Debenhams have launched a new service called the Divorce Gift List. How nice of them.
By Susan Daly
Tuesday January 19 2010
It's clearly a tough time in the retail sector when Debenhams decide it's fine to burrow out a crass new niche: the Divorce Gift List.
Their logic is that when couples break up, they also draw a dividing line down their communal belongings.
Or worse, one partner ends up out on their ear entirely without so much as a can-opener to their name.
The Debenhams gift list is posing a question that only they felt needed to be asked: Just what do you buy the man or woman who has nothing? A store spokesperson said that as well as the basic bed and kitchen basics, they expect microwaves, plasma screen TVs, computer games and non-iron shirts to be popular choices among divorcees.
How sensitive. Congratulations on the breakdown of your marriage. We now expect you to sit slobbering microwaveable ready meals down your idiot-friendly shirt while you numb the loneliness of your life by playing video games on your giant TV. Why not just add, "You sad immature sack," and be done with it?
Is it just me or does it also sounds like a particularly masculine wish list? I don't think divorcee support groups will be delighted by the stereotype that men straight out of a marriage revert to their 20-something selves. It might sound like fun -- but probably not to the man who has lost love, a home and perhaps daily access to his children. A flatscreen TV is scant consolation.
Marital breakdown is a horrible fact of life -- the most recent figures show that one in four married Irish couples are now estranged. That is incredibly sad and there is nothing wrong with the idea of helping a needy friend to start over.
There is also something to be said for anything that helps destigmatise divorce, which is still a relatively new phenomenon here. But a divorce gift list sounds sneakily like a companion to a wedding gift list. Except the gift card reads: "I'm sorry to hear... You didn't dump that loser sooner" or "Ding dong, the witch is gone".
Like those divorce parties that have become popular among such dignified, restrained divorcees like Jordan and Heather Mills, it smacks of a celebration. Don't get me started on how inappropriate that is if children, in particular, are involved. It's a surprise the list doesn't include a special silver-plated kiddies' tissue holder.
Who, by the way, would register for such a gift list? If you're getting divorced, it's safe to assume you got married, too. And if I'm a good enough friend to be sent an invite to your divorce party, I probably shelled out for a wedding present at that happier time too. Isn't that a little -- dare I say it -- greedy?
Debenhams would argue that the list is not an exploitation of the old maxim that where there's muck, there's brass. They might say they are supplying a real demand.
Perhaps -- but there are plenty of other situations where someone might need to assemble the basics of a home. A student starting college away from their parents, for example. So why don't they launch a Home Starter Kit that would cover all eventualities? I think we know the answer to that.
It wouldn't generate the same publicity.
How's this for cynicism: the launch came on the day known as Blue Monday.
It is officially the most depressing day of the year, the point at which many people are hit by post-Christmas financial, emotional and physical stress. Who in Debenhams thought it would be a kind gesture to add a reminder of relationship breakdown to that mix?
It seems they have in fact actually answered their own question. What do you give the person who has nothing? A kick when they're down.