Decking the Malls

Hanukkah was early this year. The eight candles (plus one used to light the others) blazed their finale a few weeks back. We had our fill of latkes (potato pancakes) and other foods made with oil to celebrate the miracle of the lights—one tiny cup of oil lasted eight days when the Maccabees reclaimed and rededicated the Jewish holy temple in Jerusalem.

Now, we’re struggling with getting our behemoth 11-foot artificial Christmas tree up and dressed. Yes, my house is bireligious. I’m Jewish. My partner, Lynn, is Methodist. I’ve mastered the art of putting lights on the tree, and she has mastered the art of Jewish cooking. It’s a good balance.

Neither of us, however, has mastered the art of shopping for holiday presents.

Going to the malls at this time of year can make any Jew—religious or not—feel like the ultimate outsider. Everything is Christmas. You routinely don’t hear “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” piped in with the holiday music. Amid all the brightly lit Christmas trees, you may find a menorah hidden among the branches. The mannequins in the various store lingerie departments are adorned with Santa hats and skimpy holiday negligees, but you never see anyone handing out latkes to the customers—just some cider, and perhaps a Christmas cookie or two.

Where I live, one of our ultra-Orthodox rabbis had to make quite a stink before one of those giant menorahs was erected in a local mall. They’re pretty rare—I only have seen one on the Lincoln Road Mall in South Beach, or in some of the shopping areas on Long Island where I grew up.

But it’s not necessarily the Christmas-exclusivity that keeps me out of the malls. It’s the crowds. No matter how cold it may be outside, by the time you’re done navigating the stores, you’re hot and sweaty. You’re carrying around your parka along with your bags, feeling as though you’ve just spent hours in the gym—except you made a stop at the food court that totally negated any calories you may have burned.

So, what do two middle-aged lesbians do to alleviate their holiday shopping needs? Like many of our compatriots, we turn to the Internet and catalogs, as well as to charitable giving.

Just for the fun of it, I Googled all sorts of variations on GLBT holiday gifts to see what was out there for this year. I couldn’t possibly go through every listing, but here are some that stuck out:

• If you’re looking for cards with the right message and sophistication, check out <>. Its collection includes sharp graphics, some very funny copy, and great camp.

• <> has the Larry Craig Action Figure. Yes, it’s true. The site is designed for the type of guys who make me thankful I’m a lesbian. It also got a Hillary Clinton Nutcracker (need I say more?). But getting back to Craig, his T-shirt is emblazoned with “I’m not gay,” and with the figure’s bendable limbs, you can make his trademark “wide stance” as wide as you’d like.

• <> gives you its “Top Picks.” Among them are the iPhone for those of us who must have the latest tech gadgets, along with Dean and DeLuca for foodies. The only lesbian-specific pick was <>, a clothing and accessory site for “active women size 14+.” If that’s not a euphemism for big dykes, I don’t know what is. (However, I just may have found the kind of bra I’ve been looking for there!)

• The <> offerings—only nine—at “Gay Christmas Presents for Your Gay Male Friend” are pretty anemic. However, if you’re looking for a gift for that gay man in your life who has everything, it’s worth checking out the “Listmania” section on the far right column of the page. Amazon customers let you know their Top Picks, including “The Best Gay Men’s Movies to Watch and Own.”

• MSN shopping had the CD Gay Happenings Presents Happy Christmas Party, with a pretty hunky, bare-chested guy in a Santa hat on the cover.

• The catalogs in our house range from Design Within Reach to Land’s End—quite the spread. I only look at them when someone hands me one with pages folded down, plus the admonition “You need to look at these.” OK. I have to admit, though, that I do bring the Brookstone and Levenger catalogs into the bathroom with me.

Given gift-giving’s commercialism, when it really comes down to it, it’s easier and more fulfilling just to make charitable gifts in honor of friends and family. Plenty of GLBT organizations need our support. Just think how good it will make your loving friends and family members feel when you let your GLBT organizations of choice know how much you cherish their support.

Remember Aunt Edith? She’s the one who couldn’t look your partner in the eye. Picture the look on her face when you send her a card saying a $50 donation in her honor has been made to Freedom to Marry. Imagine the real fun you could have making strategic contributions for those relatives who just don’t get it at all, while you’re helping the community at the same time.

Whatever you give, and however you give it, have fun doing it. Happy Holidays!

Libby Post, the founding chair of the Empire State Pride Agenda, is a political commentator on public radio, on the Web, and in print media. She can be reached care of this publication, or at <[email protected]>.

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