That family affair

I'm only supposed to talk about how my Christmas shopping came in at the worst possible time.

The irony is, all I wanted to do was to avoid the Christmas rush, so the gloves came off over the past two weeks. Well, there is another reason: I just wanted to get the process over with, because the overexcited part of me has been holding on to those gift ideas as early as July.

Yes, July. That was when the family wandered into a record store, for some particular reason. My dad was looking at this live CD of Paul McCartney, and when I realized he was taking a serious interest in it, I automatically thought it should be my Christmas gift for him.

Now, I don't really take these things seriously, but I do have the tendency to keep all these notes in my head many weeks, if not months, in advance. On the day I went to Fully Booked I bought myself a Christmas gift - yep, it's the Ingrid Betancourt book, which I finished reading last week - and I found a book that I thought my sister would be interested in. At the time she was going through an Oscar Wilde phase, a hangover from ten terms of studying literature. I found a book about the author - note, not one of his works, but a book about him.

Thing is, when I buy gifts for people, I take it as a chance to, well, impose my tastes on them. Yes, I don't take my Christmas gifts too seriously, which explains why that chance doesn't always come into the picture. But while my sister prefers reading fiction, I figured she'll appreciate reading non-fiction about things she's interested in. My sister will be forced to read a non-fiction book because I said so! Cue another mental note: I'll pick the book up when I return to that Fully Booked branch.

Thing is, I never had the chance to return. The usual complaint, of course, goes somewhere along the lines of it's totally against the way. And with many other bookstores around me, well, why should I get out of my way?

Somewhere along the way, though, my sister has a change of heart, sort of. "Gusto ko ng Hunger Games," she said, already buoyed by testimonies, from her friends, on how good (supposedly) the trilogy is. Not that I mind, but when she told me that I'm only seeing the expensive hardbound versions on shelves, never mind that she's only asking for the first book. I ended up buying all three - although, yes, it's the paperbound box set that's popped up in bookstores in recent weeks. All three books for a thousand bucks. Perfect Christmas gift. Wonderfully spazzed-out reaction from my sister. There goes Gwen's month-old suggestion.

My gift plans for my dad went to a halt when Music One closed its remaining shops. The Paul McCartney CD went poof with it. Sure, there are many other record stores around, but I couldn't find it anywhere, which is unusual on one hand, and expected on another - proof that the Philippines is screwed when it comes to music choice. (Unless, of course, you define "choice" as "derivatives of the guy who's supposedly snogging Selena Gomez".) But this year is the year when Yoko Ono decided to mark the death of her husband by rereleasing all of his solo albums. John Lennon's greatest hits compilation! It totally makes sense! Getting a text message from my dad the following day - "I love it!" - reaffirmed my faith in the cosmos for a good five seconds.

My plans for my mother, on the other hand, didn't really exist. In the two years I've been giving holiday gifts, I made it a point to ask her what she wanted - it's hard to second guess what your mom wants when you're male, after all. This year she wanted a top from Adidas, one she particularly spotted during another mall trip a month ago. I could've bought it then, but I was still holding back on my money. I'd later regret that decision: when we went back to the store, the folks revealed that the only stock remaining was the one on display. It's slightly dirty and it's not in her size, and we couldn't see it anywhere else.

At the time, however, my mom's starting to have some interest in, of all things, Starbucks mugs. She initially hoped for some friend to give her a tumbler in one of their many Christmas parties, but when my dad went home from London with a mug from the coffee chain that had "London" written (and illustrated) all over, she had a Jimmy Neutron-style brain blast. A collection of Starbucks mugs from all over the world! It totally makes sense! So she asked me to buy her a similar mug with "Manila" all over it.

There wasn't one at the Alabang Town Center. I ended up buying her a generic mug. She ended up finding the mug she wanted at a Starbucks branch nearby. I felt like an utter failure.

It was nothing compared to when I started thinking of a gift I'll give my younger brother. I've always given him CDs: Metallica one time, Weezer another time, and Them Crooked Vultures in between. Sure, we don't share the same tastes in music - his preference for metal and hip-hop is pathetic, frankly - but at least I can give him something that he likes. Problem is, he's my younger brother, and we've never really gotten along most of the time. He never played the CDs I gave him, except perhaps for the Metallica one. He never really appreciated my gifts, perfectly summed up when he came up to me and asked me to stop buying him CDs. "Nado-download ko naman yan," he said. "Bigyan mo naman ako ng magagamit ko."

Oh, fuck you, generation gap. I'm making an effort and he never really liked it all along - what could be more disheartening than that? And what do I give him for Christmas? I was supposed to give him the newly-minted Soundgarden compilation, but now I have to think of what a virtual Alabang kid who doesn't know the value of music, refuses to read anything, and rebuffs every attempt I make to ask him about anything.

I've bought outfits for other people before. Last year I gave my father a shirt, but only because I didn't have an inkling what he wanted, and I never got around to ask him. So, sure, I'll just buy my brother one of those collared tops from Human, because they're more likely to fit him than me. (Remember rule number two: guys are not allowed to be insecure about themselves.) Another chance to impose my tastes on people. I'll pick what looks good to me! Then again, I didn't really have a choice - I don't really know what he likes to wear.

Over the weekend I decided to finally buy him a shirt. To boot, I had him come along so I don't act as clueless. On the way, my sister called. "May sale sa Topman," she went. I ended up buying my brother two baseball shirts, or so they're called, both of his choosing, all clocking in neatly under my thousand-peso budget. All the time I was having flashbacks to my second trip to Singapore, when I found myself wandering into a Topman branch, looking to buy myself a shirt, and realizing that nothing fits me - not even its largest size. Damn hipster clothing, I thought. Damn hipsters and their perpetration of body issues. I proceed to break rule number two. My brother has a lot of friends, perhaps a girlfriend, and is way more popular than me. I did the complete opposite and I thought, all this time, that I'm set for the future. All I get is a bruised ego when he brushes me off for trying to be a big brother to him. He has the gall to brush me off.

This whole process is such an asshole. But I'm only supposed to talk about how my Christmas shopping came in at the worst possible time. No further paragraphs. Shutting up now.

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