“What do you want for Christmas?”
If there’s one thing that I wish we’d all change about holiday gift-giving, it’s this obsession with ensuring everyone gets exactly what they want and nothing they don’t.
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. But there’s an element of thought and, heaven forbid, creativity that should go into selecting a gift for someone; openly skipping this step by asking that person to tell you what to buy for them reduces that warm fuzzy expression of how you see someone to merely doing their shopping.
Besides, in my family–where the practice is particularly rampant–it doesn’t work. One year I told my Mom that I really needed a set of pots and pans; and she got me a brand new self-closing toilet seat. “It doesn’t slam shut in the middle of the night,” she purred. “I live alone,” I reminded her. “If anyone is using my toilet in the middle of the night, I want that ‘heads up’.”
And so, in an effort to put an end to the madness, I’ve composed this Top 10 list to help you select the perfect item for everyone, without having to ask them anything at all.
1. Nerf Gun. This is a shockingly universal go-to item. There’s an extensive arsenal of styles and intensity levels available, and it is physically impossible not to at least chuckle a little when you pelt someone with foam. Perfect for the new guy you introduce to the family at Christmas, when no one has any clue what to get him.
2. Shopping Spree. My sister loves “The Gift of Shopping,” but of course gift cards are no fun to open on Christmas day. Plus there is notable risk those little suckers can get misplaced or thrown into the fireplace with the wrapping paper. Instead, I went to Kohl’s and bought $100 worth of the largest, scariest, ugliest ladies’ undergarments I could find, and enclosed the gift receipt.
3. Get in the Tub. Whether the goal is spa night or seduction, a gift of champagne, scented candles, bubble bath, eye mask, and silky underthings sends a pretty straightforward message: someone needs a good cleaning.
4. Mom & Pop Miscellany. One-of-a-kind items that can’t be returned to a box store are more fun than those that can–especially when you’re buying for someone kind of snooty, because God knows you’ll never please them, anyway. Boutique shops and antique stores are loaded with funky candlesticks, unusual scarves, and goofy wall hangings sure to tickle and/or horrify the funky, unusual, and goofy people on your list.
5. Jewelry. No no no, I’m not talking diamonds or jewels–I’m talking about that basic everyday stuff that anyone can pick out for anyone. From hip-hop teens to glamorous babes to Bohemian earth mothers, most women will wear a bracelet sometime, and they can always use another. Don’t stress over it.
6. Fuckit Bucket. You’ll never go wrong with a box of chocolate or a basket of goodies from Harry & David, but why not crank it up a notch? Find a sand pail or metal bucket, then fill it candy bars and a bottle of their favorite beverage. This is an especially good gift for a newly-divorced friend. Don’t forget to share the name.
7. Drop and Run. Parents can be tricky to buy for, especially if they have a wedding anniversary and both frackin’ birthdays in the same month as Christmas. Hit the local butcher shop for a couple of fresh steaks, the bakery for a fresh loaf of bread, a local restaurant for a couple slices of gourmet cheesecake, and the grocery store for a bag of salad and a handful of scratchers tickets. Then leave them to enjoy a relaxing evening alone.
8. You’ve Got Baggage. Who doesn’t need a new bag? Grocery totes, work satchels, and anything that holds all the kids’ crap and still looks stylish is always appreciated. Your mom/sister/girlfriend would love a new purse, your dad/brother/boyfriend is probably long overdue for a new duffel bag. If you really want to show your feelings, there’s a whole lot of love in Filson.
9. Universal Law. Little kids like big boxes. Filled with balloons, packing peanuts, or smaller boxes for them to unwrap, they’ll be happy. No point spending 30 bucks on something that will get buried under other toys until it ends up in a garage sale. Their parents would rather have a self-closing toilet seat.
10. A Whole Mess o’Kids. Got a gaggle of nieces and nephews to delight this Christmas? Give them each a couple cans of Silly String, and be sure they all unwrap them at the same time. Don’t forget to stockpile a few cans for yourself. You’ll need them.
Each time I shop, I remember what my first husband said to me when I offered to accompany him to a jewelry store, just so he could get an idea of my taste: “I’m the one doing the buying; the only thing that matters is if I like it.”