The problem with “Common” lists

I have a problem with those lists that crop up throughout the year on various topics that dole out opinionated ideas on what you should or shouldn’t do/buy/eat.  Each and every one of them is someone’s personal take on something that is couched in terms of universal absolutes.  And that irks me.  A lot.  Come on people; stop sending these lists as though one person’s opinion could ever possibly represent the thoughts of every person on the planet!  Just like not everyone in the world thinks that only thin white girls that look pre-pubescent are the hottest thing to represent the world of “female”; not everyone is going to agree with your list of common gifts to avoid giving or your ideas on what to cut out of budgets to save the most money.

The article that prompted this mini-rant details Common Gifts you should Never Ever Give Anyone.  Ever.  But especially at the Holidays!

I’ll spare you the entire list given so you can read it yourself if you wanted to.  I just want to point out a couple that I disagree with most strongly since it is just one more little way to show that not EVERYONE believes the same thing so really the only UNIVERSAL advice you could give that would be a benefit across the board, specifically here for gift giving, is “KNOW the person”.  And even then it is possible that you could end up thinking of something great that your friend or co-worker or whoever just doesn’t like.  It happens.

Anyways, the first “common gift” to never give that I really disagree with:

3. A gym membership
I don’t have to explain this to you, do I? By giving the gift of exercise you are saying to your loved one, “You’re fat.” or at least, “You’re out of shape and you need to change.”
Bummer! No one want to hear that on a day off, much less on a festive day when they’re ostensibly about to devour a huge meal. Don’t give gym memberships (except if you are specifically asked and even then, I’d wait for pleading).

Okay.  Here’s the problem.  Gym memberships are usually wicked expensive.  If you know someone who already GOES to one or is waxing poetically about a class they wish they could take at one; GET them the membership or gift card!  Put a note that you recalled them talking about it and thought they’d love it. I’d totally love a month’s gift-card for my current membership or a card to get into one of the yoga classes coming up.  Someone else might not.  You need to know people.

Not EVERYONE is going to automatically assume you’re calling them fat for getting them a thoughtful but exercise-themed gift; even if it happens to be a *gasp* gym membership.  The fact that “you’re fat” and “you’re out of shape and need to change” are the only two conclusions that this author could draw from anyone giving this gift just goes to show that we really need to change the discourse about weight.  First off, “You’re fat” isn’t a negative.  It is a simple descriptor like “you’re white” or “you’re short” or “you have long fingers”.  We need to stop putting negative values to neutral phrases; that would help a lot with this.

Besides, getting or giving any form of exercise does NOT somehow make a person not fat.  We’ve seen it over and over; fat people are not inherently lazy.  Some of us work out.  Some don’t.  Just like thinner folk.  So take this advice with a salt-lick sized grain of salt and assess the actual desires of the person you’re considering buying a gym membership for (or a workout DVD or a thigh-master, whatever).  People are all different.  Some would LOVE this gift; others might cry but the key here is to KNOW the person you’re giving it to.

Unrelated to weight is one other gift no-no that made me shake my head:

6. A stuffed animal to anyone over the age of 8
Because it’s cheesy and infantilizing and weird. Because grown-ups shouldn’t own stuffed animal collections. Because also, from a man to a lady, it’s usually a pretty lazy gift.

Okay.  If you put no thought into it and bought a crummy little bear for someone who has obviously never liked and never owned a stuffed critter then yes, you have been lazy.  It goes back to the same thing I pointed out above; the key here is to KNOW the person you’re giving it to. That said, some of us over 8 LOVE stuffed animals!  I absolutely LOVE seeing the furry little head of a stuffed animal poking out of the top of my stocking on Christmas morning!  I go to build-a-bear and love to see a new WWF critter available to build!  Again, I would LOVE a stuffed animal.  Anyone who knows me well enough to realize this gets bonus points.  For someone else?   Maybe not so much.

It all comes down to knowing and acknowledging that we are ALL different.  We all like different things.  Our bodies and minds all work differently.  Stop taking these lists of “Common Ideas” as the universally accepted truths that their authors try to push them off as.  Think about anyone that you’re considering buying or making a gift for, for whatever occasion, and go from there.  We are all different.  One size DOES NOT FIT ALL; be it clothing or ideas/beliefs or simply gifts for the holidays.  Stop trying to force the entire world into easily definable sets of all-encompassing “do”s and “don’t”s lists.

And just because I’m totally thinking about fuzzy fluffy critters now that I have been pondering stuffed animal toys; here’s a pic of me from this summer holding what has to be the softest little black rabbit I’ve ever had the wonderful pleasure of holding!

So. Much. Soft Cuteness!

So. Much. Soft Cuteness!


15 thoughts on “The problem with “Common” lists

  1. BUNNY!

    I also soo do not understand the stuffed animal one. My stepdad and I exchange teddy bears on special occasions, and I use a teddy bear as a purse. I’m jealous of my comic alter-ego, because she lives in a world where plushies talk. Therefore, a stuffed animal is a good gift for me. Someone who finds this creepy? not so much.

    I concur with the dusty tin of expired sweets, though. It’s so disappointing to be expecting some homemade cookies, and get some candy from 1992.

  2. The year I asked for WW membership tags, I was thrilled to get them. If I got them this year, I would be significantly less impressed.

    It really IS the thought that counts. So if someone puts absolutely no thought at all into a gift, it doesn’t count for much.

    Teddy bears don’t do it for me, but pre-paid child care at the gym? LOVE IT!

  3. Also telling–this author seems to assume that the only reason someone would go to a gym/work out is to lose weight. No.

    The bunny–so nice. I also love your hair color.

  4. Re: #7 – “an I.O.U.” – this is perfectly acceptable in my family if you ordered someone something that was back-ordered and didn’t arrive in time for the gift-giving occasion. We’ve had this happen with L.L. Bean, among others – and you cut the picture out of the catalog (or print it off the website) and enclose a note saying it has been ordered but didn’t arrive. The person knows you thought of them, sees what they will be getting, and receives it in a week or two.

    Also, her “grown-ups shouldn’t have stuffed animal collections” is awfully judge-y. Grown-ups (and kids, for that matter) should collect whatever makes them happy. (Unless it’s, like, puppy corpses or something. Then maybe a gift certificate for intensive therapy would be a better idea.)

  5. Pegkitty I agree about the IOUs too. And the biggest problem I had about the stuffed animals was that particular line. Like any collection that this author didn’t value themselves was therefore somehow inherently bad or creepy. Though dead puppy collections might be closer to a universally creepy thing….

  6. I have quite a few stuffed animals, including the Steiff badger that was the first toy I picked for myself at age two. The author of that list is cordially invited to bite me.

    In fact, this list reminds me of one of the few stories I know from my parents’ courtship. Shortly after they started dating, my mother was admiring a Sabatier Chef’s knife in a store window. Once he was on his own, Dad sneaked back and bought it for her as a birthday gift. Of course, he immediately began second-guessing himself because he’d been taught that buying a woman ANYTHING to do with housework of ANY sort was a huge insult.

    He finally went to her roommate and asked if he should take the knife back and buy something more acceptable. The roommate, knowing my mother well, told him not to do such a damn fool thing.

    Guess who adored her birthday present. The key was that the recipiant was an enthusiastic cook who longed for top-notch tools, and the giver listened when she said that was something she wanted.

    BTW, the knife outlasted both of them. Now that’s what I call a good investment in excellent tools.

  7. Yeah, I could think of exceptions for most of that list. My mom would probably be happy with a holiday sweater, for example (me? not so much). IOUs are fine–around the holidays, that is often simply not the giver’s fault. Things get back-ordered or shipping is slow. Personally, I enjoy receiving gifts after the fact–just when you think the fun is over, there’s something else to open! The gym membership? Not only is it problematic, as you astutely pointed out, to consider “fat” to be something with a (negative) value attached to it, but it’s also a problem to assume that exercise is not fun and people only do it to avoid “negative” consequences.

  8. My best friend realised she’d met her perfect match when she discovered her husband to be owned just as many stuffed critters as she did – many elderly, sad, one-eyed, misshapen and rescued from jumble sales. One year they both inadvertently bought each other the same stuffed critter for Christmas.


  9. oh HI RABBIT! I had a pet rabbit for quite a long time – she was a wonderful companion.

    I have and love a large collection of stuffed fuzzy animals that have been with me for a long time. And I consider myself to be a mature, responsible adult. They add joy to my life – and I’d love to have a new one to join the crowd!

  10. If someone gave me a gym membership, I wouldn’t be mad, because they are expensive and this way, I could work out for free for a bit. But as long as it’s not Curves (the beliefs of the founders don’t really gel with my personal values, and I’m not a fan of limited time on machines).

    I like stuffed animals too. I did sell a lot of my Beanie Bears, but I have a couple special ones I kept that sit on shelves around the house, and I have Gund, Boyd’s and an FAO Schwartz too.

    I think we should all chip in and give the author of this list a big ol’ can of whoopass for Christmas.

  11. I love odd stuffed animals, things you wouldn’t necessarily see. My favorite so far was a stuffed walrus. I have to sleep hugging onto a pillow or something to breathe easier, so I have at least one large stuffed buddy every year. They get really tatty around Christmas, so it’s just about the right time to trade them in for a new friend. Maybe a stuffed elephant this year.

    Somebody in the comments wanted to add socks to the list of no-nos, but I never minded getting socks. I like those “no show” socks that stop below your sneaker line. My husband loves tube socks and could always use another dozen pairs.

  12. Godless Heathen, I have an anteater sitting atop my computer and a rockhopper penguin on the telly…because every good Python fan should have a penguin on the telly.

    I’d kiss anyone who gave me socks this year, particularly if they are very warm and snuggly. I love socks.

  13. Pingback: Fatties have more flavor! « I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape.

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