Bad Santas seldom start off with evil intentions. At least, that’s how I’d like to think. But there are times when you really wonder whether the givers’ brains were on hiatus. Why not just settle for giving your loved ones a stick or a lump of coal and get it all over with? Or just nothing? It would have to be cheaper and kinder in the long run.
It’s so easy to fall into that trap of giving someone what we would want to receive. Or what would make the recipient what we’d like them to become.
Maybe I’m being too kind. We can write off gifting fails as acts of the clueless and the cheap bastards, and then there’s unadulterated malice.
There are funny gifts. There are gifts that can be genuinely appreciated only by the recipients. And then there are gifts that are just plain cruel.
The initiation fee on a golf club membership. Not only do I hate golf, I couldn’t afford to pay the monthly maintenance charges and had to let the membership go. The donor may have thought the membership would put me with a more desirable class of people, but it was money wasted.
Diet aids, exercise equipment, and self-help books. “But I was only trying to help.” In my family, this comes naturally. My grandmother gave my mother a three-month membership to Vic Tanny’s, good only during the last three months of her final pregnancy. My own mother couldn’t help herself when it came to throwing in cheap exercise equipment along with excesses of stuff I really wanted.
Clothing that is obviously too small or too large for the recipient. Now, no one expects every donor to know every recipient’s size, but it’s a fair bet that those who shop Eileen Fisher seldom come in size 4. And folks with size 7 feet rarely will grow into a 9.5.
Framed photos. I already know what you and your family look like, and I don’t need to be reminded. Do you really think I’m going to prop that up on my mantle? Since you adore those images of yourself so much, how about I blow up a really bad photo of you, put it in a cheap frame, and give it to you on your next birthday?
Holiday gift baskets, loaded with cylinders of dried meat that a rat wouldn’t even touch, cheese cultured from toe jam, stale crackers, and worse. Is there anyone who really is impressed by an assortment of sample-sized nut bars and a few lousy bananas? Why not just send over a sack of dry dog food and a couple of cans of Alpo? If you really know the recipient well, you can deliver the same thrill and for a lot less money by simply wrapping up a box of Kraft non-deluxe dinner and a can of SpaghettiOs.
Tuition at a science conference and a check made out to a math tutor. That kind of gift demands reciprocity of no less than a scholarship to Betty Ford.
A donation made in my name to your favorite charity. How fucking dumb do you think I am? I know you’re taking the tax deduction.
The free travel liquor valise with pictures of liquor bottles, umbrella, and other shit you got for buying office supplies. A family member once gave that to my mother. Wisely, she handed the gift right back as a going-away present no less than 24 hours later.
A yellow lace baby doll peignoir. When was the last time you saw me wearing anything like that?
A gift certificate that would barely pay the sales tax on the cheapest item available or the tip on the cheapest item on the menu. Really, do you think that anyone could use a $5 Zabar’s certificate or a $10 gift certificate good at Canyon Ranch? The only one benefitting from this certificate is the vendor who never has to redeem it.
Books that have absolutely no useful purpose in my life – not even as donations. How about the Children’s Favorite Fables of Utah? Or a coffee table book about the most interesting gas stations in the San Fernando Valley? Surely there’s something more interesting in the remainder pile.
A jeweled dog collar, signifying a promise to buy a poodle. Really, what is a college student going to do with an unsolicited dog?
Medical devices. Oh boy, just what I always wanted! A sleep apnea pillow. A box of Depends would be easier to wrap. Why not go all out and give someone a year’s pass to the local STD clinic?
Used tacky Christmas ornaments, particularly when given on Christmas Day.
Tickets to an event which was held yesterday. Even worse would be tickets to tomorrow night’s Morelia boys’ choir concert for someone living in Uganda.
A toilet brush.
A wood flute and a concertina. Someone could’ve saved a lot of money just by buying an LP of the Lennon Sisters singing the von Trapp Family favorites.
Gifts that the donor thinks may spark some new hobby interest. Like macramé or stamp collecting. People over the age of 9 are seldom spurred on to new avocations.
A stick in your stocking. Yes, this did happen in my family. Even if he may have deserved it, and even though he received everything else he wanted, it still cast an unpleasant pall to that Christmas. No wonder he remains frozen when it comes to giving Christmas presents: expect one of those crappy gift baskets from him.
Are you tempted this year to give someone a gift certificate for paternity testing? What gifts have you received that just made your want to sit down and cry? Or plot revenge by blogging about them?