These gifts should never be found under the tree of anyone you actually like.
I still giggle when I look at this set of photos. They don’t really have anything to do with our topic, nothing in my archives does. They remind me, though, that there are times when we can pull off something epic, both in terms of the scope of the project and the number of people we piss off doing it, without going through the normal channels. Putting this shoot together required a lot of hard work. Many people proved to be unreliable. Yet, the end result is something quite memorable.
Holidays can be the same way. There are so many different things going on in December that the task of keeping everything straight and putting it all together can appear quite daunting. First, one has to keep straight who is celebrating which holiday(s). Then, there’s the party juggle which involves trying to please everyone without killing yourself in the process.
Most important, though, is the gift buying. Immediate family usually isn’t too difficult. You already know what everyone needs, where their interests are, and what your budget is. The biggest challenge for those folks is staying within your budget. But then, there’s everyone else from Grandma who already has anything and everything useful, to co-workers you don’t really know but don’t dare leave out of the office gift exchange.
Personally, I discourage those close to me from buying anything that does not fall into one of three categories: Chocolate, coffee, or scotch. Some people, not everyone, can make my holidays bright by showing up and posing for a new set of nudes, but given the temperatures I’m seeing in the forecast I’m not expecting that to actually happen.
I am quite sure, though, that there are some gifts that should just never be given. We looked through a number of online catalogs and found some gifts that no one should give. Ever.
Nope, I’m not kidding. There really is such a thing as onion goggles. Their purpose is rather obvious: one allegedly avoids tearing up while cutting, dicing, and slicing onions while wearing these unattractive gems. They’re relatively inexpensive, too. We found them at a place called activeforever.com (nope, not making that a link), that has all manner of useless little trinkets like this. Now, just in case you’re one of the six people on the planet who think these are a good gift idea, let me give you three reasons why you are wrong.
- They are ugly as fuck. There is absolutely no way anyone is going to not look absolutely stupid with a pair of these goggles on their face. Stop and think about it. Have you ever seen anyone look good with goggles on their face? No, no you haven’t. These goggles are guaranteed to make the wearer look like an absolute idiot and the giver look downright mean.
- They don’t work. Take a look at the design. There’s no strap, which means it is impossible for the one-size-fits-all frames to create a seal to prevent onion fumes from getting into your eyes. Depending on the size of one’s face, they either sit there loosely perched on the bridge of one’s nose or attempt to tightly hold on to the size of one’s head. They are also going to present some serious issues if the person receiving them already wears glasses. This is just a really bad idea all the way around.
- There are better ways to avoid onion fumes while still looking human. Start by using a sharp knife. The enzymes causing the eye irritation are only released when the cells of the onion are crushed rather than cut. A sharp knife saves the day. One can also freeze or chill the onion, cut it under running water, or try breathing with your mouth open. Also be aware that the sweeter an onion is, such as Vidalia onions, the more likely they are to irritate the eyes. Yellow and red onions are much safer to use.
The more I look at these goggles the more they strike me as a gag gift rather than something I’d seriously give to someone. Even then, one has to have a bit of an evil streak to slip these into any holiday event. Just don’t.
Personalized Note Cards
There was a time when having personalized stationery was a big deal. I know because, once upon a time, I had some. Embossed letterhead on high-quality paper said that you cared about your communication, that what you had to say was important, and that the person with whom you were communicating was important enough to pull out the good stuff.
Personalized stationery also was a pretty good indicator that the person using it was an egotistical asshole. Again, I have personal experience to back up that assertion.
The Internet has largely done away with the need for stationery at all. Sure, there’s still a stationery store at the mall with various kinds of colored and scented paper. You’ll find your grandmother or Aunt Judith shopping there because they neither one really like those computer things and have yet to figure out email. They’re also the only ones in the family with enough manners to actually send thank you notes after the holidays. Even then, they likely use decorative papers, not personalized.
What makes these notes even more of a bad idea is the skull and crossbones at the top. What are you expecting the recipient to do, send people hate mail? Death threats, anyone? That doesn’t even make sense. If you’re going to send something nasty and insulting you probably don’t want to have your name emblazoned on the cover of the note. So, not only is this gift something useless that they’ll just stick in the back of a drawer for five years, it also fails to make a damn bit of sense. Don’t waste your money.
My Pillow ®
First rule of gift-giving: never give anyone anything with a creepy-looking guy on the packaging. Doesn’t matter what it is, if there’s a creepy-looking guy, especially one with a bad mustache, it’s probably getting thrown in the back of the closet and never opened.
Second, how lame is it to give someone a pillow for the holidays? What, exactly, are you trying to say to that person: here, go sleep your life away? Personally, I would be insulted if anyone other than Kat gave me a pillow for the holidays. This is a bit too personal to just be showing up at the family gift exchange.
Yet, we found this gem on multiple websites and in multiple catalogs, often listed as a best-seller. So, we took a closer look. Consider the bullet points on the box.
Adjusts to any sleep position? Well, duh! I’ve not come across a pillow yet that didn’t fold, bend, give, and adjust to whatever position one wanted. That’s just part of being a pillow.
We found the “patented, interlocking fill” thing interesting until we looked at the mandatory content label. What one is buying is a cotton cover filled with, get this: shredded polyurethane! Interlocking my ass. Sure, you shred the polyurethane and it’s going to “lock” together. It’s called static, dude.
And that “built in cooling effect” isn’t exactly a big secret, either. Most of us know it as “turning the pillow over to sleep on the cool side.”
Also worth noting is the fact that these pillows in no way conform to anyone’s body. This isn’t some magic memory foam. There is no medical benefit that comes with using this pillow over any other pillow. They’re a bit expensive, too. We saw them listed for anywhere from $45 to $75. If you’re going to spend that kind of money, you can likely find something that actually has some meaning. Might we suggest a good book?
Clip-on LED cap lights
I probably know a few people who will look at this picture and think, “Ooh, that’s a cool idea.”
Let me stop you right there. No, it’s not.
Sure, we all like to be able to see in the dark and there are times when a hand-held flashlight just doesn’t work for you, such as when you’re trying to carry in all the groceries necessary for that holiday dinner. However, as someone wears a ballcap in the dark occasionally (when I’m walking the dog early in the morning), let me tell you that these lights don’t make nearly as much sense as you hope.
The reason these lights are a bad gift idea is rather simple: physics.
Stop and think about where you’re putting the light: above your eyes and directly in front of your face (unless you’re gangster, in which case you’re wearing your ball cap backward and these lights are absolutely no use to you at all). For most of us, that means the light is going to shine very brightly in front of you, landing several feet in front of where you’re walking. That would be great if that didn’t effectively create a giant blind spot directly in front of your feet and light flares directly in front of your eyes. Rather than helping you get safely to your destination, these lights practically guarantee that you’re going to trip over every little crack. The brightness of LED can also be a problem with anyone who has night blindness issues or any number of ophthalmological issues. You definitely don’t want to try these if you’re wearing glasses.
This is one of those gifts you see in the store and think that it’s cool and practical. It’s not. These lights are going to cause more problems than they solve. The very fact they’re available in camouflage should also be a tip off that one is entering the tacky gift zone. C’mon, dude, you can do better than this.
The Pillow Wedge
This one is a little tricky because, on one level, there is some real science behind sleeping in an elevated position. Anyone who has breathing issue or other respiratory problems might benefit from having the upper part of their body elevated. However, determining the best way to achieve that elevation is something best discussed with a physician. Depending on the particular problem one has, a wedge such as this can actually cause additional problems. Sometimes it is better to elevate the entire bed.
There’s also the issue that wedges such as this can cause one to slip down creating stress on the neck and/or shoulders. Wedges that are too large for the person using it can trigger painful problems along the spine and aggravate existing issues such as arthritis.
So, maybe this isn’t such a good idea after all. One would need to know and understand the various complexities of the recipient’s health conditions very intimately for this to even begin to be a plausible idea.
Even with all the medical concerns aside, there’s still one very large problem with buying this particular product; IT’S A FUCKING PIECE OF FOAM!
The particular catalog in which we found this item wants to charge you $70 for a cloth covered piece of foam! There’s nothing special about this foam, there are no patented orthopedic qualities to this foam, it’s just foam! We looked around and found similar products for as little as $15. Most were in the $30 price range. If you purchase a small block of foam and cut it yourself, you can save even more.
Here’s the thing: foam wedges meant to aid in sleeping technically fall under the category of medical supply. Who the fuck wants medical supplies for the holidays? Even if the wedge is a doctor-prescribed necessity, wrapping it up and presenting it as a gift is just cold and unfeeling. If the wedge was not at least recommended by a doctor, you could be giving someone the gift of spine damage! Do you really want to live with that guilt?
Seriously, an ugly pair of socks would be a better gift than a foam wedge.
While we’ve only highlighted five particularly bad gifts, we all know that there are hundreds more like them. Please, do everyone a favor and stop and think a minute before you buy that “cute” little item that is kitschy or moderately humorous or a little too practical. The holidays are a time to give gifts from the heart, gifts that show how much you appreciate the other person. If you’re giving them junk, what are you really saying?
Besides, we’re still early in the holiday season. There’s still time to give someone a nude photo of yourself. You have to admit it would be a better gift than a piece of foam.