Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Commissioned Gift

On a whim today, I put on makeup. This is something I tend not to do. Not because I hate makeup, in fact I greatly enjoy it. Rather, I use it as dress-up for special occasions. This is a concept that developed out of the makeup party my mom threw for me in 7th grade. She invited a few other moms and daughters and a Mary Kay representative, who demonstrated the correct way to apply blush and eye shadow. We all bought makeup and I proceeded to wear it to school EVERY DAY of 7th grade. And after a while, there was no way to elevate my game. This is the equivalent of wearing an evening gown to dinner every night and then having to wear the same tired evening gown to a ball. So I decided to actually follow my mom's advice and save the makeup for dressing up for fancy things. Like dates, nights out, or fancy brunches. Or working at the bar.

I had gotten so used to using my Saturday night shift as a playground for exotic eye shadow or intense eyeliner that I rarely wore makeup anywhere else. I even had a routine for how much makeup I would wear for each of my bar shifts. Saturday was the dress-up star. (And by "star," I mean in addition to the regular concealer, blush and mascara, I would wear eyeliner AND eye shadow.) Thursday was similar, but usually no eye shadow. And anything else was more like job-interview-style makeup. To me, it seemed like a full done-up face would be a little off-putting to a couple out on a Monday night. This is where I drew the line. Why was I drawing lines in the first place? Because we (the servers) were told to wear makeup to work. All workplaces have dress codes, but most end up sounding something like, "Don't look gross." Ours sounded more like, "Look like you are trying to seduce the customer."

When I started at the bar, the rules were simple: black shirt, clean, unripped jeans. Done. That is easy to dress up or down, add jewelry, etc. Somewhere along the line, the company added a handbook and included their new requirement of "First Date Attire." The idea is that when you show up to work, you should look like you really meant to get whisked away to a fancy dinner, but ended up serving drinks instead. There are many issues with this, not the least of which is that it is highly offensive. My complaints did not go far, but my main point was that my first date attire of choice is a white t-shirt, nice jeans, and really high heels. Not one of those things is appropriate for working in a messy place where you run around for hours on end. So I guess the first line that I drew was with the shoes. And the line I drew with the makeup only worked to train me NOT to wear makeup anywhere else.

The point is, I have recently been attempting to wear makeup for other occasions. Like dates, nights out, or fancy brunches. Or regular brunches. Or apparently Starbucks. Last week, M and I celebrated Our Christmas. We call it "Our Christmas" because we each go home to our respective families for Actual Christmas. So we set aside a day to do fun Chicago-type things and have a nice dinner out and then open presents. This, as I'm sure you would agree, falls under the category of "special occasion." So, I wore the Saturday-night-style MAKEUP. However, we made it an all day event, so I wore MAKEUP at noon. It seems odd to me to wear MAKEUP in the broad daylight, but I suppose this is a regular event for lots and lots of normal people.

Anyway, the reason I bring all of this up is that Our Christmas is the best gift M and I give ourselves every year. Even though downtown Chicago is busy with lots of stupid people during this time of year, and it is cold, we set this time aside to sort of act like tourists (really smart and not annoying tourists) in our own city. This year, we went ice skating in Millenium Park.( For twenty minutes. The skates were terribly painful and I had a ring of bruise around my ankle the next day.) Then we walked over to The-Former-Marshall-Field's and looked at the window displays. For those of you not familiar with Chicago Christmases, Marshall Field's always does amazing, animatronic window displays. This year, however, they included this robot elf with glowing red eyes which was horribly disturbing. Festive, but disturbing. Then we got sort-of-coffee drinks (think Peppermint Mocha) and walked up the Mag Mile. We stopped into a heavily decorated-for-Christmas bar, to have a drink and watch the Bears game. Then we headed over to a nice restaurant for dinner.

After dinner, we did presents at my apartment, followed by watching The Grinch. For M's gift this year, I put a plan into action a few months ago. I am extraordinarily lucky to have an inordinate amount of talented family and friends. So when I decided in September that I wanted to get M a wine rack, I searched the Internet for ideas for about 7 seconds until I realized that my dad could make something infinitely cooler. My dad is a carpenter. He has made pretty much everything in my parents' house, including most of the house itself. He works best if given free reign, as his ideas are usually better than yours, but he can make whatever you have cooked up, too. So in September, I called my dad and I said, "Could you make a wine rack for M for Christmas." And my dad said, "Sure. What are thinking?" And I said, "I don't know. Something that is unique and will hold several wine bottles. Can I pick it up at Thanksgiving?" And my dad said, "Cool."

At Thanksgiving, I picked up a beautiful wine rack that holds 10 bottles, made out of maple, walnut and cherry wood. It is a diamond shape on an affixed base, and the top row is open, giving it a contemporary feel. It is unfinished, so M can stain it or paint it or leave it in its tri-colored, soft look. I bought a bottle of wine from the local winery in my parents' town to go with it. And my dad found the largest box in the world for me to transport it back to Chicago. This was by far the most impressive wrapping I have ever done for any holiday. M thought I was giving him a comforter for his bed. To give him a hint, I told him that I commissioned my dad for this present. And it received one of the biggest reactions I have seen from M. He even called my dad immediately. Who then hung up on him. (He was driving and the reception cut out, but it was still funny.)

The best part about the Commissioned Gift is that it ends up being a gift from two people at once. Plus, it showcases the talents of people you know and love in gifts that others can know and love. Which is definitely a special occasion.

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