’s an almost infinite number of ways to buy crap in our society. What I can’t get in any store — pretty much by definition — is something that’s personal. So that’s what I’d much rather prefer to get. A mix cd or a picture or whatever doesn’t cost much of anything — just the time to make and the cost of wrapping paper — but it’s worth rather more to me, because it’s not something I can buy, and because I know it’s not something that could come from anyone else.

If you haven’t the time to craft something, and decide to get something from a store, then have it be something you’d want to share: Music you really love, a book that spoke to you, a movie you can’t live without. You know what I’m talking about. Send it with a note telling me why that particular book, CD, or DVD matters to you. I love all those things, anyway, and knowing it’s one of your favorites will make it something I’ll pay extra attention to (if it’s a book/cd/movie you were involved in the production of in some way, that’s even better).

If you can’t do that, just get me something goofy. I just got a bacon wallet, for example; that was cool.

No matter what, if you’re spending more than $50 on a gift for me, you’re doing it wrong. Start over. Cheaper. Unless, of course, you’re getting me the Bullitt Mustang. In which case, spend all you like.

But when all is said and done, what’s important to me is not the gift, but the impulse behind it, which is the true gift. I’m glad you’re thinking of me. I’d be glad of it even without the bauble. That’s a hint.

78 thoughts on “What I Want for Christmas: Not a Damn Thing

  1. I can sympathize. Were I to have people in my life that actually had money, I’d like plane tickets to somewhere they think I would like to visit (open-ended, of course). However, I absolutely do not need any more junk!

  2. I’m envious of you, mainly because I suspect I will get there someday, but I’m not there yet.

    ::envy, envy, envy::

  3. I am linking to this because every year, our refrain to his family is “Don’t need nothin, don’t want nothin’, ain’t got room for nothin'” and they (for definitions of “they” being “his momma”) still insist on everybody spending money we don’t have on stuff we don’t need to give to people who don’t want it.

    Is it January yet?

  4. I’ve been doing some thinking along these lines as well, and think I’ve come up with some categories that fit in under your objections

    1)Stuff you don’t know exists, but is nonetheless cool. Yeah, if you knew it existed, you’d have bought it, so the obvious place to hit is the antecedent of the proposition. This is obviously tricky to accomplish, but pays off big for all concerned when it hits. I recently gifted my wife with one of these , which wowed her immeasurably partially because she thought such a thing technologically impossible. On a smaller scale, a lot of friends on this years list are going to get a personally selected bunch of these, which I’m pretty sure will delight them at least partially because they had never heard of it’s existence.

    2)Restaurant meals. Don’t have to store ‘em forever, and even if you already know about them and have had them before, you still gotta eat. Non-geeky folks on my list are likely to get a few pounds of the second best barbeque in Austin, leading to an evening of delight and ease followed by never having to.

    Beyond that, yeah, I’m pretty much down with your suggestions.

  5. My wife reminds me of one more category that fits: charitable donations in your name. If all else fails, give someone in the third world a goat, and tell a remote family member you did it on their behalf. It won’t provoke much actual delight in the receiver, but karma don’t hurt.

  6. Jeez, I really hadn’t thought about getting you anything, but now that you mention the little creative things….

    I made “The Six Wives of Henry Lefay” just for you. Really, I did.

    It doesn’t have a release date yet, so you can’t see it for Christmas, and when it does come out, I doubt we’ll be in the same zip code, so, I probably won’t be able to pay for the tickets, popcorn, and jujubes, but its the thought that counts.

    Enjoy the movie.

    P.S. I chose the location for the gas station scenes with you in mind. No, don’t thank me. You’ll make me blush.

  7. I got my Christmas present early. I asked my son random questions just to get a response.

    My question was,”True or false? ; Michael Landon was the star of the show Highway to Heaven.

    His answer: “Was it on Youtube? Or Yahoo Video? I haven’t heard of that one yet. I’ll google it…Is it funny?”

    My next question: “What is a Hoss?”

    His answer: “You mean like a big dude?”

    I consider that proof of the validity of the theory of evolution. I love my present. Thank you son.

  8. I’m generally in the same boat. I didn’t get a birthday present from my wife this year, and I’m 95% ok with that. The 5% is the part about the thought that counts, but I’m far happier with getting nothing than getting something I don’t want.

    However, there are some things that would make great gifts. There are things that you don’t know about that someone else does. Or, there are luxury goods that you think are wasted on you. Like, in my case a really good bottle of scotch. I like a good single malt scotch and buy it for myself. However, for my 40th birthday, my sisters bought me a 40 year old bottle. That was a great gift. I would have never bought it for myself, but still much appreciated.

    I’m sure there’s something that you would like that you won’t buy for yourself.

  9. You know, that’s not a whole lot more than I spent on my latest purchase. But then again, I still needed four doors.

    Of course, being a Mopar man, I’m waiting to see what the 2008(9?) Challenger looks like. Being that I owned a ’73 version. And boy, do I really wish I still had it. Unfortunately, it got totalled in ’79. I wasn’t at fault even. Although I was at fault for being out in weather that I should never have been out in.

  10. I would have thought your Christmas list would be exclusively composed of “Please buy my books in the store at full retail price.”

  11. What Dave said, with the caveat that it’s always best to be sure that the donee is not only worthy, but something near and dear to the heart of the person you’re gifting. (Psst, Scalzi; that’s your cue to list some charities you’d like us to help out this season.)

    I’m not even Christian and I still can’t convince people that I don’t need gifts. Sometimes I can deflect them by saying “Nah, just get something for the kids.” But for the most part, gift-givers also like GETTING gifts, so they’d be a little upset if I called a total gift moratorium.

  12. Man, see, I’m one of those people who loves to give gifts. I love to find things that would be perfect for the recipient. Of course this doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to suit the recipient.

    But I also understand that people don’t want more junk, so I also like to give charitable donations.

    So don’t cut those who get joy in gift giving out complete, just suggest things like charitable donations.

  13. Dave and mythago said what I was going to say. If there’s a particular charity you want to support, you should add it to this post and encourage people to donate.

    My mother didn’t like being told what we wanted for Christmas. She preferred to pick something herself. Me, I just buy people B&N gift cards.

  14. Not that I was originally thinking of getting you anything, honest, but now that you’ve mentioned it, I have an idea…

    And so the question is, if I make you something, but it’s totally not done by Christmas, would you want it anyway (after it’s finished)? =)

  15. Which is exactly where Oxfam Unwrapped comes in. Instead of getting John something he doesn’t need/want, let Oxfam supply complete strangers with something they do need.

  16. We give “Experiential” gifts among grown-ups in my family. This can be excellent, as when my mother took me to listen to Dr. Maya Angelou speak last month for my birthday, or when I took her to the Nylons concert for hers. This can also backfire, as when I took my father and his wife to dinner theatre, and they both fell asleep.

    But as far as the things that come in a box, I’m with you. I got too much stuff already. I’d rather have the time and the memory.

  17. Yeah, my boyfriend and I are mostly both at that phase where if we want something, we buy it. Last year, he got me a Wii, which was pretty excellent, I admit. I got him a Carnifex.

  18. Dear Krissy –

    I have some rather unfortunate news regarding John’s proclivity for English and French/American actresses. As you know he spends a lot of time on the road having “hotel romps”, sometimes without a solid rear axle – but that’s besides the point.

    To ameliorate this situation, really – you should buy your husband a gift basket for Christmas. One of those things with really crappy wine, stale biscotti, crappy chocolate, packed with that Faux Easter grass, and shrunk with cellophane.

    Be wary, John is romping!

    All Best,

    Chris

  19. If I really want to give somebody something and they’ve indicated they don’t want presents, well…

    They get food. “Have some mandarins.” “Here, have this lovely little sauce that will go well with your roasts.”

    For you, I’d guess it would be, “Have some bacon!”

  20. One year I did the donation in your name thing for about 20 people. It was an interesting experiment and I don’t know that I would do it again, at least not the way I did it. I gave anywhere from $20-50 to 20 individual charities that I thought would mean something to the recipient. Some people thought it was wonderful and others looked at me like they had just been robbed by a nutbar relative. (these were all adults, not children, btw).

    But the reason I don’t know if I would do it again is because after that, the person was bombarded with solicitations from said charity and I was bombarded with solicitations from all 20 charities for the rest of our lives. Still today and this was about 6 years ago. You get the mailing labels, the calendars, the greeting cards, and one I hated the most–a nickel from UNICEF. I realized that all my money did was pay for the solicitations that I and my giftees would get for the rest of our lives. Maybe I’m cynical but I wished my money had actually gone for the cause itself, you know?

    If I were to do it again, I think I would pick one charity and donate a large amount to it instead. In hopes that at least some of my money would have gone to the cause itself and not endless solicitation from charities I’m not probably going to donate to again.

    My other plea every Xmas is to not give the teachers in your children’s lives any insipid apple/chalkboard trinkets of crap. You know, the mugs, the candles, the figurines, the ornaments…
    Once some teachers and I were looking at our haul from the students and estimated that each apple/blackboard thingy costs between $5-10, counted it all up and we all had probably about $500 worth of crap. Oh, how that money could have been used for books, school supplies, guest speakers, field trips, etc. All the things that teachers spend out-of-pocket for. Maddening.

    Yeah, I know, it is the thought that counts, but only if you actually put some thought into it. But I’m with Scalzi, no gifts for me unless inspiration overtakes you and you see the perfect thing for me that you know I’d love. Otherwise, no thanks.

  21. John, if I was to get you a gift, it would probably be something like a case or two of Coke Zero.

    When looking for the perfect gift for the person who has everything, always appeal to the person’s addictions.

  22. You’re reading my mail, John. I feel the same way. Thoughtful is good. Otherwise, it’s really better if I just get it for myself.

    One year, my sister and brother-in-law got me a Packers sweatshirt signed by (the now-late) Jim Ringo and Fuzzy Thurston. I loved it. They started to apologize for not having it framed, but I waved them off. I wear it all the time during the winter. It’s my favorite sweatshirt. That was cool.

  23. Random Michelle K:

    “So don’t cut those who get joy in gift giving out complete, just suggest things like charitable donations.”

    Well, as noted, people are of course free to do whatever they want.

  24. I tend to do homemade, edible things. Wasn’t up to making much jam and jelly this summer and fall, and no apple butter, but there will be baklava. I hate hate HATE having to scale way back in what I make to give, but that’s fibro for you. Or me. Or something.

  25. My wife reminds me of one more category that fits: charitable donations in your name. If all else fails, give someone in the third world a goat, and tell a remote family member you did it on their behalf. It won’t provoke much actual delight in the receiver, but karma don’t hurt.

    The year my sister “gave me” chicks from Heifer International still ranks as one of the best Christmas gifts I’ve received since I became an adult–it’s a good thought, Dave, and a good reminder. It’s been a couple of years, but I still get tickled wondering if “my” chickens were good layers. (They damn well better have been!)

    Christmas is great when you’re a kid. You grow up, meh, not so much. Especially when you’re a childless, single heathen like myself. Oh well. The biggest problem really is my Mom, who can’t quite be trusted not to go overboard with well-intentioned but misplaced generosity every year; I’d love to be able to talk her into making a charitable donation this year, but I haven’t been able to do it yet.

  26. but, but…our president said be patriotic and go shopping to show third world have-nots that we are not deterred by their jealousy of our overindulgent bounty.

    Because of you, Scalzi, the terrorists are winning.

  27. (twitch twitch)
    Solid rear axle!
    LEAF springs!!
    GAH!!!

    You write science fiction, man, not steampunk! At least have the logical integrity of wishing for a “sports car” that can actually go around corners.

  28. Being an artist, holidays are inherently cheap ;)

    “Here, I made you somethin” is simply how it has been and shall continue to be. Want stuff with barcodes on? Better add to your pool of gift giving associates, because we simply do not play that way here at the house of bespoke ;)

    Example:
    http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=2048577244&size=l

    Too Many More:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bespoke/sets/

    And hey, they’re all licensed CreativeCommons Attr/NonCom, so you could print these images on… other stuff! and maybe….give them to people! All without having to master photography. Or drawing. Or painting. Or even talking to Women.

    Lucky you!
    Hint. Hint.

  29. I just thought you might find this interesting, if you can track it down:

    The Social Psychology of the Gift
    Barry Schwartz
    The American Journal of Sociology Vol. 73, No. 1 (Jul., 1967), pp. 1-11

    Shorter Schwartz: gifts ain’t about the stuff, they are about who we are and who others see us to be… Identity.

    ABSTRACT
    In the first section of this essay gift exchange is discussed in terms of its relevance for the development and maintenance of identity. The acceptance of a gift, it is suggested, is in fact an acceptance of the giver’s ideas as to what one’s desires and needs are. Gift giving as a mode of social control and expression of unfriendliness is considered. The relationship between gift exchange and social structure is analyzed from the standpoint of the “gratitude imperative.” The essay is concluded with a treatment of benefit exchange as a technique for the regulation of shared guilt.

    I don’t endorse the entire thing, but it is interesting and opens up some issues not considered in this discussion thus far. Especially the social control and unfriendliness stuff.

    Oh, and Scalzi, if you want a PDF of it, just e-mail me at the “will not be published” email on this post and I can shoot you a copy. For valid educational purposes of course.

  30. (Warning: the first one of you jerks who whines about wanting a car with a solid rear axle is going to get such a smack).

    I’m not gonna say anything about the rear axle, I’m just gonna laugh at you for this:

    * More horses: Featuring the latest in Ford Racing Technology, Bullitt’s 4.6-liter V-8 delivers 315 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque.

    Ford needs some new engineers if that’s all they can get out of that engine.

  31. I have been trying for the last three years to convince the fam damnily that I would rather see the money go to the Dayton Library or Planned Parenthood than have to find a place for still more stuff, no matter how lovely it is.

    So far, only one aunt seems to be getting it.

    [Full disclosure: My family has pathological clutter problems going back at least three generations. Seriously, we're those people you see on TV getting their basements cleaned out by either pushy Australians or a bulldozer. I have vowed it will end with me.]

  32. You know, aside from anything else about the car, the chances of me actually driving it like a rocket are pretty damn low. It speaks to me esthetically, and I imagine it’s fast enough to get out of its own way. Done and done.

  33. Last year, the family said – “cut back on presents, only stuff for the kids”, so I brought gifts for the nephews and a pile of chocolate . . . .and everyone else brought gifts for everyone. I of course felt embarrassed for following instructions.

    This year I sent fruit to each household, and that’ll be it (other then for the kiddies, to whom I give things like books and silverdollars)

  34. @ Rarely I post @36.

    *Raising hand*

    Could you shoot me a copy? Sounds interesting and I was just talking to someone the other day about this very thing and they thought I was nutty. Good to have professional back up (for educational purposes only.)

    My email is in my name.

  35. One of my friends turned 60 this year (well, a few of them turned 60) and she suggested instead of “stuff” everyone who came to her party/open house, bring food for the local food pantry. Everyone felt happy that they brought something, she didn’t get stuck with more stuff, and the food pantry was REALLY happy to see her pull up with about 6 or 7 bags of food.

  36. (Psst, Scalzi; that’s your cue to list some charities you’d like us to help out this season.)

    If I wanted to donate money somewhere as a Christmas gift for John, I would poke back through his archives and look at the various charities and political groups he’s solicited donations to in the past. Alternately, I would think about causes that are clearly important to him — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, literacy, alleviating poverty — and make a donation to a group that seemed to match.

    Unless I was passive-aggressively trying to piss him off, in which case I would donate to Shepherd’s Purse.

  37. Mr Scalzi said:
    Well, as noted, people are of course free to do whatever they want.

    I know. I just wanted to give the perspective of someone who loves to give gifts.

    Though my favorite gifts to give non family members (and often family members) are all baked goods. (Baker’s Catalogue is a big weakness.)

    I don’t clutter people’s houses. I just make them fat.

  38. I would love to give you a ‘have a nice day’ without the stupid smiley face or any abuse of punctuation marks to create a semblance of said face.

    I am not sure any donations to Hefner’s International Chicks is a good idea. They got paid well for the centerfold picture. I could be wrong about this.

    I could afford the Mustang, but it would be the very basic model without the transmission, wheels, tire and engine. Well actually, it would be the two windshield wipers and two replacement bulbs for the tail lights. On a related note, I think most Mustangs in the muscle era were 286’s so 315 would be an improvement. It was not a big car so horsepower went a long way. I could be wrong. Chang, what do you think?

  39. Wikipedia’s article on Bullitt says:

    Two 1968 390 GT V8 Ford Mustangs (325 bhp) and two 1968 V8 Dodge Chargers (375 bhp) were used for the chase scene.

    so 315hp isn’t so far off.

    Of the two Mustangs, one was scrapped after filming due to liability concerns and the surviving backup car was sold to an employee of Warner Brothers’ editing department. The car changed hands a few times along with McQueen’s unsuccessful attempt to buy the car, currently the car, in a non-working condition, is owned by an anonymous owner who is rumored to have kept the car in a barn in Ohio River Valley.

    Ah-ha! The plot thickens!

    Dr. Phil

  40. I heartily endorse your choice of the Bullitt Mustang. As for the naysayers, it’s a Mustang, people. Therein lies the limitations, and therein lies the (considerable) attractions.

  41. Dream on, John Scalzi.

    Did you honestly think I would give you Kate Winslet and Julie Delpy when, as Last of The Time Lords, I have multiple lives in which to enjoy them both on my own. Indeed, I’ll never need another ‘companion’, again. You’ll get nothing from me, Scalzi! Do you hear? Nothing!

    Not even my spare, um, ‘sonic screwdriver.’

    The Doctor

  42. I would rather go without anything for the holidays as well, but my wife doesn’t understand and she feels that she has to get me something.

    I gave her a short but practical list (pants, shoes, socks), but over the weekend she was still fishing around for something expensive/not needed that she could get me. We were at the inlaws and I was playing around with a PSP and a Nintendo DS and she asked if I liked either of them. Answer: not really, and if I had one I wouldn’t be using it within a month I’m sure.

    Oh well.

  43. My thoughts exactly, John. I’ll probably be redirecting people to your post for reference in the coming weeks. . . so I guess I’ll be getting you something after all: more Whatever visitors for the holidays. Cheers!

  44. My mom’s family has come up with a good way to not have to worry about trying to do gifts for a big set of siblings and extended family. Every year we have a Secret Santa drawing, where we each get the name of one family member. Our gift to that person has to be either recycled in some way, or handmade, or (preferably) both. This way everyone gets something really special that the giver has spent a lot of time on. The exception to this is that everyone can give the children in our familes whatever they want, but once you start college, you become part of the Secret Santa exchange. I’m the oldest grandchild, so I only entered the swap a couple years ago, and it’s so much more fun than trying to figure out good gifts for everyone.

  45. Don’t listen to that man, he wants a Printer. A little HP number that spits out crisp laser-etched sheets. . .

  46. I’ve successfully negotiated no-gift treaties with most adult relatives. Now we just give to each other’s kids. It’s great.

    Despite the fact that etiquette experts claim it is rude, we recently put “no gifts please” on the invitation to our daughter’s baptism and first birthday. We got about 80% compliance.

  47. Ironically enough, I asked for and received your book the Android’s Dream last year for Christmas, which brought me here after reading the acknowledgements and beyond. I of course had no idea this site existed or who you were before then, but I had to come here in and say that:

    a) Loved the Android’s Dream, has to be one of my favorite reads in recent memory.

    b) Sorry it took so long for me to read it, as it took me nearly a year.

    c) I agree entirely on what you wrote about Christmas. I still haven’t used things I got two years ago! I don’t have time to get to those things still, why would I need new stuff as is?! Now if someone is offering vacation or something of that sort, now we’re talking. But buying me things for the sake of buying me things? A bit odd.

    Thanks for the great read, in both book form and blog form I suppose.

  48. Bookmarked + link send to all the relevant people on my email contacts list.
    Cheers John, you summed it up better than I ever could have.

    “Right now my office looks like a bookstore exploded in it, and then an electronics store was dropped on it to smother the flames.” – I know *that* particular decorative aesthetic far too well too.

  49. This year, all the in-laws asked what I would like for Christmas, and I said, “absolutely nothing, please”. They would not accept that. My birthday is in December as well. I smiled politely when I received a cheese cutting-board, which was shaped like a triangle and full of holes, like a piece of Swiss. A few years ago, in front of the whole family, including my kids, I watched while everyone, except me had a gift (or many) to open. Last year, I had received a ceramic spoon holder to sit on top of my stove, to prevent a mess while cooking. Oh, I don’t cook, by the way. They just don’t take the time to know me or even be creative with gift giving. I’d truly like to say, “no thanks” to gifts, because it’s a lot easier to expect “nothing” when I am the only one actually recieving it.

    Unsure of how I’m supposed to feel…clearly. I have been a gracious receiver for 15 years now, but, am tired of faking it. The gifts go into the basement and never see the light of day again.

    Thanks for listening.

    Christine

  50. Dear Santa I will LOVE a Ds game they are awsome and if you give it too me I will remember that day forever please Santa I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  51. great reasons, love it. I am being pestered by spouse for “what do you want xmas”. Apart from a mistress, A single malt scotch whiskey. i would even like to try an American bourbon, if i csn get it over Blighty lol

  52. I suffer greatly from a spouse who always finds something interesting, unusual and unexpected in the gift department…. this makes it extremely hard for me come birthdays and Christmas.

  53. When people ask my husband and me what we want for Christmas, we always answer the same way:

    Take the amount of money you were going to spend on us and donate it.

    We give them a list of charities/groups we support. We don’t care if they donate on behalf of us. We just believe that there are other people out there who could benefit more than us and we really don’t need anything.

    Since we got married, our Christmas gift to “each other” is going onto the Child’s Play Charity wishlist for the local children’s hospital and purchasing a big item for them. People will ask us “so what are you getting for [other spouse]?” and usually stare in shock when we reply that we don’t give each other gifts for Christmas but buy something for a children’s hospital. And we are childless.

  54. I have an Amazon wish list to which I point those people who INSIST on gift giving. Most people seem relieved to hear me say, “Oh, please… don’t buy me anything. Do something nice for yourself, instead. And if that makes you uncomfortable, donate to a literacy organization.”

    And of course all the, ah, strange stuff I get from my mother-in-law (whom I love dearly) goes to Goodwill. SOMEBODY will like this Santa-shaped dish and the… the… good lord, I don’t even know what it is. But somebody will like it!

  55. I am in the same place as you are, John. I have nice things in a nice house in a beautiful place in the Shenandoah Valley. Most importantly, I have a wife who stuck with me during three tours in Iraq, and I returned with my life and limbs intact. I have two great teenagers who though they are tremendously sarcastic, are turning into adults that I really enjoy being with.

    Oh, and I do have a 2008 Bullitt Mustang in my garage, it is like having an E-ticket to Disnelyland every day that I drive it. To the detractors, who probably drive Priuses, trust me, 315 horses is plenty, and while the straight lines are fun, the twisties are even better. Green is my my favorite color, and for some reason, lots of women find this particualr shade attractive. IT could be your ‘in’ with Julie and Kate. ;) http://s291.beta.photobucket.com/user/robgski/library/

  56. WOW! I feel exactly the same way. I tell my folks this every year. I feel funny when they buy me things for Christmas, since I am almost 30. I think I am just going to send this link out to them.

  57. We are foregoing Christmas purchasing in our house this year. The kids do not NEED anything except new clothes because somehow they keep growing out of them, and they get STUFF throughout the year that they want. Given the destruction of local communities from Sandy, we are opting to volunteer time and resources to help people that need it more than we do this year. This would be the point of Season of Giving, wouldn’t it?
    We all do volunteer stuff throughout the rest of the year but this year? The juxtaposition of need and want has been so sharply put in perspective that the thought of buying stuff for fun is a little distasteful.
    Speaking of giving, the little town (http://bit.ly/UICDej) I grew up and got married in was particularly devastated and needs lots of help. If anyone wishes to donate to Sandy recovery, please consider through the Amazon school wish list http://amzn.to/TinqLJ because the only school in Union Beach had over two feet of water in it and all the kids have been dispersed to other schools.

    Mr. Scalzi, I hope this does not exceed the parameters of the comment rules. If so, I apologize.

  58. My in-laws are like that — they don’t want stuff. This year when we’re visiting my husband and I will make dinner for them. And also, because my mother-in-law has a hilarious video of her having a conversation with an alpaca, I donated to the Heifer fund to buy part of an alpaca for a needy village somewhere.

  59. Ditto. I don’t want anything, and I don’t need anything. If someone really wants to spend money on my behalf, I suggest Drs w/o Borders or Heifer Int’l. I really enjoy giving gifts, though, so when I see something that someone I love will like, I get it and set aside for a holiday or bday; gifts from me tend to be more like care packages, as a result. Most of them get mailed anyway, since our friends and family are widely scattered, so it works out for everyone.

  60. Reblogged this on Confessions of a Latte Liberal and commented:
    For my US readers, Thanksgiving has come and gone. We have given thanks for the good things in our lives and then spent the next day queued up to buy more stuff on Black Friday. Last year someone was trampled to death. My family is dealing with the estate of my late grandfather and he kept everything. Books, pots, pans, receipts from twenty years ago. It’s just stuff, stuff, stuff. And when we die, we leave this stuff to our families and loved ones to care for. They have to battle their grief while deciding which vase to keep. I don’t want that to be my legacy. So, I’ll make it easy for you. Don’t give me any stuff. I don’t need it or want it.
    (Unless it’s food or coffee. Edible gifts are always welcome!)

  61. I have been doing that for years… people don’t get it, but I refuse to be a sheep anymore. Damned marketing holidays….And you know I’m doing just fine without the added junk.

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