Gifts, Glamour and Longing

Insightful words from Virginia Postrel today in an interesting essay on gift-giving and glamour:


“Gifts carry a dangerous glamour. They encourage us to dream of being lavished with the things we wish for but can’t have (or are too practical to indulge in) and—the emotionally fraught part—to dream of having those who love us discern our longings without our having to confess them.”


I’m almost always disappointed by the gifts I receive, so either my longings seem to have regularly gone unnoticed or unacknowledged, or what I long for just can’t be satisfied with most (any?) gift. That is the nature of most longing, that once it’s satisfied, it just longs again.


What I long for, right now, is to be free of worries: money worries, dog health worries, house maintenance worries, etc. No gift of diamonds, linens, clothing, housewares, electronics, books, knitted or needlepointed items, calendars, soaps, candles, gardening tools, or art is going to help me there, and some of those things just add to the worries because they are another thing to maintain or to have to make decisions about.


Even my old stand-bys — flowers, food, and donations to charity — can only go so far, but at least they don’t add to the anxiety (except for orchids and bonsai!).


Looks like I will have to gift myself — with meditation time.


3 thoughts on “Gifts, Glamour and Longing

  1. Was just talking to V. about this very thing. We went to TJMaxx the other day and thre were so many things, lavish things that I long for in my daily life when Im feeling down or deprived. Like new towels or bedding…the stuff I have is fine but walking through the soft lovely piles with the glitterning end caps calling my name…I want it ALL. Then I walk out feeling kinda depressed, spiraling into the mental conversation about gratitude for all I do have to regain that balance again. Somehow for me the attraction of the luxury items is related to the longings for things that one cant buy or be given (as you mentioned), money worries, pet health, family issues. Something is deeply installed in me saying having beautiful towels or a gorgeous set of sheets, socks, lipstick, nightgown, great shoes, new dishes… will make that other stuff easier to bear. As I write Im thinking sometimes it really does…

  2. I know, sometimes it does feel like having or buying or receiving a luxury item or two does make things easier to bear. (See my Xmas wish list at Delicious! ;-)) But it reminds me of addiction, because while it offers comfort, solace, distraction, and even hope for a while, more is always needed, isn’t it?

    T. was looking at a piece of art for sale for $3400 in the coffee shop this weekend and said — in the context of a convo. we were overhearing there about a woman who doesn’t own a coffee machine but buys a Starbucks coffee 5x/day, every day — that in about half a year, if the woman stopped buying the coffee, she could own the painting, which would last her whole life. I responded that I would rather have the five cups of coffee each day, though “coffee” is a metaphor in my case for “moments of feeling I am getting a special treat.” For some people, owning that piece of art would give them that feeling as they look at it everyday; for me, I’d rather use the money to splurge on smaller things over time, and maybe a variety of things, like food, wine, a nice tea, a trip to an art gallery, a pretty book, flowers, nice socks, etc. Housewares and cosmetics don’t do it for me, and apparently neither does a piece of art, but other things that give me sensual pleasure, along with a feeling of novelty or happy surprise, do seem to smooth out the rough places. (Maybe they mimic the feeling of being completely and overwhelmingly loved?)

    OTOH, I have so many of these luxuries already. I don’t lack for yummy food, good wine, beautiful things. But they don’t seem to be _enough_ except in the moment when I teeter between wanting them and having them. After I’ve ‘consumed’ the item, I’m left with a mixture of feelings: satisfaction, wishing the moment of consumption were still in the future, wishing I’d chosen something else that would have satisfied me even more, and always, eventually, a longing for more/other. Reminded as I have been most of my life of CS Lewis’s wise words: “Our best havings are wantings.”

  3. Wew, I hear you about more things to maintain and more things to make decisions about! I felt this today when it took my children and I 2 hours just to get us out of the house in the morning. It’s a bitter sweet feeling, though, and a balance between choosing what I want to take responsibility for and swallowing down acceptance sometimes when I know it’s just a phase- because there is also joy in crevaces if I look for it and sometimes when I don’t.

    Of course the pressure our country is facing doesn’t help and, being in real estate, I hear so many personal stories of hardship and feel my charity is to be a good listener and to use my expertise to help people simplify their stress.

    Don’t know how your blog sparked this direction from me but thank you for responding to my blog (Homeagentnh) and for sharing yours!

    Stephanie Jacques

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