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Ins and outs
Christmas shopping

December 20, 2004

There is nothing that reminds you more of your age than Christmas shopping for your nephews and nieces. Having no children of my own, I am not in their constant presence and as a result, I am not privy to their secret world, codes, barometer of coolness, what toys are the most coveted as opposed to what toys would be the equivalent of stuffing their Christmas stockings with socks. All I have is distant, alternative week-ends, a few brief outings usually to the movies, and no time for a real heart to heart on what makes their little world rock.

I do not know if Hilary Duff is cooler than Lindsay Lohan and I have no idea what kids play on their "Playstation" whatever that is supposed to mean. The last time I got excited over a video game, it was Tetris, which was given to me not in a fancy, magical looking box but copied onto a nondescript black floppy disk. And the last time I ventured to share my musical taste, I asked them about "Madonna" to which I got blank stares and a "Who?" reply. I still shudder at the thought. It was the turning point, the moment in time when I knew I had definitely passed the threshold from being on the "in" to being hopelessly "out."

Yet it wasn't that long ago that I too would laboriously write my wish list to Santa Claus, listing each and every item with a precision, passion and art for description to rival Marie Curie measuring a fraction of a gram of Radium in the storeroom of the Paris Municipal School. And every Christmas, I was hopelessly disappointed at the sight of the gifts emerging from crisp packages wrapped in golden paper, which had held hope for me for so many days and nights.

Why, oh why, were grown-ups so clueless, I would wonder bitterly while I masked my deep depression with a fake smile and phony leaps up and down. The most geeky, nerdy, embarrassing presents known to man were offered to me all because there was a good hearted intention to teach me a valuable lesson: A toy accordeon; an illustrated book in twelve languages (because I really needed to know how to say elephant in mandarin); A giant candle; A dictionary; And of course those damned cotton socks to keep my feet warm for winter! How I wished hopelessly for the latest Barbie, Jem and the Hologram concert set, even a piece of KitKat would have done!

I decided that I would never inflict this on any other children. Let their parents get them instructive chemistry sets and microscopes. I would be the "cool" auntie, the one who would get them those completely useless, poorly constructed pieces of junk whose sole value depended on the continuous advertisements run hundreds of times a day on Nickelodeon TV. I would help in the corruption of my delightful nephews and nieces by the sinister corporate forces of America!

But now that I was finally able to afford that dream, I realized how utterly clueless I had become and short of skipping work for a few weeks and staying glued to the Cartoon Network, I had no way of knowing what to pick. What to do about this dilemma?

I resorted to stalking. If you see a woman with a haggard look and disheveled hair lurking about the aisles of Toys'R'Us, Target's kids section, or the Disney Store, in hot pursuit of your innocently dithering-about young'uns, do not fret! It isn't some madwoman hoping to snatch your babies and return with them to her coven. Most likely, it will be me, or thousands like me, helplessly following the 0 to 12 set as they examine, inspect and rate the various offerings of this veritable buffet of playthings, hoping for a loud "Oooooohhh" or "Aaaaaahhh" to point us in the right direction.

All this so that when I see the eyes of my little loved ones sparkle at the sight of their carefully chosen gifts, I will feel that I have delayed at least for one more year the inevitable slide from the world of hip, know-it-all youths into that of the hopelessly square grown-ups.

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Niki Tehranchi


Book of the day

Three volume box set of the Persian Book of Kings
Translated by Dick Davis

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