Every holiday season, I deal with the same issue: a boatload of misbegotten gifts. By misbegotten, I mean things that are not in keeping with my preferences and that force me to return, resell or regift. I know how fortunate I am to have people in my life who care enough about me to give me presents and I’m incredibly grateful on that score. But I think I can save us all a lot of time and money with these tips for redirecting the generosity.
These five heavily marketed gifts might make some folks wildly happy, but, alas, not me.
1. Anti-Agers I don’t accept the term “anti-aging” (sorry, but we will age) or the kind of marketing that exploits our desire to stay mentally and physically vibrant. So skip the “dream in a jar” and give me something that will help me grow older in a healthful and meaningful way, like money toward a cabaret singing class at the local Y, harmonica lessons (my Dad was a wizard and I want to learn how to play the harmonicas he left me) or personal-training sessions — preferably with a buff hunk.
2. Space Stealers I’ve spent the past five years right-sizing my possessions to fit my downsized life. In 2008, I moved into a 550 square-foot Manhattan apartment. After two huge tag sales, countless donations to charity thrift shops, a going-away/giveaway party, Craigslist postings and a commitment to get rid of one thing any time I acquire a new one, I now own precisely, and only, what I wish, which is not a lot.
(MORE: How Much More Stuff Do We Really Need?)
Please don’t take me off-track with bound books, CDs, clothing, jewelry (even stud earrings) or works of art, even ones you’ve created. I am happy to admire them — in your home. What I am open to is downloadable music, museum memberships and movie and concert tickets.
3. Fancy Foods Hey, I’m a foodie. I’ve edited culinary magazines, I read cookbooks for pleasure, and I eat with great gusto. But since moderation is not my strong suit when it comes to deliciousness, you’re not doing me any favors with gifts of mouthwatering but fattening cookies and fruitcakes, along with cheeses, bottles of wine, frozen steaks and gourmet gift baskets. What is welcome are jars of multivitamins for 50+ women, vitamin D, Omega 3 supplements or exactly one bar of 90 percent dark chocolate.
4. Scented Stuff I put colognes, essential oils and “aromatherapy” soaps, lotions and candles in a class with assault rifles and hazmats. I firmly believe that if more people rode the New York City subway or closely commingled in crowds, they’d recognize that perfumed products take everyone hostage by overwhelming the senses — and they would shun these wares like the plague. Instead, I’d love a bouquet of flowers or a single blossom. Heck, a velvety petal would do. Alternatively, gift me a plane ticket to a remote jungle, mountaintop or desert where I don’t have to rub shoulders with anyone who rubs their body with smelly stuff.
5. Games and Gizmos I prefer not to stare at a screen any more than I already do, which is too much. If I’m sitting around with a group, I don’t want to play games — I want to connect with them authentically. You know what gift I’d appreciate most of all? You. So instead of anything electronic, give me in-person visits — scheduled or unscheduled — so we can share our thoughts and feelings, digging as deep or shallow as the mood suggests; or maybe just take a walk around the block. Let’s chat about old times and future plans, current events, our kids and your grandkids and even maybe work. Hugs are welcome at any time.
(MORE: Back in Touch With Authentic Conversation)
Oh! And let’s not forget the ideal gift — cold hard cash. I don’t mind saying it: Show me the money. A dollar’ll do. I’ll tuck it into my retirement account, which could use a little seeding. It might not seem like a big wow today, but I predict that having enough money saved for my later years will feel like a really terrific present down the road.