Rhiannon Harries: All I want for Christmas is... I'm not telling. That would ruin it

On my mind
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The Independent Online

Despite the best efforts of the hysterical emails arriving in increasing numbers in my inbox, I have no idea how many shopping days are left until Christmas. Nor am I worried about it. Though it's nothing to be proud of, I'm a seasoned shopper and can pull off a last-minute marathon without being reduced to socks or condiments.

But for those who have better things to do with their time than commit the Selfridges floor plan to memory, Christmas shopping – whether the precision-planned interminable slow burn, or the cold sweat 24 December supermarket sweep – is a notoriously unpleasant business. And though I know plenty of women who loathe it, I don't think it's an unforgivable generalisation to say that men are responsible for the lion's share of dud gifts.

Savvy internet retailers such as designer womenswear sites net-a-porter.com and my-wardrobe.com evidently agree, and appear to have a solution for annually disappointed females. Simply select your favourite items – a Miu Miu purse here, a Stella McCartney jacket there – and add them to your "wish list", which you can then have emailed to your real-life Santa Claus. You even enter your vital stats and preferred colours.

It's very neat. No more deep-fat fryers or festive oven mitts driving couples to the brink of divorce on Christmas morning. Just one person telling the person they love which It bag they want them to pay for, and the latter dutifully stumping up the goods. Oh dear, sounds a tiny bit depressing when you put it like that, doesn't it?

The wish list is really a letter to Santa for people old enough to know better. In terms of a lack of romance and imagination, it is only narrowly surpassed by buying your own gifts and claiming the money back from your partner.

These days, the only defence for the out-and-out consumerism fest that passes for Christmas is the fact that, at its best, giving and receiving gifts – material goods though they may be – is fundamentally an emotional transaction. A genuine effort will prompt the kind of surprise and gratitude that pre-ordering your presents will never quite match. It's a gamble, admittedly, but pre-empting the outcome is almost worse than a bad result.

However, the final nail in the wish list's coffin for me was my boyfriend's response to the idea. "I wouldn't mind at all if I got an email that told me what to buy you," he enthused, far too keenly. If nothing else, in true festive spirit, I'm not making it that easy for him. Besides, I've always rather liked oven mitts.