Fuck the Cheerleader; Buy a Gift Card, Save the World

December 11th, 2007.

Today, I started and finished my Christmas shopping. It took me all of 10 minutes. I simply drove to the nearest bank and purchased a brand new, shiny stack of gift cards.

I felt absolutely no shame in doing this even though everyone from Miss Manners to some fat cow on MSN has told me that gift cards are a thoughtless gift and evidence of my poor character. Personally, I find rants about the sterility and soullessness of gift exchanges to be exceedingly tiresome.

Don’t get me wrong, I find quite a few things sterile and soulless about the relationships we form, but gift cards aren’t one of them. Personally, I think the tendency we have to judge the merit of our relationships based how good of a present we get is a more damaging habit to get into than giving gift cards.

Liz Pulliam Weston AKA The Fat Cow on MSN begs to differ. In her article, Gift Cards are not Gifts, she whines, “How would I have felt, for example, about the new friend I rushed to the hospital one night had she thanked me with a gift card rather than a basket of chocolate-dipped strawberries, each more luscious than the last?”

I don’t give a good goddamn how ol’ Liz feels in that scenario, but if it were me, I would feel pretty goddamn stupid for receiving a gift at all. Rushing a friend to the hospital is something you do because you love and care for your friend. It is not something you do because you’re hoping for a basket of fucking goodies. If you truly value your friend, her health would be gift enough for you, you greedy cow.

Liz also asks, “Or would I have felt nearly as welcomed by my new mother-in-law if, on my first Christmas as a wife, she’d presented me with a gift card rather than the antique soup tureen that had been in her family for years?”

My question is: does your Mother-in-law treat you with respect and kindness? Does she call you on the telephone? Ask you how your day is? Actually seem interested in the answer? If so, then why wouldn’t those behaviors be enough to make you feel like a welcomed part of the family? Why do you need something shiny and antique to validate your relationship?

We’ve been watching too many commercials, people. Slick advertising has convinced us that buying things for each other is the only way to show our love. In our mass hysteria to pick out the very perfect gift, we’ve forgotten the true measure of our relationships is how we treat each other.

Every year for my birthday, I always get a gift or two in the mail from someone I haven’t spoken to in months. I find it incredibly insulting. All year long, these people couldn’t be bothered to call me on the telephone, shoot me an email, or meet me for dinner. Yet, they feel as long as they mail me a fucking candle on my birthday, our friendship status will remain. I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it. Sending someone a gift in lieu of your presence during tough times (Or even good times) is a pretty shady way of nurturing a friendship.

Receiving a diamond tennis bracelet from your husband this holiday season doesn’t necessarily mean he’s devoted to you and your marriage. How he treats you day in and day out is the true signifier of his feelings. A fucking bracelet is nothing more than an ultimately worthless symbol that some billboard convinced him to buy just to shut you the fuck up. It doesn’t mean more than that. I don’t care what Roger’s Jewelers told you. It’s all ridiculous.

How about we all quit exchanging gifts in order to escape the responsibility of nurturing our relationships?

This year, many people have asked me what I’m hoping to receive this Christmas. I have told everyone the same thing.

I want people to keep their money, pay their bills, and enjoy a holiday season without the stress of New Year’s debt. I want them to realize that their presence in the lives of those they love, through good times and bad, is worth far more than any possible gift they could buy. I want them to get out of this trap they seem to be in where presents are either insults or validations of their personal relationships.

And yes, I’m giving out gift cards this holiday season. Merely because I know most people aren’t yet at a place in their life where they can look into a box and simply say, “This is just an object. It doesn’t mean anything.” Until the day comes when we finally realize that the entire gift exchange ritual is outdated and useless, people are going to need some extra cash to cover the cost of their angst.

This is where my gift card comes in.

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