Holiday gift anxiety- it’s one of those things about being a grown-up that nobody ever tells you. When I was a child I had two main worries come Christmastime. One was making sure everyone knew I wanted that special mermaid doll that both sings and swims in the bathtub (that I never got) and the second was that my chain-smoking, garlic stuffed olive-eating grandma might kiss me on the mouth. But at some point after you realize that Santa Claus (or the Hannukah Armadillo) doesn’t really exist, it sets in that you are responsible for giving other people presents as well as receiving them and also that your mother-in-law will always kiss you on the lips no matter how many cold sores you fake. Let the panic commence.
One of my fondest memories from growing up was my mom’s baking bonanzas every holiday. She’d whip up plates of poppy seed bread, cookies, toffee, candies and other homemade goodies which we kids would then deliver to every neighbor within a 3-mile radius. You’d think my mom was campaigning for office or selling Mary Kay but really she just liked to cook things for people that she knew they’d like. It all seemed so simple then.
These days, while I share my mom’s charitable zeal and the holidays are about the only time I tie on my apron (really! I have one! It’s adorable!) and do my best Betty Homemaker, I lack her culinary abilities. In addition, the times have changed when it comes to giving and receiving food. I have friends who are gluten intolerant, lactose intolerant, fat free, sugar free and of course low carb. I have friends dieting, healthy lifestyling, and at every other point on the yo-yo spectrum. Not to mention all the friends who think they’re fat, worry about getting fat or wonder if pregnancy makes them look fat (it doesn’t!). That leaves pretty much one woman left with no food issues. And you all know that isn’t me.
I am sympathetic to their plight. Every year when the goodies start piling up I am filled with conflicting emotions. Joy! All my favorite treats! My friends love me! Bon bons for breakfast! Dread! All my favorite treats! My friends must hate me! Must resist the siren call of the bon bons for breakfast! So last year I came up with what I thought was a good compromise. I ate one or two of the treats I liked best and allowed my kids and husband to take what they liked and then packaged the rest of it up and gave it away. I got to taste it and I didn’t have to spend the rest of the week circling my kitchen like a tween locked out of a Jonas Brothers concert. Excellent, right?
That one came back to bite me in the butt. Hard. Turns out that my friends, being generally awesome and way more talented than I am, make some delicious treats. The people that I gave them to all wanted the recipes. I couldn’t plead “family secret” as they all know that a) the only family recipes I have come from the backs of boxes and b) I am a terrible secret keeper. So instead I told the truth. Long story short, the friends who made me the treats were hurt that I’d given them away and the friends that I’d given them to were insulted by my recycling. And I felt like a jerk until the summer when one son hit the other in the mouth with a bungee cord and knocked out five of his teeth – mother guilt trumps all!
So what is a health conscious girl to do? Should I stick to giving non-food items like candles or, say, SOCKS. (I swear my friends are so sick of getting socks from me. Plus the people at Target probably think I have a foot fetish.) And what do I do with all the treats that people give me – assuming they still will after last year’s debacle? What do you do?