A young professional's take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
In the midst of all of my tree-centric efforts, I've somehow simultaneously managed to let December sneak up on me. Maybe it's the warm weather that's thrown me off and given me a false sense of leisure. Or maybe I've just got more on my plate this year than I've had in a long time. But with very little practical time left to shop, I'm feeling ever-so-slightly, totally panicked.
This panic fills my brain and makes me lose focus, and I'm finding myself completely at a loss for gift ideas and too scatterbrained to make any solid headway on this front. Mostly I'm just making lists to give myself a temporary and false sense of calm, which causes me in my relaxed state to ignore the tasks on said lists and accomplish nothing. It's holiday paralysis.
So instead of coming up with gift ideas here, I thought I'd make another list of bad gifts to avoid. We've all received them, and if we're being honest, we've all given them too. Here are my top five:
1. A cleaning appliance for your spouse/significant other. This is just plain insulting. It sends the strong message: "I would like you to clean more often and better." However, I will acknowledge that the Dyson vacuum we received as a gift one year is one of our most prized possessions. It's like owning a suction-powered Maybach or something. I cannot count the number of people who have been through our apartment who gleefully insist on trying it out. It is important to note that this was not purchased for me by my husband or vice versa. Had it been, I don't think the scene would have been as pretty.
2. Anything a size too large (for a woman). It's not particularly pleasant to receive a sweater in a size XS and have to try it on and admit that it came up to your navel and should probably be exchanged. But politically, it is far safer to buy someone a preposterously small item that has no chance of fitting than run the risk of exposing the fact that you think the recipient is bigger than she actually is. Trust me. No amount of, "but I thought their stuff runs small!" will save you from the combination of crushed feelings and outrage with which the person will stare back at you when she sees the L or XL on the label.
3. A gift certificate to Amazon or from American Express. You might as well just hand them an envelope full of cash. It's dicey enough to go the gift card route from a more specialized store, but that move can at times be thoroughly appreciated. We all know it's hard to pick out clothing for others (see #2), and a sponsored shopping spree at your favorite store is always fun. But when the store sells at least one of everything on the planet, or is a glorified check, you're just giving up and admitting that you know nothing about this person and don't really care to spend too much time fixing that.
4. Anything that has obviously been purchased hastily and from a convenience store at the gas station or airport shop on the way over. I won't name names, but I know people who have received such shameful items as a single issue of a magazine with an interesting cover story (rolled up with a ribbon, of course), wallet-sized photo laminating thingies, car fresheners, crappy headphones, and a neck pillow.
5. Stuff your kid made. Listen, your kids are cute. Their art projects are totally adorable, impressive and why yes you're right, it does look like that could have been painted by someone much older. We will happily appreciate your child's crafts until the cows come home, but unless your recipient is a parent or grandparent of the kids in question, nobody wants a macaroni collage in lieu of a real present. You're not fooling anybody. You still have to go shopping like the rest of us, despite the fact that you've given birth to a wonderful and tiny human being.
There are so many more. What are some of your greatest (worst) hits?
Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I'm always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.
Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.
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