Archive for December, 2015

What’s wrong with socks?

December 27, 2015

While most of my friends know I don’t exchange Christmas gifts, one or two still give me small presents.  One friend is so reliable in posting his gift that anticipating its arrival in the days before Christmas ensures I’ll be making more than one trip down to check the mail.

The last time this particular friend and I lived within five miles of each other was 29 years ago.  Despite the distance between us, I like to think we manage to remain connected to some inner, essential part of ourselves and that it’s in this space where we understand each other, free of the many changes time has effected.

Of course, if my friend is giving gifts to a woman he first met 29 years ago, he’s also giving gifts to others he’s befriended in the intervening decades.  One way he navigates this difficult task is by compiling a cd of his favorite music for the past year.  It is natural that our musical preferences, which once ran parallel to each other’s, have diverged.  And while each year there are a few songs where I note, “My god, I can’t believe he likes this,” on the other hand, there are a few selections that I gladly add to my own music library.

And it’s true that sometimes the books he’s included with his cd don’t always hit the mark.  He must be the only person in my circle of friends who’s never heard my rants against Elizabeth Gilbert, so when he sent me her most recent novel a few years ago, I didn’t sneer too loudly in his general direction.  It’s like people assuming that because I enjoy jazz I like Norah Jones.  I can, and do, correct them on this assumption, but I try not to blame them.  For some reason beyond my ken, people who otherwise seem perfectly normal think that woman has talent.

This year’s book, however, has left me at a loss on how to draft my requisite thank you note.  To believe that I would ever entertain the notion that this book should have been published, let alone that I read it, strikes at the heart of what I thought the few confidants I’ve worked hard to maintain in this wayward world would understand about me.  In fact, not only don’t I give a shit if the damn thing made the bestseller lists or if the untalented, exhibitionist bitch who wrote it made the some of the most viewed TED talks in internet history or has an astronomical number of Twitter followers, those are the very points that would sink just about anything in my opinion.

And then there was a recommendation from Elizabeth Gilbert on the cover.  Aargh!

Still, in the interest of trying to figure out why my friend thought I would want to read The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, I gave it a brief skim.  I’d come across her name since looking up Neil Gaiman some months earlier.  However, upon quickly realizing that the entire exercise had been founded on some literary agent watching the TED talks and getting Palmer to commit to a book that regurgitated the same meaningless garbage so that every talent-less bore associated could pocket some easy cash, all I was minimally interested in was learning more about her relationship to a considerably more talented artist.  Everything else, as far as I could see, was on par with the same media-whoring that motivates people who have never done the hard work of sitting down, in dread and silence, to summon something inside themselves worth offering.  They seem to think that merely the act of offering possesses its own value and that, turning Palmer’s thoughts ruthlessly against her, the gift lies in the audience swallowing their proffered crap.

I haven’t been this shaken up by a Christmas gift since my father sent me John Bradshaw books.  Because I was broke at the time, I carried them, unread, to the downtown second-hand bookstore where the sharp-eyed proprietor refused to buy them.  Although I could have used the cash, my respect for the man multiplied ten-fold.  “You can put them on the free table if you’d like,” he told me.  “And if no one takes them, I send them to the prison.”

It’s one thing to have my father possess no idea who I am.  The man, after all, is an ego-maniac from way back, expecting me to remember his favorite foods and sports teams, and unable to recollect anything accurately about his daughter’s childhood.  But this is a friendship I’ve cherished in the belief that my friend understood the most vital elements of who I am.  What I worry most about is that somehow he might think that this titular “art of asking” is something I need to learn and/or that I too could, with just the right amount of encouragement (a TED talk? a Twitter feed? a rich and famous husband? a deep and abiding lack of talent that I am able blissfully to ignore?) produce a memoir couched in new age bullshit and make a mint.  Does he think that I simply lack the gumption to get my act together?  Does he not comprehend that my on-going and most important struggle, at least in my mind, is demanding of myself that I not speak until I’m certain that I have something worth another’s attention?

Am I at fault for not communicating this objective better to my friend?  Or is it a difficult objective to grasp given our culture?  What can I salvage from this experience?  And how can I urge him, with love, to just send me socks next year?