Dear Amy: I have always been against senseless consumerism. I am a minimalist in almost all aspects of my life.
I do not try to impose my beliefs on anyone, however, whenever I am invited to birthday parties, I almost wish I wasn’t.
My solution is to give a gift card, which the recipient can spend on whatever they might need or want.
For some people, that might seem tactless or impersonal, but to me this works better when it comes to giving gifts to adults.
My friend has invited me to one of her kids’ birthday parties.
This child is turning five, and although I know I can’t come empty-handed, I also don’t want to give any gifts.
I know that my friend’s child, whom I adore and have babysat for many times, needs nothing.
These parents are wealthy, she has a loving extended family, and friends that give her more that she can even play with.
My conundrum is: I don’t want to give something that I am sure is going to end up in the bottom of some drawer, but I understand that convention calls for some kind of present.
Should I give up my beliefs, suck it up, and buy something for this child?
— I’m Not Cheap
Dear Not Cheap: There is no need to buy anything in order to give a child a wonderful gift.
This child knows you well. She might enjoy a “coupon” for an experience.
You can make a special card for her, telling her that she can choose her own activity and “spend” this card on: A special “play date” with you; a “cooking lesson,” where you will assist her as she makes a special dish in the kitchen; two-hours with you, ice skating or kicking a soccer ball… (the options are fairly endless).
Make sure she understands that she should keep the card and think about the choices she can make. She can talk it over with you, make her selection, and enjoy her special birthday gift along with you.
And a note about gift cards: If you are truly a minimalist concerned about consumerism, you should rethink this practice, because in using gift cards, you are basically encouraging spending, buying, and consuming.
You might better give cash (the person could choose to save it, or pay some bills), or treat the recipient to drinks, a bite, or a movie ticket.
Dear Amy: I lost my father last month. He was 94 years old. I miss him.
I have no other relatives in my area. I have cousins living in another state, but I don’t travel.
I was able to get through Thanksgiving, but Christmas will be worse without my father.
I did buy some gifts for myself to ease the day a little, but I will be alone this Christmas.
Please give me some advice of what a person can do when he is alone on this particular day.
— Sad and Alone
Dear Sad: Many churches are recognizing the extreme sadness and loneliness so many people experience around the holidays, and so they organize a special service, usually held on or around the “longest night” of the year, which is December 21st.
These services are called “Blue Christmas” services, and they are designed especially for people who mourn.
I attend one of these services every year, and while it can be an extremely tender and sad event, it can also be a time to recognize and understand in a deep way that you mourn — because you experienced the privilege of being loved.
The feeling of connection and community with others who are also feeling sad and lonely will help all of you to feel less alone.
If you can’t find a local service to attend, an internet search will turn up services available via Zoom or livestream.
You should have a plan in place for Christmas Day. Ritualize your experience a little bit. Toast your father’s memory, open your gifts, and force yourself to reach out to your closest friend or family member. And then — if possible — in the late afternoon, go to the movies.
Dear Amy: “Deflated Post Wedding” described his extreme disappointment that his daughter did not visit all guests at their tables during the reception.
Hello, isn’t this what the receiving line is for?
— Frequent Wedding Guest
Dear Guest: Yes, this is what the receiving line is for. Unfortunately, many couples seem to be fleeing right after their ceremony in order to spend time having photos taken of themselves.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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