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You Shouldn't Have

The oh-so-many things we won't let you buy

By Gretchen Giles

You no longer have the time to dream about such light-hearted holidays as the Fourth of July, that gentle, inclusive little day demanding nothing more of its merry-makers than that they enjoy chocolate cake and beer while clad in bathing suits. The winter holidays are a slam on the head, rolling the terrible demands of the IRS, a wedding anniversary, your closest someone's birthday, and a nephew's twelve-noon Superbowl Sunday bar mitzvah all into one shrill demand: Show up and gift up.

In deep reverse sympathy, we herewith offer a full list of things that no one should ever wish to see winking out from beneath the Hanukkah bush, the green fir, or the dusty plastic pine. In further evidence of our own holiday effusion, we kindly submit that even should your best beloveds desire such items, you resolutely not supply them.

Feng This!

You can set the bar of taste in your own immediate vicinity by first denying to lay plastic to cash register over any green twisty branch of that damnable plant currently known as "Lucky Bamboo." Of the genus Dracaena, this stretch of leaf is less related to the bamboo family than you are to the House of Lords, actually being a parlor plant previously favored by the Victorians because it requires a meteor hitting the earth in order to fully kill it.

Hyped as a feng shui method of both greening one's home (moneymoneymoney!) and helping to release stagnant energies, this living stalk of hooey-hooey is indeed lucky to those who sell great big buckets full of the stuff. Less lucky is the likelihood that it will curl about in a milky vase until the fluoride in your drinking water eventually browns it to a mush. This is your fine holiday legacy? We think not.

Flambé Huckleberry Mist

After the anguished shout of "Are we now a nation of Abe Lincolns, studiously bent over the fatted wick?" has died down, we sort of get the candle thing--their light can make that nut loaf look like real, bloodless meat in the dim of a winter meal and shave 10 pounds and three wrinkles off when bedside.

But what's this scented candle thing all about? Is your gift recipient's gracious home really so stinky that it would be truly enhanced by a small, burning blast of cranberry orange mint with just an undertone of vanilla lavender peach? Do you know how carcinogenic those scented candles are? You may just as well urge Uncle Norm to take up cigars to complement his cigarette habit and sprinkle some asbestos atop as give him and Aunt Vi a thoughtful scented candle column.

Are there any other questions need be asked here? Be your own Surgeon General and don't do it for their health.

Pinky Rings of Enology

Should you be hovering in indecision over purchasing a pricey piece of wine-related "jewelry," allow us to step lightly in for an intervention. Don't do it. There are people who care--very, very bossy people who write for local papers. The only thing that should possibly ring a wine bottle's lip is the leftover cosmetics of that guest who finally gave in and chugged the silty remnants.

Same too for the glasses. They may be smashed in the fireplace, spilled all over the antique linen tablecloth, or humbly broken in the sink, but they may not--they must not--sport a little jingle-jangling thing that looks as though it broke off of Cher's last manicure. And should you even have considered a butler's tuxedo front or a French maid's apron for a gift-giving addition to the bottle necks of a respected friend's wine cellar, please stand over in that corner, yes that one over there, for five minutes of shameful reflection. We can wait.

Three Hundred Sixty-five Is a Big Number

Surely a tasteful calendar is both a thoughtful and a helpful item to give as the old year flees in white-bearded haste and the New Year approaches with gaudy virility. This good friend will never forget a lunch date with you again! That parent can surely track his or her bail bond payments for you with this lovely kitten cal!

Sorry, friend. The likelihood that you can guess what another person can stand to stare at some 365 times is very small. But she loves the Beatles! We all love the Beatles, but Ringo's nose--did you notice it in the August shot? August is a very long, actually quite a terrifically long, month. Why couldn't his proboscis have been better featured in February, on a leap year? You simply don't have the time to delve into such existentialist questions. Buy everyone candy instead.

No Thing Badda-bing

The restrictions on Sopranos-related gifts are severe indeed, leaving just one option: You may only purchase a Sopranos soundtrack CD, provided that your honored recipient is over 14 years of age. That's it.

Unless you or your beloveds can convincingly lisp "anti-pahst" to a member of the Gotti family, you are prohibited from buying one of the millions of Sopranos-related cookbooks available. Sadly, this prohibition extends to the many biographies, T-shirts, bobble-heads, and other promotional detritus extending from the show like the rings of an oil spill.

Have no fear--you may continue to watch the program in the privacy of your own home; that is unrelated to the season of giving. This fictional family, intriguing and interesting as we all invariably find them, is Mafioso. They kill, deal, rig, and steal for money. Please remember that you do not admire these qualities; they are not holiday qualities. Please repeat that you do not support these ethics. Please remind yourself that this is just a TV show. Your own family may not have the cookbooks. As for the soundtracks . . . Hey, well yeah--it's damned good music!

The Short List

Nothing monogrammed, unless you're a Biff and she's a Muffy. People go from née to missus, from Brenda to Shoshana, and from Frank to Ravenwolf way too quickly to embroider any one moniker down.

No TV sets for a tweenager's bedroom unless you're thoroughly sick of raising him or her yourself and would prefer that, say, Tony Soprano (see "kill, deal, rig, and steal," above) did it for you.

No hand-held electronic devices that will be $9,000 cheaper in February for anyone under 18.

So what can you give? Shucks, that's easy: everything else. Oh--and your love.

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From the December 12-18, 2002 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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