December 18, 2006

Mission Impossible

I went to the mall the other night on a serious mission. I was determined to buy a Christmas present for my little sister. I know I've said before that I don't buy presents for adults, but my youngest sister is an exception, partly because she has no kids and partly because I keep forgetting that she is all grown up now. I would rather spend an afternoon at the dentist's than spend a few hours at the mall so the fact that I went voluntarily to this dreadful monument to consumerism shows my devotion to my sister.

Of course, I did not go alone. Shopping malls, as my architect students have patiently explained to me, are designed to be confusing so that consumers will wander around aimlessly, spending money, trapped like parents who attempt one of those corn mazes, except it's worse because there's no teenager with a megaphone to shout helpful hints about which way to go. I have no chance in such an atmosphere. I would not even attempt such a trip without my Wonderful Smart Beautiful Daughter to guide me.

And let me explain the enormity of our task. Urban Sophisticate is impossible to buy for. First, she wears trendy sophisticated clothes and lives in the city that is way ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to fashion. The only way I could buy her something fashionable is if I flew to Paris. And even then, I am clearly not up to the task. The other thing to consider is that her home looks like something out of magazine so I couldn't buy anything for her apartment without first getting a degree in interior decorating. But worse, her tastefully decorated urban apartment is damned small that she doesn't have an extra closet or drawer in which to toss "it's the thought that counts" kind of a gift I might be reasonably able to pick out.

At one store, my daughter and I were discussing the dilemma, when a salesperson overheard us. "Who are you buying for?" she asked cheerfully, "We have something for everyone here."

"It's my sister, " I said. "She's 36, sophisticated, lives in Big City Like No Other."

"She lives in Big City Like No Other?" the salesperson said. Her cheery demeanor changed to one of resignation. "You can't buy her anything in Snowstorm City."

"Exactly!"

We exchanged smiles, she shrugged, and we continued on. By then, I was already beginning to achieve that daze that I get after about thirty minutes in mall so we went to the food court (the one thing I can unerringly locate in a mall) to fortify ourselves. I do enjoy the eating part of shopping, and I like having all kinds of little food places lined up in one spot.

An hour later, we were still just sitting at a table, relaxed and talking. I was enjoying myself. It was fun to sit and talk to my daughter. Then I glanced at my watch and realized with a panic that we weren't shopping at all. We'd bought nothing.

I leapt to my feet, knocking over the plastic red tray of food, and we set off again. This time, I half-heartedly tried to look into store windows and make suggestions. At that point, I was desperate, willing to buy anything. That's why it was handy to have my daughter along. I would point to some random piece of clothing that I thought might be sophisticated, based mainly on the fact that it was something I didn't own. My daughter would say: "Are you kidding? She would hate that." And we'd keep walking. Pretty soon, I got the hang of this whole fashion thing, and I would point into store windows saying, in what I hoped was a sufficiently snobby tone, "See that? She'd hate that." And my daughter would nod in agreement. It was actually kind of fun.

Then we passed a store called Waddling Creatures, Female and Male. As we gazed through the big glass window in front, we could see all kind of country home decorations, festooned with ribbon and calico and little hearts carved out of wood. I could hardly believe my eyes. It was incredible. An entire store filled with stuff Urban Sophisticate would absolutely hate.

My daughter laughed. "You know what would be fun? Some year let's all agree to only buy presents that we know the other person would hate. That would be soooo much easier."

I think she's right.

24 comments:

YourFireAnt said...

Why not come over and shop at my house? Anything you see that you like, it's yours for ten bucks.

Anything.

FA

Anonymous said...

Oh, jo(e). I sympathize with you heartily here in the mall despisal. I have uncanny navigation skills and manage to outwit the architects by not getting lost. One thing that always gets to me is how hot and dry it is in there. I think they use some sort of evil crafty climate control to force everyone to buy more beverages.

I think everyone has a person or two like your sister, who is impossible to buy for. I have to go out and troll for presents for a few of them today. Hello, procrastination! Any foodie tidbits that your sister especially likes that you could get or make for a treat?

Journey Mama said...

I heartily sympathize.

Ianqui said...

I'm all for food or other consumable gifts. Especially here in NYC--that way it doesn't end up sitting around my apartment forever, taking up valuable real estate.

I wish MY family would understand this. I live in fear of the day that I have a child.

(Well, did you leave empty handed?)

Mona Buonanotte said...

I'm gonna suggest that next year for my family...only stuff we hate...I love your Daughter!

wolfa said...

Ugly pyjamas? You almost cannot go wrong. Preferably with very garish slippers.

Anonymous said...

For the person who has everything...

www.greendimes.com

I'm not affiliated with them, it's what I'm getting my brother-in-law and sister-in-law who are both extremely stylish *and* eco-conscious...

Just a thought...

Rana said...

Hee. I'm patting myself on the back for having largely been able to avoid the malls this season (which means, of course, that we'll get snowed in in O'Hare instead). I don't mind the malls so much as the crowds (aaaah!) and the feeling of irritation of being surrounded by So. Much. Crap.

I vote food. Chocolate, and fruit basket subscriptions are particularly nice...

Rana said...

Oh, there's also Heifer, if you're buying for someone who really, truly, cannot fit another object into their lives, but would appreciate a charitable gesture in their name.

Anonymous said...

This is actually (un)relaxeddad but my mobile (I'm posting from my mobile in a hospital ward) won't let me be anything other than anonymous.

Being as xmas is cancelled round our place for reasons of state and broken bones the idea of buying everyone presents they utterly will loathe really appeals (though it has to be said I'm a notorious Grinch). There must be an old Hammer Horror movie on this theme somewhere...

BeachMama said...

I for one love to shop, but this year has been really hard for me to find 'the right thing' for a few people, everything seems to be just not right or outrageously out of my budget. Hope you were able to find a little something.

Anonymous said...

here's another new yorker (also 36) voting you send her something edible. i'm guessing she doesn't cook very often, let alone BAKE!, and might enjoy some homemade cookies. esp. since the weather has been so great for running off the extra calories!

ppb said...

I HATE the mall, so I'm very impressed with you going. You really must love your sister. Perhaps that's what you get her. A picture of yourself. at the mall. That's the best token of your affection she could ask for!

Lauren said...

Oh man, I have vowed to never go in one of those corn mazes ever again!

I thought the pajamas idea was a good one, or what about some books you love? I'm sure you could write something wonderful on the flyleaf that would melt her heart. Or take her to a show next time you're in her city, or out to dinner.

landismom said...

I don't know, I think the picture of you in the mall would be the gift for us (back of the head only, of course)! And much as I like the theory of buying presents that people will hate, I can't help but conclude that I would personally be irritated by getting a bunch of gifts I hated and yet felt like I couldn't give away.

I agree on the food. Or wine. Wine is always good. Sometimes, for those kinds of people (aka my in-laws), I get really expensive olive oil or something from zingermans.

Anonymous said...

We don't have any malls here. Not a single one. Instead we have big box stores w/ traffic problems -- which after reading your post I will take over a mall : )

Jen said...

Believe it or not, my baby sister and I actually *do* exchange "you'll hate it" presents every year. I've gotten (among many other priceless mementos of our wonderfully weird relationship):

-- a giantic plaster giraffe
--subscriptions to publications whose philosophies run *completely* counter to my own
--a "learn to play air-guitar" DVD

Last year, when she decided she wanted to learn to cook, I made her a book of revolting recipes I'd culled from the internet. Some of them involved her drink of choice, which is Mountain Dew.

Anyway...I suggest you give "hate-gifts" a try next year. They're more fun than you'd think.

sheepish said...

I cringed after reading the first five words of this post. I knew it couldn't have a happy ending - I remember your past posts about mall trips. Yikes!

We're always declaring a "no present Christmas" around my house. Some jerk always has to go and screw it up though, setting off a chain reaction of retributive gift buying.

Sarah Sometimes said...

This is so funny, especially with the salesperson supposedly using your pseudonyms. I think Urban Sophisticate Sister will love whatever it is you found for her.

Anonymous said...

I'm hyperventilating just at the thought of going to the mall. You're a brave soul.

Yankee, Transferred said...

I always give a book in this situation.
And I HATE the mall. Hate. Hate.

halloweenlover said...

Magazine subscription? I always love getting those. Or a fancy wallet? Or even a fancy keychain maybe.

That is tough. I'm so grateful that this year I get a semi-reprieve on gift giving because of this baby. HURRAY for Christmas babes!

Dr. Shellie said...

Yup. I agree with ianqui-- consumables are the key. For an ultra-hip sister, you could try June Taylor Jams (www.junetaylorjams.com). It's sort of surprising that jam could ever be that expensive but it is AMAZING-- when you eat it you realize what jam is SUPPOSED to taste like. Similarly for the $14 ketchup. It's like ketchup... but... better.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

LOL! You certain gave me a chuckle again.

We were out last night shopping for hours and came home EMPTY-handed! AK! WAHN! :-(

Good luck!

(I HATE MALLS TOO!)