taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Christmas is coming around once again, and after 30 of them, I feel as though I've bought everyone everything I could ever think of. My mother, for instance: she has everything she wants, she can afford to buy anything she doesn't have, and her house is so full of housewares that she stores half of them in the basement and rotates vases and picture frames and throw pillows on a regular basis. I have already bought her earrings, candlestick holders, bracelets, chipped in on PDAs and expensive luggage with my sisters, scoured stores high and low for unique vintage items, and even made special one-of-a-kind collage cards just to make the gifts more interesting. What's left?

So far, all I've bought this year is presents for my best friend's Boston Terrier. He's an uncritical recipient, and the Yuppy Puppy offered so many delightful gift ideas. Dogs are generally understocked on necessary items like Christmas doggy cookies, sweaters, and strollers. There's always something you can buy a dog. But everyone else? I'm perplexed.

My children have so many toys that I dream at night about dumpsters, into which I could throw all those tiny, useless pieces. I would get rid of all the Mardi Gras beads, and Polly Pocket's tiny jackets, and that sticky old Elmo that talks for no reason, every time you walk by. (Oh--wait--I did get rid of that Elmo. It was actually tragic: every time I passed the trashbag that I'd so cruelly consigned him to, he would laugh sadly--"Hahahaha THAT TICKLES!" Only I knew what he really meant. He meant it didn't tickle at all. His heart was, in fact, broken.)

You see, this is why the dumpster idea will never work. I've developed an unhealthy attachment to objects--I'm no Zen monk. And yet all of our lives are filled to the brim with stuff. Just tons and tons and tons of useless stuff. Seven hundred suit jackets I'll never wear. Ancient 3.5" floppy disks with unreadable data, held onto like talismans just in case. The boxes that things came in years ago, because it would be irresponsible to throw them away. A spare washer-dryer set. Books I didn't even like the first time I read them. Empty photo albums. Scraps of paper with phone numbers and no names. Bank statements older than seven years. Christmas cards from people I don't remember. Pieces of paper on which my daughter, as a toddler, scrawled one (obviously very impotant) mark with a red pen.

And so the purchasing of other objects, for other people, whose lives are equally crowded and weighed down by stuff, seems this year like a terrible burden. It would be one thing if I could find the perfect gift, for each and every person on my list, but the truth is I am in a rush and have to take what's available in the stores, something close-enough to what they might want. It's obligatory, after all. And so I will scour the stores again this year, trying not to think about the piles and piles of objects, growing almost organically, pushing out of closets and basements and taking over our lives.


At 10:11 PM, Blogger Joshua Berlow said...

This is interesting. Two posts right next to one another, and two Castaneda topics. According to Castaneda, the worst thing you can do is accumulate objects. I didn't start to accumulate objects until I was married, and I didn't get married until I was 40. At the age of 38, I moved almost all the stuff I owned into a small storage space. The rest fit into a tiny efficiency apartment.

I try to throw out or give away everything I don't need or use. Everything I own could fit into a small storage facility. I'm always amazed when I go into other people's houses, how much STUFF they have. The only things I collect is books and DVDs. If I weren't married, I'd have one fork, one spoon, one knife, one large coffee mug, as few pots and pans as possible, a futon, a desk, a telephone, a computer, a radio, and a book case. Maybe a TV, maybe not. I watch DVDs on my computer.


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