No one has ever truly liked any gift you’ve given them for Christmas. That’s the logic that drives the deluge of “gift idea” lists that seem to be everywhere this time of year, anyway, and we all have that certain someone in our sphere of existence who is always tougher to buy for than all of our other friends and family, combined.
Normally, it’s gift card time for this person. And while you’re at it, why not get gift cards for everyone on your list, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be that simple. Take into consideration that you will be judged on every gift you give to anyone this holiday. As they open it, each friend or family member will impulsively think, “Oh, so that’s what they think of me,” and begin to adjust their opinion of you based on what they now believe that you think of them.
Lest you feel like your ability to sum up your opinion of a loved one with a material possession is inferior, we’re here to help. It’s likely that the one hard-to-shop-for gift recipient falls into one of the eight categories below (some may even overlap into two or more categories), and we’ve taken the guesswork out of finding that perfect gift. Now you can transfer all of that crushing anxiety into wondering which holiday guest at the annual family gathering will get hammered and end up with a lampshade on their head.
Recognizable by: Penchants for dark clothes, bands you’ve never heard of (because if you heard of them, they’d suddenly become uncool) and trailing off in the middle of conversations. This person — probably a niece or nephew you can no longer relate to — is virtually impossible to buy a gift for, because anything you get them, even if it is what they wanted, is immediately rendered meaningless. This is because as soon as they realize it came from someone as out of the loop as you, the object is no longer counterculture. As a matter of fact, there’s really no point in picking out a good gift for this person. Christmas itself is too “mainstream,” and to celebrate it, at least to a true hipster, would be to go against everything they stand for.
Gift ideas: Since any gift from you is guaranteed not to be cool, here’s a golden opportunity to make this person instantly lose their affection for their favorite band. Simply find out as covertly as possible which musical act they are currently raving over, then head downtown to Psychotronic (859 ½ Broad St.) to hunt that band on vinyl. Then watch with delight on Christmas morning as that present is unwrapped, and that hipster’s world comes crashing down shortly after.
Music festival junkie
Recognizable by: Usually odor is the dead giveaway for identifying those who’ve spent a little too much time following bands like Phish or Widespread Panic around the country; patchouli oil sales would plummet without the healthy support of the festival circuit crowd’s use of the pungent aroma to cover up one of many unthinkable odors. This person, like the liberal, may not have been around the family or friends much lately, since the band that they follow never stops touring, ever.
Gift ideas: What you decide to put in this person’s crusty, unwashed stocking will depend on how strong your sense of irony is. The more tongue-in-cheek friend/relative may opt for a poster of the recipient’s favorite band, with a note stating “For your place — when you finally sell the van and buy one.” However, if you choose the literal route and get this person what they really need: Dial soap. The magical golden bar can still be found at every drug and grocery store in the country.
Recognizable by: Just look on this person’s Facebook page, if they have one. And who are we kidding? If they’ve run a Color Run, Spartan Race or otherwise taken part in any road race of note, they will, of course, have a Facebook page plastered with copious pictures of the glorious event. Facebook page aside, look for unsolicited advice on why your fitness plan is inferior to theirs.
Gift ideas: Buying this person anything related to working out is probably a bad idea. Exercise equipment won’t work, since only the equipment they trust is back at their Crossfit gym. In fact, forego buying anything related to their exercise lifestyle. Instead, buy them something hideously inappropriate, like a carton of Marlboro Reds (about $60, any Circle K gas station), or a Snuggie ($20, Wal-Mart). Nothing could be further from something an obsessive exercise fanatic might actually use.
Tradesman in the construction industry
Recognizable by: Skinnier, yet stronger, than anyone you know, has a tan year-round, and never shies away from a dare. Can build or repair just about anything, except for a stable relationship or a clean rap sheet.
Gift ideas: You can score a 12-pack of 5-Hour Energy shots for about $20 these days, and for this sparkplug, that will be the gift that keeps on giving well into the night of December 26.
The always “just about to make it” musician
Recognizable by: This guy or gal has been nipping at your heels to come see their act at the local watering hole for so long that, by now, you don’t even feign fake interest in their half-assed music anymore.
Gift ideas: Cash. Go straight to an ATM and put an exact dollar amount on how much you care for this person, because it’s harder than ever, even for established musicians. So you can imagine how hard it is for one like your nephew, who listens to John Mayer and completely sucks on guitar, to make rent each month.
The elderly relative who hates everything you’ve ever given them
Recognizable by: See above. They’re old, they’re crotchety and they don’t mince words about how poor a job you did when shopping for them. While this outward expression of opinion is slightly excused because he or she lived through the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution and two World Wars, it doesn’t exactly inspire you to look even harder for the next year’s gift.
Gift ideas: Sweater? Socks? The logic here is to pick something that takes the absolute minimum of effort — the very first thing you see. This codger is going to hate whatever is underneath the wrapping paper anyway, so why waste time? That said, a set of roller blades would at least entertain everyone else in the room. Check local Goodwills and name your own price.
Recognizable by: This person is going through a very dark period in their life, though it may not look like it at first glance. It’s no coincidence you “just happened” to see them the last dozen times you went out. The best you can do is just let them ride it out. Or get them some help. I’m not really sure how these things work.
Gift ideas: Christmas Day is no time for this person to make sobering self-confrontations. (They can have those on December 26.) However, for a boozer to get a gift certificate to a bar — if they even have those — is equally embarrassing. In fact, it doesn’t matter what you get this person. By the time dinner’s over and you’re on to the gift unwrapping, they’ll likely be pretty sauced. By then, everything is hilarious. Get them a real, working crossbow and watch the hilarity ensue.
Recognizable by: This is likely a family member you haven’t seen in some time. Some pretty serious stuff probably went down just before they departed, and wherever they went — prison, another state, witness protection — was probably for the best. If they haven’t relocated yet, that means the serious stuff is still yet to come. Get ready.
Gift ideas: This relative likely owes money to all other parties involved, so don’t worry about buying them anything. Seriously, it’d just end up in the pawn shop by December 26, anyway. All you can give them is your love. They’d pawn that if they could.
Hardcore left wing liberal
Recognizable by: Absences at family gatherings as of late, probably because they were spending some time in a tent in front of a city capitol building, or perhaps some other cause that required their unbathed attendance for days on end. Odds are, you’ll hear about whatever it was, as well as everything else that’s wrong with the world, and you won’t even have to ask. Rights of animals are often more important than those of people, as long as the right to receive a handout isn’t obstructed. In fact, many of this person’s abiding standards are often in direct conflict with each other. Just try not to get them started.
GIft ideas: Let’s face it: This person will pick holes in any gift you spend hours selecting, and you’re setting yourself up for a lecture on the morality of the sweatshop that made the blue jeans, or the rights of the growers of the high-end coffee beans you picked out for them. We like the combination of the Marmot jacket ($85-200) and Nalgene bottle ($10, both available at Dick’s Sporting Goods) because that’s simply the only thing we saw in the “Occupy Movement” news coverage that we could place a value on.
Hardcore right wing conservative
Recognizable by: Inability to consider any view but his or her own, which usually aligns with the Puritan, fire-and-brimstone teachings of Jonathan Edwards in the early 1700s. There are two variants of the conservative, however: The first likely has the highest annual income of any of your family or friends, and lives well: has a house in either West Lake or Summerville, plays golf, drives a car that costs more than you pay every year to keep a roof over your head, and if they imbibe, it’s usually something that ends in “Livich” or “Fiddich.” The second doesn’t fit into quite the tax bracket that the first does, but they still live well. Well enough, anyway, to watch Fox News and abide by just about anything that the network prescribes.
Gift ideas: Chances are, anything of value to this person they’ve already purchased, so why not get them something that’s at least going to make you laugh when they open it? Forget about buying their brand of scotch. It’s out of your spending range anyway. We recommend the Claire Booth Luce Policy Institute calendar, featuring 12 fully-clothed women who exhibit the highest standards of conservativism, like Rep. Michelle Bachmann and columnist Star Parker. ($15 at cblpi.org.) Then again, there’s always a bundle of wooden stakes, available at any Lowe’s or Home Depot for just a few bucks. These are the fundamental ingredient in the making of a good, disturbing picket sign upon which incredibly offensive statements are written before protesting a certain downtown business.