Friday, December 5, 2008

The Season of Giving

While having a very intense discussion about my mother’s disintegrating mental state last night, my brother and I were able to find humor in places where there weren’t obvious signs of any, and that is a family gift we can thank our father for.

Christmas is an awful time of year when you’re poor, and when you have a mom who has borderline personality disorder (thanks, David, for guiding us to this), and one of her worst symptoms is the need to spend money frivolously, you can pretty much count on having the utilities turned off so that she can spend the bill money on stockings full of candy and 20 individually wrapped pieces of shit from the Dollar Store for her adult kids who want no such gifts. I have boxes upon boxes in the garage of Dollar Store pieces of shit that she’s given me for the last few Christmases, and somehow I can’t throw them out because they cost me dearly, one way or another. The same goes for my brother. You should see these collections of fuzzy pens, scentless candles, badly painted knickknacks from Hong Kong, hair accessories for a 4-year-old girl, and tiny notepads with rainbows on them. And that’s just my brother’s stash! We cannot stop her from spending money (hers, ours, or someone else’s, if she’s can finagle a way to get it from them) on unnecessary things, and Christmas is doubly awful because we not only have to find a way to buy presents for people we cannot afford to buy for, but we also have to figure out a way to cover the EXTRA expenses incurred when my mother skips bills and throws money out the window.

Because isn’t that what Christmas is all about?


So, my brother and I were discussing why we hate Christmas, and what it boils down to is that it IS about giving, but not in the way you think. It’s all about YOU giving something to someone else that YOU want to give to them, regardless of how they feel or what they want.

This was a bit of an epiphany for me because I’d just come to this conclusion about charity as well, when arguing with Boyfriend Extraordinaire about my dead washing machine.

You see, my washer died about two months ago, and I was attempting to fix it by the cheapest possible means, replacing the agitator dogs (and no, you cannot take that band name, since B.E. already claimed it) or any part that was less than $10. Nothing worked. I’d gotten to the point where I was actually starting to enjoy putting my clothes in the bathtub with water and detergent, and stomping them around like grapes for wine. I made the best of the situation and tried to have fun with it. Humor is vital, after all. However, this method of washing was not enjoyed by all.

After two weeks, my deeply narcissistic mother came to me and said I had to buy a new washer because the family just couldn’t go on like this. (Always with the guilt that I’m not providing enough for the family, no matter how overdrawn and broke I am.) Well, I had precisely $75 in the bank and about $25 in open credit on my credit card, so when I cried to B.E. on the phone about the position I was in, not looking for him to fix it, just for him to LISTEN TO ME, he took it upon himself to secretly search for a used washing machine on craigslist and even arranged for a guy to deliver it to my house. However, in the week it took for him to iron out the arrangements, I’d spent much of the $75 in my bank on silly stuff, you know, like prescriptions and toilet paper. When B.E. let me know that he had given my information to a guy about a washer, who would be delivering it the next day for merely $90, I nearly shit my pants. (Thankfully, I had toilet paper, though.) We had a fight, it was not pretty, I said some insensitive things, and B.E. learned a valuable lesson about interfering. Yet, the situation was not cured because there was this guy coming to my house to deliver a washer, for which B.E. surreptitiously pretended to be me and promised him $90. I did not have $90. I did not have half that. You cannot put craigslist stuff on layaway. The sellers kinda frown on that.

B.E. said he’d give me the money, but his only means of getting it to me was by a mailed check or through PayPal, which takes FOR-fucking-EVER to clear, so there was no way to have the money overnight. Yet, now I had a (surprise) deal with this guy. What the hell was I supposed to do? And, you all know I have no backbone, so backing out of the deal, pissing off the washer guy, and having to face my indignant mother with all her dirty clothes was out of the question.

I actually had to get an advance on my credit card for $100, which put me over my credit limit and cost me an additional $35, plus 3% for the cash advance, not to mention the high interest rate I’m still paying on this card until I become an established member of this new bank. I’m sure this 15-year-old washer cost me no less than $150, roughly a week of sleepless nights about how the hell I would come out of this okay, and one big fight with B.E. about the insult of charity.

He claims that I have an unusual aversion to charity, which might be true. He also claims that when someone who loves you wants to do something nice for you, you should let them, even if it’s humiliating. That’s what love is. It’s selfish for me to deny others the right to treat me like a charity.

This is totally preposterous to me. I find someone doing something charitable for me to be humiliating, and if I am desperate enough to need help, I’ll ask for it, but it will take a huge gulp of pride to be swallowed. I have friends who insist on paying for my meal if we dine out together, and I hate it so much that I no longer dine out with them. They cannot stop themselves from covering my meal, no matter how mortified I become and how much I protest, and that doesn’t define friendship to me. So, I have removed myself from situations where someone else will pay my way and I will leave feeling like a failure. They don’t get it, but screw them. They clearly don’t care about my feelings on the subject anyway, so why should I care about theirs? I think you have to be broke to understand this dilemma, because no one with money ever seems to get it.

The same applied here, with B.E. He totally overstepped, didn’t think it through, and it ended up costing me a bloody fortune (to me, that’s a fortune). So much for charity.

I pointed out to him that it’s wrong to insist that I should allow another to humiliate me because it makes that other person feel good. How much can someone care about me if they want to humiliate me? How charitable is it to know that you’re making me feel terrible, and I ask you not to do it, but you tell me that if I love you, I’ll let you do it to me anyway? WHAT THE FUCK? Sounds like emotional rape to me. And maybe I get a washing machine out of it or a free meal, but that doesn’t fill the hole inside me left from someone who allegedly cares about me completely disregarding my feelings. It’s wrong! Don’t argue with me. It’s just wrong.

So, while I was telling my brother about this instance, he paralleled it with the whole Christmas farce of giving, and how we always receive the most ridiculous things from people in our family who will not stop giving us gifts. You have no idea how many scarves I have in a variety of colors from an aunt who so loves to give scarves for the holidays, and now I’m looking into sewing my own scarf quilt. My brother gets even more bizarre gifts like model cars to put together, even though he’s never done models in his life, and is actually more interested in taking things apart than anything else. They don’t give these gifts to us because they know this is what we want, or even thinking we might need them. No. It’s all about their own selfish desire to give specific things to specific people, because it makes them feel good. That’s so weird to me! WHY!? Why is Christmas about making the giver feel good about what they give?

My brother said, “Why don’t they just give me a vial of crack for Christmas? How about some heroin, and a rusty spoon and needle? I don’t want it. I don’t need it. It makes me feel bad to receive it. I wouldn’t even know how to get rid of it. It can’t be returned. But as long as it makes the giver happy, that’s what really matters! Here’s your crack! Merry Christmas!”

Amen, brother.

I see the disappointment on the faces of people who ask me what they can give me for Christmas and I suggest nothing, and if that doesn’t work, I suggest a Visa gift card. To them, it’s too impersonal. To them, there is no joy for them when I open it up and it’s not some elaborately wrapped thing-a-ma-jig that I will get a kick out of and laugh at. What fun is a gift card? What a disappointment to the giver! Yet, I think about how nice it would be to have $10 or $20 that I can use for a new pair of shoes, some of my favorite undies, a meal out with my Schwee, or a tank of gas to drive somewhere far away, just to escape for a day. THOSE are gifts! Or I could stow it away in my purse for one of those instances when I’m out with friends and haven’t budgeted for a restaurant meal, but they all suddenly decide to go. Voila! I have a gift card to cover myself without having to chew on a napkin and drink water. THOSE are gifts! Those are gifts that defy the false promises of pretty wrapping paper and big boxes. They don’t fall prey to the disappointment of opening a bag while sitting across from the giver, who’s breath is held and they are turning blue with anticipation, and you find yourself staring at another pair of Christmas socks with dancing snowmen on them, which, even if you wanted to, and you really, really don’t, you couldn’t wear them for another year because Christmas is over in a few hours. For gift cards, there are no batteries required, no humiliation of assessing the right fit, no worrying about hurting the giver’s feelings if you feel the need to return it, no re-gifting it next year, and no selling it in the summer garage sale. Nope. These are gifts that get used! These are gifts that are truly for the receiver.

But, Happy Villain, I so wanted to humiliate you and give you a big, dirty vial of crack! I so would’ve enjoyed that! Just the look on your face would’ve made it all worthwhile!

I know. But don’t. Because my brother and I will not pretend to be grateful anymore. We will make fun. And you will not like it.


librarian nervosa said...

Jesus :( This is why I hate Christmas. What's wrong with a gift card FFS??? Then you can always have something you want, and that should be what they want to give you. I love them , my family loves them, the loving intent is there. Fuck this anything will do and I have to give something and bugger what she thinks of it my duty's done stuff.

End rant. Sorry about the washing-machine. When it really does spring from love and concern, it's a bitch. I hope it works at least. Lots of hugs from me in Tassie.

Leelu said...

So does this mean I should cancel my order for your crack delivery? *innocent*

Rachel said...

If we ever do get gifts for anyone (cuz we're flat broke most of the time too) we do a lot of research, prying, and what not figure out what they really and truly do want. Otherwise, Giftcards for the win! The Visa Vanilla card rocks. :D

I do hate it when people pay for my lunch... it makes me feel like a lousy mooch. Sad thing is that it happens so much I've started to stop thinking about it cuz otherwise I starve :/
twisted double edged blade...

Have a happy and joyful Winter Solstice and screw the Christmas of giving.

Anonymous said...

Your mother gives you and your brother crap because that is all she can to in her crazy-making way to try and make up for all the sadness she's caused you. She wants to make you happy with silly little things--it's warped, it's goofy, but it's all she has.
Those dancing snowmen socks that you were gifted with made someone smile when they picked them out for you. So they don't make you cut a caper of joy--get over it already. Give the socks to a kid at your library, and you'll know who the kid is since it's the same kid just wearing a hoodie in this brutal cold, with no hat, no gloves, and who would piss themselves with happiness over a pair of socks or any of the junk your mother gave you.
B.E. tried to do a wonderful thing and you pitched it back in his face. Please, young lady, lighten up on all of us well-intentioned fuck ups that don't meet your standards. All of us are doing the best we can for the people we love and we're never going to get it quite right.

Happy Villain said...

Librarian Nervosa:
Thanks, and rant away any time you want! The washer works well and I think it was a smart move, though a costly and stressful one. Hugs back atcha!

Depends. What kind of crack? Buttcrack? I guess it depends on whose buttcrack too. Let's talk about this a little more.

If only the holiday was simpler and less irritating. Sigh. Happy Chriswanzticekuh.

Oy, I don't know what to say to you except that you really should move on and never read my blog again. Consider that a personal request because you just cannot handle my sarcasm and humor, and if you're going to continue leaving me comments like this pathetic one, I'll start moderating them again and crap like this won't get published. This is my blog. Get your own.

librarian nervosa said...

Christmas - the ultimate guilt trip! Hold fast hon.

Travelin' Tracy said...

Christmas is my favorite holiday...I love gift giving. I'm just sad it is not fun for you. Thankfully, even when money has been tight I have managed what I thought were some pretty thoughtful good gifts. I have come to a point though, where I don't ever know what to get my brother...the giftcard has been the solution for about four years now. He does the same for this year I have two families to buy for and I just know they are all expecting something from overseas...however, I think my brother is still getting a gift card! Hopefully you manage this season!

Lummox said...

And by "crack delivery," Myeerah means we sent you a lesbian. Hope you like her. We both picked her out. :D

Lummox said...

And by Myeerah, I mean Leelu.
Not been my best thinky day.

Happy Villain said...

AWESOME! Does she know how to fix a broken toilet? I totally need more butch people in my life.

Oh, and by "Lummox" I meant Punanny.

Jen said...

My mom, who does have schizophrenia, not sure about any other mental disorder, does the same thing wasting money to buy stupid things. Unlike you I don't keep those gifts though. Fortunately, I think she's gotten a bit better at paying her bills.

As for gifts, my friend and I had this discussion Thursday. I told her I was only making 'donations' as gifts (here dad - I bought a pig for some Cambodians for you!) as well as a small gift card (bookstore or electronics store, etc.)

She thinks that's a horrible idea and believes Christmas gifts should be physical; even if it's just cookies one bakes. I spent a lot of time thinking which donations and which gift cards to get!

Manda said...

We do the gift card thing for my brothers and my husband's sister. My husband has to make it more personal though. By that, I mean he has to make creative "packages" for the gift cards that take numerous power tools to open. The gift that keeps on giving, I guess.

Cat. said...

Shaking my head in horror at how some people miss the point. Me, I never do that. ;-)

Hugs. Cuz I can't send you a giftcard for fear of you using it to slice-n-dice some unsuspecting schmuck at work. And as my 15-year-old son says, singsong-like "Hugs make everything better."

Except snowman sox. Those f(#&ers are forever.