It was bad enough when retail stores put up Christmas lights and inflatable winter scenes before Thanksgiving. Now they're decorating before Halloween. One store had a jack-o'-lantern wearing a Santa hat. What next, Rudolph riding a broom? Retailers are like overanxious blind dates, perched at the front window hours early, desperately searching for approaching headlights.
Even so, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to start thinking about holiday gift giving. Early planning might ease the stress of choosing gifts. There are those who think a surefire way to relieve that angst is to ask the recipient for ideas of what to give. That's fine if the recipient still has recess incorporated in his day and gets most of his ideas from a Toys 'R' Us catalog. Otherwise, it's tactless -- and that's saying something, considering I'm tacky enough to leave price tags on gifts that are particularly generous.
However, I do believe it's important for adults to clue in gift givers on what not to give.
Anyone who knows me well enough to want to give me a present knows that there's one thing I will not appreciate or use, no matter the quality or spirit in which it was given. Despite nearly 50 years of doing without, there's always someone who is convinced that I absolutely need one. The gift? A massage.
As someone who is always looking for unusual, thoughtful gifts, I respect the intent behind buying a gift card for a massage. It is a unique, kind, personal gift that reflects interest in the well-being of the beloved recipient. And I hate it.
It's not a matter of being a humbug. It's a simple (nut) case of not wanting a total stranger kneading my body like a I'm being prepped for a pottery wheel. I don't have anything against massage enthusiasts or, as I call them, massagynists. I just want them to get off my back about it. "What? You've never had one? You don't know what you're missing!" Oh yes I do: being freaked out. They fervently try to convert nonmassagynists like they were on commission. "You must have one -- it's so relaxing!" And there's the rub. To me, the whole procedure is anti-relaxing. By the time I got on the table, I'd roll up tighter than a frightened armadillo.
Last Christmas, my twin sister, who has known me all my life plus two minutes, got me a gift certificate for a message. She called my daughter after mailing it.
Sister: "I just sent your mother a gift she's going to hate."
Daughter: "You mean you got her a massage?
Sister: "Get her to use it this time. She'll love it."
I tried returning it, but no dice. I even tried donating it to a charity that helps local families. The woman said, "Perhaps you aren't familiar with what we do -- our clients need food, clothing and money to pay their bills." I realized just how small my problems were after that phone call, mainly because my insensitivity and humiliation made me shrink to two and a half inches.
Clearly I can add "massage" to my list of issues. But after asking a few friends their opinion, I realized I'm not alone. It turns out that massages are polarizing: women either love them or hate them.
I will press this issue further in my next column.
[October 28, 2009]
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