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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Licentiate Column 16/12/10

Christmas shopping is hard. I don’t just mean the physical act of shopping, which is a test of endurance dreamed up by a wrathful god who makes a daily habit of getting up on the wrong side of the bed each morning. I’m talking about the preamble. The wracking of brains to come up with the perfect gift and the sifting through endless websites and gift guides. The pressure to be thought of as the most thoughtful (and cunningly frugal) gift-giver on the planet.

Sometimes the brain get so wracked it starts to resemble a plate of grated cheddar cheese. Combine that with the over-sifted gift ideas and your plan is now starting to resemble the ingredients for a nice savoury scone as opposed to the perfect shopping trip.

The worst Christmas gifts are invariably the clothes. The very nature of buying clothes for another person is illogical and deeply flawed,so it comes to pass that only the very smartest or foolhardy will buy such things.

This goes for all items of clothing, no matter how large or small. Want to buy your significant other a tie? Think you know him that well, do you? Don’t say I didn’t warn you. There is no accounting for taste, so you may find that your choice of an ironic burgundy kipper tie will find you out in the cold this festive season. Think that you’re dodging a bullet by buying a plain tie? Then think again; the plain tie marks you out as a thoughtless gift giver. The tao of ties dictates that the busier the pattern, the more thought you evidently put into buying it.

On the gender flip side, we have the glutinous minefield that is lingerie. Like Father Ted, many men will get lost somewhere in Debenhams on Christmas Eve and be spat back out into homewares sometime before Valentines Day. The lingerie section is the Bermuda triangle for confused and indecisive men everywhere.

Bra and knicker sets are a perfect example of the ‘smart or foolhardy’ customer dichotomy. A person will either know their significant others cup size and preference for lace over leather, resulting in a very merry (triple) Xmas or they don’t. They make an ill-advised stab in the dark, which is exactly what will happen once the significant other unwraps a red rubber and latex creation that Lady Gaga would find just a tad too risque.

Maybe the worst thing about Christmas shopping isn’t the preamble. Maybe, just maybe, the worst thing about Christmas shopping is the fact that we have to do it at all. We’re all adults here. We know that Christmas is ostensibly about Jesus and not about rampant, Godzilla-like consumerism. We buy presents to show the people in our lives that we care about them. Why do we insist on expressing that love with ill-fitting, badly chosen garments that are going to be on sale anyway in a matter if weeks? Is that truly the measure of care that we take for other people?

This year, my mother offered to knit me a jumper of my choosing. While this gesture doesn’t cost the earth, it’s still infinitely better than an expensive shop bought, machine-made offering in colours I don’t like with too-long sleeves. When it comes to Christmas and clothes, it’s the thought that counts. And if you get stuck, a book token will do nicely.