They say 'tis better to give than to receive. That's not true, of
course. Unless what's being given is a TB blanket or a venereal
disease, 'tis always better to get as much as your stubby little arms
can carry. Especially this time of year, when all your relatives and
friends are socially obligated to buy you things.
But there is
an upside to giving that getting can't match: the esteem you receive
from imparting a well-purchased present. Getting somebody something
that they really wanted shows that you understand that person. That you
care about what's going on in his heart and mind. That you pick up the
buried cues in her most casual conversation. Trouble is, getting the
right gift means you have to actually understand, care and listen to
the people around you.
Who has time for that?
why this Hanukkah, I propose that all my friends update their
Amazon.com wish lists. (Brill, sweetie, you're going to have to start
one. A little bird told me you want a soldering iron, but I am not
about to get you an implement of destruction unless I have proof that
that bird isn't putting me on.)
An Amazon.com wish list tells
your friends exactly what you want and how much you want it. And it
lends specificity to the vague concepts of you that your friends have.
I know, for instance, that Jean loves to knit. But I don't know the
first thing about choosing a knitting book. Now, thanks to her Amazon
wish list, I don't need to take time out of my schedule of being
fabulous to find out.
And what's more, I know without a doubt
that Jean is going to love her present. Why wouldn't she? She picked it
out. And all the love she has for her present will, naturally, spill
over to me – making me look and feel absolutely glorious in her eyes
(and the eyes of anyone else in the room when she opens her present).
old-fashioned types out there will tell you that buying stuff off of
registries and wish lists is impersonal. That searching for and finding
the perfect trinket – the gift your recipient hadn't already thought of
– shows you really care. These are the same people who tell children,
"The best presents are the ones you make yourselves." Ever get a
macaroni necklace and think, "That's just the accessory I needed to
spruce up my wardrobe"? I didn't think so. Don't listen to those
people. They're delusional. They're archaic. They're Lisa Bee's
"Every year I tell my family, 'Buy me stuff from my
Amazon wish list, and I'll rejoice.' And every year I get, like, 'Top
Gun,' " Lisa Bee IM'd me.
I took a look at her wish list. She
has 193 items. It goes on for eight pages. I nearly called her mother.
No one, ever, has the right to say Lisa Bee is hard to shop for. Ever.
wish list is not just a collection of things people want, it's a view
inside their psyches and their ever-expanding interests. Lisa Bee, for
instance, added some books about the Middle East to her list shortly
after a group of us got into a big discussion about the Iraq war and
the state of affairs in Israel. (Guess what you're getting this year,
And if you take a look at my wish list you'll find …
oh. Wait. My Amazon wish list contains two items, one of which is my
husband's novel. Hmm. Not a very helpful road map for potential
gift-givers, is it? I've been so busy thinking of others – well, how
others will perceive me once I present them with the perfect present –
that I've completely neglected to update my own requests.
matter. If someone really cares, they won't need an Amazon wish list to
tell them what to get me. But the rest of you, get typing. I don't have
the time necessary to put into buying thoughtful gifts unless you help
me look like I've taken the time to be particularly thoughtful. So get to it!
sense of my generosity and consideration depends on it.