Christmas shopping is torture. Actually, all shopping is pretty much torture for me but Christmas shopping is worse than the garden variety. Christmas shopping is waterboarding by retail.
It isn't that I don't like buying people stuff – I do. I love to give people gifts, but there are 3 things about Christmas shopping that make it particularly painful for me. I am not a lover of crowds, I find greed really unpleasant, and I never have enough money to buy the things for people that I would like.
The money situation is difficult, but not so much that I can't live with it. It is what it is and I can't say that I anticipate it changing any time in the foreseeable future. Besides, I can always manage to do something nice for people that doesn't require my selling my first born child. The crowd situation is unavoidable but still annoying. It isn't that I have some sort of phobia about crowds, I just don't like them. I don't find crowds stimulating, exciting, or in any way socially comfortable. I have no desire to be jammed into small spaces with people I don't know. Some might call this misanthropic, but I call it sensible. I like my space – personal space, operating space, outer space, the more space the better. Nothing good ever comes from having too many rats in a maze. Crowded streets of happy holiday shoppers smiling, exchanging greetings, and generally behaving in a ho, ho, happy spirit of joy and good will only happens in the movies. People out Christmas shopping are often surely, short tempered, in a big hurry, way too stressed out, and frequently unpleasant. It's not surprising really. Nothing can suck the joy out of the holidays like a day spent functioning in the retail world.
The greed of the holiday season really annoys me and spoils things for me. I am neither a greedy nor a materialistic person and I find the lust for stuff magnified to holiday level pretty much unbearable. Everywhere I go I see piles of junk. There is no other way to describe it. Cheap, badly made items constructed and packaged by probably miserable workers in China, made of plastic, easily broken and destroyed, completely unmemorable, and meant to last only until the elves have all gone home and the snow is off the rooftop. Mountains of stuff with no value, no real meaning, and no point, all designed to something you buy and hand off to someone either because you can't think or don't want to spend any time thinking of what to get them, are gifting only under some labor of obligation, or because you actually believe that quantity, no matter how substandard, is far preferable to quality.
These things are everywhere, particularly among gifts for children. There are mountains of toys no one really wants, piles of games no on will ever play, and boatloads of stuff no child should be getting in the first place. As a person with very little liquidity, I get that there needs to be items people can get for their children that are within their range, but no matter what a person's financial worth, we all end up spending way more than we should or need to every holiday.
I couldn't help thinking, when I passed by a dangerously overloaded pallet of coffee mugs, that it had to be the worst gift ever. How many coffee mugs does anyone actually need? Who wants a coffee mug with snowflakes and reindeer on it when you already own 40 of them that you received from people on other numerous occasions? Does anyone actually collect coffee mugs so that they have a different set for every season? Does anyone ever have 40 people walk into their house at once demanding coffee? Are they really good for anything besides target practice?
The other day I was in a store and a bedraggled looking father asked me for advice on a gift for his daughter. He wasn't sure if he should get her a packaged assortment of nail polish in ghastly colors or another packaged assortment of ghastly nail polish that also came with a battery operated nail dryer. I asked him how old she was. He said she was almost 7 years old. Are you kidding me? Why would anyone get a 7 year old nail polish? Why would anyone get a 7 year old anything that looks like it should be worn by a witches coven of teenagers on psychedelic drugs? Is this a thing for very young girls? In my world 7 year old girls should be outside playing, climbing trees, making mud pies and getting dirt under their fingernails that they have to scrub off before coming to dinner. When did we start encouraging little girls to behave like flamboyant, horrifying reality show stars? I am appalled. But not surprised. The world is burning.