It’s The Thought That Counts
It’s the hoariest of old tropes but something everyone deals with this time of year: What to give the person who has everything? There are always those annoying individuals on your holiday gift list for whom anything material isn’t a good idea. Like your college roommate who’s so rich her vacation home has an attic full of still-wrapped hostess gifts. Or your uncle who goes to so many film festivals that his apartment is overflowing with designer sunglasses, iPads and other promotional swag. Or maybe your mother-in-law is just a hoarder.
Whatever the reason, there are plenty of ways to give without adding to your recipient’s material burden—as well as ways to tell them what an astronomical pain in the ass they are. So we’ve assembled the following non-material gift guide (paired with passive-aggressive suggestions as to whom you might give the presents to).
For that holier-than-thou sister-in-law who always tries to seem more thoughtful than you
Since 1944, Heifer International has shipped livestock and other “teach a man to fish” leg-ups to the downtrodden around the world. In other words, it’s perfect if you want to feel morally superior to everyone else in the room while you’re exchanging gifts. For instance, a mere $300 will buy a whole community access to clean drinking water. And if your sister-in-law is self-conscious about her weight, getting her an actual heifer might give the gesture extra oomph.
For that Republican still smarting over the November elections
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust operates an animal rehabilitation preserve in Kenya, through which you can foster an elephant. The recipient will receive a profile and photograph of their adopted animal, although unfortunately, they can’t rename it Mitt, Newt or Michelle Bachmann. After presenting this gift, you may want to tell an Obama joke to reassure everyone that you’re not gloating. And by no means should you write on the card something along the lines of, “I hope your elephant fares better than a certain short-term Massachusetts senator.”
For that unbearable relative with young impressionable children whom they overprotect and smother
The number two most popular endangered species in the World Wildlife Fund’s adoption program is that profanity-laced YouTube sensation, the Honey Badger. (Inexplicably, the Komodo Dragon is number one.) After basking in the somewhat baffled looks of the little ones’ gratitude, suggest that they research it on the Internet. By the time you sit down to dinner, they’ll be laughing and whispering, “Honey badger don’t give a s***. He’s badass.” When their parents react in horror, apologize sheepishly for removing the parental controls on their web browser.
For the wicked step-mother for whom you and your siblings have multiple nasty nicknames that can’t be used in polite company
There are lots to choose from here. The California Native Plant Society has an adopt-a-rare plant program that’ll allow you to present the evil you-know-what with two taxa of plants presumed to be extinct, which sends a certain message. If she happens to be sensitive about her age, the Toronto Zoo will allow you to adopt a dinosaur egg. And while the Audubon Nature Institute has bargains like $15 for an African pygmy hedgehog, nothing says, “I loathe you” like giving someone a Formosan termite.
For your pot-smoking, about-to-get-expelled-from-freshman-year nephew
To let him know he’s a space case, the International Star Registry will name a gaseous sphere after him. The accompanying certificate, written in Lord of the Rings–style calligraphy, will doubtlessly blend in with the decor of his dorm room. After he’s kicked out and slinging French fries, he can spend late nights hunched over his bong and pondering the cosmic “reality” that there’s a distant ball of fire in a far-off galaxy named for him. (We heartily applaud this business model and intend to start selling naming rights to grains of sand on the beach.)
For that aunt who pooh-poohs climate change while flicking her cigarette butts out the window of her SUV
So the local Rotary and Kiwanis clubs are in a dead heat with fast food chains and religious organizations you’ve never heard of in adopting highways. If you log onto the Adopt a Highway website, though, the messaging is clear. Set to techno music, it reads: “Traffic… it doesn’t always have to be negative. Turn it into something positive. Your Business Name Here. Make an impression.” Alternatively, this is also an ideal gift for your nightmare of a cousin. Just dedicate a stretch of highway that he drives regularly in the name of his ex-wife or girlfriend.
For the flatulent Granddad with a smart phone
iFart is a self-explanatory app that simulates the passing of gas with sound effects ranging from “The Dirty Raoul” and “Jack the Ripper” to “The Sick Dog” and “Fire Quacker.” It may be sans odor, but everyone under the age of 11 will be in hysterics.
For the guy who can’t get a date on Match.com
The “Honey, It’s Me!” app features four daily video calls from a babe who says things like, “Good night! Sweet dreams!” Unfortunately, though, she only says them in Korean.
For that colossal bore of a brother-in-law
The most tedious podcast in the world: The Complete Internal Revenue Code Podcast Project. According to its creator: “I’m all about public service, and I could not think of a more worthy internet project than to record a reading of the Internal Revenue Code.… Let’s kick it with Title 26, people!” Unfortunately, he quit after only 13 episodes, concluding with the apology: “As you can see, this project is on hiatus while the author seeks the guidance of a mental health professional. Check back here for updates as his various medications are adjusted.”
For that fierce opponent of gay marriage
Tickets to a performance by the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus might be a nice way to spread a little goodwill.
We could go on and on. As you can see, there are endless ways to fulfill your holiday gift-giving obligations while wrapping them in a generous amount of attitude.
As for us, we’d prefer something a bit more tangible… preferably in cashmere. CCC