Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Of Girls and Gifts

I have no daughters, as many of you know, but to my delight, my husband's sister gave birth to a girl child a mere seven months after my oldest son was born. Coincidentally, not only did my sister in law conceive only weeks after we announced our pregnancy, but also wed only weeks after we did. But that's another rant story for another day.

My niece is at a distinct disadvantage living where she does. Because although growing up in a small town does have its amenities, certain antiquated ideals and attitudes persist. Unfortunately, feminism has not really caught on in the rural South. And though there is certainly no shortage of strong, intelligent, resourceful females, they are not really able to demonstrate their strength and intellect to make a point or achieve an objective. Instead, they must rely on coquettry and bequilement, both of which they have raised to an artform.

This means that they have honed their feminine wiles to perfection and exploit them to the fullest advantage. Needless to say, there is a great deal of time and attention spent on issues that while superficial, are assuredly necessary within the peculiar sociological constructs of the small Southern town.

Those being hair, nails, clothing, rumormongering, queen beeing and oneupwomanship. It's interesting to watch from a sociological and anthropoligical standpoint, but sort of horrifying from a humanitarian perspective.

Anyway...for years I have given my niece books for every birthday and Christmas. There are two reasons for that. First, because she is an only child living in a place where everybody knows everybody. Each year she has huge and lavish birthday parties with more guests than I had at my wedding because to disinclude someone is to invite social disaster and alienation.

She gets mountains of gifts. I would be hard pressed to find an article of clothing or a toy that someone else had not already thought of. But nobody thinks of books. Its the only gift I can get her that is truly unique. And it's the only gift that will bring her joy for years to come. Long after the dolls have lost their clothing and possibly their limbs, long after the clothing has worn out or gotten too small, long after the costume jewelry has lost its lustre...the stories will still have the power to transport a young girl to another place and time.

Secondly, because I worry about what is being done to my niece in terms of her identity and her self-image. There is no doubting that she is a beautiful young girl. She has lustrous golden blonde hair, large expressive blue eyes, and long coltish legs that she hates now, but will appreciate when she is older.

But she is smart, too.

But strangely, no mention was ever made of her academic achievements. I was invited to beauty pageants and dance recitals and cheerleading meets. Much was made of her title, and I was given many photos of her in her sash and crown. But nobody ever told me that she had made it into the gifted program at school. Nobody ever told me she was on the honor roll every single quarter. When I did find out, it was mentioned in passing, in a mumbled offhanded way, much like one would mention the weather, or a bunion, or a casserole.

So I gave her books hoping that maybe someday, if she ever grew to question who she was and what her purpose in life, or in that tiny little town...if she ever wondered what gifts she posessed besides a pretty face...maybe she would realize that somebody, somebody knew that underneath the highlights and the acrylic nails and the hair extension she was a smart girl, a strong girl, a creative and unique girl. And maybe she would read one of those books and understand that she could be MORE than the pretty face she has been praised for all these years.

And there was a third reason, I suppose. I gave her books to share with her all the wonder and magic that helped me through all those awful, awkward times when I didn't know who I was, or what I was; what I wanted to be or what I was supposed to be. I gave her those books so she could lose herself in the pure unadulterated joy of make-believe. How many afternoons did I spend as Laura Ingalls Wilder, or Francie Nolan, or Mary Lennox? Too many to count. Enough that I knew certain passages by heart and could take courage and comfort from my friends even when I couldn't physically open the book and lose myself in it's crisp, paper smelling pages. I gave her those books so she would never, ever be alone.

I always chose the books I gave her with care, mindful of her age, the issues she was surely facing, and the interests she was developing. It was fun. To be quite honest, I bought those books as much for myself as for her. I had so longed to share my literary loves with someone, and I would never have a daughter of my own. I was so excited to introduce her to Anne Shirley, and Nancy Drew and Meg Murry and Sara Crewe and Rebecca Rowena Randall and Velvet Brown and Margaret Simon and.....it would be such fun to talk to her about those girls, who were as real to me as my own sisters.

I couldn't wait.

But a couple of years ago, during one of the infrequent phone calls to his sister, Husband inquired what Niece would like for her birthday. "Uh-huh" I heard him say. "Sure." and then, "Okay, I'll tell her."

Husband looked at me with an expression I now know was a mixture of dread and pity. And then he said quietly, "Sister says Niece doesn't need any more books."

I was stunned. Hurt. Sad. And yes, angry.

There is, quite simply, NO SUCH THING as too many books. And it was hard for me to understand why a parent whose child has every conceivable material thing under the sun would reject an offer of books. I reminded myself that it's a different culture, and at the time, one that was still quite alien to me. Though I realized that she hadn't meant to be hurtful or ungrateful, it was still a big disappointment. But I had to let it go. And I have.

This year while browsing Amazon for gifts, I happened upon a set of books that I hadn't heard of before called "The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants." It sounded delightful and for a moment, I was tempted to buy it and give it to her anyway. But I resisted the urge with only a small pang of regret.

Because you see, I now have another niece. She is three. My Mother swears that by some cosmic accident, my sister has given birth to my child. She has my temperment, she shares my aversion to morning and my love of beauty products. She is "fussy" and "busy" and "bossy". She is a force to be reckoned with.

And I can't friggen wait until she can read.

18 Comments:

  • At 12:04 AM, Blogger jen said…

    there is no such thing as too many books.

    and the sisterhood book is so wonderful.

    you should kidnap her and keep her with you for a while...

     
  • At 12:15 AM, Blogger theotherbear said…

    Oh that sounds almost like a crime. I would understand if you were horribly upset by this.

    My mum always bought us heaps of books, she was a librarian for a time in a primary school. All 3 of her kids read lots now. I was so lucky.

    My hubby suggested throwing some books away the other week because we've run out of bookshelves. I was horrified. I said "We'll buy more shelves, we'll put another room on the house if we have to but we do NOT throw books away!"

    I remember a friend from school in 3rd grade, all she had to read were those little golden books, not sure if they are worldwide or just an Aussie thing. They are for really little kids. She used to love borrowing books from me but had to do it in secret so her parents didn't find out. What the???

     
  • At 8:59 AM, Blogger CPA Mom said…

    That has got to be the DUMBEST thing I have ever heard? Too many books? Not possible. Not f'in possible. I admire your restraint. I would STILL be enraged. I have every book I ever owned still, waiting to pass them on to my children. Books are magical.

     
  • At 10:55 AM, Blogger Jaelithe said…

    My husband's family never thinks to buy my son books-- and he's a boy! Every year they ask what to buy him for Christmas, and every year, books are first on my list. And every year we get a mountain of flashing beeping electronic toys that break in six months instead.

    The worst thing is, it's not that I am being one of those rabid anti-materialistic parents who only allow their children one hand-carved wooden toy (from sustainable forests) per year or something. I ask the in-laws to give books because my son just loves books. A lot. Every time we go to the local shopping mall, he skips the massive indoor playground and drags us straight to the bookstore.

    I just don't get people who don't want to give children books . . . *sigh*

    Anyway, I think you should just buy some cheap flashy bauble for your older niece for Christmas, but then buy those Traveling Pants books, too, and give them to your niece the next time she's over at your house, unwrapped, without any fanfare, just saying, casually, "Oh, I thought you might like these." That way her mom will have no room to complain that you went against her wishes ;)

     
  • At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am a librarian from the other end of the world.. feeling sad and puzzled after reading your post...how can anyone possibly have enough books?

     
  • At 1:09 PM, Anonymous mothergoosemouse said…

    Hmmphh. Yes, I'd be peeved too.

    And there's a million wonderful books you can buy for a three year-old, assuming your sister will read them to her. For starters, one of our favorites is "Many Moons" by James Thurber. I still have my hardcover copy from childhood, and I bought the paperback version too.

     
  • At 2:07 PM, Blogger Oh, The Joys said…

    Ah! Mother of neice just made me mad, too. There is no such thing as too many books and there CERTAINLY is no such thing as too many books lovingly chosen by well-read, well-educated Auntie. Poor neice. Now she has to miss out on all the excellent stories...

    Ah. Fuming now.

     
  • At 2:26 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chicky said…

    Nope, no such thing as too many books. To say that seems blasphemous. I love giving books as gifts and I am thrilled when my daughter receives them as birthday presents and for the holidays. And lately when my in-laws come over they bring a new book for no special reason at all except that they know it's a good thing to do. I freakin' love that!

     
  • At 3:58 PM, Blogger Natalie said…

    Books are one of the greatest gifts ever. I can't believe you would be told not to give someone books. I wonder what neice thinks of that or if it is her mother deciding she shouldn't spend so much time reading?

     
  • At 5:05 PM, Blogger Veronica Mitchell said…

    We have both ardent booklovers and aberrant book-haters in our family. It may not be her culture; it may just be the randomness of human genetics. Our house is wall-to-wall shelves, but I have two sisters who, despite being smart women, would only groan if I gave them books. I don't understand it either.

     
  • At 5:35 PM, Anonymous Kvetch said…

    And your niece is the perfect age for the Traveling Pants books! Oh what a shame, shame, shame! Stash them away for your other niece or may I recommend Angelina Ballerina? Or perhaps Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse? They are wonderful as is one of my daughter's all time favorites called The Dusk Fairy which comes with a little balancing fairy to hold while you read the story. Yum. Yum. Yum.

     
  • At 6:10 PM, Blogger ewe are here said…

    I always loved getting books. I used to check out stacks of books at a time from the local library as well.

    Too many books?

    Sigh.

     
  • At 7:45 PM, Blogger The Sour Kraut said…

    Wow. I can't imagine any parent on earth feeling that way.

     
  • At 7:50 PM, Blogger Magi said…

    That's just criminal. Traveling Pants are great books. Maybe you can sneak one if you include the dvd of the movie. It's actually very well done.

     
  • At 11:52 PM, Blogger Mamma said…

    Being a young girl in the South can be difficult--especially if you're smart. Smart isn't sexy...or at least it wasn't when I was in high school.

    Your nieces are both lucky girls. There will be a day that both of them understand the gift you have shared with them in your love of books...even if they don't know.

    I wanted a girl so I had an excuse to buy all the Olivia books. Olivia is my hero!!!

    Your writing is so wonderful. I'm always tempted to hang up my blog after reading your posts.

     
  • At 3:18 PM, Blogger Karyn said…

    Appalling.

    Even if Niece is not a big reader, one does NOT say "oh, btw, she has enough books, thankyouverymuch, so please buy her something else".

    It's doubly ignorant; too many books being ridiculous, and rude besides.

    I'd send her a tacky ass pair of Christmas Socks or something instead. Ho fucking ho.

    Is that wrong of me?

     
  • At 3:25 PM, Anonymous mamatulip said…

    Too many books?

    Never.

    You remind me of my mom. She always picked the best books to give me, when I was a kid, a teen and as a young adult. Books are the gifts that keep on giving...you younger neice is lucky to have you for an aunt. ;)

     
  • At 5:28 AM, Blogger kevin said…

    You really don't know whether the mom said it or the kid said it. Either way, it's sad for different reasons.

     

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