I think the world must be divided into two kinds of people. People who participate in Black Friday, and strange people like me, who Just-Don’t-Get-It. I mean, there you are, stuffed to bursting in a turkey coma with your nearest and dearest, and instead of pulling out the Parcheesi board, you’re bundling up. Bundling up? For what? a nice walk? A movie? Meeting friends at a bar? Nope. Bundling up in battle gear to stand outside all night long, waiting for the opening bell of Black Friday.
I’ve waited in lines before, for a good cause. I waited in line for four hours to see the president. I spent nine hours holding a Great Spot to see the WEBN Labor Day Fireworks the year my sister came to town to see them. I don’t mind hardship for a good cause. But what is this good cause?
Black Friday marks the opening of the Season of Giving. No matter your religion, you spend the dark days of winter in the pursuit of Peace on Earth and Goodwill towards Men. This is universally celebrated by the giving of gifts. And how do Black Friday adherents mark the opening of the season? By punching out the person between them and the thing they want to buy so as to demonstrate their Love for Humanity. For real?
The thing that precipitates this behavior is love of the Great Deal. And a newspaper that costs twice as much as usual and weighs five pounds, full of Great Deals. So that you can spend the day we set aside to consider all that we are grateful for, not cherishing memories with loved ones, but poring over pictures of things we don’t have and designing a battle plan for grabbing as many of these as possible for the lowest cost. No matter who’s in the way.
This must hark back to the good old days, before box stores, when Jason endured countless dangers in pursuit of the Golden Fleece. When the value of a gift was defined, in part, by the amount of danger one went through to get it. The HDTV becomes some kind of blood trophy.
Me, I’d prefer a gift that someone didn’t toss away a bit of their humanity to get. Oh, there are nice stories about Black Friday. I hear that some churches give away hot cocoa to those in line in the middle of the night. Then I wonder what those poor folks do when the cocoa runs through them and they’re still stuck in line. But such stories are rare.
To me, gifting is a subtle art, one that is not benefited by pugilism. It’s not about quantity. It’s not about satisfying another person’s greed. It is a way to recognize someone, to show them you understand them and love them for being who they are. They connect us. The best gifts require intuitive leaps that are served by aimless wanderings and serendipitous encounters. One of my most cherished gifts was a scarab beetle in a test tube. Huh? I am probably the only female in the world who would coo over such a gift. And the fact that my brother, who never communicates with anyone except to send presents at Christmas, somehow intuited that I would be pleased by such a thing is precious to me.
Another gift that tops my list was a blouse. On a freezing Saturday, I drove to Oklahoma City to spend the day, first teaching, then attending a round of gallery openings. I was surprised to find my boyfriend waiting for me when my class was over. The weather had shifted, and I was doomed to get heat rash from the sweater I was wearing. So he bought me a blouse, a very pretty blouse that looked great on me and went with my skirt. Even better, it was a blouse I would not have thought to try on. Then he drove twenty miles to get it to me so I would be comfortable that afternoon. I treasured that blouse, and still treasure the memory, long after we parted ways.
True gifts are symbols of the heart. Someone very far away recently asked me what I wanted. I said a key ring. He was very surprised. I told him I wanted it because that way I would have something from him that I would be touching all the time. Didn’t matter what kind of keyring.
If you’re reading this, you probably aren’t wrestling with someone over the last Tickle Me Elmo. Possibly you are in sympathy with Walmart strikers, or just don’t care to risk maiming so some CEO can have another margarita on his yacht in the Caymans. Hopefully, you believe in supporting your local economy by buying local. Maybe your idea of a gift isn’t the thing that a million other people have. Perhaps your idea of giving the gift of yourself isn’t so literal as to involve bloodletting. It’s possible you are just sensible enough to know that it’s freaking cold out there and the traffic is stupid to the max. Whatever the reason, if you are reading this on Black Friday instead of shopping, you are my kind of people.
If you’re like me and think a much better way to spend today is to curl up with a good book, I hope you’ll take a look at my friend, Kate’s, blog. She’s listed a plethora of terrific indie ebooks (including “A Shot in the Bark”) for you to check out. Find her here: Only True Magic