[The auction for this Significant Object, with story by Mimi Lipson, has ended. Original price: $3. Final price: $24.50. Significant Objects will donate the proceeds of this auction to 826 National.]
She’s Jewish, so why does she insist on giving me Christmas gifts? For that matter, why is she giving me a hippie bear Christmas tree ornament? I’m not a hippie. She’s certainly not a hippie. There is no hippie of our mutual acquaintance to whom this could be a fond or winking allusion. But it’s a long tradition: last year she gave me an enormous salmon-colored sweatshirt embossed with a puffy vinyl seagull, and the year before, a two-gallon tub of caramel popcorn. With her unerring instinct for soul-free objects, she’s naturally drawn to the microwavable, the Navajo-patterned, the vanilla-scented. There have been cake plates shaped like snowmen, eye-watering potpourri satchels, decorative jars of multicolored pastas, candles of every description. These things will not mellow or acquire sentimental cachet. It is not their destiny to become vintage. To look upon one of her gifts is to see its future in a free-box and, ultimately, a landfill.
Does that sound harsh? It isn’t meant to be. I know that, for her, to love is to give. But I’ve also seen the closet where she hoards piles of gift-wrapped junk, replenishing her stock on regular trips to the mall like a squirrel gathering inedible, mass-produced nuts. It’s a compulsion, and a lonely one. She doesn’t go to Goodwill, either; I know she’s spent good money on this bear — money she could have spent on bingo cards and Virginia Slims.
For something so bland, this hippie bear ornament is chockablock with signifiers that are hard to ignore. I can only assume it spoke to her of me in some way, or spoke of the connection between us, and I think that’s what depresses me most of all. This thing has nothing to do with us. It occurs to me that a shapeless lump of putty-colored plastic would have expressed more. Each one of the carefully rendered details — the blue jeans, the flowers, the peace signs, the tasseled string that laces its leather vest — each one subtracts a bit of meaning, until all that remains is a sucking hole of negative significance.
On the other hand, it’s the thought that counts.
Ha Ha! a tasty take on the tastless
I think you’ve succinctly summed up this whole holiday experience in one entertaining story. Beautiful.
Hi Mimi; this was totally great. i wanted that ornament so bad. one i am a child of the 60’s and my whole living room has bears from around the world and you have to be a bear ornament to hang on my tree. so i wanted the ornament. rationally by the time i found your ornament it already exceeded my allowed ornament expendature. but i watched the bids come in an thought someone is lucky. dissatisfied that i wasnt the new owner of ‘hippie ornament’ i went ebay searching for the same or similar. within ten minutes i had found one under ‘peace bear ornament”. buy it now price was $4.95 and the ornament had been up and running for days while yours sold for $24.50 and got 16 bids. And although i am now the happy owner of ‘peace bear ornament’ i am slightly disappointed that my ornament does not have the character and story that ‘hippie bear’ does even if it is a fable. it truly is an incredible little experiment.
Sue, thanks for this note. We’ve used the BUY IT NOW feature as evidence that our experiment worked — because, yeah, why would you buy any of these objects for $20+ when often the same thing is available elsewhere on eBay for much less? It seems our objects have been rescued from the state of mass-produced meaningless via the addition of a story. Your experience helps confirm this because you actually DID buy an (apparently) identical item elsewhere on eBay and feel disappointed. Perhaps we’ll footnote your anecdote in a scholarly essay some day…
Interestingly this is the second time that Mimi Lipson Significance has crushed the free market. As noted in this earlier post, her story about the Halston Mug elevated its value well above that of identical mugs available on eBay at the same time.
My views on this are already well known: I think our stories really do make the objects we sell one-of-a-kind, and thus worth every penny.
Mimi is one of those rare writers who purposely takes the tackiest objects off our hands in order to write about them — maybe there’s a connection between that and the fact that people check the BUY IT NOW prices for similar objects when “her” objects are listed on eBay?