It never fails. Every year of my life, on at least one gift giving occasion, I have received one of those gifts that made me cock my head and think, This? You got me this? You decided that, of all the things in the world you could spend your money on, this would be the very best gift for me? Have we met?
There are many reasons this thought process has made an appearance. The set of little china houses. For me? The person with a very noticeable lack of knick knacky items scattered about my abode, on account of the fact that I hate clutter.
The red sweatshirt with the embroidered Santa bear, complete with jingle bell pom-pom. Really? How has it escaped your notice that for, oh maybe twenty-five years I have dressed almost entirely in black with nary a jingle bell in sight?
Books are always good, but The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People? Now you’re being a smartass. Or just an ass.
There are more. So many more. But that should be sufficient to give you a good idea of the inspiration behind this list.
1. Themed anything.
Let’s get this one off the table, right out of the gate.
No one wants the Santa sweatshirt, or the jack o’ lantern one, either, for that matter. Just put it back. There is a reason these items are only $7 – it’s a disposable garment. It might get worn once. Maybe. If you give it to me it will be in the Goodwill bag before Christmas is over.
This is actually a clear division of two types of personality – people who will wear holiday themed garb, and those who will not. It’s pretty obvious which camp I fall into, and I can confidently say this none of us wants that stuff. No matter how cute it is. Or how festive. Pick your enthusiastic adjective and we will still scrub the toilet bowl with it in January, anyway.
And the other camp? The ones who Christmas shop in last year’s Jingle Bell sweater? They buy their own. Some like the subtle, winter themes with the chickadees and snowmen. Others, like my Mom, like the bolder ones, with the tiny Christmas ornaments sewn onto the appliqued Christmas tree. There are levels of flair to the holiday garb, and only the wearer will ever be able to determine if a piece works well for them.
So I reiterate – nobody wants holiday themed garb as a gift.
No. Just, no.
Put them back. Just change the channel and preserve your loved one’s dignity for just one more year. Even if they say they want them, they don’t. Not really.
Pajama jeans are the end of the road, it’s the throwing in of the towel, the declaration to end all vanity. It is coming right and stating clearly, “I just don’t care anymore.”
You want comfy, get some jammies or sweats. You want to look fashionable, these are not the garments you reach for. And there is a reason people typically wear a robe over their in-house gear when they have company. No one wants to see that.
If you really think Pajama Jeans are the answer, go for the Snuggie instead. They probably don’t get out much, anyway, so go ahead and bundle them up from head to foot.
3. A star named after me.
Or even worse, a star named after a 6-year-old. Unless the recipient of this gift wants to be an astronaut, think harder.
I love stars, I’ve been known to haul out of bed at 3:00 AM to see a meteor shower.
But this comes down to you shelling out 14.95-39.95 for a piece of paper bearing my name and some coordinates. Odds are pretty good that there is no way I can find my star in the sky without a telescope. So basically you are giving me a gift which requires me to spend $300 in order to see it. That is nearly as bad as giving me a pet I then have to provide with food and vet care for the next 15 years.
4. A Pet
Unless you are a parent buying this gift for your child, knowing full well that
you will be paying for food, vet, toys, treats and all the other expenditures that go with pet ownership, don’t do this. Aside from real dollars, you are also committing the recipient to years of walking, litter box changing, pet sitter arrangements and other draws on their time and brain cells that they didn’t want to spend.
No matter how cute it is, no matter how much a little one turns their sad, doe eyes up to you, don’t do this. Get ’em an XBox. Or drums. Or really anything that can’t chew the furniture or defecate on the floor.
5. Vacuum Cleaner
Or really, any other cleaning or housekeeping paraphernalia. Even if they ask for it. My Dad did this once. My Mom mentioned needing an iron. So he bought her one. As a Christmas gift. She got him something. . . better.
She also went out and spent his entire next week’s pay on fun stuff for her – some new clothes, a camera and a new handbag, if memory serves.
It might be a fancy cleaning gadget, it might be a great thing to own. But it comes down to a glorified mop, bucket and yellow rubber gloves.
Tread carefully here. Even if your loved one states explicitly, “I want a treadmill for Christmas,” be sure it wasn’t one of those I’m eating cheesecake right now and should say something so he knows I’m not going to eat the whole thing comment.
Because a gift of exercise stuff just screams You are fat. Do something about it before I begin to find you unattractive.
Granted, that is girl-brain assuming that is what your intentions are. But if you are living with girl-brain, it is best to learn her language.
You may have the best of intentions here – a $400 gift she wants, how can you go wrong? That can go bad in a lot of ways, not least of which is the crying-in-the-bathroom-on-Christmas-morning way.
7. Specialty Adult Beverages
There are so, so many of these. I’m not talking about top shelf whiskey, or specialty vodka. No no. I’m talking bacon. Or salmon. There are others, not quite so . . .jarring, like the root beer flavored vodka, but if you get me a bottle of bacon flavored liquor, I’ll use it to smash some sense into your addled brain.
Don’t get me wrong, I like bacon. I’m a subscriber to the theory that most things are better with bacon. My bevvie is not one of them.
8. Anything of the Month Club
Take your pick. Cakes, cookies, jellies, meat (meat?!), coffee, books, pickles, beef jerkey, puzzles, golf balls, flowers, salad (again?!), salsa, PB & J, cheeseballs.
There is nothing, nothing like coming home on a hot August day to a box of rotting meat on my doorstep. Or, having the UPS guy hound me until I stay home for a signatures delivery. Do not do this to me, or I will come to hate you a little bit.
9. Self-help Books
Post-divorce, post-job loss, post-just about anything seems to be grounds for giving these books. New jobs, new babies, new homes, and new relationships also seem to spark this urge. These books all say the same thing to the recipient: I have judged you and found you lacking in drive, personality, skills, common sense and/or moral character. I may also think you are going to Hell.
That last one is when you not only give me a self-help book, but when said book is written as though merely praying and having faith will correct these flaws.
So here it is – all of my flaws (and oh, do I have flaws) can be corrected by one thing and one thing only – me. That book, no matter how exceptional it is, will not heal me. I’ve got to kick myself in the ass and do something about my failures.
In the meantime, while I sit on the couch and wonder why I have yet to strike it rich, score a perfect family and earn the love and admiration of all my friends and neighbors, you have just made me feel really lousy about it. And you did it on Christmas, the one day I might have otherwise been able to push the negative aside and enjoy a few minutes of my existence. So thanks – Merry Christmas right back at you. I’ll just go stick my head in the oven and see if the turkey’s done.
10. The Sweater
You know the one. The one that makes the recipients lift their eyebrows higher than Joan Crawford, smile until their face cracks a little and thank you an octave higher than usual. Bold, bright, nubby textured or just downright itchy, these are the sweaters that are too ugly for even a hipster to wear ironically. Sweaters that even The Cos himself wouldn’t wear.
Somewhere there sits crate upon crate of these monstrosities, just waiting for each Christmas season to roll around. And there is at least one family member in every household who suffers from diminished vision and peripheral neuropathy who can neither see, nor feel how truly bad this sweater is.
So. Be nice to the ones you love. Shop with them in mind instead of on a list. Think about them. And if you’re really stuck, ask them. It’s Christmas, it’s not like the idea of getting a gift is going to come as a surprise.
Go ahead and get me a sweater – just not that one. Food and beverages are all ok too – just not as a subscription to get tossed about through the mail, frozen, overheated or mashed. And I love books, but please, don’t use Christmas as an opportunity to fix me. Love me instead, and get me a gift card.