December 13, 2007

Christmas Gifts for Assholes

It doesn't have to be Christmas, but that's the holiday I happen to be shopping for.

Every year I struggle with this problem. I need to find a gift for my father-in-law, and I need it to communicate "You are a neglectful father/grandfather and you are also an ungrateful, unpleasant, self-absorbed pinehole---but your bad behavior doesn't negate my thoughtful gesture, and I'm going to BE thoughtful in This Season Of Giving whether you like it or not, dammit." It's complicated.

It should also be a NICE present. It's tempting to send him fake vomit or an aluminum bedpan or a 20-pound package of gummi frogs---but a bad gift reflects badly on the giver not the givee (or "recipient," WHATEVER), and I don't want to be put in a bad light when I'm being so sweet and generous.

Here are some ideas we've used in the past, in case you have a similar person to buy for this year:

1. Subscription to Consumer Reports magazine. It's a smart, useful magazine, and it costs $26 for the first subscription (12 issues) and $18 for each additional subscription, which is handy if you have more than one pinehole on your list. We also like to give The Skeptical Inquirer, which is $20/year (6 issues--which is good because each one takes about 2 months to get through).

2. Potentially interesting books that flatter his intelligence: Harmonograph or any from that series; or once we got him a book about the history/use of the abacus, and it came with a small abacus

3. Puzzle books that flatter his intelligence and give him something to do with all his empty hours now that he's turned his back on his family: The Puzzlemaster Presents is a good one (we got him volume 1 last year, and volume 2 this year), and I myself would like a copy of this Sudoku book that's spiral-bound so you don't have to curl the pages and break the binding

4. Tavern puzzles, which are challenging and also very cool-looking; I've ordered several times from BrainPuzzles.com for Paul, too, and can recommend both the site and the puzzles

5. Books that indulge his navel-gazing tendencies, such as The Book of Myself: An Autobiography in 201 Questions or List Your Self: Listmaking as the Way to Self-Discovery, which are pretty fun books (I got a second copy of each for myself. WHAT? I have a CUTE NAVEL.)

6. A nice fleecy throw blanket---this year I got him this Pinzon one, because it's the Gold Box item today and was only $10 (down from an alleged $40). Bonus: a throw takes up a lot of space and so makes a bigger-and-better-looking gift than, say, two books.

40 comments:

Jess said...

You know, I used to think that Amazon was the only place in the world that actually gave out accurate list prices, but then I saw that it claimed that the Dyson vacuum cleaner that I covet was originally listed at $620, when I know for a FACT that the standard manufacturer pricing that EVERYONE uses, including Amazon, is $499. So now I'm suspicious.

Also, I love the term "pinehole."

Chelle said...

Does he drink? My standard go-to gift for my father-in-law is a bottle of good whiskey, Irish cream or brandy. Otherwise, I have no useful suggestions.

Swistle said...

Jess- I know, it seems like they suddenly lost touch. I look to the right, where they list prices by other sellers. If Amazon says the regular price is $50 and their price is $20, but ALL THE OTHER SELLERS also list it for $20, I know to ignore the claimed awesomeness. But if they say $50 and everyone else is in the $45-55 range, I know it's probably right.

Swistle said...

Chelle- Unfortunately no. I love that idea, and wish he DID.

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Are you kidding me?! No gifts for assholes! (Imagine I said that in Edna's voice from The Incredibles.)

Nope, otherwise I'd be required to give a gift to my brother and that ain't gonna happen.

Besides, that money is much better spent on fun things for one's family. Like chocolate. Chocolate is fun! Or should that just be yummy things for one's family?

I'd stick to a nice Xmas card with the picture of the family on it to show him what he's missing out on. But then, you're clearly waaaay nicer than I am! : )

JMC said...

What does it mean that I clicked over to The Skeptical Inquirer and I think I want a subscription for myself? That magazine looks fascinating. But I am a dork. Good ideas, though, for the pricks on anyone's list. Not mine, of course. Nope, no pricks here.

mom of the year said...

WOW! I am so on board with this. Especially about how the gift reflects the GIVER. Hmmmm. My husband usggested a book for his mom about how you deal with having difficult family. We'll see how THAT goes...

Ashley said...

I personally like the bedpan, could you get away with it if you put a plant in it? I suppose not. So if I really had to pick I would go for the Puzzle Master Presents.

Beth A. said...

What about a photo calendar with pictures of the kids? It would be both a thoughtful personalized gift and a yearlong reminder of the family he neglects.

Alice said...

HAR. i like Beth A.'s suggestion. i'm lucky enough not to be married into a family yet, so i just don't give gifts to pineholes currently. i have no doubt that will change when i'm related to a pinehole by marriage.

(hee. pinehole.)

d e v a n said...

I think I'm in the "no gifts for assholes category."

K in the Mirror said...

I'm not sure you can categorize it as a gift for an asshole if it is something that you want for yourself.

Harry and David baskets. Everyone eats. Or Cherry Moon Farms, because they're cheaper on a lot of things.

Swistle said...

JMC- It's a GREAT magazine. We subscribed for several years. We stopped only because each issue is SO PACKED with good stuff, we were getting more and more behind as we tried to read each one. The twins were born and...no chance.

Beth A.- *silent wonder* That is such a good idea. I am definitely doing that next year.

Swistle said...

K in the Mirror- Let's say it's a subcategory of gifts under Good Gifts, especially targeted for pineholes. Non-pineholes would also appreciate them, and that's what makes them so sneaky as gifts for pineholes: the pineholes cannot complain, because the gift is genuinely good.

Artemisia said...

Number 5 is TOTALLY AWESOME and such an astute observation.

You freakin' kick ass, Swistle.

Banana said...

I have an asshole to buy for too - but it's a lady not a man. I completely agree about the reflection of the giver not receiver. I bought her a "nice vase" from pottery barn that she'll hate and make fun of.

Tessie said...

Well, I am only OCCASIONALLY a pinehole, and I am intrigued by all of these gifts.

Soon I will need to switch over to buying gifts for OTHERS this holiday season. LAME.

LoriD said...

I think it shows real strength of character that you still make the effort to buy a good gift. I would be thrilled with any of the magazine subscription/puzzle book gifts. In fact, I think I'll go looking for those for my dad (who is not an asshole, but is hard to buy for).

jennifer said...

I think these are excellent gifts and in fact I may purchase several of these for my parents. They can be assholes, but they are not serial assholes.

In the event of serial assholishness, I tend to just NOT give a gift, thus being the case with several extended family members.

Jennifer, Le Binky Bitch

Sarah said...

Bird Identification books. A good bird guide is indespensible to the elderly hermit. What else does he have to do but identify the Yellow-Throated nuthatch that landed outside his window?

Kristie said...

I'd just give hime a lump of coal and tell him that eventually it can be a diamond. If he waits long enough. Ha!

Jazz said...

I too have a fantastic father-in-law..*hear the sarcasm* your post made me laugh....

Sarah said...

I'd love to see what you buy for people you actually like - these all look good to me! Boy, maybe I need to rethink how I shop for my loved ones - they probably think I hate them!

sarah said...

Also, that Skeptics magazine looks cool - I think my husband would like that. Is it super-dry, super-sciencey, or somewhat readable? I"m guessing it's no People magazine!

Jenny said...

I used to sweat the gift for the asshole I have to buy for, but since she is my husband's mother, I make him pick her gift. I have decided I do not care if he doesn't do a good job.

I too am intrigued by the Skeptical Inqirerer. Especially since they used the word "quackery" on the cover. I don't know why I am finding that word so hilarious right now. I keep giggling. Quackery. HA!

Pann said...

The title of your post is hilarious. LOVE THAT!

I don't have to buy presents for assholes, but I appreciate the complexity you're describing!

Swistle said...

Sarah-who-mentioned-bird-books- Good idea! With a set of low-priced binoculars!

Sarah-who-asked-about-SI- It's like a newspaper, difficulty-wise.

Amy said...

Oh, I love Beth's calendar idea. Perhaps my pinehole mother-in-law deserves that this year. :) Good luck!v

Kristen said...

I am actually very interested in what you get people you do like. I think some of the presents listed above are great ideas!! I went out today and bought those "All about Myself" and "All About Us" books today for presents!

Erin said...

This is funny. But also sad. But funny. And sad. HAHA! I know the kind of person you mean. I like the magazine subscription route, although I also do that for some people I really do like. I also like Chelle's idea of alcohol. Like, "Here, maybe this will make you forget about what an asshole you are. At least for a few hours anyway."

CA said...

Whatever. Life is too short. Save your gracious and graceful gift-giving for the people that deserve it.

Swistle said...

I know, I know, this is confusing! I say "Gifts for Assholes" as if I'm about to make a list that includes the gummi frogs, and then instead I include things that people WANT! And so now everyone is like, "Um, what does it say about me that I want the gifts?"

But no! What makes these "for pineholes" is that I don't care if the recipient wants them or not. They are good gifts, because I want to look good--but I don't give two figs if my father-in-law would ever read a single word of Skeptical Inquirer, and in fact I know almost for certain that he would disagree with almost everything in that magazine. But it is a good gift!

Same with the puzzle books and the write-about-yourself books: they're awesome, and specifically selected from many similar choices as "best in breed"---but I neither know nor care if my father-in-law likes puzzles.

I get these SAME gifts for people I LOVE--but in THOSE cases, I DO care about whether they'd like the gift or not, and so I choose accordingly. If I make a misstep, it's accidental.

Pann said...

Oh, here's a funny example of the gift reflecting badly on the giver. My sister in law sent me (no card, not wrapped, no explanation, but it's gotta be her) a cookbook that was made as a fundraiser for a right to life / natural family planning group. I am very firmly pro-choice. She knows this.

Um, thanks.

desperate housewife said...

I am with K in the Mirror- I go generic gift basket all the way with hard-to-buy-for/don't-care-enough-to-spend-time-searching-for-their-gift relatives. Luckily, Jim's family owns a local coffeehouse that has premade gift baskets, so I can always give those and it still looks like a unique, "taste of our town" kind of gift, rather than one of those plastic wrapped deals from Wal-Mart that actually SAY "gift set" on the front.
I think you're being NICE with your gift list. Those all seem to have such time and thought put into them. I am impressed.

mom huebert said...

These are great ideas. And your determination to give a nice gift in spite of his undeserving-ness reminds me of the instructions in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus tells us to do good for evil so we can be children of our heavenly father; in other words, that's how God does it, and we should be like him. Good job.

Shauna Loves Chocolate said...

Swistle, you rock. I will be using one of these for Dena, my SIL who is the most difficult person in the world to buy for. (I also don't really like her. But you know that already.)

BRash said...

I saw this thing on Parent Hacks today and I though of Swistle! Great gift, cool gadget, but communicates "Happy Holidays, We think You're Trash!"
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/asin/B000EJVYTS/parenthacks-20

Shannon said...

I buy for a lot of assholes, too. Such fun is life. I also agree that bad gifts = a mean buyer and not the other way around.

I normally give booze.

Stacie said...

You may be the nicest person alive, putting that much care into gifts for a jerk.

Anonymous said...

My extended family sucks! my cousins in particular are the biggest snobs of the planet, nothing is ever good enough for them! they give me old chocolate every year for christmas! so this year i decided that i am going to give them a whole basket of cheap chocolate, and now i am looking forward to christmas with them.