Sunday, August 10, 2003

What To Buy?

For the past 13 years, every discussion I've had with my parents concerning going back to China always ended the same way: handwringing over what gifts to bring back for the relatives. Now that I am actually going back for sure, I've been wrecking my brain over what belongs in the goody bag. There are so many factors that are influencing my purchasing decisions, the most important being the sheer number of relatives: My mom has 3 brothers and a sister while my dad has 3 sisters and 2 brothers. Since I have no idea what these 18 aunts and uncles (I'm counting spouses too) of mine would want, I have decided to focus on getting stuff for my cousins instead. Problem is, there are 11 cousins. I think. There may be a few here and there that I'm forgetting because there are so damn many of them!! Thank the Lord/Communists for the one-child policy, or else I may have 30 cousins to worry about!

After finally creating an inventory of cousins of both render with age ranging from 13 to 30 (I think), I walked on Fifth Ave to see what kind of stuff I could get them. Fifth Ave is a great area for shopping, if you are a fucking millionaire!! I walked for 10 blocks, shaking my head as I strolled past such bastions of conspicuous consumption as Saks Fifth Ave, Zegna, Louis Vuitton (which had a gigantic ad depicting J. Lo leaning back into a male model's open hands while dismissively waving off another male model standing by her; I'm contemplating taking a picture of that ad and putting my head on the the rejected guy's body), Bergdorf, Tiffany's, and a bunch of other exclusive luxury brand stores.

FAO Schwarz was one of few places on Fifth Ave that sold stuff I could actually afford, so I went in. Man, there were way too many stuffed animals in that place. And kids too. I strongly considered getting a plush Pooh bear for my 13-year-old cousin, until I saw the picture of a toddler playing with it on the merchandise tag. Hmmm, maybe she's too old for a stuffed animal, but then again Sachin, who's 23 and male, has a huge collection of stuff animals (one of which is a beanie crab from me that I hope he hasn't thrown away) and my sister, who will become a mother next month, has a teddy bear that she pretends is more alive than an inanimate bundle of man-made material.

Then I wandered into the Barbie section. Oh my god, they actually had a pregnant doll called Midge!! I thought of how funny it would be to buy that doll for Xuan Xuan. Of course I don't think her parents would get the joke. Then I wondered if I should be getting her a Barbie Doll at all. I mean, by giving her a Barbie Doll with a collection of 12 changeable "cute" outfits, all of which were obscenely pink or aqua, wouldn't I be reinforcing gender stereotypes? What if she develops some kind of self-image problems from playing with a doll that has totally unrealistic proportions and then becomes afflicted with anorexia/bulimia? I can see it now: A series of images like the ones in those anti-drugs ads. First we see a black and white shot of a frighteningly thin girl, with her emaciated face hovering just above a toilet bowl and traces of drool flowing out of the corner of her mouth ("This is Xuan Xuan throwing up her food"). Next we cut to a shot of the Barbie doll, zooming in on her blissfully ignorant smile and then focusing on her unnatural physique ("This is the Barbie Doll that stigmatized Xuan Xuan into anorexia/bulimia and throwing up her food). Finally, there is a shot of me, starring intently at the Barbie Doll package, looking as if I were undecided and torn ("This is Gary, the chauvinist dumb pigfucker that bought the Barbie Doll that stigmatized Xuan Xuan into anorexia/bulimia and throwing up her food). Final message on screen: Gary = vomitting. I will never get laid.

I ended up going to the Disney Store and getting her a pretty cool T-shirt that had "New York" printed in a classy font underneath an image of Mickey Mouse. I mean, nothing is more American than Mickey Mouse and New York, right? I also got her a beautifully illustrated visual dictionary chockful of illustrations and descriptions. I figured that it would be a helpful tool to her since she's studying English in school now.

One down. Ten to go.