Many Unhappy Returns

Over the course of your life, you're forced to buy a lot of gifts for people you don't like very much, maybe even a few people you hate. People, like, say, your vindictive, psychotic freak of a boss. Or that cousin who used to sit on your stomach when you were kids, and who still “playfully” thumps you on the arm at family reunions. Or your ex-best friend, that bitch who stole your boyfriend in 1998 but who always sends you a nice gift, so you always have to send her a gift. It's maddening. Every December, you waste your valuable Saturdays wandering around malls, trying to find decent presents for those creeps, when what you'd really like to give them is one of those crazy-poisonous, football-sized Australian spiders like you saw the other night on Animal Planet.

But this year, we're here to help.

A really hot, ugly, itchy-as-hell sweater, preferably with reindeer on it. Even if they burn the damn thing as soon as they get home, they'll have to try it on at least once so you can see them in it. When they do, take lots of horribly unflattering, humiliating pictures. Now that you have these pictures, the possibilities are endless! You can paste them in a big scrapbook, using archive-quality glue. You can post them online, with a caption about how much this person loved her new sweater. You can email them to everybody you can think of. You can cut them up, use them in a hideous craft project of some kind and then give them that next year. Bonus points if you knit the sweater yourself, because then they'll never be able to return it.

A framed art print of a popular artist you know they hate. This requires knowing the person's tastes pretty well, so it's ideal for friendships gone sour. Search the recesses of your memory for some conversation you had with this person about art, years ago. Did he once casually mention that he can hardly look at Georgia O'Keeffe's work because all those extreme close-ups of sensuous flowers just look like big, gaping vaginas? Well, I'd say it's time to hit the swap meet and pick up a $9, wall-filling repro of O'Keeffe's Music—Pink N Blue, a painting that, while lovely, looks as if it has a yeast infection. Sure, they can hide Georgia in the garage when you're not around, but every time you come over—surprise!—they'll have to haul out their big pussy picture for all the world to see. And then next year you can give them another O'Keeffe, since it was obvious how much they loved the last one.

A painful childhood reminder. For relatives who've dicked you over. Dig out those embarrassing videos of them taken when they were 11 and the kids at school called them Jabba the Butt, have those videos burned to DVD, and show them to the entire family as a lost treasure from dear, bygone days. Or how about a framed portrait of them with the family pet they accidentally ran over when they were 16? It's sure to get you sent to hell, but it'll probably be worth it.

Annoy them with crappy gifts, all year long. You know those ghastly ads you see in TV Guide, where every month they ship you porcelain figures of little kids that look like Chuckie from the Child's Play movies? Sign your sarcastic sister-in-law up for that shit, and by August she'll have gone nuts from all the Chuckies staring at her from every corner of her house. Got an ex-girlfriend who's always struggling with her weight? Sign her ass up for one of those Chocolate-of-the-Month clubs, and then stand back and gloat as the seasons pass and you watch her gradually make the switch from leather miniskirts to colorful muumuus.

Absurdly oversized household statuary. Go to Pier One and pick up one of those 200-pound metal whirligigs from some trendy country. Or something plaster and crumbly would be good. It doesn't matter what it looks like, so long as it's not obviously ugly, it takes up lots of room and it's impossible to move. Say it used to belong to your grandma, and get misty about how she'd be so happy to know it's found a good home. Everybody is always bitching about how they're short of space, and now your unfortunate giftees will spend the rest of their lives trying to find a place to stash this monster. Ideally, you want something that'll take up half their living room. Think of that giant Toltec head the Simpsons keep in their basement. If they have a hard time getting it out to their car, you know you've done good.

An evil toy: With this one you employ terrorist tactics, you heartless monster you, by getting back at people through their own children. Give their kids one of those awful toys that chirp and bleep and bloop and say the exact same thing over and over again, all freaking day long, in a really loud and annoying voice. Anything Elmo is good, although SpongeBob is also a contender. Girly toys will prattle on about magic spells and shopping all day, and that's good, but boy toys are the ones with the random BANGS! that will really send parents to an early grave. If you have no sense of human decency at all, you can always buy junior a drum kit. Then suggest that the little hellion should celebrate Christmas morning by playing “The Little Drummer Boy,” and watch all the color drain from his mommy and daddy's faces.

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