Monday, November 30, 2009

Five gifts you don't want to unwrap this holiday season

We're coming off a pretty depressing month of November, so I thought I'd kick-start the holiday season with a few early reflections about gifts: Gifts given, gifts received. The Good, the Bad, and the Butt-ugly.

When it comes to worst-ever gifts, it's not the gift per se that counts. If you get a hideous Rudolf the Reindeer sweater from your Aunt Minnie, at least you know she meant well. (Unless she's like some of the Minnie-hahas around my tree).

The worst gifts are ones you know were chosen with malice aforethought; they reflect--badly--on you, or on the relationship between giver and givee.

Here, in no particular order, is my own Top 5 list of worst-ever gifts:
  • A set of Franklin Mint quarters, given to me by a buddy who kept borrowing money.
  • A refrigerator alarm that oinked, the year I put on a few holiday pounds.
  • A paper shredder, right after I announced my plan to become a professional writer. (I already had an organic paper shredder--my cat).
  • A set of candles that was regifted to me, from the person I'd given it to the previous year.
  • Any of the "For Dummies" books I've ever received. (And I hate to admit, there've been more than a few.)
To be fair, here are a few clunkers I've given over the years that didn't go over so well:
  • A Christmas card I regifted in the first grade. It had the original recipient's name erased, but still clearly legible.(I was only six, okay?)
  • An Epilady hair remover, for a hirsute friend.
  • A jumbo box of See's Candy, for someone who was on a diet.
  • A set of carving knives, for a soon-to-be ex.

Looking over that list, I'm...I'm ashamed. And I solemnly vow not to leave any passive-aggressive lumps of coal in any one's stocking this year.

So what are some of your worst-ever gifts given? Received?


  1. I gave my grandmother a candle from a local store because I knew she liked candles and I knew it would match her kitchen. The following year I gave her another candle that was exactly the same. I forgot that I gave her the first one.

  2. Patti, I kept giving jewelry boxes to one of my nieces--not the same one, but still, how much jewelry can a kid have? I kept finding cute ones, and forgetting I'd already gotten her one.

  3. A refrigerator alarm that oinks? Cool! Where do I score one of those? (I do understand the carving knife thing to the ex, though. I saw Fatal Attraction)

  4. A pink "Ask Jesus" statue with floating "eight ball" answers in the base. You ask a question like, "Does my WIP really suck?", then turn the statue upside down and Jesus will give you his answer.

  5. OMG, an "Ask Jesus" 8 ball, Joe? Love it!

  6. I want the ask Jesus 8 ball! One year I was on a homemade gift kick and gave people all sorts of homemade stuff - including collage covered toiletries which I suspect were pretty only excuse was it was the 1980's - either that or I was just channelling my Berkeley-inner-me early.

  7. I don't understand why people give writers shredders? I mean aren't nearly all authors digital nowadays so why would they be document shredding? Granted if it is a great shredder that is still a nice gift and could be an expensive one.

  8. Here you go:

  9. Toni, there is something physically satisfying about shredding a particularly bad page. Sometimes I print out a page just so that I can shred it. Great reliever when pissed (upset or inebriated, whichever definition you prefer).

    As far as gifts, I remember one year I was particularly poor and made a hand made gift to send to all of my family members. It was a 'Survival Kit In A Tin-Can'. In a soup can I put everything one would need to survive any small emergency, including instructions on how to use the can as both a lamp and a stove. I even perforated the cans with interesting and personalized designs. The country folks thought it was cute, the city folks thought I was cheap and not very bright.

    As far as receiving a bum gift. One year my father had made it clear that he was going to get rid of several pistols from his collection. He intimated that some may be given as gifts. He dropped by our house several days before Christmas and left gifts for my kids, my wife, and myself. I was excited to find that my gift was a rather hefty package the exact size of a nice boxed Colt 1911A1 .45 caliber pistol that had been in his collection. With it in his cabinet were two spare magazines and a box of ammo.

    I patiently waited till Christmas morning, imagining myself at the shooting range showing off my immaculate, expensive classic weapon. The slide worked so nicely. The bullets boomed when fired with a sonic roar and popped big smiley faces on the targets to the oohs and aahs of my mates who salivated over the wonderfully kept piece of military history.

    Christmas morning came and lo and behold.... turns out Sam's Club sells a set of jumper cables that comes in a box almost identical to the Colt 1911A1 .45 caliber pistol with spare magazines and a box of ammo. When the included screwdrivers, flashlight and canned air are included, it weighs the same too.

    So if anybody at the shooting had their battery die or a tire go flat, I could be all over it.