BOSTON (CBS) - The major gift giving season is over. And not a moment too soon. Crazed Black Friday crowds resembling marauding zombies were merely the warm up act for twenty-four hour retail blowouts that caused those mile long tie ups by the local mall. It's enough to make one want to chuck it all and leave civilization behind for a mysterious adventure to say the Amazon (Malaria-free Amazon.com that is---easily accessible from one's laptop with no threat of attack from extremely tall women).
The other night I asked people to call in to discuss the best gift they had ever received. Several callers admitted that the best ones were those they ended up actually needing. Allergy-inducing perfume, hand held massage machines and ugly sweaters concocted by Jackson Pollack wannabes often don't make it to the "best gift ever" category. We end up desiring practical things and so often the gifts we actually need turn out to be the most memorable. One young guy called the show to say his best gift ever was a year's supply of blades, razors and assorted shaving gear purchased in bulk (like everything else) from BJ's Wholesale Club. The gentleman, a bouncer at a local nightclub, can now hurl unruly customers onto the curb without having to worry about five o'clock shadow ruining his image. A guy like him may be free of stubble, but ask any rowdy patron, that dude is real trouble.
While on the wholesale-club subject, any smart homeowner should have a laundry room stocked to the ceiling with paper towels, toilet tissue, plastic bags, cups, napkins and other assorted supplies from a warehouse such as BJ's. Efficiency rules and you get to boast to your friends that you're one of those elite "pallet" shoppers. You're one of the big boys. Hauling the huge load every couple of decade's beats having to run out constantly--- when you're constantly running out.
But most of us are not as lucky as our friendly bouncer. He had himself a guardian gift angel. Others don't investigate our needs to any great extent. No blame to be cast, but with the online scanning capabilities as good as they are today (just ask NSA) there's really nothing keeping us from knowing just what to buy someone. People mean well. It's simply the methodology that's out of order. Judging by the millions of gifts returned the day after Christmas, there's something amiss.
Most folks are obsessed with what to buy someone else and that drive to please often results in the imperfect gift. So it's time to do an end run around that system. I'm suggesting that the first and most important person on your Christmas list from here on out must be YOU.
The reasoning is simple and downright biblical. The way we treat ourselves speaks volumes about how we treat others. We know what we need, at least when it comes to material things---a new belt, floor mats, more stylish glasses. Simply allot a healthy percentage of your buying budget for YOU and dare to go first. Stepping to the front of the line isn't selfish. You'll be so much happier and less stressed knowing you got the perfect gift for the most important sentient being in your life—that's right, YOU. The same principle applies to the safety regulations on an aircraft. "In the event of an emergency, the oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling. Place the mask on your face Mr. and Mrs. Adult before giving the kiddo a chance to catch his breath." Do for you and you can do for others.
Knowing that you've successfully acquired that cologne you've been thinking about puts a decided lift in your step. Your self-esteem is boosted because you have what you desire, without having to drop endless hints to others. Buy yourself the perfect gift first and the incentive and strategy when it comes to buying for everyone else becomes easier.
I learned a few years ago to cut back on trying to please everyone else all of the time. Oh, I still manage to look after many others and gift giving will always be one of my life's pleasures. But the gifts I've afforded myself have reaped gratifying results and certainly have improved my life. Most cost little or are totally free. A few examples include the gift of a nap, or a few hours alone in nature, or getting away to a late night movie, spa treatment or symphony concert, catching a high school baseball game, or spending a holiday afternoon calling old friends.
These days, so many are dissatisfied with so much. People are itching for a fight when they should be scratching the real itch, the desire for a little bit of happiness, often achieved simply by pampering themselves a little. And let's remember that altruism is the pretty bow on top. Getting involved to help others is rewarding to the mind, body and spirit. Volunteer with any of a thousand organizations and you just might discover how precious the gift of giving can be.
To prove that I gladly put my money where my keyboard is, I waited until returning from a quick shopping excursion to complete this column. Traffic was easier a few days after Christmas so I motored to the nearby mall to land me some of that manly aromatic cologne that I've been hankering. Oh yes, it smells just right. But it also feels right. Taking care of oneself so often does.
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