Saturday, February 10, 2007

A progress report, with a rant on gift-giving as a sort of gift-with-purchase.

OK, so recently I went on about how I had signed on with The Compact, a group of people who range from recovering Shopaholics like me to Doom 'n' Gloom-spouting Survivalists who--even as you're reading this--are generating their own electricity using some kind of bicycle-powered doohickey, just like the people on Gilligan's Island. If you're old enough to remember that, and you probably aren't.

Anyway. I swore off buying anything new. For a year. Until January 7, 2008.

Well, the serpent tempted me, so I ate I broke the agreement last week.

Yes, I fell from grace. I bought something new. But don't get excited. I didn't hit the cosmetics counters at Barneys. Or the shoe department at Brooks Brothers. Or the fur department at Neiman Marcus, for that matter.

I went to a men's clothiers in the pastoral village of Newtopia, Illinois, and bought my son a pair of black cotton pants, because he needed to wear them in a concert.

So. I spent $35 at the local men's clothing store.

On the other hand ... these are my other recent purchases:

1. A Universal Geneve Tiffany 18K gold watch for That Stud Muffin I Married, to mark the 21st anniversary of our first date. I bought it from an eBay seller last December. It was going to be a Christmas present, but what with one thing and another, I didn't manage to get it until after Christmas. So it became a gift for February, instead of December.

Now, according to the rules of the Compact, this purchase is OK, because the watch wasn't new. And anyway, I bought it before I signed up. And I had it cleaned and the engraving removed at our local jeweler's, so I bought used and used a local business. I even wrapped it in the box my own extremely nice gift watch came in. Which I still had lo, these 10 or so years later, because I'm anal organized that way.

So, all in all, I'm feeling pretty damned smug about that watch.

[And here's the rant I promised you about gift-giving: in my version of The Compact, I get to buy people presents. I feel very strongly about this, because having spent my life being given hideously ugly or otherwise "not me" hand-crafted crap--the counted cross stitch sampler, the lavender and celadon green quilted hanging that clashes so wonderfully with everything I own (and what the hell is the point of a quilt that's too small to put on a bed?????) and the ugly-ass spatter-painted shallow ceramic bowl ... or was it a rather tall plate? Whatever ... I've decided that the most heart-felt gift is not the one that gives the giver the warm squishies ... but the one that gives the giftee the warm squishies.

In other words, no matter how earth-friendly, organic, and vegetable-dyed your craft is ... if the person you give it to doesn't like it, it is just so much dead lumber cluttering up his or her life. And it might very well end up in a landfill.

And therefore, I will buy people things I think they will like, even if I have to buy them something new. And I will not craft them a tie-dyed tea-cozy out of my children's old diapers.]

2. While dropping off a few bags of stuff at the local thrift shop (including some new-in-the-box shoes from Brooks Brothers that didn't fit and were still sitting around waiting to be returned) I browsed their extremely tiny stash of children's clothes and found a pair of black slacks for my daughter to wear for her concert performance. Her size, perfect fit, $4. Yay!

3. From eBay: the following used Lilly Pulitzer items for my daughter:

4. Some books for my daughter for her birthday. All brand new and shiny, but remember: in my Compact, gifts don't count. Also, I bought them at Newtopia's only independent bookstore, instead of getting them much cheaper at Thus supporting local businesses, paying local taxes, and providing myself with yet another reason to feel smug.

5. A used book for my husband for Valentine's Day. The sixth volume of Akira, to be exact. Coming to me from an Amazon used book seller.

That's it. That's all the new-to-me stuff that has made it into my house in the past month.

I can't tell you how much more peaceful it feels around here.

And the recycling bin has never been this empty.

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