The holiday season presents special challenges for people who, by a simple quirk of mental wiring, are psychologically incapable of giving anything to anyone for any reason without wondering what’s in it for them. I’m talking about children, of course, as well as sociopaths, cheapskates, and people for whom the whole idea of “giving” is a betrayal of everything they stand for.
Fortunately, the phrase, “it’s the thought that counts,” offers the generosity-challenged a way to give “thoughtful” gifts without spending a dime. Here are just a few gift ideas for this special population of holiday misfits, most* of which are totally legal:
If you’ve recently had surgery, or have simply come to the conclusion that you don’t need all those meds anymore, gifting your leftover pharmaceuticals to a family member is a great way to re-purpose them. Nothing says “I love you” more intoxicatingly than a generous supply of Oxycontin, and everyone appreciates having half a bottle of Ambien around to help ease the strain of the holidays. The best part: If you ever need to dull the pain of your pitiful existence, or just get some extra shut-eye, you can always steal some pills back when you need them.
*Technically illegal, but nobody cares.
Everyone has several pairs of gently used shoes in their closet—ones that seemed like a good purchase at the time, but in retrospect turned out to be a tragic fashion mistake. Such “pre-worn” footwear makes an excellent gift for that special someone in your family who doesn’t have enough old shoes in their own closet. To stretch out the fun on Christmas morning, wrap the shoes separately, hide them around the house, and have a family treasure hunt!
A Clump of Dirt
Giving your beloved a modest-sized clump of dirt may not sound like the best gift in the world, but it can be. The secret is in how you present it. Don’t skimp on the size of the clump—it should be anywhere from six inches to a foot in diameter, and weigh at least a pound or two. When your sweetheart opens the special Amazon box you’ve put it in, frowns, and says, “What’s this? A clump of dirt?,” you say: “No, my love muffin, that is our future. At great personal risk, I excavated that precious piece of soil from an acre of prime real estate on which I intend to one day build our dream home.” From there, you can embellish the story however you want. The important thing is to sell the story hard; otherwise, your beloved will misunderstand and think you gave her a dirt clod. And that’s just stupid.
A Shiny Rock
Much like a clump of dirt, a decent-sized rock can be an excellent free gift—if it is accompanied by a convincing enough story. The key to successful rock-giving is wrapping it in a story that tells the recipient: “I was thinking of you when I found this.” As always, plausible embellishment is the key. Let’s say you found a cool rock on the beach. That’s a good start. But when your true love opens it on Xmas morning, you have so say something like: “Long before I met you, my huggy-wuggy moon peach, I found myself strolling on a beach in Corfu at sunset, alone, forlorn, and unloved. Just as the sun slipped below the horizon, a golden flash of light glinted off this very rock, and I picked it up. It was strangely warm—comforting almost—and I swore at that moment that I would give it to my soul mate when I found her. And now I have.”
People who believe in all that destiny/soul-mate nonsense will fall for this trick every time—especially if the rock has some quartz in it, in which case you can also claim that it has some mystical healing qualities, if they just rub in in the right places.
Media Recommender (kid-friendly)
Kids—an excellent free gift for parents who are too busy to watch TV is to offer to be their “Media Recommender.” Your official responsibilities in this capacity would be to watch everything on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, and Amazon, and report back on shows your parents might be interested in watching sometime in the future, when they are not so busy. A great side benefit is that when your parents ask you to do the dishes or yell at you to take out the trash or mow the lawn or clean up your room, you can say that you are “busy” too, researching binge-worthy shows they might like. Remind them that this service is the “gift” you gave them, and lay it on thick about how you didn’t give this gift lightly, and how seriously you take the responsibility of media recommending, and why they should to. Then recommend that they watch all six seasons “House of Cards,” which will buy you plenty of time to figure out what to give them on their anniversary.
Food Tester (kid-friendly)
Sure, the FDA may issue warnings about deadly e.coli bacteria lurking in your lettuce, but the truth is that it’s impossible to know when food is safe to eat. That’s why one of the most thoughtful presents you can give is an offer to be your parents’ “food tester.” For centuries, kings and queens have employed people to taste their food to make sure it isn’t poisoned, so what you’re really doing in this case is treating your parents like royalty. At every meal, then, you would take an extra chunk of steak off of each of your parents’ plates, a few dollops of mashed potatoes, and maybe a green bean or two. Dessert would have to be tested too, of course, as would any wine they choose to drink. If you are underage and your parents object to the wine testing, simply put a few drops of something called “syrup of ipecac” in their glass (you can find it in the medicine cabinet). When they finish vomiting, remind your parents that they should have let you taste the wine first.
As we age, we naturally become more aware of death, and hence more wary of ghosts—that is, demons and spirits on the “other side” who may be waiting to exact their revenge on us for things we did to them in the physical world. Grandparents especially hate ghosts, because they dread being held accountable for the people they screwed to “get ahead” in life. That’s why offering to be their “ghostbuster” is such as welcome gift. To make the gift even more welcome, shortly after Thanksgiving you should start going to your grandparents’ house every so often in the middle of the night to knock a few paintings off the wall, flash the lights on and off, scratch on the walls, and maybe bang a few pots and pans around. By the time Xmas comes around, your offer to get rid of the ghosts in your grandparents’ house will seem like the perfect gift—just what they need to slip peacefully into the great beyond.
If you are one of the many miserly sociopaths who also happens to be a high-functioning corporate executive, you are in luck, because you can give people an almost unlimited amount of company swag—t-shirts, mugs, water bottles, pens, bags, etc.—at no cost to you. Swag-gifting is also great for people with narcissistic personality disorder, because the merchandise is branded with your company’s logo, ensuring that every time the recipient looks at their generous pile of gift swag, they will think of you, the respected corporate titan who raided the company’s swag closet on their behalf. Nothing says “I care about you” more ambiguously than a professionally branded squishy brain, and nothing gratifies a narcissistic gift-giver more than enjoying the appearanceof generosity without wasting the time and money necessary to actually begenerous. That’s a win-win any sociopathic capitalist can celebrate.
Everyone has someone in their life that they wish they could kill, but social norms and an intolerant legal system make murder a lot more difficult than it ought to be. To turn this particular lemon into lemonade, pick a neutral greeting card from Walgreens and use it to write a nice note explaining that you will, within the next calendar year, dispatch and disappear any person they choose, as long as that person isn’t you. (Because that would be suicide, technically speaking, and you are only offering assassination.) True, murder can get a little spendy if you rely on expensive weaponry. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to kill someone using just your bare hands. Watch a few Youtube videos on the subject and pick the method that best suits your personality and grip strength.
*May require some sneaking around after dark.
Happy Holidays! (Whatever that means.)