The Gift Monologues


It’s time!

mmmm!After months of opening-act pussyfooting around with the jack-o-lanterns and the pilgrims and the United Nations Day parades, the calendar’s real holiday has finally arrived. Christmas is here! This is my favorite time of year, a time when going to a store and spending $300 on DVDs isn’t an insane thing to do as long as you cancel it out with the more insane act of giving them all away. It is a time when going to the mall and having a disguised stranger force your child to sit on his lap is not only not alarming, but desired. It is a time when we do a lot of things to trees that would be extremely difficult to explain to an alien culture. It is a time when Steak ‘n’ Shake’s delicious, affordable egg nog milkshake is almost readily attainable, and only half the waitresses look at you as if you just knocked out an orderly and stole his keys to escape your mental ward when you go there and order one. (I don’t know what kind of travails go into making this shake. I am not familiar with the intricacies of the nogging process. I only know that Steak ‘n’ Shake de-nogs the holy hell out of those shake machines at 12:01 on December 26th like they’re exorcising something from the restaurant, and every waitress I order one from treats me like nutmeg is a toxic mineral they have to personally mine at the beginning of every shift in December. Hey, lady: don’t look at me like that. It is on the menu. But I seem to have strayed from my point somewhat.)

Most importantly, Christmas is a time of generosity, caring, and togetherness, a time when family, friends, and everyone we hold dear to us gathers near to us and collectively demonstrates that they have no idea what we’re into at all.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe everyone else reading this got their start reading comics from a dad with a box full of Golden Age Supermans in the garage or a sibling with a bunch of Fantastic Fours under the bed. Maybe the rest of you call home and, when your mom answers, she says, “Oh, honey, I was hoping you’d call! Can you believe Blue Beetle is getting canceled?” By and large, though, I’m betting you’re in the same boat I am. If you were close to a bunch of people in real life who “got” comics like you do, you’d be with those people in a bar right now arguing Superman vs. Galactus instead of reading this and posting in the forums. Instead, I imagine the people around you are more like the people around me. You don’t take crap for it anymore — everyone is pleasant — but generally your loved ones talk about your relationship with comics in tones they might use to talk about your relationship with your imaginary friend. They don’t actually put the words “your little” in front of the words “comic books,” but it often sounds like they meant to.

Normally? C’est la vie. There aren’t three things I understand about what my sister’s into either. After three decades, if I could even prove my dad has interests I would declare victory in the village square and hire a marching band. For eleven months out of the year, we call it even.

But then it’s Christmas. Then it’s time for everyone to start shopping for you. That’s when you get a free one-day pass into everyone’s brains to see what they think your life is like. That’s when you get the graphic novelization of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? That’s when you get the Jar Jar Binks coffee thermos, even though you have never had a cup of coffee in your life, because “I saw it was a Star Wars thing, and I know how you like the Star Wars.”

Oh, how many things I have with Jar Jar on them.

I wonder, in these jetpack days of electronical mail and TVs that watch your shows for you, if twelve year olds still have to go through the verbal acrobatics I undertook to explain to my mom what I wanted for Christmas in the eighties. I had no online visual aids on the day I had to do a monologue describing the “prestige format.” There was no Google Image wingman to help me bring to life what a “Marvel Masterworks” was. I always left these conversations feeling like an astronaut trying to get a caveman to help him build a transistor. “I am,” I would routinely think around this time each year, “getting a college sweatshirt again.”

You know what, though? As much as people may talk now about how comics are dying because you supposedly have to go to specialty stores to buy them, the fact is that now you’ve got about fifty different web sites to buy that book from before you even have to think about calling the Borders, who will have it for you by next Tuesday. There was a time, my friend, when Mom had to drive her patient, unconditionally loving ass down to your creepy little nerd dungeon for you and talk to the pasty-faced mullet holder behind the counter until he was somehow able to decipher “Mutant Massacre trade paperback” from whatever she was trying to say as he derisively rolled his eyes at her for not knowing who Sabretooth was.

Go call your mother right now, and tell her you love her. If you got a comic for Christmas in the eighties, she put up with a lot of bullshit for you.

Whenever I am visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, as much as I’m struck by all the times people didn’t “get it,” I’m also struck by the trouble people went through on my behalf. I mean… how did my parents ever get a copy of The Pitt under the tree?

(By the way: never buy anyone The Pitt for Christmas, even if they ask for it. Before Warren @^#%ing Ellis’ @^#$ing Ruins, it was the most depressing comic I had ever read. In short, a guy with a super power he doesn’t want tries to get rid of it and accidentally creates a huge toxic crater where Pittsburgh used to be, killing millions and ruining the world forever. Merry Christmas! Try kicking off your Christmas morn reading that by the fire without throwing it in afterwards.)

Still, even though I appreciate all the trouble everyone went through for me as a kid, I appreciate the existence of the Amazon Wish List even more. It’s nice to know my future kids will have a leg up when they want to keep their clueless dad from accidentally getting them the Silver Edition holopod when everyone knows the Platinum Ruby Edition holopod is the cool one. Now, instead of getting you the wrong thing because they don’t understand what an Alias Omnibus is, your relatives can get you the wrong thing because “just buying you something off your wish list seemed too obvious.” Try to remember that thing about the thought counting.

 


Jim Mroczkowski is one of many on the iFanboy staff who has a rule against buying anything for himself in December, but he is making an exception this year for Saturday Night Live: Season Four. Chide him if you must via Twitter or blog; he is not made of stone, you know.

 

Comments

  1. HAHA that was a great article.  nerd dungeon…that whole sentence was gold, dude. 

    last year I broke down and finally started buying graphic novels or trades for my non-comic reading, but book loving, family.  I had always wanted to do it.  I went with persepolis for my step mom and it was a big hit.  everyone is getting some sort of graphic novel this year!  makes my shopping way more fun. 

  2. Well said!

    The down side of the Amazon wishlist is that your tastes go on display (with your real name attached to them) whether you want them to or not.  A few years ago, I got a call from a college friend — a woman with whom I watched hours and hours of art films with Russian subtitles; maybe Woody Allen if we were feeling really lowbrow — saying that she tried to look up my wishlist on Amazon but all she could find was somebody who wanted all of these ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ DVD sets.  Since that embarrassed clarification, she’s bought me ‘Firefly’, ’40 years of X-Men on DVD-ROM’ and several seasons of ‘Justice League’, even though she has absolutely no idea what any of these things are, because "you had them listed as high priority."

    We should all have such friends.  I don’t deserve her.

    And in fairness to any complaints I have about my less generous friends/family’s buying habits. . . last year I got my brother a DVD of "The Dark Crystal" when "everybody knows I am scared of puppets!"  Well. . .at least I know that now.

  3. I completely forgot an entire anecdote I was going to tell about the ripple effect of Amazon wish lists! A tale of how, after I got a wish list, I suddenly started getting the most insane things. An Angel box set from my mom who, if I had ever had to ask her for this object and describe it, would have spent the next several years trying to set me up with other guys. Now? No idea what it even is, but he wants it! Proceed to Checkout!

  4. This is probably a weird complaint but being a comic fan was really the death of Christmas for me.  Once people started realizing that comics could be bought at a specialty shop and they could get gift certificates to said shop, that was the end of me getting other gifts.

  5. With a family of 8, my parents decided to give us a break and we used to pick names out of a hat so we would only have to get a present for one other person.  That’s kind of dissolved, but in it’s place is a pretty lax gift giving ethic.  The wealthier family members feel obligated to give, while me and a couple of my vagabond brothers get a gracious Get Out of Gift Free Card when it comes to family.  I generally try to do a little sentimental something, the grown up equivalents of coupon booklets or painted rocks with googly eyes. That or just the most garish e-card I can find.

    As far as giving to me?  My mother gave up long ago and I’ve gotten an envelope of cash for years now.  The most elaborate thing she’s had to do is deal with me the year I requested small bills in an unmarked breifcase. Oh dear sweet mother of mine.

  6. "Creepy little nerd dungeon" made me laugh out loud.

    As always Jim a great article and i know what its like getting some bad gifts, i can only imagine my grandparents when they thought "oh a book of after-dinner speeches by people my 13 year old grandson has never heard of, yes he’ll like this." With years of gifts like that i am so glad they finally discovered amazon.com gift certificates.

  7. I stopped asking for anything when I was around 12. I think this year I will ask for some TPBs. Thanks.

  8. @itsbecca I love the suitcase w/money idea. I am totally stealing that as a gift for my brother….

     

      @jimski- My mom once walked into my favorite music shop and I kid you not asked them for "Stone Temple Belly" and the "Smashing Cranberries" albums for me. I died a little inside.

  9. Speaking of The Pitt, Pittsburgh is my hometown and I really wouldn’t care if somebody turned it into a giant death crater.

  10. I have always been someone who gave a detailed list.  This usually resulted in me having longer than normal lists, and made my parents scold me for being so greedy, but I always looked to it as a way to guide people in buying my comics, video games, and movies.  I have loved Amazon’s wishlist, and used it for every aspect of gift giving.

    On a funny note, my fiance drives me nuts when she asks for gifts.  Her Christmas list this year was:

    1.  Cute clothes

    2.  Good movies

    3.  Books I’d enjoy

    How do you buy for someone like that?

  11. @Neb

    Your fianace’s Christmas list sounds similar and as annoying as my own. My list consists of "books or stuff you think I might like, I guess."

  12. @Neb  Does it make me too much of a girl that this sounds like a very reasonable list to me?  Though there aren’t very many guys I would trust with buying me "cute clothes" so obviously she thinks a lot of your taste.  Take it as a compliment!

  13. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @ohcaroline – Call me Admiral Ackbar, but Neb’s fiance’s list looks like A TRAP!

    My family is big on wish lists.  We write really long lists so that there are many options and more opportunity for being surprised.  To prioritize, I add anywhere from two to forty five stars in the margin.  

     

  14. @Paul  I see your Admiral Ackbar and raise you an Inspector Clouseau: "That is so obvious it cannot possibly be a trap."

  15. I’ll see your Closeau and raise you a Silver Age Superboy…

    http://img148.imageshack.us/img148/4673/hardcore15dkzl8.jpg

  16. @Tork  You win the Internet!!!

  17. Hehe. My mom always went out of her way to get me things I enjoyed as kid. She was pretty knowledgeable and encouraging of my interests. When I was into comics as a young lad she would listen to me explain to the intricacies of the X-men in detail for hours and was hip to all the hot shot artists that were starting up this new company called Image.

    So keen was my mother on comic books, she was an early speculator. When Spawn #1 came out she bought me 5 copies– mind you, I had no idea Spawn had come out yet! She reasoned that Mcfarlane being my favorite Spider-Man artists (she also got me multiple copies of Spider-Man #1. Signed by Mcfarlane and bag & boarded), that I should have the first issue of his new project. She also got me Valentino Shadow Hawk sketch around the same time. Because, ya’know, Guardians Of the Galaxy was “boss”.

    My mother was very cutting edge.

  18. @ eso~  You sound just like my dad.  He always tells me, "Just get what I like."  But when you don’t live with him everyday, it’s super hard to do that.

    @ ohcaroline~  Yes, yes, it does.  I do take the clothes thing as a pseudo compliment, but at the same time, I’m a complete dumb guy.  I want more guidance like, "Hugh Jackman movies" or "comedies" or "anything by Carrie Underwood" or "a hoodie."  I stare dumbfounded at the whole thing.

  19. This is probably the best page on ifanboy without Ron, Conor, and Josh

    For me,I got the list goin. however, I NEED to buy 5-9 of preacher now, cuz i’m hooked.

    Usually get my relatives cards or somethin, whatever

  20. Damn you Jimski! 

    Now that I live in California, I have to undergo incredibly intense psychological reprogramming every holiday season to "forget" about Steak n’ Shake’s special offerings.  Your (by the way, fantastic) article has now totally blown it for me.

    I need to move back to the midwest A.S.A.P.  College be damned!

  21. All of this brings back fond memories, it’s like watching "A Christmas Story."  This year the economy is a game changer.  But perhaps for the better.  Fondly remembering wish lists, mom’s genuine and embarrassing attempts to buy Jane and her Addiction CDs, this year any gift, any gesture is well accepted as above and beyond. 

  22. @Paul, I believe it’s a tarp.

    I never had issues with getting gifts growing up.  My parents always fed my nerdiness.  It was pretty fantastic.

  23. @ ohcaroline– Huzzah!  I win the Internet!  Bring me the one called Numa Numa Kid.  He must dance for my amusement.

  24. My mom to this day still calls them "funny books" and she’d never stoop so low as to feed my awful habit. 

     The best gift I ever got was the year a friend of mine (not a comic book fan himself) went to my LCS and picked up my books from my pull list and wrapped them up, knowing that he’d see me before I would have a chance to pick them up myself.