A Middle-Aged Woman Laughs at a Christmas Gift List
By: Mary Fran Bontempo


Qualifications: Must be fluent in techno-speak, able to understand and translate any and all terminology referring to electronic gadgets. Must be willing to schlep around shopping malls, enduring surly crowds of shoppers all frantically searching for the latest technological marvel. Ability to scour endless advertisements all claiming to have the latest thing at the best price is essential.

Pluses: Capable of soothing the frayed nerves of a frequently hysterical employer in public places (discreet use of chocolate for this purpose proves helpful).

Employer: Totally techno-illiterate woman with no idea about the difference between an Ipod, Ipad, Wii system, X-Box, or any of that other stuff.

Salary and benefits: Name your price, anything you want.

If only I were joking. Calling me clueless about all of the items on my family’s Christmas lists would be kind. I knew I wasn’t up to speed on the latest lingo, but when I went to buy a camera (a word that I still understand), I assumed the process would be relatively straightforward, requiring no prior research or study on my part.

Foolish woman.

The young lady assisting me began by asking what kind of camera I was interested in buying. This, I could answer.

“A digital one,” I responded proudly.

She led me to a display counter crammed with at least twenty different digital cameras, each of which, with a few very minor differences, looked exactly the same.

I stared stupidly. “What’s the difference between all of these?” I asked.

“Well, the number of pixels in each camera relates to image clarity. Different cameras have different LCD viewfinder sizes. Depending on the type of storage card you select, the number of gigabytes will provide a greater number of images…blah, blah, blah.”

I smiled insipidly, nodding as though I understood the alien blather the sales clerk was spouting in my direction. The truth was my brain had shut off right after the word “pixels.”

“I’ll have to think about it,” I muttered, slinking towards the door. Needless to say, if I couldn’t comprehend anything about a camera, I found myself completely befuddled by Ipods, Ipads, gaming systems and just about everything else that is in demand. I found myself recalling an old Twilight Zone episode in which a man wakes up one morning to discover that the English language has suddenly become a mystery to him. He must relearn how to communicate.

And this, I now believe, is all part of some insidious plan to part us with as much of our money as possible. It’s difficult to say to a kid “You don’t need all of that stuff” when you don’t even know what “that stuff” is, so you blindly purchase it anyway.

I longed for the days when a boxed board game would satisfy my offspring. Why couldn’t they just keep on playing Candyland or Monopoly? But I vowed to persevere through gift buying frustration, finding a questionable, but no less exciting to me, benefit to spending next month’s mortgage on a bunch of gadgetry I didn’t understand.

Few things are more maddening to a Martha Stewart wanna-be like me than painstakingly decorating every inch of the house for the holidays, only to have the entire place enveloped by waves of crumpled wrapping paper,used boxes and mountains of trash on Christmas morning. This year, I anticipate no such problem. Every single indecipherable item I purchased for all three kids, along with its eventually discarded wrapping paper, will fit into a solitary shoebox, which I plan to gently place under the tree while I survey my impeccably festooned living room.

Hey, I deserve something for having to master an entirely new language in just four weeks, don’t I? And if all I get is a clean living room on Christmas morning, well, that and the knowledge that the entire mess is over for another year will be more than enough for me.

What gifts are leaving you befuddled this year? Click “comments” below, in red, and share!