Sorry, ladies, but I want a hoover for Christmas!
Published 22/12/2011 | 06:00
Forget diamonds and lingerie: all I really want for Christmas is a hoover. But my friends think the gift of a domestic appliance signals the kiss of death for romance, and talk in hushed tones about men they know who have made the mortal mistake of buying kitchen brands instead of bling.
One friend believes asking for a hoover from my husband is single-handedly undoing all that Women's Lib achieved.
I just don't get it. Why do we get our knickers in a twist at the thought of practical Christmas gifts instead of pretty ones?
These are tough times, and while I don't need more jewellery or perfume my neglected floors could do with a good seeing-to following the recent demise of my cheap old hoover.
So why not ask for one for Christmas, avoiding money wasted on unwanted gifts, and freeing me up to spend less time sweeping floors in 2012 and more time lying on the sofa drinking gin?
I shouldn't have to justify my Christmas wish list, but it seems opinion is divided on whether household items are a legitimate gift option for the modern woman.
BBC news presenter Joanna Gosling is the author of Simply Wonderwoman, a new book billed as 'a survival guide for women with too much to do'. She's sympathetic to my penchant for practical gifts but thinks a hoover might be pushing it.
"A great hoover is a brilliant thing," concedes Joanna. "The one I've got changed my life with its power and ease of use, but I bought it in the sale because I hate spending money on boring stuff, so I never pay full price for an appliance."
But to Joanna's mind, a hoover does not a decent Christmas present make. "A sewing machine or a cake mixer I could understand because they give you pleasure, but I can't imagine revelling in hoovering."
Rachel Ray disagrees. She runs a domestic cleaning company (www.brightandbeautifulhome.com) but stresses that not all women would appreciate a hoover on Christmas Day: "Some people love cleaning and vacuuming, and actually find it therapeutic.
"It brings order to their otherwise chaotic world and can be stress-relieving.
"For those women, it's certainly not a betrayal of feminism to buy state-of-the-art equipment. In fact, a top-of-the-range vacuum cleaner will save you time that can then be spent doing something you enjoy."
Ah, therapy. Perhaps I should come clean. (Sorry.)
I am one of those strange souls who find hoovering therapeutic. After a difficult day, there are few things quite as soothing as transforming a crumb-ridden rug into something you feel like lying on beside a roaring fire.
Lorna Sixsmith lives in Co Carlow with her husband and two children. She runs Garrendenny Lane (www.garrendennylane.com), an online interiors boutique, and was once the recipient of a dishwasher on Christmas Eve. Lorna was ecstatic.
"We moved into a house that needed serious renovation and had no kitchen sink for three months, so the gift of a dishwasher from my husband was a delight," she recalls.
But house-related items aren't just one-offs for Lorna.
Past presents she has cherished include a vintage sewing machine and an antique armchair. This year, her wish list is simpler.
"I'd settle for my husband finishing off my utility room and hanging wallpaper in my loo," confesses Lorna.
But if a gift makes you happy, it shouldn't matter if it's diamonds or a Dyson. The point is the thoughtfulness it conveys.
That's a sentiment shared by Irish food blogger Colette Cunningham (www.katzwizkaz.blogspot.com) from Co Louth. She treated herself to an expensive food mixer and doesn't buy the notion that she's selling out to domestic drudgery. "It's about convenience," Colette explains.
"I happily receive gifts that benefit the whole household. Diamonds don't clean the floor."
And what has Colette set her heart on for Christmas? "Happiness would be a new cooker," she says. "With six burners and a double oven."
Colette is not alone. Food blogger Aoife Ryan (babaduck.com) from Co Wicklow treats herself to special gifts for her birthday but asks for practical items as presents.
"Top of my wishlist this year is a new super-swanky fridge freezer, which I have coveted for months. That would make me happier than anything," she explains.
"To me, a gift doesn't have to be luxurious -- it is cherished if it's something I really need, and it's not necessarily a gender-specific issue. My husband is equally anxious to get the new fridge. You should see how much beer it holds."
Previous generations exchanged household gifts without all this debate. My grandmother was once the proud recipient of a slow-cooker for Christmas, and bought her daughter-in-law a carpet cleaner.
But years ago, expensive household items were saved up for, and consequently treasured instead of dismissed as thinly-veiled insults. We might do well to learn from that.