For Gifts You Want: Chantal Strasburger, assistant editor, @chantagold
For my 16th birthday, my parents gave me an ancient Chinese calligraphy brush. It had a beautiful jade handle intricately carved with a geometric design and a thick plumage of fine horsehair bristles. It was the perfect present to combine my love of fine art and Asian craftsmanship—but the first thought I had when I saw it was, "But…but I can't use this." What was the point of a giving someone a paintbrush that couldn't be used to paint?
Now, of course, that brush is one of my most prized possessions. It kickstarted a personal collection of gorgeous design objects that encapsulates who I am and what I love. But would I have thought to buy it for myself? Not in a million years. So while it took me a moment to appreciate this antique objet d'art, I've come to see it as an example of the most powerful kinds of gifts: those we would never purchase for ourselves.
Therefore, my request for Christmas 2016: Please do not buy me something I need. If I've been complaining to you about lacking long underwear for the coming winter, chances are, that's already on my shopping list. But more importantly, think about how unexciting buying long underwear for yourself is, then imagine how much less exciting it would be to receive a pair as your big end-of-year gift.
Opening a present should bring with it a mixture of excitement and surprise; it should spoil the receiver and make them feel loved; it should humbly brag that you know the recipient so well you don't just give them what they need but what they want. So, please, return the vacuum cleaner I've been pining over for the past year, and give me all the sparkly, velvety, novelty items I didn't even know my life was missing.
Chantal's Wish List of Superfluous Things:
1. "Please put that down. It's for looking at, not for drinking." —Me, when guests pick up this decorative gold cup that is purely for viewing pleasure. Gold Crush Glass by No. x Alex Eagle, $169, alexeagle.co.uk.
2. One day I will have have my dream New York City apartment with a proper bathtub, and when that day comes, I will want to surround it with beautiful things. Rose With Bees Bubble Bath No. 12, $22, tokyo-milk.com.
3. The adult version of a baby mobile to hang above my bed—because why not? Monstera Deliciosa, $130, nataliejoyjewelry.com.
For Gifts You Need: Chanel Parks, beauty editor, @chanelinezp
A man named Patrick Henry once wrote, "Give me practicality, or give me death." At least, that's what he should have written, because that's one of the realest statements ever for me. See, the way to my heart is giving me the gift of making my life easier, simpler—which means a Trader Joe's gift card for groceries, a donation to Planned Parenthood on my behalf (because "my body, my choice"), or even a good set of cookware so that I can #cookmorein2017. I've always been this way: once, at a high school function, I won an iPod Touch (this dates me), and traded it with my friend for a printer, because I needed one for college. I still have that printer.
It's not that I don't like beautiful, impractical, and indulgent things; it's just that I'd prefer to treat myself to those good things. I wouldn't want my mother to spend $400 on the ornate headboard I've been eyeing at Urban Outfitters, because what if my tastes change in six months, what if I decide that I don't really need a headboard? Sure, there are return policies for a reason, but exchanging a gift for something else defeats the purpose of getting a gift in the first place. More importantly, I like to be sure that the nice things I surround myself with are going to have a place in my life long after the gift-giving season is over.
Here's the other thing: I feel guilty at the thought of people wasting money on me that might have been spent in a better way. For my birthday, my best friend gave me a pack of colored pencils that were made to look like tree trunks. Since I'm not an artist, I've gotten zero joy or use out of those pencils, and they add to a dense collection of clutter in my room that brings me tremendous anxiety and shame. So, were they worth it? No! Sorry, best friend, but I could have used a Swiffer instead.
Chanel's Wish List of Practical Things*:
1. If you're giving me the gift of groceries, why not go a little upscale? Whole Foods Gift Card, $50, wholefoods.com.
2. I wasn't kidding about the Swiffer. Sweep + Vac Starter Kit by Swiffer, $56, officesupply.com.
3. I have a lot of beauty products because of my job, so…Vanity Drawer Storage Organizer, $22, urbanoutfitters.com.
* Gift cards are clearly the most practical.