Ten Gifts to Never Give on Christmas (How to Become A Good Gift Giver).

Oh Bradley Cooper guy, I want to punch you so badly.  
Have you heard the December to Remember piano jingle that Lexus mocks us 99%-ers with each year, yet?  Every time it comes on, some sweater wearing mofo actor looking like Bradley Cooper surprises his oddly likable early-twenties trophy bride wearing white cashmere with a Lexus luxury sedan, which he also somehow wrapped with the largest ribbon and bow Hallmark ever manufactured.  I hate those commercials.

Not because I have a problem with Lexus, they make fine cars. But because they don't say the underlying factor: I just put us $45,000+ in debt. If I put my family in a financial hole on Christmas, it would be the antithesis of a present. I know this, because I know my wife. She hates owing money to anybody. Part of being a good gift giver (which may be my love language), is knowing what the receiver wants. Which means you have to be a good listener.   

The other half of giving good gifts is the ability to find the best deal (getting the best bang for the buck), whether there is a 5 or 50 dollar cap. But I wasn't always good at either getting deals, or paying attention to what my friends/family wanted or needed. Frankly, I used to be a lazy gift giver. Here's the ten worst Christmas presents I ever gave. 

Who doesn't want to slice up a
10# bag of potatoes every now
and then?  
10. Kenmore 10 Cup Food Processor. Some of you are thinking, "What's the big deal, that's an awesome present!" The problem was, my wife hates getting kitchen gadgets for Christmas. I was well aware of this before I purchased the item, but when I saw the 75% off price of $28 three years ago, it was too hard to pass up.  I should've just came home and said, "Look what I found for 75% off!" but instead I wanted credit for getting a huge present (among others) and still staying within our price range. At least we needed a processor. My wife's a good actor...but a man knows when his girl's faking it.  

9. A Wilson Soccer Ball to share. I met my wife when we had both just turned 21. We both knew it was meant to be, but were dating through the complexities of long  distance. Suddenly it was our first  holiday season together and we barely knew each other's families.
Put a little duct tape here and there
and she's as good as new.  
There is always that weird question of whether you should get every member of your significant other family gifts as well or not (does anyone know the etiquette?). She has one of those odd sibling gaps where three of her siblings were under the age of seven (7, 6 and 4). They seemed to only like video games, Pokemon, and playing outside, so I thought, what is cheap, easy to understand, and sharable? Soccer, of course. Of course, they hated my soccer ball gift, as they were/are incapable of sharing ANYTHING. All three of them started crying. I should've unleashed Pikachu's Thunder Attack on their rear ends, but I was still trying to impress the family. I know they were barely out of diapers, but I still remind them of their early childhood character flaws each successive Christmas.

8. Storm Shadow V2 (1989): All younger siblings will relate to this one. That moment you realize your older sibling is too cool to play with toys anymore. I was ten and my brother was 13.  The year earlier he abruptly stopped taking baths with me, and now he didn't want the coolest G.I.Joe character ever released? I should've just got him a cheap Bic razor and a coal miner's helmet and said, "Hope you don't get the black lung old man!"  Oh well, Storm Shadow kept me plenty of company that year.  

7. 80s Sunglasses with the stupid head strap:  You could use a thousand adjectives to describe my father, but trendy is not one of them.  When I was 7, my parents trusted me with $20 to do all my Christmas shopping on my own. I had no idea what I was doing. I thought my dad would look good in those cheap plastic fluorescent Tom Cruise from Risky Business sunglasses.  These ones also had a gray  strap to go behind you head so you wouldn't lose them. They were the 100% not my dad. He wore them once to make me feel good, but only a 2008 retro college frat-boy could really appreciate the douchbaggery of that style.  

Kmart: Selling the illusion of class
6. Kmart Aquamarine Tennis Bracelet: Early in every marriage, a guy gets the notion that jewelry will always go over well (it usually does). The problem with jewelry is that it is so marked up, that it has to be the centerpiece of that year's gifts. Not so at Kmart, where quality and workmanship are afterthoughts to price points. I found this sterling silver bracelet for like $35 dollars, and thought, "Gee, this won't even be the best present this year...I'm so awesome." My wife wore it once and it broke. I repaired it, and it broke again. Silver (like 24k gold) is a soft metal, and I've learned that silver and "delicate" do not go together well (which is why gold is usually alloyed with stronger metals). Actually, Kmart and presents don't go together very well either. At least they will "ship my pants," though.

Almost as good as my craftsmanship 
5. Homemade Dragonfly Windchime: Technically, this one shouldn't be on the list since I never actually finished the project, but...  My high school girlfriend loved dragonflies, and I was unemployed and broke so I started bending copper wires into the shape of a dragonfly. After a few hours on the first of five or so dragonflies, I took a break. I never got back to it. For some reason my girlfriend was upset when I didn't have a present for her on Christmas day. Aren't IOUs the same thing? Talk about high maintenance.

Yep, got her three of the four.  
4. Spongebob Squarepants Blanket three years in a row: Similar to my wife (but not as extreme), I also have a gap in my siblings. My sisters are 7 and 11 years younger than I am. Which means during their key developmental years, I was a selfish teenager/young adult. Rather than buy them gifts according to their gender differences (I was not getting caught on the Barbie isle in 11th grade), I bought them stuff we shared in common. Kayla (my oldest sister) loved Spongebob and was always cold, so I bought her a throw blanket for three straight years covered with that lovably moronic invertebrate. My younger sister Natalie experienced the same fate via my giving hands, with decorative lamps. I think she might have been the only pre-teen with five non-matching kitschy desk lamps in Oregon history.

I think millennials relate more to this
figurine than to other humans.  
3. Ugly porcelain decorative cat: Remember the year I got my dad those sunglasses?  Guess what I got mom: that's right a ceramic cat. My mom doesn't even like cats. She also doesn't collect useless figurines or decorative eyesores. I just saw a cat, and my 7-year-old brain said, "That seems girly."  Bless my mom's heart, she put it on top of her piano for almost TEN years. When I was old enough, I said, "Mom, is this ugly cat that gift I got you for Christmas one year?" "Yeah, I love it." she said.  "You shouldn't...it's ugly, I won't be offended if you get rid of it." It quickly disappeared  (Although I know where it is and I will offer to sell it to a Millennial kid...you guys love stupid ugly cat things).

2. Ringo Starr Figurine: My first attempt at buying a gift for a girlfriend on Christmas was to get her a figurine of the least popular Beatle. She had a thing for the ugliest members of groups (she also thought Scottie Pippen was the most attractive Bulls teammate). In terms of her horrible taste in men's looks, I don't know what that means about me, but when I saw this Ringo sitting behind a cool set of drums, I just had to fork over $25 for him. She pretended to be happy. But when we broke up for a week (like all high school relationships do) she melted his head down with a propane torch. (That should've been a warning sign to me).

The perfect gift for that amnesiac in your life.  
In fairness to how crappy my gift was; she got me a stainless steel bracelet with my name engraved on the band. I'm not a jewelry wearing guy. And I NEVER forget my own name...so I was a little confused as to the practicality of this gift.  I wore it for a week, and slowly stopped wearing it (which caused many, many fights). In terms of value today, that same Ringo doll is going for close to a hundred bucks on eBay, and stainless steel hasn't increased in value at all. Some gifts are all about the investment value.

1. Speaking of investments, the worst gift by today's standards is the Box of 1990 Donruss Baseball Cards I gave my brother.  I paid $15 dollars in 1990 dollars (which would've filled a Ford Escort's gas tanks back than) for this amazing unopened box of cards. This set was filled with error cards, like the reverse negative rookie card of Juan Gonzalez, which was one of 20+ errors in a 700 card set! The only problem with this brand was that they roughly produced over 86 billion sets (they slightly overestimated the card collecting population). There was a theory that Donruss was in cahoots with the US treasury, and that the US was going to try and pay off our 3 trillion dollar debt with inflated Donruss card values (they tried this, and failed again, a few years later with Beanie Babies).

The value of Donruss cards is so low today, that they aren't worth the cardstock they were printed on. You could recycle cases of unopened boxes of the set and come out ahead. You could burn them as Duralogs and have more value, or use them as insulation in your walls. Some theorists think 1990 Donruss baseball cards are the ground up additive that Taco Bell uses in "taco meat filling."

What single bachelor
doesn't want to own this?
Years later my brother made up for this bad investment, by buying me 5 dvds in 1999 from the used CD/game/movie store(when dvds were still an early novelty, and only like 10% of movies were released in that format). While he did get me the first cardboard foldout case dvds (remember those?) of Kingpin and The Matrix, he filled out the five with less memorable titles including Stepmom with Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon. I was twenty years old, living with him and four other male roommates. Nowhere in the history of demographics did it make sense for us to own Stepmom.  Nobody in our house even had a stepmom. Nevertheless, we watched it multiple times for the ironic drama that didn't pertain to any of us.


All these mis-intended gifts show that gift giving is not just a calling, but a skill that one hone through years of failed attempts. Don't worry they will still love you (just as you should forgive them for their failures on you).  But a gift receipt isn't a bad idea.  I'm still trying to find a home for the Digix Blu-Ray player I mistakenly thought my sister-in-law would like last year (we agreed to buy it back after she hadn't opened this entire year). If I get her name again, I'm just going to give her a soccer ball. Irony is the gift that keeps on giving to the giver.

Digix: Bringing high quality entertainment to families for
the one year we existed as a brand.  

12 comments:

  1. I think the same gift three years in a row is my favorite.

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    Replies
    1. Somehow I don't think Kayla (my sister) thinks the same way. :)

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    2. She says she loves them, but it was a little strange at age seventeen to receive one.

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  2. Hahaha, this one made me laugh. I relate to some of the stories here, especially as Mike and I have different gift-giving styles. He is of the expensive, big item ilk and I am more of a thoughtful, homemade kind of person. There was a Christmas when I received an iPod, and he received a hand crocheted scarf and hat. True story. I am lucky the man still loves me.

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    Replies
    1. A scarf and hat? Natalie...

      Just kidding...some people like scarves and hats (although you guys are in Cali, why the need for warm clothes?)

      Homemade is always better.

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  3. What an amazing list. There's just the right mix of "actual thought gone wrong" and "mailed it in, they just need a gift" to warm my heart for the Holiday.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, we learn from our mistakes, and now I'd like to be thought of as a thoughtful gift-giver (who finds good deals).

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  4. This explains why, while eating at taco bell the other day, I thought I saw the head of Juan Gonzalez in my taco.

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    Replies
    1. Mom...that's culturally insensitive! Cal Ripkin Jr. or Mark McGwire? That's okay, because they're white.

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  5. I'll be anxious to hear what everyone receives this year

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  6. All of these description had me laughing, and I really enjoyed the autobiographical / anecdotal aspects.

    You are so right about the "oddly likable" character breakdown of high-end commercial wives.

    Handmade dragonfly wind chime would have been super sweet though, had it been completed.

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