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For a short time, I had a humorous/observational column in a local magazine called Upstate Women. Unfortunately, the magazine is no longer being published. I enjoyed the experience of writing a column so much, that I would like to continue writing in that vein. So once a month, I will offer a new column about something that bugs me in some way that may strike a chord with you, too.

Several of the columns you will see have already been published; the others were written after the demise of the magazine. The column will be called "Inanities" because I feel that is the word which aptly describes the things that make us want to smack our heads in frustration. Please let me know your reactions to these columns as I would enjoy hearing what bugs you, too. You can reach me at


by Nancy Rechtman

Well, 'tis the season once again for opening our wallets and bleeding ourselves dry so that we can spend the next eleven months paying for all of the toys and trinkets that will soon lie broken or shoved in the back of someone's closet until the next holiday season comes rolling around and we can all hop on the merry-go-round once again. What is this spending frenzy about anyway? Does the real meaning of the season have anything to do with toys doing the hokey pokey or 14 karat earrings? And why is it suddenly OK for the malls to open at dawn on Sundays for the month of December when the rest of the year they are not allowed to open before noon? Is this the month when we trade in worshipping at our churches and synagogues for worshipping at the altar of the almighty dollar?

Let's face it. Everyone loves getting presents. Tearing open the wrapping paper on a box is one of the legal thrills we can still get as adults, as our childhoods recede rapidly into the distant past. While our stomachs might drop like a rock once we actually get a glimpse of the contents of the unwrapped box, we have at least had our little moment in the sun, seeking the thrill of unknown possibilities. For one moment we can actually believe it is possible that the little four inch by six inch box with the gold wrapping paper and matching bow really does contain that high definition TV we’ve been hoping for. So what if it turns out to be peanut brittle that will crack our teeth. We can always re-wrap it and pass it on to the next adult in need of a quick thrill. It’s the thought that counts, right?

Speaking of gifts, think about the needy celebrities in our midst. You know, the ones who makes millions of dollars for each movie they make whether it tanks or not. But they don't have to wait for the holidays, they get gifts just for gracing us with their presence. Have you heard about the latest trend in award shows? It's no longer about who wins the best actor/actress/writer/director/egomaniac award. Who really cares about that? After all, there used to be only three major awards shows each year. Now they proliferate like rabbits, so of course celebrities have to be discerning about which ones they agree to appear at. In order to entice stars to appear as presenters at these award shows the producers of these shows now offer gift baskets to the celebs who deign to show up. Now, we're not talking about a nice bottle of perfume or a fuzzy pair of slippers here. Oh, no, we are talking big bucks. Like $10,000 per basket, I swear upon the gold award statuette that I am not making this up. What is contained in these baskets is supposed to be “top secret,” but that claim is about as transparent as the cellophane wrapping paper around the fruit basket you got from your grandmother in Florida. After all, the companies who contribute these lavish gifts want the publicity, that's the whole point. They want people to know that Mrs. Top A-List celebrity sports their new watch, sleeps on their new mattress, uses their silk travel blanket or plays backgammon with their leather set.

So the big secret here is,,, that we don't really care. Do they actually think the rest of us are going to race out to buy a $400 basket because that's the same exact one they gave the stars at the awards show? Well, maybe some fans who salivate at their favorite star’s every move. But the rest of us? We're lucky to have $400 to pay for those new tires we need for our car or for the next installment on our kids' braces. A large segment of America is one paycheck away from being out on the street. But as they say, the rich keep getting richer. Now don’t get me wrong. I love going to the movies and I believe that acting can be a noble profession. There are many stars who do brilliant work and are worthy of our admiration. But when you come right down to it, what they are giving us is make-believe. And as they say (once again), hey folks, this isn’t brain surgery.

It makes as much sense to give a multi-million dollar movie star a $10,000 gift basket as it does to ignore the people in our lives who are truly deserving of reward. Think about the teachers and policemen and firemen who take care of us every single day. Where are their $10,000 gift baskets? But this, of course is the real world where people don‘t make millions of dollars just for showing up to work. And take our soldiers, laying their lives on the line for us overseas. They're lucky to get enough pay to cover their mortgage payments. And what about our veterans? I recently read a letter to the editor of our local newspaper from a veteran who had waited 33 years to get his decorations for serving our country, and he still hasn't received them! And his letter mentioned that another veteran had finally received his decorations after 57 years! What exactly are we waiting for here - aren't these the people who are truly worthy of our admiration and respect?

Shame on us for worrying more about who wears what on the red carpet than worrying about the welfare of those who are and were willing to lay down their lives so we can have the freedoms that we take so often for granted. Of course, maybe if they made it all into a movie....

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Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved. Small excerpts of the column may be republished as long as appropriate credit is given. To request permission to publish larger portions or the entire column, e-mail