Remember the Sears Wish Book? Or, do you at least remember your parents talking about the Sears Wish Book? Not the first or the only catalogue, Sears Roebuck made mail order famous and fun: Each page of the holiday book was crammed with delights to circle or cut out or drool on in anticipation of the bounty.
Sears still has the Wish Book. It went online in 1998. Of course the toys have kept up with the times. Now you'll find video games and those weirdly trampyBratz dolls.
Even in this age of TV and online shopping, holiday catalogues still rule. If you ever bought anything, anywhere, at any time, right now your mailbox is being pelted with those slippery, glossy, enticing odes to consumerism: Oh yeah, baby, it's catalogue season.
And each catalogue is selling more than just its wares. It's selling a lifestyle.
Frolic in the snow-draped, gently rolling hills of L.L.BeanLand! Here, the cabin eaves are dripping with petite icicles and Labradors romp in pursuit of firewood. Ruggedly handsome people casually wear slippers or boots, flannel or down, denim or corduroy. No TVs are allowed here; instead inhabitants reread their favorite literary classics and appreciate nature.
Or tiptoe into the shabby-chic and fabulous worlds of Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel or Williams Sonoma. These people are too adorable (but they don't want you to feel uncomfortable over it): They have candles in the shapes of gourds and phones that look like they were made in the 1920s and circus-animal-shaped waffles. Why? Because how else are you going to spend the Christmas bonus?
Lose all your body fat and start wearing socks with your silver high heels and you, too, can live in AnthropologieTown. Here, mothers preside over tweely decorated holiday tables wearing chiffon party dresses and ankle-breaking shoes. They lounge on brocade armchairs in the middle of greenhouses. They smolder in all their undernourished sexuality.
There are catalogues for every imaginable item. There's Campmor for discount gortex and fleece and long underwear. There's the "unique gift catalogue" Red Envelope, which commands you to "Be a Great Gift Giver." There's the American Spoon Foods catalogue. There's King Arthur Flour's baker's catalogue. Flowers, children's clothing, golf supplies, wine and spirits, video games, power tools, embroidered sweatshirts, mountain climbing gear, items from museum gift shops, gizmos, crafts made by single mothers in Africa, lingerie, architectural books, jewelry, fruit baskets, preserved meats... If you want it, there's probably a catalogue for it.
If all the greedy, glitzy fanfare makes you queasy don't worry, Heifer International has a catalogue, too. There you can follow the lead of progressive-minded celebrities and buy tree seedlings, knitting baskets, or livestock for people in developing nations. Really need to ease your credit-card plagued conscience? For 5 large you can give the gift of an Ark: two of everything from beehives to water buffalo.
There --- your shopping is done.
The usual onslaught of completely obnoxious holiday TV commercials has had its way with the sanity of watchers everywhere as well. No silver BMW wearing a big red bow in your driveway? No diamond tennis bracelet hiding in your boyfriend's coat pocket? Wow, you must be a loser. And poor.A poor, lame loser. I feel sorry for you.
This year WalMart has tapped celebrities for their holiday spots. In one, the women of Destiny's Child are sitting in a living room with their family members. While their voices sing in the background about family and love, they foist really impersonal gifts upon these supposed loved ones. DVD players, digital cameras: the works. Instead of heartwarming, it's kind of icky. At least one woman, maybe Mom, looks really uncomfortable. Do you think it's the daughter-makes-good-and-comes-home-for-Christmas-to-wow-her-sadsack-family-with-glitzy-electronics scenario?
I can't help but wonder if WalMart took all the stuff back after the taping was over.