December 24, 2012

Here are some tips for your last-minute Christmas shopping.

They say that those who can, do and those who cannot, teach. As you read this, I am wandering the aisles of CVS frantically trying to think of justifications for giving the woman who gave me life, love, and occasionally comes to my apartment and surreptitiously waters the plants, a $3.99 bag of cotton balls. It feels wrong, but what are my options? I was hoping the Mayans would come and obviate this process.


A box of cereal? Who wouldn’t love such a gift for Christmas?

I would be getting Something Thoughtful, but nowhere else is open. (Frankly, I do not understand this distinction between Thoughtful and Not-So-Thoughtful gifts. Just because a gift is something you literally just seized from a bargain bin at CVS that smells like a diseased cabbage does not mean that you did not think about it a great deal. Admittedly, most of your thoughts fell along the lines, “This is a terrible gift! Oh, merciful heavens, why did I not start shopping sooner?”) But still, it is the thought that counts.

Many of us are at the awkward age where we still postpone our gift-buying until the day before, but where assembling an “artwork” out of popsicle sticks, glue and macaroni is no longer acceptable. Once, it provoked delighted smiles. Now, ice forms on your parents’ upper slopes. “Didn’t you age and develop at a normal rate?” they ask.

Here are a few suggestions, wrung from the teeth of bitter experience. To call them “good suggestions” might be stretching it, but you don’t have time for good. Go, go!

-Construct something hideous out of felt. Explain that “you can tell this gift is heartfelt because it is poorly constructed and you do not want it.”

-Run into CVS and snatch everything off the shelves. Sure she wants a snowglobe. This snowglobe was your grandmother’s. Well, not your grandmother’s, but a grandmother’s. It was in the dented box you wrung out of the hands of an old lady at the checkout.

–Offer them really exciting lint you just found. Wrap it in a poem.

–Donate a star. Heck, just print out a sheet that says you donated a star. No one will ever know.

–Give an egg and a pear. Explain that it’s a partridge-in-a-pear-tree starter kit. 

–How about a book? Nothing says, “I am a mature, high-functioning adult” like “Here is a paperback copy of a book I have not read but that the surly bookstore guy in thick glasses whom I asked for recommendations said was his favorite thing in the world, which, given that he has a tattoo of a pigeon on his neck, maybe is not the highest recommendation, but he stood around next to me for an uncomfortably long time after suggesting it and then it was awkward not to take it.”

–Lengthy apology note.

–I. O. U.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.