The Gifts That Keep On Sucking

I found this list of terrible gifts. I think my favorite is Fart Insurance pills. (the list includes classist commentary on Mama’s Family. My apologizes)

I tend to give gifts that are fun, but somewhat useful. For example, my step-dad is a Loctor (an MD who is also a Lawyer) and a rabid sci-fi geek. If there’s a better way to keep him organized than a Darth Vader Desk Tidy I haven’t found it.

Snarky’s Note: I didn’t get him this.

The worst gift I probably gave him was a TIE. Totally fail on my part, as ties are clearly thoughtless Father’s Day gifts. In my defense, the tie did have the Rebel Insignia pattern. While generally a loving man, I’m fairly certain the idea of mind-choking occurred to him.

I miss the mark as much as anyone, but I tried really hard this year to come up with creative gifts that wouldn’t be returned, re-gifted or resold at some future yard sale.

Best gift I ever received: A Little Mermaid Coloring book/crayons with cash tucked inside. I was 16; we’d moved back to the states. (from Europe when my parents divorced) La Mommie (sung to the tune of La Bamba) worked long hours while attending graduate school full time. She told us we weren’t really Christmas people and waited for the pouting and whining to commence. Instead my sister and I cheered and did a booty dance! Then we decorated the infamous Christmas Chair (a nondescript armless office chair) and went on about our business.

I was moved by the coloring book not merely because I’m a rabid office/art supply addict – though certainly that should be factored in – but it was truly the embodiment of It’s the thought that counts. It was one of the few times in my life where that sentiment accurately captured the moment and wasn’t an admonishment to circumvent ungratefulness.

Whoa, I didn’t mean to go all Sappy’s Machine on you!

Worst gift I ever received: Blueberry scented Yankee Candle from a coworker in an office gift swap. I knew I was done for when I could smell the gift before I actually opened it. Sitting in a crowded Cheesecake Factory with coworkers cackling about the calorie count of various desserts while receiving such a terrible gift was more than I could stand. I remember wistfully gazing at my gift recipient fondling her $25 certificate to Sanrio and feeling very much the personification of No good deed goes unpunished.

I’m not pop psychologist, but it’s my observation terrible gifts tend to be more memorable because like bad haircuts they require more time and attention. A great gift immediately becomes a part of your life. You wear it, eat it, bath in it or drive it with the top down. Bad gifts are Zombie Playas, possessing an uncanny ability to pop up just when you thought they were gone. Open a closet door and that horrible quilted vest falls off the top shelf or you stub your toe on that set of hot pink tools only slightly less useful than a Fisher-Price set. All the work required to rid yourself of the disappointing gift, coupled with the conga beat of it’s the thought that counts usually results in frothing amounts of bitterness and more clutter. Whenever I happen upon terrible gift of years past I find my lips automatically curve into the same Lee Press-On smile used when I initially received the item, despite being alone.

Shapelings, best/worst gifts you’ve received or given. This is an open-ish thread, but let’s keep centered on holiday gifting. I especially want to hear how people are handling the economic downturn and what effect it’s had on your gifting. Among my friends we’re doing a “Oh, no they didn’t” swap of all the really craptastic gifts we’ve received. I got a diversity activity set COMPLETE with diversity crayons. The same ones my partner and I spied at a crafting store that oddly enough was going out of business.

279 thoughts on “The Gifts That Keep On Sucking

  1. My MIL gave me a book called something like A Thousand Little Ways to look Younger. It includes a section on plastic surgery.

  2. One year, many many years ago, I received from some of my husband’s family, a plug-in room air-freshener. Seriously. I can’t imagine WHAT they were thinking. We haven’t spent holidays with that part of the family since (unrelated to shitty gift) and the rest of the family isn’t really of the gift-giving sort – which I’ve learned to deal with in my 11 years in the family.

    On the other hand, I try very hard to come up with thoughtful gifts. I think it might stem from getting things like pencils and underwear for the holidays growing up….

  3. Not sure this was “worst”, but definitely oddest: a pie server shaped like a high-heeled shoe. The heel could be removed and used as a magnet. Within ten seconds it became a really quite nice pie server and rather odd little pink magnet. I am so very not the high-heeled shoe type. I am definitely the pie type, so I can give them points for at least getting that right.

    Recent best gift: A coffee-table-type book of Maurice Sendak’s art as a graduation present (library school, concentrating in children’s services). It was from my boyfriend’s parents, who have a history of giving me the sorts of presents where I get the impression that they really wished I was the sort of person who would like that kind of thing. But this one was spot on. Lovely, not so big that it won’t fit on a normal bookshelf, totally in tune with my interests, and yet something that I probably would never have thought to buy for myself.

  4. Best: “Transformers” movie DVD (animated old school version) from my little brother, when he was pretty little, because that was when I realized that 1. He understood that this was a cool thing 2. He thought that I would really dig it, and he was only like 10. This started the “I think my brother is awesome” phase of my life, which is still ongoing.

    Re: buying gifts in a bad economy, mostly I’ve just cut a bunch of people from my “I buy things for you!” winter holiday list. I’m also focusing more on food gifts (because food is delicious and I don’t worry that I’m giving someone something that will haunt their house forever). Also, I discovered the Harry and David website this year, and there’s something weirdly addictive about sending gift towers to people (I justified it by telling myself that the shipping was free, and everybody loves pears). My great uncle used to send us H&D fruit, so I feel as though I am keeping this potentially stodgy yet fantastic gift routine alive.

  5. O.K., that list sucks. I actually would’ve loved to receive those two books. Milton is great! Tolstoy’s book, a classic! Can you tell I love books?

    That’s why one of the worst presents I received was an itty bitty book light…two years in a row. Oh, and one of those years, not to seem cheap, mum also got me a nail dryer with the $2 sticker from Wal-Mart still on it.

    I don’t do my nails, period.

    Best gift ever: Hm, it’s a tie between this year and last year. Last year one of my best friends made my sister and I huge glazed mugs with handle sculptures of a devil girl on one, and a mermaid girl on the other. The mug itself had some neato swirly kinda designs on it too. And the best thing of all is that SHE MADE IT HERSELF. She’s a fantastic artist. The other best thing is the KINDLE my boyfriend got me this year. Now I can put all my pdf Egypt books that I got for free from the Oriental Institute of Chicago onto it, as well as get a subscription to the Onion! Whee!

  6. Best gift ever: A hand-drawn, framed list of “51 Things to Love About Tori”, from my sister, probably about a decade ago. I still hang it up everywhere I live. The last one is “Best Sister Ever,” but that is a obviously not true because she, of course, is the best sister ever.

    Worst? Eh, I dunno. I haven’t gotten any real clunkers. Just the regular candles and lotion and other generic gifts. They do bug me because they so clearly have nothing to do with me – or the person giving them.

  7. Best gift? My ex gave me some really beautiful and unique jewelry while we were together. Even after we split he gave me some thoughtful, but less expensive pieces. He also gave me the gift that hurt the most. Christmas was several months after we split up and he gave me *my own copy* of Venture Brothers 2nd season DVD. Though I love that show, it’s taken me a while to appreciate the gift. Oh, and when I was 13 or 14, the time when a girl’s fashion sense is becoming more sophisticated, one of my aunts gave me a horribly, thin, cheaply made sweatshirt that had something like a big kitten on it.

    As for the effect of being poorer than usual, I realized I like to give a lot and I found some wiggle room to scale back. Instead of giving the nifty sun catcher and a pound of really good coffee, I skipped the coffee. I actually felt bad about spending $7 on the entire gift (which probably gives me fodder for therapy next week). I know the givee won’t care and I saved some money. Also, I recently got back into jewelry making and managed to save some dough while giving really cool stuff (I’ve been making jewelry for 20 years, so it’s quality).

    My family doesn’t focus so much on gifts, usually1- 2 each for the grown ups and more than that for my kiddo. We throw ourselves into a Christmas Eve dinner for family and friends. This year we changed the menu and I’m enjoying having other people bring most of the food.

  8. I got scented candles one time in a Yankee gift exchange (which basically makes them Yankee candles, right?). I couldn’t even sit near them without getting a headache.

    But I think the worst present I ever got was a metal balancing toy with some Colonial guys swordfighting on it. Oh lord that thing was ugly… I took it to a “bring us ugly stuff to decorate our house” housewarming party, and they tried to give it back. But I wouldn’t take it back.

    Boy I hope my mom doesn’t read the comments on this one. Cough.

  9. Best gift: toss ups between

    1) School trip to the USSR with, birthday gift 1986 (thank you DODDS school for opportunity, parents for generosity, memorable site of first pomegranate tasting)

    2) Hand built dollhouse from Santa, Ralph, and Elaine (the family elves). Christmas, 1980. My mom went to the base woodshop and said “I want to make this” and the guy said “show us you can make a cardboard one first, laydee person.” So she did, and then built the wooden one with extra details, like channel-set walls. It looks like a Swiss chalet, I still have all the pieces, it will be an heirloom and is a beloved symbol of feminist I’ll-show-you-ism.

    3) Background: In my English pre-school, in the dollhouse era, my class made these crumpled tissue paper textured posters, complete with glitter drool and blocky off-centred-ness. I won the one with an Angel on it in a raffle when school Christmas holidays started. My mom shipped that thing back and forth all over creation and put it up for the holidays until it would hardly stay on the walls because the blu tak residue was so slick on the back of the poster.

    For my 25th birthday, my parents did this with it:

    (If the html fails, you can try here:

    http://pics.livejournal.com/anthrokeight/pic/0004ccax/

    I cried for about 20 minutes.

    Also, I can’t think of any truly terrible gifts. I guess I am lucky or absentminded.

  10. Worst gift. A white nylon blouse with black collar that had a stitched on gold and silver dragon prowling down the left hand side, right to the waist, and a tiger on the right. I was 16. I couldnt even form thoughts when I saw it, just random short circuiting until I could finally mouth something resembling “you shouldnt have”….
    No really…for the love of all that’s holy,you shouldn’t have.

  11. I have a tradition of putting a couple of my worst gifts back under the tree each year. . .hence the annual reemergence of the truly frightening clay candleholder my grandmother gave me. . .it’s a not-found-in-nature shade of blue, and covered with globby, malformed penguins guaranteed to give you nightmares if you look too long. Also,if you actually burn a candle in it, it creates a noxious odor that probably causes some kind of permanent lung damage.

    My own worst gives were handmade, and handmade might be thoughtful, but is not always, you know, *good*. In fact, some were bad enough so that the recipients kept them for posterity. One was for my best friend in middle school—an obviously handcrafted stocking doll meant to resemble Ed Grimley, with whom we were somewhat obsessed at the time (I must say). It’s SO hideous—for some inexplicable reason, I used red tights to create the stocking doll, and dressed him in flannel…so he’s like that old racist Washington Redskins icon meets Chris Cornell from Soundgarden, neither of whom much resemble the Martin Short character who supposedly inspired the gift. Not only was he truly useless, but he also really symbolizes so much middle school awkwardness; and my bff sets him in the branches of her Christmas tree every year. We still laugh until we cry when we look at the poor thing.

    As I (quite mistakenly) believed my sewing skills improved, I made my brother a stuffed gorilla, and it wasn’t until I turned it right side out that I realized I had sewed its face on sideways. My bro kept it as is; I love that it’s 20-some years later, and my bro is Baltimore SWAT with a kid (and a half) of his own, and the gorilla still sits on his dresser.

    OH, and not that you can really complain about cash, but however much my gram sends, she sends my brother more, which cracks us up. Like, last Christmas she sent me $3 in a card, and sent him $5. We joked that we were both going to spend it on coffee, but he was going to spring for Starbucks, while I had to stick to a *budget*.

  12. Worst for thoughtlessness + obliviousness:

    A santa themed bowl and cheese spreader from my boss, at the time, with a note saying that if I couldn’t accept her gift because of being Jewish and all that SHE wouldn’t be offended if I just set it back on her desk.

    Yup.

    Best:

    A globe with a workbook of geography worksheets when I was eight or so. Best gift ever!!

  13. Okay… I am going to the airport to collect my brother. And I am SO looking forward to coming back and seeing these posts. Oh, please please, Shapelings, I hope lots of you are online and just typing away right now, because I expect this will be priceless reading in an hour or two.

    Also? If my brother gave me a sideways headed gorilla, I would totally keep it forever.

  14. Worst gift my mother got from my ex-bio dad: A thigh-master. (Yes, seriously. And no, it had not been requested). (My mother is no longer married to him. Huzzah!!)

    Worst gift I’ve received: votive candles shaped like little bottles of wine. Freaking A. I’ve never understood the whole “Candle in shape” thing. Am I never supposed to burn it? If so why didn’t you get me an equally useless figurine instead of something which purports to be quasi-useful? But if I burn it then it will be like “Wine glass in process of melting down in a fire-y blaze” right and no longer at all like the original? Bah! I still think those are tucked into the “Oh heavens!” drawer somewhere at home.

    Best gift I’ve ever received: remote starter for my car!! :D Yes, as the days keep getting chillier, I realize I have been smiling EVERY morning as I press the button and hear my little car start up outside. Wonderful, useful and just what I had been so hoping/wishing for!!!

    As for the economy changing gifts I know I’ve concentrated a lot on handicrafts for loved ones and only sent out 2 packages with cookies/presents (anyone else who may have gotten cookies last year only ended up with a card this year: sorry!) :(

  15. My inlaws gave me a horrible crystal (Mikasa? is that the brand?) dolphin for Xmas. The kind of thing that BJs has for 9.99 this time of year. I am not a crystal-tchotchka person, at all. Ugh! – I had to put it somewhere where people could SEEE it. Lucky for me, I have stone floors. Very unforgiving surface. And cats – I have cats who climb up into the windows. Really – tragic things happen to crystal tchotchka in my house, it’s just not meant to be ;>.

    My best gift – my sis works for a cashmere sweater company. I’m pretty set there!

    Because of the economy, instead of my office’s annual dinner out and secret santa, we’re having a pot luck at the office, and donating to a local homeless shelter.

  16. Best gifts have been car related from my huz. Remote door unlock fob in 2002. CD player 2003. Tinted windows in 2005. XM radio 2007. All on the same car that now has 260,000 miles on it.

  17. “My own worst gives were handmade, and handmade might be thoughtful, but is not always, you know, *good*. ”

    LOL! We call those things made by “loving hands at home!”

  18. Best gifts:

    From Mom and Dad: the tuition to a 3 day Nia workshop at Kripalu. I wouldn’t have had the guts to set it up for myself, but they knew I would love it, and were totally right. Amazing.

    From my brother: a menu from a Chinese restaurant in Brooklyn called “Leechie Nut”–it was my nickname when I was little, and when he walked by it he went for a menu, kept it, and had it framed. Love.

    For my boyfriend: a bag filled with Snapple, mac and cheese, a giant cookie*, a Soy Joy, bottle of pinot grigio, a cupcake**, an apology that I didn’t include a meatball sub with extra bread, and some cheetos in a bag relabled “Sabor de Soledad” . He had to figure out they were all foods that featured fleetingly in our favorite episodes of 30 Rock, which we watched obessively together when we were first falling in love.

    *”blood cookie”
    **”you made brisquet?” “No, cupcakes!”

  19. Worst gifts

    Holidays ankle socks–I own black and white socks, Holiday socks for all the holidays of the year–shamrocks, pumpkins, trees, yes even one for arbor day.

    a plain white pillar candle. Nothing else. more odd than bad.

    Cat themed kitchen items–potholders, towels, trivets.

    Santa head chair covers. re-gifted within hours to my toddler neices who spent the rest of the holiday pretending they were Santa.

    Three Giant nutcrackers. Because one is just not enough.

    Best gift:
    A sledgehammer that I had been wanting for years. Within 1 hour of getting this I had taken out two stumps in the backyard and some old crappy tile in the basement.

  20. -starts cracking up- This reminds me of when my sister’s mother-in-law (yeah… pretty far removed) sent me the book “How To Meet People and Make Friends” for my birthday. My sister suggested sending it back with a note saying “You need this more than I do.”

  21. Best Worst Gift: Back when I was roommates with my best friend, we loved seeing the bizarre things her dad and step mom would send her every year. For instance, this amazing antique book containing drawings of plant-animal hybrids that some 19th century explorer found in “Atlantis.” But the best of these was a wooden board, about a foot long and three inches wide, with a hole near one end. We were completely baffled. Every time anyone came over for the next month we showed them the board and made them guess what it was. (“A do-it-yourself Do Not Disturb sign?” “But the whole isn’t big enough to fit over a door knob!”). Eventually someone figured out you could counterbalance it with a bottle of wine and it would stand up, which was kind of fun, but the guessing games were more fun.

  22. Hm, I have an aunt/uncle set who do some pretty horrifying regifting. One year, they gave me a nightgown that might… MIGHT have fit around one of my legs. Another year, obviously year-old candy with the TJ MAXX sticker still on it.

    My biggest “DUH” gift was my mother, bless her, who didn’t realize the logistics and got me an automatic car starter. She did not realize they don’t work with a manual transmission. I got several nice DVDs out of that when I returned it to Target.

    Best gift? I can’t really think of anything. Most of the gifts I get are either “oh, nice” or complete disappointments. I really do prefer giving gifts to getting them. The closest thing I can think of is when a LiveJournal friend bought me something off my Amazon wish list out of the blue and sent it to me. I was quite tickled by that, I’d had a very bad year what with the too small and not returnable Hines Ward jersey that was my main gift from Hubs. I think he bought it from someone who had bought it off the back of a truck.

  23. I haven’t had many terrible gifts. I got a lot of really amazing gifts throughout my life, and my family and friends have always been great about giving me things I will enjoy -normally anything pink was low on the totem pole, but nothing I absolutely hated.
    The best gift ever though? A beautiful Egyptian-Arabian/Appaloosa mare for my 7th birthday. Man, that was amazing.

  24. my sister once bought me some clothes that were in her size. and her style. and offered to keep them if i didn’t want them. (note: we were teenagers – she has gotten a little less selfish since then)

  25. The worst gift I ever received… napkin rings. Monkey-shaped napkin rings. It doesn’t sound so bad, but I was thirteen and had no napkins to my name, so what exactly I was going to do with these napkin rings is anyone’s guess.

    But the best part? They were individually wrapped, so I got to open the same terrible gift SIX TIMES.

  26. Best? I don’t know. They’re unmemorable. I did quite like the tastebook of my aunt’s recipes. Or the Le Creuset set from my parents (if we’re talking about amount of use, that probably wins).

    Worst?
    My mother in law painted a portrait of me and my husband dressed as gypsies on black velvet. He looks 12. It lives in my closet, except whenever she comes to visit she finds it and puts it on display in my daughter’s room.

  27. I once asked for a painting similar in style to the ones on Good Times by Ernie Barnes, but unfortunately my giver didn’t really watch the show much and the only episode they’d seen was – yep, you guessed it – the one with “Black Jesus”.

    And I ended up with velvet Black Jesus painting, with Jesus looking an awful lot like late 70s era Lionel Richie.

    So awful, yet so technically stellar, I had to keep it.

  28. Hahahaha. . .the napkin rings. Hilariously bad.

    BrieCS, you the pony that *I* asked for!

    Instead, I got an emphysemic pony from my emphysemic step-grandpa—the one who used to throw his dentures in my lap as a “joke,” and then reassure me in my hysterical wailing by letting me *brush them*. Terror. Trauma. And let’s face it, just f’in’ gross.

    Anyway, said pony was named Smokey and was from the gramps that loved to smoke. . .and gramps was named Bucky, and the pony bucked like a mo-fo. Much more vividly than the pony, I remember the way the frozen ground looked as I hurtled toward it from above, listening to both pony and grampa wheeze. . .

  29. Shoshie,
    I did summer semi-pro theatre with David Isaac Johnson (the mustachioed bald guy wearing the argyle sweater in the Garfunkel & Oates video).

    aliciamaud74,
    I went to college for 2 years with Jack McBrayer (Kenneth on 30 Rock).

    Wow, small world/six degrees!

    Re gifts: One of my worst memories involving gifts occurred the year my dad decided to videotape our Christmas morning for dissemination to distant relatives. My great-aunt gave me a less-than-impressive outfit, and, being 11, I made a less-than-impressed face. Dad turned off the camera, whipped me good, and made me do a little fashion show for the camera later. In hindsight, it wasn’t really a bad outfit. Oh how I wish we’d had video editing software in the 80s.

  30. I never got a pony. Wanted one. Could never quite convince my grandmother and mother that suburban Pittsburgh was a perfectly acceptable place for a horse-we had a decent sized backyard, and nobody was using the garage anyway.

  31. Best gift? My partner proposed to me on Christmas with an amethyst engagement ring. Before that, my best gift was the Sunshine Family from when I was a 10 year old kid. They were 70′s hippie granola type type dolls that came in a set of 3- the mom, the dad, and the baby… plus an instruction booklet on how to make stuff for them. I still remember how to make them a table out of a half gallon milk carton. It was the premise of craftiness and recycling that was noted in me and was sparked on by this gift.

    Worst gift? I get a BIG honking food thing from my Dad. Every year. You all know the ones– not Hickory Farms which aren’t all that bad- but from a mail order company. The thing has summer sausage, cheese, fruitcakes, candy, etc. The size of each item is about the size of a candy bar. And worst of all, I know he sends these to his business contacts- so he just puts my family on the list and considers Xmas done. Thankfully my mom (they divorced a million years ago) and my in laws have more class than this.

  32. My worst give was when my mom gave me a mumu. A freaking mumu while I was still in my 20s and it was possibly three or four times my size. I can’t prove it but I thought it was a sideways commentary on my weight. In front of my family.

  33. DivaJean, my dad used to receive this from people he worked with every year (maybe your dad, for all I know!) Some of the food didn’t taste terrible, but why was it all so *shiny*?! The sheen is just plain disturbing.

  34. The worst gifts I’ve gotten have all been clothes. Either they’re too small, or someone just bought a two piece set using my shirt size, so the pants fall right off me. I don’t think you should give anyone clothes unless you know for sure they want a particular item.

    It’s just my husband and I now, so we don’t bother with gifts in the traditional sense. He usually gives me yarn for my birthday, and I usually turn that into hats, scarves, mittens, and thick socks and give those back to him for his birthday and Christmas. I also hunt down and find some movie from the 80′s for him, which generally involves me diving waist deep into a $3-$5 bin at Wally World. The man loves Dan Akroyd. Come to think of it, Sneakers is probably in that bin…

  35. Every year, I ask my husband what he wants for Christmas. Every year, he tells me, “I don’t know.” Birthdays, too. Make all the suggestions you want for months on end and he’ll just shrug helplessly. Man doesn’t know.

    This year, I opened one of the fourteen-thousand catalogs that arrived this season and discovered products created from the classic Abbott & Costello “Who’s on First?” routine.

    So this year, husband is getting a baseball cap and jersey that officially states, “I Don’t Know.”

    He asked for it.

  36. Aaaaah, yes. Bad gifts. Worst gifts ever were a one-two punch on Valentine’s Day, when I was twenty. I was away at college, not dating, miserable, cold, and cranky. My parents have a tradition of giving us those chocolate Russell Stover hearts every year–nothing expensive, and the chocolate isn’t great, but I loved them when I was a kid. So that year? They sent me Oprah’s diet book and journal instead. And, the same day, I got a copy of Learning How to Flirt from my mother’s best friend, who included a note about how she gave the book to her daughter and her daughter got married just six months later (hint hint hint.) I have never felt more conspicuously single.

    I have forgiven all of the parties responsible. To be fair, I think my mother was on the diet program at the time, and you know how evangelical dieters get. And my mom’s best friend is a darling sweet woman who will someday do all the hard work at my wedding, so I can’t hold it against her.

    Worst Christmas gift? My semi-estranged brother and his wife gave me two dog training books along the “How To Show Your Feral Hell-hound Who’s Boss In Your House” lines. They’re not really dog people. I traded them in for some Patricia McConnell books instead.

    Best Christmas gift? There are plenty that stand out, but I have a soft spot for the “Line Dancing with the French” homemade DVD my brother and sister-in-law gave me a few years ago. They were living on the French side of the border, near Geneva, and had somehow coerced their French friends into learning how to line-dance, Texas-style. And then they made an instructional video of it. I still crack up every time I think of it.

    Bad Christmas gift: About eight years ago, my father got a copy of Richard Rhodes’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning The Making of the Atomic Bomb for each of my siblings and me. (He’s a government science wonk.) I think one of my brothers read it once. My copy “accidently” “disappeared” a few years later.

    Best revenge Christmas gift: When a new Richard Rhodes book, Arsenals of Folly, came out two years ago, I was working in a bookstore part-time. I purchased nine copies of the book. Every present my father opened was . . . another copy. Even the gift my semi-estranged brother gave him later that afternoon. We have a photo of him sitting there with all nine of them. That evening, I took them all back and we gave him his real presents instead.

  37. I also hunt down and find some movie from the 80’s for him, which generally involves me diving waist deep into a $3-$5 bin at Wally World. The man loves Dan Akroyd. Come to think of it, Sneakers is probably in that bin…

    Sneakers is one of favorite movies! Love Akroyd in that one!

  38. So that year? They sent me Oprah’s diet book and journal instead. And, the same day, I got a copy of Learning How to Flirt from my mother’s best friend, who included a note about how she gave the book to her daughter and her daughter got married just six months later (hint hint hint.) I have never felt more conspicuously single.

    WHAT? People, common sense!

    How about the best gifts we never got? In addition to the aforementioned pony, I also never got an American Girls doll. :-( My mom thought they were too expensive and (correctly) deduced that if she bought me one I’d spend the next however many years begging for the tiny, perfect accessories.

  39. Worst gift I ever got?

    My birthday one year.

    It was a card and a small bag of Hershey’s Hugs.

    The card was impersonal and the Hugs… I don’t like them to start with.

    Of course, that was an improvement over the previous year when I was told that because I didn’t have a very good year, I was not getting anything. (Personal problems cropped up and resulted in my being hospitalized for about 2 weeks)

  40. I have a three-way tie for worst.

    1) A Limited sweat shirt from a family friend when I was about ten. While this sounds totally innocuous, it showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that she paid absolutely zero attention to what I wore, liked, or cared about, and probably bought it in an effort to make me dress better. I’m still slightly offended twelve-ish years later. (This family friend also has the honor of being the only person to ever sincerely make the “you don’t understand this because you’re young” argument to me. Yeah. Not so many fond memories there.)

    2) A Coach coin purse from another family friend. This was a bad gift because it made me feel terrible. Coach bags are expensive, even the little ones (right?) and I would never, in a million years, have found a use for a Coach coin purse. Or, for that matter, any coin purse. So this person – who, unlike the above family friend, truly didn’t know or have much exposure to me – had spent a lot of money on something that neither I nor anyone I knew would ever use.

    3) A pie dish from my then-boyfriend’s mother. On the one hand, it was an incredibly kind and thoughtful gift – I love pie, and I love making pie, she had clearly taken strong mental note of the time her son and I made pies in their kitchen, and it was her favorite variety of pie dish. On the other hand, I got a very strong whiff of “You will make many delicious pies for my son in this dish!”

    I guess mine aren’t so much bad gifts as bad gift associations.

  41. As a Practicing Atheist ™ (definition? anyone?), I am always overcome with multitudes of conflicting emotions at this time of year. I married into an extended family of Lutherans who insist on ALWAYS giving me stuff despite the fact that I’ve never reciprocated (the guilt, it is nuclear). This year I asked them all to please donate whatever money they might spend on gifts for me to the charity of their choice. I have one sister-in-law, though, who is an inveterate and very talented crafter, who always gives my husband and I something awesome that she’s made herself, thus no money is involved and I have no idea how to handle the situation. I know that people like to give gifts for the sheer joy of giving, but I feel like such a fucking Scrooge. The truth is, I hate buying gifts for people. It’s my idea of hell. Any fellow heathens out there who have figure out a satisfying way to deal with The Holidays, please pass it on…

    OK, now that I’ve got the therapy out of the way:

    Best gift — $10K from my congenitally parsimonious spouse, when my business fell on hard times. Best, because I know what it cost him emotionally. He gets twitchy when he’s got to spend more than ten dollars on anything. Anything.

    Best ‘worst’ gift: The Lutherans had at one time among their number a great-aunt who had the crafting gene also, only not in a good way. Every year we would gather breathlessly around the box that she sent, to gawk in wonder at the incredible object(s) it always contained. I’m talking a spiral wind-thingy (that’s as close as we could get to figuring out what it was) made out of plastic can lids and those little green crates you get your strawberries in at the supermarket, embellished with huge plastic beads. Just mind-blowingly horrendous, like ‘you cannot possibly be serious,’ only she really was. I don’t really classify this as a ‘worst’ gift because she provided us with hours of entertainment that I still miss now that she’s gone.

  42. Best present ever? My husband & I were in one of those “does this really work?” modes when he asked what I wanted. I told him to give me something that showed what I meant to him. The result? A string of perfectly matched pearls. (Yeah, we’re still together. He’s a keeper.)

    Absolutely worst present? From my aunt & uncle. A lingerie holder (I think that’s what it was–or maybe a stocking holder–anyway, something that hangs up in your closet to keep “unmentionables” in) shaped like a pair of panties. Pink and lacy. I was maybe 10 or 11, and to unwrap that in front of my father…OMG!

  43. Worst gift: tie between the time an ex gave me Who’s who in Canadian Literature, a topic which he knew I had zero interest and which I strongly suspect was a regift from a pile of books he didn’t want, or the time he gave me this horrible Chinese brush painting of a tiger with a giant snarling mouth full of teeth, but the perspective was a bit off so the teeth were at a slightly different angle to the rest of the tiger. Best part of breaking up with him was finally being able to take the Ugly Tiger off the wall.

  44. Rejoyce: I would be strongly tempted to refer to that ex forevermore as “Ugly Tiger.” But then, I have a bad nickname habit. My major exes and notable bad dates are Ingrown Toenail Man, Young Werther, The Communist, and Diego.

  45. Oh, I forgot. My mom is a hideous gift giver. She has a knack for getting things that absolutely nobody needs (a journal to keep track of websites you like, anyone? Or perhaps a notepad shaped like a globe?) Thankfully, she always gets two of everything. One for me, one for my sister. It takes less time for the two of us to figure out where she found the little gem and return both at the same time.

    In the last couple of years I’ve asked her to stop buying gifts and if she really wants to give us something, to put the money she would have spent into an account for our home maintenance. It’s worked, no lap desks or cell phone charms in 3 years!!!

  46. If I could even begin to enumerate the quantity of ridiculous useless crap my mother has purchased over the years, well, trust me you do’nt have time. I think the worst was when she somehow found a bunch of pottery, y’kow that hand painted crap, teapots, cups, shit like that. There were two sets, one about “girlfriends” and one with cats all over it. She gave me individual peices of this for three events until she forgot about it. The box full of the remaining gifts is still in my bedroom at home and Dad and I argue constantly over who is resposible for finding a home for it.

    She also got me a pair of stuffed stylized cats wearing leopard print boustiers…. they had wires in them so you can pose them. There are no words.

    Best gift has to be the time my Dad got new luggage for my sister and me. We were all happy with our gifts (even though we didn’t get our usual envelope of cash) and content to admire the luggage where it was. But then he told us to open the carry on bag. Suitcase full of money FTW.

  47. Worst gift: The year I was moving to a major city instead of back home with my family post-college and trying to scrape enough cash together to put down security on the cheapest possible apartment and scavenging free furniture because I only had 18 hours of waitressing a week my parents bought me one present: jeweled earrings. It showed just how out of touch with my life they were. I mean, I still have them and they’re pretty and all, but they were Not What I Needed Right Then.

    Best gift: I was mega-stressed out one year and one of my friends came over, cleaned my tub and left me bath salts. That was awesome, mostly because it meant zie’d been paying attention to my life (like “I don’t have energy to clean my bathroom”).

  48. I haven’t gotten many horrible gifts — bath and body stuff from coworkers, which always say to me “I’m getting a generic gift anyone/nobody will appreciate in the draw” rather than “you stink.” Those mostly seem to be about lack of imagination than anything else. Though my father did give me the same Sam’s Club cookbook two years in a row (and it showed he didn’t really know me; the book was essentially how to combine various (Kraft) packaged foods, and the only packaged foods I keep are canned tomatoes and chilies, dry pasta and beans). Yep, sticker on the books both years.

    I come from a multi-generational military family who keep baggage light, so we glommed on to the gift-card/cash/cash card concept really early. Most of the time, I didn’t buy “things” with it, but film/developing for my camera and admissions/travel to places I’d never get to go if we weren’t military. My state-side family basically gave me lots of memories and cool cultural experiences. Also, I’m not Christian, and most of my family is luke-warm at best, so we’re not big on celebrating that specific gift giving extravaganza. The kiddos still get regular gift cards in the mail (because as a kid, I remember that money was such great fun!!), and my elder niece got a pink violin for solstice yesterday. (Since she’s my baby goth, I was surprised she wanted pink, but kiddo is scary smart, and wanted it for (I quote) the irony. And yes, she understands irony, in a five year old sort of way.)

    Best gift EVER was a two-parter, a year apart. For our first anniversary, my partner bought me the biggest box of words he could find. Since I’m a writer, and I pretty much live with a dictionary and thesaurus at hand and Etymology Online is in my toolbar, having a compact OED* literally right next to me is heaven. The next year, he built a stand just for it, that holds it at an angle and supports it open with a shelf below for thesauri, grammar guide, foreign language dictionaries and other tool books**. It’s rock-solid, just the right height when I’m sitting at my desk, and is on lockable casters, so I can move it out of the way when I don’t need it. It even matches my furniture. It really showed he knew me, and was supportive of my cashing out and going full-time freelance. Our anniversaries since have followed that theme — this year, we’re going to the Ghengis Khan exhibit at the local science museum.

    *The compact OED (the one with the magnifying lens) is about the size of a tombstone, so it’s kind of a beast to work with, but a great book to have, nonetheless.

    ** What, most writers don’t have such references permanently stapled to them?

  49. I once received 12 cans of spam. Yup. A dozen cans of spam, taped end-to-end and wrapped. It was from my godmother, you see, and I had just moved out to go to college. She had been worried about making sure that I had food! And her gift of lots of soup and other canned goods had gone over so well for my birthday! …but I don’t like spam. I hate spam. It’s vile.

    I felt bad for bursting into incredulous laughter when I opened it, and it turned out that it wasn’t a joke gift. But only bad for a little bit, because… TWELVE FREAKIN’ CANS OF SPAM, SERIOUSLY?!

  50. Worst gift: At a previous job, one year my boss gave everybody in the department a two-foot-tall snowman statue, with lights and moving parts (if I remember correctly). I left it in my cube when I left that job. (I’m still puzzled by that gift. It was very thoughtful of her to get us all something, but what on earth made her think *anyone* would want one of those? Maybe she wanted one herself?)

    Best: I’m blessed to have had a lot of good gifts over my lifetime. Of those that come to mind right now, the tie is between the copy of The Annotated Alice from my dad (he knows I love Lewis Carroll) and the present my sister gave me this year. She and I are going on a trip together in January and there will be a lot of walking, so she took me out and bought me good walking shoes for Christmas!

    Runner-up: when I was in the middle of a knitting project and had just discovered I bought the wrong size of needle for the next part of the project, my mom bought me the right size needle and called it my Christmas present (she too is on a tight budget). So nice to get to keep knitting and not have to borrow a car and go back out!

  51. Best gifts as a child : The dollhouse my dad made for me because it was a lean year and they couldn’t afford to buy lots of stuff. I may not remember all the plastic stuff I got in the better years, but I remember that dollhouse, with the coke bottle plastic windows with the white painted lines and all the lovingly but kind of awkwardly made details. Years later it sat on the balcony and became a pigeon house. They even learned to use (And close behind them) the front door. It was awesome.

    Worst gift ever: My grandmother knows I love animals. I am, in act, an animal rights activist. So she gave me a cat figurine curled into a ball on a pillow and made out of rabbit fur. I was so traumatized by this that there was no attempt at a “present face”. I was stunned, offended, and a little nauseated. It went back in the box and stayed there until it was sold at a garage sale. In hindsight, I should have given it a decent burial. The worst part is that she WAS thinking of me and thought it was a great gift. She just didn’t get that loving animals doesn’t mean you want to surround yourself in carcasses from Chinese fur farms.

  52. Best gift: after I bought my house around christmas time, my dad started helping me with home repair/maintenance projects. he’s still at it, ten years later.
    Worst gift: pedometer from the ex. i used it for a while, until it met an untimely but very suitable end by falling into the toilet (it was clipped onto my gym shorts, and i was in a rush…) After that I learned to actually give him suggestions when he asked what I wanted.
    Funniest gift: the banana candle. My mom got it at a garage sale and gave it to me as a gag gift a few years ago. It’s about 1 foot tall and resembles a very large dick/balls candle more than a banana. We regift it every year.

  53. Worst Gift? My senior year of high school. My parents got me 5 pairs of wool socks (yay) and….paid for my AP Exams the following May (the check was due around Christmas) Yup.

    Recession Gifting this year: Everybody got a used book, probably from my bookshelf, with a nice note on why I picked it for them. Or socks (nice ones!).

  54. This is for a different gift-giving occassion, but the toothfairy always left my sister and me Susan B. Anthony dollars when we lost our teeth. We didn’t think they were really money, so my dad would buy them from us for a quarter.

    I’m not sure whether to be pleased because adult Bella finds my father’s trickery hilarious, or outraged for baby Bella.

  55. annimal I love funny family gifts!

    The men in my family have a running “ugly shirt” gifting tradition. They all get ugly shirts for their birthdays. This year my parents gave my uncle one that was leopard print, with different patterns so it was kindof textured. He wore it to Thanksgiving, HILARIOUS.

    And my friend is currently engaged in a wedding re gifting tradition with this hedieous painting of a bird. Pretty funny once you realize it is a joke.

  56. OMG Shinobi, are our moms related? My mom constantly sends me these bizarre looking “mother-daughter” gifts or totally random figurines that are so horrible I can only laugh or cry. Sometimes both. The most recent was the vase with frightened-looking, stringy-haired stick women hugging. I assume one was me and one was her, but I never asked. One year, she sent me a Raggedy Ann and Andy figurine – a doll I’ve always found creepy and never expressed the vaguest interest in. “It’s an original!” she told me. “No wonder!” I privately thought.

  57. My aunt once gave me a very large box full of food. Expired food she’d dug out of her pantry and freezer.

    Best gift …. uh …. well, when I think of Christmas I instantly think of the year I was about nine, when my dad gave me a hand-made saddle tree. I don’t know what ever happened to that, I just realized.

  58. CZanna, before I got a full time teaching gig I was subbing, and one day covered for someone who was chaperoning a field trip to the Kraft processed cheese food plant. .. they let us sample the “cheese” before they added the orange, and I shit you not, it was clear. CLEAR. I will not be using any of those recipes you mentioned, either. Shudder.

    (Posting like crazy is a clear indicator that I’m one day away from holiday break and avoiding grading papers. Eek. But also an indicator that this is a crazy fun thread.)

  59. Worst gift I ever received was a big dollar store box of cheap earrings when I was in High School… I didn’t have pierced ears.

  60. My aunt is a notoriously terrible gift-giver. One Christmas she gave me a framed 8.5×11 glossy print of the Joe Montana 49ers in a huddle. I am not even REMOTELY a football fan. Another year she gave me a weird little gold miniature bassoon, complete with display stand.

    Best gifts? Tickets to see David Bowie live for my 16th birthday. The kitten I got on my 25th. The Wii that my boyfriends just got me (plus the Metroid trilogy!)

  61. “Line Dancing with the French” made me laugh pretty hard.

    My funniest worst gift: One year, my grandma, who loved doing crafts and giving presents, but who wasn’t great at either, gave my two sisters, mom, and I matching shirts: plain sweatshirts she had bought, chopped off the tops of (chest and shoulders), and knit new tops for out of thick, garish variegated yarn. I was 7 so I didn’t care; my mom doesn’t have much fashion sense, so she didn’t care. My two teenage sisters cared A LOT, especially when my mom made us all pose for pictures together, then wear them places when my grandma was around.

  62. Any fellow heathens out there who have figure out a satisfying way to deal with The Holidays, please pass it on…

    Would you feel comfortable giving them solstice or new years gifts instead of Christmas gifts? It wouldn’t solve the “hating to shop for gifts” issue, but it would at least help with the religious aspect. They could give you gifts for a holiday they mark and you could reciprocate with one you mark; the thought is there, but you’re not celebrating a religious holiday.

  63. Shoshi! As soon as I read Snarky’s line about her Press-On smile I immediately thought of “Present Face.” O, how I love Garfunkel and Oates! I really want to see a professionally recorded and produced video for “This Party Took a Turn for the Douche”. It would blow “On a Boat” out of the frakking water.

  64. ** What, most writers don’t have such references permanently stapled to them?

    I long to be this kind of writer. I don’t even own a dictionary and rely solely on 10th grade Latin and context clues to tell me the definition of words I see and hear.

    If I could even begin to enumerate the quantity of ridiculous useless crap my mother has purchased over the years, well, trust me you do’nt have time. I think the worst was when she somehow found a bunch of pottery, y’kow that hand painted crap, teapots, cups, shit like that. There were two sets, one about “girlfriends” and one with cats all over it. She gave me individual peices of this for three events until she forgot about it.

    My parents live in Williamsburg, (Ye Olde one, not hipster one) which has lots of crapatoriums selling the strain of gift fail you refer to. My mom has lots of crap given to her by well-meaning coworkers and hi/bye friends.

    Also, that suitcase filled with money is the stuff of my dreams. A shoe box may be substituted for a suitcase.

  65. minervakoening, I have no suggestions about the No Gifts, Please problem, but I am sorry you have to deal with that. Although, I would love to see the windthing from Great Auntie.

    Bad Gift: My parents helped me pay my health insurance premiums one year when I had to have individual insurance (hello pre-existing condition!). There’s nothing wrong with the financial help, of course. My mom and dad are really loving and generous. It’s just… wtf world? How do we have to live in a society where people’s parents don’t give gifts because they spend the money on the $350.00/month payment (on top of the $4,000.00 deductable?). I suppose that’s more “bad society.”

  66. I have a play cousin (Af-Amer term for childhood friend who is family, but not blood related) who loves to bake – and quite amazing – but cannot seem to wrap his head around the concept of nut allergies. Therefore pretty much every gift must be treated as though it were radioactive and hazmat (closest non nut allergy afflicted person) must dispose of the gift. Oddly enough, his confections are the easiest things to regift.

  67. Did anyone else ever get an item of clothing that was on purpose too small- from a “well meaning” relative who was hoping to “inspire” you?

    To add insult to injury, it was a hideous dress with a lacy collar. Still, there was that little piece of me that wanted to wear it.

  68. Ah yes, christmas always brings out the giggles in me, at all the absolutely terrible presents I have recieved. I think the worst I can remember is from my grandma, bless her. She got me a completely porcelain baby doll, no huggable parts at all. You know, one that I could not play with, pretty much ever. Just dusted it. I was 7.
    I think my favorite present was from my Dad, he gets me a calendar pretty much every year. No idea why. Last year’s calendar was all about pirates, and it was packed full of movable parts, pop up pictures, and little flaps with secret pirate facts and trivia. Total WIN.

  69. Oh Lord and Jesus.* My mother and father have so many friends and such that I ended up getting lots of crappy little gifts as the years went by. Most I eventually found use for, because when you’re a kid, you always get toys.
    But I have found, more recently, that the gifts I get are horrible from some and amazing from others!

    Worst: My Aunt, for my birthday, actually, gave me a painted horse with a scene of clouds–in the shame of horses–on it. It really is pretty, and it’s apparently one of those collectible items that are pretty expensive. Only, it’s not me. My friend used to collect them, but, problem is, my Aunt’s cat knocked it over and broke it right before she left to give it to me. (It’s okay. She’s artsy-fartsy and glued it right back together, but still. It’s technically broken right?) At the same time, she also gave me a brass angel pin with a little amethyst. Amethyst is my birth stone. I don’t wear pins though. And lastly, she gave me a little Precious Moment’s chest, also birthday themed. Again, just so not me.
    I love my Aunt, really. She brought me into my artistry as a young one, but she’s…a little addled in the brains. The gifts are wonderful and thoughtful, just really not me. So, at the moment, they are sitting away in my little cabinet-desk thing, out of sight.
    Because I am a reader, people have given me dozens of books I would never touch–including a few Harlequin romances and the Twilight series (which, while tempted as I was to burn them, were quickly donated to a library.)
    For all the people who don’t want a book, TAKE IT TO THE LIBRARY! If THEY don’t want it, let them throw it out. It negates all guilt. I swear it does.

    Best gifts: From my parents for the last few Christmases. I am a writer and an artist, and music is something that I listen to religiously and it helps me seperate. So, a few years ago they got me an iPod, engraved with my name and all. The newest model with the highest GB. (I have thus replaced it with an iTouch, since having a job is wondrous.)
    Last year, to fuel my writing habit on the go, they gave me a laptop. I love it. I never go anywhere without it. I write like a mofo on this thing, never-ending almost.
    And this year, they got me a brand-new Elliptical/Stationary-Bike combo. I wanted a treadmill, but as some know, I dislocated my knee and can’t run for another six months at least. Due to health problems in the past year, I have gained 40 pounds and have been pretty lackadaisical. I want to get back on my feet but don’t have money for a gym membership and need to be able to work while I work-out. So they did this for me.
    I am actually one of four children, too, and there’s a grandchild thrown in as well. My brothers (related only by marriage) get a Christmas from their mom, their dad, and their grandmother, so my mom pushes my dad to put out a bit more for me and they never cease to amaze me. I had expected something off Craig’s List, in fact, I had encouraged it.

    *Yes, I blaspheme, even at Christmas.

  70. I just checked with my brother and sister-in-law. The DVD was officially titled Line Dance Like You’re From France. Total win. In a not-unrelated aside, they made a puff-pastry quiche for breakfast this morning.

  71. OMG, I hate candles and bath products and all that stuff. TERRIBLE gifts.

    a couple of ‘worst’ gifts come to mind:
    1) 3-DVD set of Benji movies (birthday gift).. accompanied by a candle (see?) and 3 plastic duckies (cute – actually have around)
    2) “The Christmas Sweater” as an xmas gift (plus a pair of slippers) – the slippers got returned and the book was awful, horrendous, badly written, tritest shit ever.

  72. Starling, I just call all my exes “asshole”. You’re way more creative than I am.

    Snarkys, I’d be happy with an envelope full of money at this point. Sheesh.

    I keep thinking of more. My regifting aunt gave me the most ugly godforsaken fun fur yarn last year. I don’t knit with fun fur. I knit socks and spin, so most of the things I knit are from either good quality handspun wool or alpaca or expensive sock yarn or sometimes, if the wind is just right, good quality handspun sock yarn.

  73. YellowValkyrie,

    If you ever want to regift the bassoon-thingy, I’ll take it–I used to play, and it’s oddly difficult to find little gold ones . . . :)

  74. Worst gift? Off the top of my head, I really can’t think of anything specific – which is probably a good thing. My sister-in-law consistently avoids giving me gifts for Christmas or my birthday, but since she’s so superficial and self-centered, I’m completely fine with this. And no, she’ll never read this blog; as a registered dietician who actively advocates for low-fat diets (“Mayo is bad for you!”), I fall into the Crazy Person category.

    Best gift? Two jump out from my memory. First, when I turned 21 my mom and I celebrated Christmas in Egypt, just the two of us. We were both living in Greece and thought that winter was a great time to visit Egypt (not as hot then). For Christmas dinner we sat at a restaurant by the Nile in the blazing sunshine, and toasted each other. The waiter came up, shook our hands and said with the greatest sincerity, “Happy Thanksgiving.” It was a fantastic trip.

    Second, the Best Gift Ever happened this year. In June, my daughter had surgery to correct a 71 degree scoliosis curve. She’s healthy, strong, and recovering beautifully. My husband and I don’t want any gifts this year, because we’ve got it already: our daughter’s health. She says, “I have a new back, what could top that?!” Seeing her walk with no pain is such a gift, it brings tears to my eyes.

  75. Since my dad has retired, he’s way more likely to contribute to the holiday shopping–so my novels, nightgowns, funky jewelry fare I used to get when mom did the shopping has made a shift—in the last few years, I have gotten a weight bench, a drill, and—in my Easter Basket—a Leatherman. That was pretty groovy, I have to say.

    Bonus: the drill came with a note in my dad’s barely legible scrawl, “Can I have mine back now please?” I keep it with the extra bits.

  76. I am going to have to think about “best gift” for a while, because — and this is not meant to reflect badly on me, even though it probably does — I don’t tend to remember what I was given or when, only what I gave to other people, because I make things by hand.

    The WORST gift, I don’t have to think about.

    One year, my mom wrapped up a sawed-off, unpainted piece of 2×4 and gave it to me for my birthday. On it she had written everything that cost more than $20 that she had bought for me during the previous year, with “DON’T FORGET!” in block letters underneath.

    I was 16, ALL my friends were there, and my boyfriend (now my husband). Thank all the gods, I didn’t freeze up. I laughed and said something like “So all the great stuff you DO for me wouldn’t fit on a block of wood, amirite?” And we all had a good laugh.

    That was the same year she didn’t use actual pretty wrapping paper of any kind, instead she used sheets off a HUGE 3′ wide roll of this horrible O.D. green butcher’s paper that she had gotten god alone knows where, and which was perhaps the most visually and tactilely unpleasant paper I have encountered to this day.

    The thing is, if you actually KNEW my mother, which most folks there did not, she was a passive-aggressive woman who often DID genuinely did mean such gestures to be hurtful and offensive. And you never knew when she was being nasty and when she was being kooky but nice. The best way to deal with her weird presents was to take them well, which I somehow managed to do that time.

    The second-worst gift I ever received was a tiny wrapped-up box of super-cheap birthday candles. On Christmas. The price sticker — not reflecting discount — was still attached. My grandmother was really proud of the whole thing. You have to imagine a Texas accent here: “I was standin’ in line at the dollar store and I saw a sign that said ’25 cents!’ and I said to myself, WHAT COULD THAT BE?!”

    She was notoriously cheap, but this was a flowering of that tendency that I never again saw rivaled. We often joked, the husband and I, that Nanny would give me rusty pot lids for a Christmas gift one year. “Here’s some rusty old pot lids but I thought sure you could do somethin’ with ‘em!”

    This became both less and more funny when she DID give pot lids to me. They weren’t rusty, though, and it wasn’t as a wrapped-up gift, just as a “Here, I brought you this old stuff, maybe you can use it.” So it doesn’t count for purposes of this discussion. Nevertheless: hilarious.

  77. I have in-laws who routinely re-gift, so I’ve gotten a lot of dismal, ugly, useless gifts over the years – worse, often it’s things I saw them unwrap the year before, so it’s not like I’m guessing it’s a re-gift. A few years ago I re-wrapped a few of the ugliest – like a giant, biliously green three-wick candle wrapped in an artificial grapevine, and cheap anthropomorphic plastic egg cups so small no hen’s egg could fit in them – and gave them right back, and since I’ve not seen anything that blatant. Cross fingers, knock on wood.

    None of those were the worst, though. No, the worst … a tattered, used, highlighted paperback copy of The Mill on the Floss; that was about as bad as it gets, especially since the giver knew I loathed Eliot. Counted on it, I suspect. But then too there was the couple of years when seemingly everyone felt compelled to give me ‘cures’ for my rheumatism: booklets, pamphlets, copper bracelets, an odd polished stone implement for rubbing on joints, and the nadir, a stinky necklace of dried fungi and beans, said to be a folk cure from somewhere unspecified in Africa. Even my husband got in on it, though at least his had taste; the copper bangle he gave me is so beautiful, I even wear it now and then.

    The best … as an adult, I think the absolute best was the DSLR camera my husband gave me last year: just what I’ve wanted for years, and yet totally unexpected. Though it’s a close finish with the set of black pearls he gave me years ago, another jaw-dropping surprise. As a child … in retrospect, no contest: the telegram my mother had delivered Christmas eve the year I was twelve, so I could say someday that I’d gotten one just like in all the old movies: ‘HUFF HUFF LOVE MUM.’ The ‘huff huff’ was her version of the sound lionesses use to call their cubs.

    This year we got a lot of gifts in flea markets, craft fairs and antique shops – nothing very expensive and some I had to fix a bit, but I think they’ll go over well. I’m especially pleased with a vintage Japanese lacquer jewelry box I got cheap because it was very dirty, the music-box didn’t work, and the seller thought it was modern plastic. Clean and fixed, it’s a lovely thing, and it turned out to even have a hidden drawer.

  78. Absolute worst, in a class of its own worst: Student teacher in fourth grade took me aside, some speech about special friends or something. Gave me a book of cheesy Christian religious poetry and my very own comb and bar of soap in a plastic case. She was, I imagine, convinced that my neurological traits (in specific, the ones about being withdrawn and refusing to comb nor cut my hair) were the result of neglect and not having a father around. And I was too socially inept to know that this set of gifts was an insult to my mother, and came home and asked her what the fuck it meant. Poor mom.

    Worst in the conventional sense: Grandmother sent me a set of pajamas with teddy bears on them, made of that thin psuedo-flannel. This would be okay except I was twenty-two at the time. I stared, wondering: Is she telling me to grow up (a sentiment she often expressed) or just trying to discourage masturbation?

  79. Once a boyfriend gave me a pair of fleece socks and a car air freshener for Christmas. After we had been dating for years. It was just one of many ways he showed me he really knew nothing about me! We broke up later.

  80. Okay, best gift:

    A DVD player. It’s the SAGA of how my husband got it that’s the wonderful part, and which makes it the best gift ever.

    This was during the shittiest time in my life. All I wanted for Christmas that year, and we were dead broke to the point that I could not afford $20 a month for my meds, was a DVD player. The price had finally dropped enough that it was doable. So my husband saved up and ventured out to get me one from the only store in town that had a sale+coupon combo that would allow him to get one for what he had managed to scrimp (less than $200).

    He got there and the parking lot was full, which meant he had to park in the next lot over, about a block away. He had to walk through snow, slush, and over ice to get there. He got in and they were out of that model of DVD player, meaning he couldn’t afford one. A sales associate heard the story and cut him a deal on an even nicer one, bringing it down to his price, which is an astoundingly cool thing for him to have done. THEN my husband had to carry the DVD player BACK to the car over an inch of ice and through a ditch, terrified of dropping it the whole time.

    So I was REALLY grateful for that DVD player, and we retired it with honors only a couple years ago.

    (And no, in retrospect, I am not sure why he didn’t just leave the DVD player and bring the car over to pick it up, and neither is he. Which makes it all even funnier.)

  81. Let’s see…worst…you know, I thought all the people invited to my bridal shower might know a couple of basic things about me. You know, like the fact that I have a severe lifelong phobia of fire so intense I literally cannot light a match without breaking out in hysterical tears and hurling the match away from me in a manner calculated to be later identified as ‘arson’, or maybe the fact that most scented products make me gag, choke, and – if kept too close to me for too long – hurl in a much more biological way. What did I get in nearly every package? That’s right! SCENTED CANDLES. Some of them were designed to float in the bathtub.

    Best gift ever, well, that’s a toss up. One friend made an amazing quilt for us as a wedding gift. Every square represents something that matters to one or both of us. In the squares are things like Mr. Twistie’s Renaissance Faire hat, the cat I had when we married, my love of things Scottish, references to The Beatles and to songs Mr. Twistie wrote for his band…it’s just gorgeous and entirely personal. A year later, she gave us a matching pillow of a hand doing a Vulcan salute, in honor of the fact we’re both rabid Trekkies.

    The other one was far less elaborate, but possibly the single most touching thing anyone has ever done for me. In my late teens and early twenties, I used to babysit a little boy called Ben. He was a wonderful kid. When I turned 21, he remembered my birthday all by himself and presented me with a picture of a stegasaurus he’d drawn and thirty-seven cents. To this day I still have the drawing. As for the thirty-seven cents, they stay with the drawing. I don’t care how broke I am, I will never spend them. Most of all, I remember how proud he was that he’d remembered the day without any hints from anyone.

    I adored that kid.

  82. Worst gift: Aunt in Law had a habit of sending Christmas cards with clipped coupons for bizarre groceries and cleaning supplies. My theory is that she was a compulsive clipper, and stuffed all of the ones she knew she’d never use into cards to convince herself they’d get used.

    Best Gift: My Other half gave me a full salmon fillet for valentines day. He knew me well enough to know I didn’t want flowers (they die) or jewelry (I just don’t wear any) or any of the other “traditional romantic presents”. But his Kitty does love some baked salmon.

    Best Christmas Gift: All the way through high school, my Mom gave me Broadway Series season tickets, front row center of the balcony. I got a set of two, and could take anyone I wanted, and she’d provide transportation and/or company depending on which of my friends might or might not want to go to a show.

    And minervakoening: I also don’t celebrate a religious holiday at this time of year, but I also see no way to tie “a fat man in a red suit driving a flying sled pulled by midget ruminants to give presents to small children” into any religion. I’ve always considered it a cultural family holiday, alongside Thanksgiving. Doesn’t get you out of the whole consumerist thing, but it does nicely divorce it from religion, even if I do call the winter holiday Christmas (just because my childhood memories call it that).

  83. My mom and her brother have made the best present out of the worst.

    They have been passing the same rectangular prism of fruitcake back and forth for at least 20 years. They’ve put it in beautiful holiday tins, put it in the bed of a toy pick-up truck, wrapped it in homespun tea towels, hidden it among home-baked cookies, and camouflaged it in other entertaining or useful ways.

    One year after mom received the fruitcake for Christmas, my uncle gave my mom a fruitcake disposal kit with respirator, gloves, and metal trash can for her birthday in January.

  84. I’ve been lucky enough to receive some lovely gifts over the years. And I seem to be unusual in actually liking scented candles and bath products so *bad* gifts have tended to be things like Dan Brown books or ornaments which don’t match my taste at all. There was one pair of especially expensive earrings from my husband which I tactfully professed to love and which I still wear on * special* occasions despite the fact they weigh a ton and aren’t my style at all. I was able to head him off at the pass when he mentioned that I’d be getting the matching necklace for my Birthday by telling him that I only ever wore the cross and chain my Grandfather bought me so the necklace would be wasted. I did pennance by only wearing the cross and chain till I thought the danger had passed and I could get my necklace collection out again :)

    Best gift in terms of thoughtfulness was 25 Christmases ago. I was 23 and had recently married a second hand man and aquired an instant family of two young stepdaughters. Financially things were tough and my husband and I were both working two jobs to make ends meet. My best friend’s mother presented me with a basket containing a big tin of coffee, a whole ham, and a home made Christmas cake. The thoughtfulness of this gift bowled me over ! That same Christmas my employers at the second job which I had only started a couple of weeks before ( tending bar in a local restaurant) gave me a bag of chocolate coins. I was touched that they’d given me a gift at all as I was a very new, very part time worker. When I went to hang them on the tree I noticed the bag was rather heavy and found that real £1 coins were mixed with the chocolate ones.. twenty of them… and £20 was a lot of money in 1984! Those people are no longer my employers but we became very good friends and have stayed so ever since and I often tell them how much that gesture meant to me.

    Best gift ever?

    A polaroid photo of a scan of a blob which was how I learned last Christmas that our third grandchild was on the way :)

  85. My sister – who thinks I am weird for playing WoW, that I would be better off meeting “real” people and that I am “too old to be playing make believe” – bought me a talking murloc doll last year for christmas.

    I love it and I love her even though she is incredibly pushy and annoying most of the time.

  86. I think I must be the only person who loves to get candles as gifts. So long as they aren’t flowery, they are welcome in my house. I know they are a generic gift but I like them anyway.

    Snarky, I think you need to post a picture of your Black Jesus painting if you still have it. That would be a lovely holiday gift for all the Shapelings.

    The posts regarding bad crafts reminded me of this site: http://www.regretsy.com

    My worst gift: my boyfriend knew I wanted to go on a balloon ride but instead of paying for it, the cheap-ass gave me a $75 money order that was made out to the balloon company and was only a partial payment for the ride. Basically, I would have had to come up with the other $150.

  87. My ex and his family are ridiculously bad gift givers. These are people who knew me for years and continued to give me potpourri simmerers and color in felt painting things that they sell at the dollar store. They also bought weird gifts for my daughter when she was little – makeup kits and nail polish for a three year old? Bad idea. My stepfather isn’t great at it, either. When I was 16, he gave me the novelizations of Good Burger and Mrs. Doubtfire. Yeah.

    And I hate secret Santa. Even when the rules are to stipulate three things that you’d like, I always get something completely off the wall and completely unrelated to anything I asked for.

    As for the best, my best friend made a hobby horse for my daughter when she was three. Made it. :D The gifts I’ve given that’s gotten the best reaction were Rock Band for my husband last year and the Wii for my daughter this year (she got it early because she’ll be with her dad). I scrimped and saved and worked countless hours of overtime, but it was worth it to see how happy they were and how much fun we’ve all had since then.

  88. Coco,
    Potentially. Or maybe they have the same crazy manicurist who insists on selling them random crap that no one actually wants?

    What is with the obsession with total crap gifts? Frankly I’d rather have nothing than something I have to find a way to get rid of.

  89. Best gift: Gorgeous color editition of Ernst Haeckel’s “Art Forms in Nature.” i want to eat every page. The giver “wrapped” it in a cute vintage suitcase filled with paper cranes she had folded herself. UNGH SOOO PRETTY. Yay for creativity!

    Worst gift: also Yankee Candles.

  90. The ‘huff huff’ was her version of the sound lionesses use to call their cubs.

    OMG, how sweet is that?

    My MIL is another one of those people with no talent for gift-giving, but she loves to shop, so she gives gifts, oh yes she does. I think she finally realized I’m not interested in clothes with cute pictures of cats (although I expect the dish towels and other tchotchkes with cute pictures of cats will keep coming) and now she knows I don’t wear pink, or aqua blue, or yellow, or anything but black and gray and brown really.

    However, MIL’s saving grace is that she’s genuinely generous and wants to make people happy, and sometimes she really hits paydirt in ways I never would have thought of. The first holiday season I celebrated with their family, she gave me one of those small Rubbermaid tubs crammed with acrylic paints and brushes. It was fantastic because I loved to paint at the time but often lacked the budget for many paint colors and new brushes. That tub of supplies saw me through several years and is responsible for some of my favorite projects.

    One of the worst gifts ever had to be the year my sister’s family and my family were both on a very tight budget. I spent a lot of time and energy making several kinds of cookies and packing them in a tin from the Goodwill that wasn’t cheesy or ugly or anything. She gave me a package of 2 tiny nonstick mini bread pans, from WalMart or the dollar store. She’d been in my kitchen countless times and could not have escaped noticing that I never use nonstick anything.

    The year I was pregnant with my daughter (and again we were pretty poor) and my husband gave me Ina May Gaskin’s Guide To Childbirth was a good one too.

  91. Oh goodness, I just remembered the best/worst gift ever! My MIL is a souvenier person -whenever she travels, she has to get something for everyone. She went to London a couple of years ago and brought back t-shirts for everyone. Most of them have the flag on them (and in my family, that will bring on Eddie Izzard routines) but mine was different. It had a picture of the British Isles on it surrounded by what looked like stars and it said “Everyone loves England.” When I got it home and unwrapped it, what I thought were stars were actually SPERM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

  92. oh wait, worst gift: my baby-sitter gave me tan-colored, sheer nylon stockings for my 7th birthday. i was still wearing pink tights and did not really grasp that kind of humor yet. Awkward.

  93. I should add that my MIL is a prim and proper strict Catholic. So she mustn’t have realized – she just picked a shirt in my size.

  94. My dad has been responsible for my best gifts; in terms of physical awesomeness, my laptop a few years ago, and a Rainbow Brite bike when I was wee. Also, the year before the laptop, he got me a gift set from Bath and Body Works with the standard stuff and a little satin purse in it, and made a point of emphasizing that he had gotten it for me when we were opening presents. My mom, who always does the majority of the gift-buying for the family, explained to me later that since he didn’t know about the 2 concert tickets that she had gotten me (attending said concerts involved a very long road trip with friends, one of those things that he highly disapproved of even though I was 24 at the time, so we agreed not to tell him about them) he thought that I was not getting adequate gifts compared to my brother, so he braved the mall two days before Christmas to buy that for me himself. He even got a scent that I’m not allergic to. *sniffle*

    My former in-laws set new standards for bad gifts: clothing that I would never, ever wear in colors that made me look dead, a giant freaking shiny coat that looked like it came from the early 90′s, stuff that my SIL had obviously gotten from the Sears final clearance bin with her employee discount just because it was there, and piles and piles of bath stuff that I couldn’t use due to allergies (see above for doing it right) and stupid little toys from the dollar store. I desperately wanted to tell my MIL (who was responsible for most of it) to forget about the abundance of crap and get me just. one. thing. that I wouldn’t have to return or feel guilty about throwing away. Quantity =\= quality in this case. For the past almost two years I’ve given thanks at every major holiday for not having to deal with them any more!

  95. Best gift ever: Valentine’s Day, right after we moved to Boston, my husband got me a snowshovel! He even put a big red bow on it, and he never wraps gifts. Perhaps I should mention that the week before, I had gotten stuck at work in a snowstorm that dropped something like 15 inches in the 6 hours I was there.

  96. I think the worst gift I ever got was this terrible necklace from my aunt — it’s purple plastic beads with little plastic silver bells, and there’s something wrong with it so it never lies flat. my aunt usually has impeccable taste, but this thing is so astonishingly ugly I don’t know what to do with it. And yet, I still have it.

    There’s a few “best gifts” I’ve gotten over the years:

    My mom bought me a copy of “I’ll Love You Forever,” when I was 20. It was one of my favourite books when I was little, and I about cried when I opened it and saw it. I’m sure she got me something else that year, but I don’t remember. The book was the best present.

    Two years ago, she got me a massive baking cookbook that I’d admired when I was visiting. She was really worried that I wouldn’t like it, or would think it was a lame gift. It’s still my go-to book whenever I want to bake anything. It’s worth mentioning that I *love* baking.

    My grandmother took me to Montreal when I turned 9. That was pretty awesome. I’d never been anywhere before, really.

    My other grandmother, my dad’s mom, made me a beautiful pearl necklace when I graduated from high school. It was one of the few graduation gifts I received, and it’s pretty and classic and it incredibly special to me, especially since she passed away two years ago.

  97. Oh man, “This Party Just Took a Turn for the Douche” is amazing and hilarious.

    And I think the best gift I’ve gotten ever was my now-husbands birthday gift to me last year: a copy of “Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman which we proceeded to read aloud to each other and a textbook on theory and technique of confectionery. As a chemist who cooks, this was AWESOME.

    The worst gift that I can remember was probably the baby blanket we received at our engagement party. I’m not sure it was intended to be a baby blanket, but it was certainly too small for either of us! And no babies. Noooooo babies.

  98. MADE you a pearl necklace? That really rocks. May I never ruin that idea by trying it myself, with my own “loving hands at home!”

  99. The absolute worst gift ever was from my husband’s uncle the first Christmas after we were married – it was a book titled something like “Basic anatomy for lovers”. Quite apart from the embarrassment quotient of such a gift at a family Christmas, my hubby and I are both *doctors* so I resent the implication that neither of us has mastered “basic anatomy”. Unless this was meant to be a more subtle version of MIL’s “why aren’t you pregnant yet?” speech… That book went directly into the paper recycling – I didn’t even look at the pictures…

    Most mystefying gift was the year my parents gave me a hairdryer. I’ve never blow-dried my hair in my life. It wasn’t until my sister “borrowed” it that I realized it was another case of mistaken identity with my evil twin. Although to be fair that was the *only* time my parents mixed us up (apart from over the phone which is impossible to tell).

  100. The Lifetime Achievement Award for terrible gifts goes to my cousin who decided one year that my totem animal was the flamingo. Every year, flamingo toys, ornaments, and even candles. Except for the year of the plastic wind-up penguin toy that pooped candy. The whole Xmas package from her branch of the family is life a great big box of WTF, and it’s all on her because I know she does the Christmas shopping. Her dad’s idea of a good present is a package of sponges (in their cellophane, no wrapping paper) from the company he works for. But at least the sponges will be used.

    Best gifts… hard to say. Mostly, what I remember more than the object is my connection with the giver. I am feeling a litle overwhelmed at the mo because I changed careers this year to a job where I am actually receiving gifts from clients and these gifts are AWESOME. Like, box full of BARS of Equal Exchange chocolates awesome. Or a really excellent pair of thick wool argyle socks. I think socks are always a good present.

    On gifting in these our troubled modern times: my immediate family has done cheapo christmas for years now, and recently downgraded to a secret-santa gift exchange rather than having to find the perfect piece of crap for everyone. And that’s fine. BUT. My birthday is coming soon after Christmas, and for his birthday this year my brother got an excellent DeWalt drill and a table saw. I already have a drill and have no table where I could put a saw, but let’s just say the precedent is intriguing.

  101. Actually, another thought for bad gifts, though the actual gifts weren’t bad, it was the process. When I was little and say, wanted a camera, my mother would frequently convince me that I should take her used camera/gadget/whatever thing I wanted, so she could have an excuse to buy herself a new one. I remember realizing that it was completely illogical, but just wanting a surprise gift of my own, that wasn’t a hand-me-down from my mother in the guise of her actually wanting something shiny and new for herself. I have a great relationship with my mom and I love her dearly…but this always put a bitter taste in my mouth. I don’t know if I’m crazy or what. But it always drove me nuts.

  102. On the subject of generic “I bought you a thing! And wrapped it!” lotion sets: this kind of gift is especially tragic to me because I am a bath product ho’. I LOVE handmade soap, lotion and all kinds of decadent bath and beauty products, so receiving the TJ Maxx markdown special is always a bitter so-close-and-yet-so-far-away experience for me.

    The worst part of it is how shamelessly willing I am to yap endlessly about my favorite bath and beauty companies, the scents I like and so forth, so it’s not like there’s a lack of information about what kind of lotion I would actually be thrilled to get.

  103. MADE you a pearl necklace? That really rocks. May I never ruin that idea by trying it myself, with my own “loving hands at home!”

    Yeah… she made jewelry (mostly rosaries, actually) professionally. The results could be scary otherwise, god knows I’d never try it. My half-complete rosary is in a box somewhere, I’d really like to find it, and I’m an atheist.

  104. “MADE you a pearl necklace?”

    That’s so thoughtful. But also highlights how important it is to know the gift-recipient. My tummy took a tumble when I read it — what would I do if someone put that much time and effort and expense into making something like that for me, not knowing that I’m vegan, or not recognizing that pearls aren’t vegan? I’ve been lucky that my mum’s pretty pro-active in guiding family members about gifts I wouldn’t use; I’ve only received a couple of leather/wool/ silk items in my memory, and it’s hard to even fake enthusiasm over gifts that offend me ethically. My Amazon Wishlist is public for a reason, folks.

  105. For my birthday, ONE MONTH after we were married, my (now ex-)husband bought me… lingerie? chocolate? even the rather generic scented bath products? Oh, no, a video game. Which, uh, I don’t play, and never have — but he sure spent plenty of time with it.

    I love the gifts from people who sort of get what you’re into, but not quite — my grandmother often gets me items that are LIKE a specific thing I collect, but not actually that thing, and my ex-MIL likes to buy me supplies for knitting, which I do, but things that are suitable for beginners, whereas I knit intricate lace and fitted sweaters of my own design and publish my own patterns for which I get paid and DO NOT DO garter-stitch scarves in novelty yarns on plastic needles, thanks anyway. But at least she knows I knit, and doesn’t buy me crochet supplies, not that the senior center wouldn’t be happy to have those also.

    I did have one Christmas that managed to be both charming and horrific. When I was a teenager, one year my step-dad got the idea to do 12 days of Christmas — so we got 1 thing the first night, a set of 2 things the second night, and so on. And some of them were lovely and thoughtful and really suitable; for instance, 10 for me was 8 antique pen nibs, one holder into which they fit, and a bottle of ink, and since I was really into calligraphy, that was awesome. The worst, though, was 7 — I got 7 pairs of cheap-ass white cotton socks, which was achieved by ripping open a package of 8 and removing one. WOO, let me contain my excitement. I’d have rather he said, “You know what, I couldn’t think of anything for seven,” and just skipped it.

  106. @ spoonfork38: I have no idea what happened to the little bassoon. She gave it to me like 8 or 10 years ago, and it sat in my closet at my parents’ house for years. All my stuff has been moved out now, so the bassoon is probably languishing at a thrift store. Sorry!

  107. @Vidya108 – thanks for that heads-up! My cousin is vegan and while I know about leather and wool, silk or pearls just never would have occurred to me as a problem for her!

  108. I must be one of the only people here who really relishes handmade gifts – but that’s because most of my friends are professional artists or craftspersons. With this in mind, best presents evar:-

    Two hand-decorated bowls for my 40th – one with forty tiny leaves painted on the inside; the other featuring forty tiny fish.

    A sea-themed mobile made by my BFF including a representation of me as a mermaid.

    A handknitted Clanger. (This will, I’m sure, only resonate with UK Shapelings, but resonate, it will).

    Also, many years ago my oldest friend secretly took measurements and copied the pattern of one of my favourite dresses, then reproduced it in the most amazing 1950s fabric. I wore it till it fell apart.

    My 12” Spike action figure. (Not handmade, but seriously great as gifts go).

    Best present I ever bought for somebody else was undoubtedly the Singing Sam’s Shower Kit® I purchased for my late father, an inveterate bathroom crooner with a fondness for showtunes and a habit of forgeting the lyrics and improvising nonsense ones. The kit featured a suction cup hook you stuck on the shower tiles and a bunch of waterproof lyric sheets to hang on it. He never murdered Oh What A Beautiful Mornin’ again.

    My worst presents came in a job lot. Because I’m a pisces and like shells and mermaids and shit, my loved ones used to make a point of giving me only aquatically-themed prezzies. It was cute for the first five years but eventually it went a bit pear-shaped. It happened like this: as a jokey housewarming gift my mum gave me a large-ish kitsch multicoloured glass fish she’d scored at a car boot sale; it looked vaguely Venetian and 1950s in the manner of those awful glass clowns. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/buttercuprocks/4206835711/), though it was a piece of modern English tat. Still, I thought it was fun and welcomed it into my new home. But then a friend, deciding I must love it to bits, bought me another just like it but in blue. Meanwhile, a business colleague, not to be outdone, bought me another … I kid you not it was the size of an actual pike. Furthermore, iIt made Big Mouth Billy Bass look classy. Since all these folks were a) lovely and well meaning and b) regular visitors to my home, I felt I had no choice but to have them all out on display. (Imagine, if you will, the top of your otherwise tastefull wall unit morphing into a glass nightmare version of SeaWorld). That Christmas, came the straw that broke the camel’s back from yet more friends … another multicoloured glass fish, this time perched on its tail on the edge of a huge ugly-arsed ashtray. (I don’t even smoke).

    Man was I glad when I moved to a smaller flat and could have a clear out of all those things I “regretably no longer had room for”.

  109. De-lurking for a moment.

    Worst present ever: A small tray with an elephant design on it. Made memorably bad by my aunt saying “I just saw it and it immediately put me in mind of you.” Charitably, she meant the design would match the colours of my house, but coming from a lifelong diet advocate…

    Best present ever: A silver locket my parents gave me when I was 12 that I still wear at least once a week. (And am wearing at the moment.)

  110. Worst gift ever came from my own sister this year – she sent us three individually wrapped ….. pickles. They weren’t even very good. I have NO idea what made her think this was a good idea. It cost her more to ship them across the country than it cost to buy them. Her anniversary is in February – guess what I’m regifting?

  111. My husband’s parents, who told him two weeks before our wedding that not only were they not coming but that he shouldn’t marry me, just this weekend when we went for our mandatory visit that cost us $500 in plane tickets and which we spent cleaning their garage and refrigerator and doing other chores, gave us a framed photo of themselves.

  112. Handmade gifts are lovely, but gifts made by the hands of hell making gratuitous use of craft store Popsicle sticks, felt, and googely eye embellishments are not welcomed, unless made by a child under 10.

    I love when my friends make me things. I have one especially talented jewelry making friend who took a dinner fork and bent that bad boy into a glorious ring. Ten years later I am still loving the fuck out of that ring.

    I mean, I definitely make things for people, but I realize that I am going to need to compensate with at least an iTunes gift card or a DVD to make my hit or missed crafts work.

    I don’t need or desire ceramic “prayer hands”, chipped dishes from HomeGoods, ornate ugly ass candelabras, and if I see a box with the words “Things Remembered” coming towards I shudder*.

    *with the notable exception of the bad ass Art Deco-ish crystal jewelry box my sister gave me a couple of years ago. It’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t buy for myself, but often long to have.

  113. @Elizabby – There a quite a number of things that non-vegan gifters can overlook — many candles and soaps (tallow), some fine china (bone), jewelry or other items with shells or mother-of-pearl insets, and bath and beauty products not listed as having ‘no animal ingredients’ and ‘not tested on animals’.

  114. Best gift I ever got? Last year, my heart dog of 16 years passed away. It was not unexpected, but it still hurt like hell to lose her. Several months after her passing, my dog groomer presented me with an ornament she made: A hollow glass heart filled with my sweetie’s hair–she had saved some of the hair from my girl’s last grooming (not knowing it would be her last, but knowing that it would be coming sooner rather than later), tucked it away, and then made the ornament and gave it to me as an absolute surprise. It touched me more than I could/can say.

  115. Best gifts: a sewing machine (last Christmas) and a Kindle (last birthday). Both were from my parents and I use them constantly. I can’t even think of any terrible gifts I’ve gotten– I tend to be a really anxious gift-giver, so I feel intense secondhand embarrassment when people give bad gifts. I feel so guilty and sad for the giver that I just block it out of my mind entirely. I’m sure that’s not the best solution, but UGH I HATE CHRISTMAS. So much pressure!

  116. How many other people have “THE GIFT” that keeps getting passed around? My dad’s family has an incredibly ugly candle that goes from one person to another each year. The rule is that if you open it, you have to keep it until next year. If you figure it out and don’t open it, the giver has to keep it again. The packaging and labels get somewhat creative to hide the contents, and sometimes it makes a surprise appearance at a birthday just to shake things up.

  117. My MIL is hit-or-miss in the store-bought gift department (or was, until she discovered my love of See’s cocoanut milk choclolates *grin*) but frickin’ AWESOME with regifted stuff from her stash of four (count ‘em) four 10′ x 10′ storage units. I’ve gotten great stuff like old but prisitne Breyer horses and out of print books about mid-century designers (Charles and Ray Eames, YAY!!) She was hesitant about the re-gifting, but after much reassuring from my DH, doesn’t hesitate any more.

    A bit OT, but I was at the grocery store earlier today and saw that they still sell those LifeSavers Sweet Story books. Boy, did THAT take me back! I so wanted to get that as a gift in our little elementary school gift exchanges, but did I? NO. I think I’d still be tickled if I did score one as a gift (40 years after the fact) today.

  118. This thread is awesome, I suspect I will be checking back regularly as the holidays progress!

    The worst gift I ever received for Christmas was a silver plated gum ball dispenser. No, really. I do not eat gum balls. Not even as a small child did I like gum balls. For a few years I kept it to fill with peanut M &Ms and bring out at parties, but then it “broke” while I was moving. It wasn’t missed.

  119. How many other people have “THE GIFT” that keeps getting passed around?

    My aunt and a friend of hers had a pink lawn flamingo that went back and forth for eons… it ended up shredded and in a bottle of cheap wine, I believe.

  120. “Best gift: Gorgeous color editition of Ernst Haeckel’s “Art Forms in Nature.””

    OMG, that *would* be the best. gift. ever.

  121. How many other people have “THE GIFT” that keeps getting passed around?

    We had three in our family – a plastic cheesy-ass gondola purchased in Venice, Italy; a black velvet painting of a matador that I got at a church rummage sale; and a papier mache sculpture/bas relief/whatinthehell of…the Last Supper. Originally purchased gleefully by a Catholic priest with a huge love of kitsch.

    One of the best gifts I got because it was a complete surprise – my sister was a gamer and went with me to see Russell Crowe and his band at the House of Blues in Chicago in ’02, I think it was. She had a friend who knew the house photographer at the HOB and she got me two 8 X 10 color photos of Russell on stage and I damn near died with glee.

  122. The best gift I recieved was an ipod from my Dad in a year we couldn’t afford it. He bought a refurbished one, though, and packed the package it with a bag of popcorn kernels to confuse me.

    When I was 14 on the swimteam I asked my grandmother, who is great at sewing, for a “T shirt shaped swimming coverup made from 2 towels”. she made me a coverup from two towels but the body was like a cape made from a huge towel, with the second towel like a tall, scratchy cowl neck. And I wore it after swimming 5 days per week anyway, since it was better than a bathrobe.

  123. “How many other people have “THE GIFT” that keeps getting passed around?” In my family it is a pair of plastic poinsettia clip on earrings purchased at a church craft sale for my great grandmother by my great grandfather. But part of the gift is that you must not lose it, so it has never been given to me since I live in a dorm and might not care for it properly.

  124. Ok, y’all: I LOVE Yankee Candles, but have never bought one because I can’t fathom spending $22-25 on one of those big jars (they are NOT cheap)! Blueberry scented? I would LOVE TO GET THAT!!!!!!!!!! Ok, seriously, I had better get some re-gifting packages in the mail soon, from you underappreciative Shaplings :P

  125. Annitspurple:

    Oh my goodness. Actually, I ended up giving the aforementioned candle to a Domina who used it to kill the stink of her sweaty clients. :)

    Seriously we should do a swap. I mean I know I have things that other people would like and some of the things mentioned here sound like stuff I’d like to get. Though I can’t recall one off the top of my head.

  126. Okay, I’m cracking up at some of these.

    Worst Christmas gift in recent memory: a set of satin-covered hangers from one of the husband’s relatives. They’re nice enough, and I use them, but the way the gift was given, I could tell that the giver had an “oh shit, I need another present! Quick, what’s in the closet that I can wrap?” moment. She really needn’t have bothered, as I wouldn’t have been offended if she hadn’t given anything. It was embarrassing to have to open the hangers and act excited about them.

    Best gift: my parents-in-law gave me a pair of lovely earrings one year. I wear them several times per week. I think I’ve got them in now. They’re solid white gold hoops, very pretty but not so fancy that they look out of place with jeans and a T-shirt.

  127. Oh- and the husband’s employer throws a big holiday party each year, complete with white elephant gift exchange. Last year we came home with the As-Seen-On-TV Pancake Puff pan. Good lord, that thing is heavy. You could kill intruders with it. And it’s getting wrapped up this year and going right back to the holiday party.

  128. Traditionally the worst, turned out to be the best: a toaster from my husband.

    For some reason it is outside the realm of current technology to develop a decent reliable toaster. My parents have had the same simple “magic toaster” for 50 years. You drop the toast in, it magically lowers, then voila! Perfect toast 2 minutes later. We’ve gone through 3 not-cheapest ones in 14 years. I was on the verge of replacing yet another crappy toaster last fall when my husband told me not to buy one just yet. I tartly replied that “a toaster is not an appropriate Christmas gift for your wife,” imagining some godawful $300 monster that would fail spectacularly in 8 months, after which he would whine about all the research time and effort he put into it.

    Nope. He found us an original, shiny, very slightly used 50-year-old “magic toaster”. It works perfectly, consistently, every time. I smile every time I look at it, between the nostalgia and the fact that it actually works, I could not be more pleased.

  129. I’ve been lucky enough to have several gifts that stand out in my mind:

    Last Christmas: My best friend gave me a silver ornament of a girl with wings (I know, you’re thinking, isn’t that an angel? but I think of her more as a soul because…), on it is the quote, “Whatever souls are made of, yours and mine are the same.” When I opened it, my heart felt like it would burst. I look at it whenever I need to be reminded that I am loved and not alone.

    When I was about nine: My grandma and grandpa bought me a Sega Genesis. I was sick that Christmas, but in the picture I’m beaming from ear to ear. It was what I wanted most and I played it to death.

    When I was a teenager: A friend, after hearing me talk about my love of Sega, went out and found an old Genesis system and gave it to me as a gift.

    When I was a lil one: My parents gave me tickets to see my first Broadway show, The Secret Garden, which was one of my favorite books as a child. I can still remember going with my dad and listening to the soundtrack over and over again.

    Also, a few Christmases ago, my sister gave me the complete boxed set of the series Queer as Folk, which I love.

    I’m told that I give good presents, and I really do try to think about what the gift-getter would want. I’d say the best gift I ever pulled off was getting my sister tickets to see Billy Joel in concert. I haunted her for a month about this great gift I got her and then, on Christmas, I let her open it to find…a pair of animal slippers. She oohed and aahed over them, not wanting to hurt my feelings but clearly wondering what was so special about them. She slipped them on right away and inside discovered the tickets.

    Worst gifts? I don’t really have a list, but anything from my nanny usually was pretty awful. She had a lot of money, but she was incredibly cheap. This would have been fine if she had gotten us gifts that were inexpensive and useful or thoughtful, but she never did. She often gave us clothes, in the wrong sizes and styles we would never wear, dollar store toys and games, those old-lady style handbags, or individually wrapped tolietries like powder and hand cream.

  130. @snarkysmachine: Not sure if you’ve tried it already or if this is a useful suggestion for your toast problem, but I’ve found I’ve had much better luck with toaster/convection ovens than push down toasters. They are the only things I’ve ever had that didn’t have that its-either-bread-or-charcoal thing going for it.

  131. One recent awful gift was a synthetic material fringed blanket with howling wolves on it fro my bro in law. I am so incredibly not the howling wold type of woman. That went right to Goodwill.

    When I was a very young teen, my great aunt bought me a fake Louis Vuitton bag. I squealed when I opened it – only to be informed in front of my whole family that I shouldn’t be so excited because it was a fake. So, burst my bubble twice in a minute? I would have used it if she didn’t point out how fucking fake it was, but i couldn’t after that. I don’t know what ever happened to it.

    Best gifts? A big copper whale weathervane made by an artist in CT. Fucking. Awesome.

    And hubby bought me a red plywood Eames elephant. Squeeeeeeee!

  132. The Hello Kitty toaster that my friends got me last year from Target actually makes perfectly non-burnt toast and bagels. I’m fairly sure they have them every year at Christmas, if you don’t mind the blatant Kittyness. I put it firmly in the Awesome Gift category.

  133. Does anyone else have the family tradition of bad gifts that are amazing? I come from a very irreligious family, so we have a habit of buying tacky religious kitsch items. The “feud” between one of my aunts and my parents is probably the best, though. The charmingly lovely gifts have included numerous prayer candles with Jesus and/or the Virgin Mary on them, a stamp to put the Virgin Mary on your toast, a Jesus frying pan, a clock featuring Elvis, Jesus and a screaming eagle, and my personal favourite, a 2-foot-tall statue of Jesus on the cross, complete with fiber-optic lights! The rules of this game are that you must keep all gifts you receive (at least until you move and “don’t have room for them”), but you also must attempt to find an even more ridiculous religious-themed gift to give back.

  134. Alix, I have a good friend who is a devout Catholic with a really sick sense of humor about religion. It’s a great combination. Over the years he’s really enjoyed and sometimes gotten use out of such goodies as the set of Nun-chucks (a little toy gun that shoots nun figures) and the Last Supper Action Figure Set. I will never top that last one.

  135. My worst gift was from my grandmother. It was this wooden chicken paddle thing that had a wooden ball hanging from it. When you swung the ball around, it made all the little chickens’ heads peck the paddle. I know I’m not describing it well, but it was weird. I’ve never had a present from her that didn’t make me wonder what she was thinking.

    I am confused by people who get *upset* by bad gifts. Some people are just crap gift givers, and it doesn’t mean they don’t know or love you. Or maybe they dont, but unless it’s your significant other I still think it’s best to just say thank you and move on. Throw it on the Goodwill pile. (One exception: “helpful” presents like too-small clothes & relationship advice books. Those are worth getting upset over.)

  136. I have a refrigerator magnet with a picture of the Pope and the caption: “Cardinal Ratzinger–Putting the Smackdown on Heresy Since 1963.” That is a favorite gift.

    The best white elephant exchange I ever attended was one in which all the participants brought genuine white elephants gifts–none of this showing up with a box of chocolates nonsense. I left that one with an unused body bag. (Where the hell did one of my English major friends get a body bag?)

    In my personal odd world, body bag trumps scented candle in the white elephant sweepstakes any day of the week. Unless the candle smells like citrus blossom.

  137. this wooden chicken paddle thing that had a wooden ball hanging from it. When you swung the ball around, it made all the little chickens’ heads peck the paddle.

    I love those things.

  138. My ex-fiance’s mom gave me a bracelet that featured bejeweled bees. This might have been a decent gift if their last name hadn’t been Busby (buzz-bee). This was supposed to be the start of my bee collection, because every other woman in the family had a stockpile of bee-themed crap. It wasn’t so much a present as a “welcome to our brainwashed bee cult” induction gift.

    Yeah, so we didn’t get married.

  139. A shiny, bedazzled gold sweater for Christmas from my former mother in law was the worst gift ever. I’m a goth. I don’t even wear gold jewelry.

    Of course it was also boxy, made of some sort of wierd scratchy synthetic material, the wrong size, and so short it didn’t reach my waist. Which is odd since I’m under 5ft3. I really have no idea where she found that thing.

  140. Possibly all mothers-in-law have distorted perceptions of size. Mine used to give me slightly-too-small clothing every darn time. I always figured it was her way of giving me crap for being short.

  141. Best gift ever: one year, DH–then boyfriend–bought me a sewing machine. I’ve always been a heavy crafter, and he thought it was silly that I didn’t have one, so he bought me one. Meanwhile, I was at home hand-sewing his gift: a Mr. T sock monkey complete with jean jacket and mohawk. It was the first of many “he’s the one” moments in our relationship. We’re having Christmas at home tomorrow, and then traveling, and I’m looking forward to seeing how thoughtful he was this year.

    Worst gifts: my mom’s wife is permanently disabled and thus does all the shopping for Christmas. Sometimes, I get the feeling she buys things just because it might be fun to buy them–like the year she got me a set of footie pajamas made of polar fleece when I live in the Central Valley of California and can hardly bear to sleep in any clothes period, or when she bought my sister a Magic Bullet blender set–and one year, my mom even apologized to me about the gifts. I figure, we’re the only kids she’s ever had–what do I care if she buys me something I won’t use? At least she had fun.

    I make most of my Christmas presents, and this year is no exception, but the crafts have been scaled back a bit to candy and cookies as I’ve less time and sanity than usual.

    Holiday cheer to you all, and good presents to boot!

  142. All this talk of toast being either non-toasty or totally burnt is putting me in mind of Eddie Izzard and turny-buttons.

  143. I am confused by people who get *upset* by bad gifts. Some people are just crap gift givers, and it doesn’t mean they don’t know or love you. Or maybe they dont, but unless it’s your significant other I still think it’s best to just say thank you and move on. Throw it on the Goodwill pile. (One exception: “helpful” presents like too-small clothes & relationship advice books. Those are worth getting upset over.)

    The problem I have with bad gifts is many times (as someone pointed out with Yankee Candles) they aren’t exactly inexpensive. Also, I want to make a trip to Goodwill due to someone else’s fail. But then I don’t like surprises generally, which possibly adds to the annoyance I feel receiving a gorgeously wrapped set of stinky bath products.

    The one gift I want and someday hope to liberate from my parents’ bedroom is this framed mural thingie that lights up and makes waterfall noises. I think you can get them at swap meets and novelty stores. My father adores it in an non ironic way and my mother tolerates it. But I love that damn thing even though it’s cheesy.

  144. I have a refrigerator magnet with a picture of the Pope and the caption: “Cardinal Ratzinger–Putting the Smackdown on Heresy Since 1963.” That is a favorite gift.

    Oh man, I want it! :)

  145. Best gift ever? When we were little ‘uns, we lived in a street with pretty much all boys, who wouldn’t let me play with them as my bike wasn’t a BMX and therefore couldn’t handle the ramps etc that they built and spent HOURS riding over.

    One year, Dad took my older brother and I to the bike shop to see which one we would like ‘Father Christmas’ to bring us.

    Bro was in love with this computer bike thing – it had a little screen on the cross bar, and i think it may have also been able to do calculations for you (as y’know, who doesn’t want to do a bit of maths while popping wheelies?). Dad tried, but couldn’t convince bro to even look at any others. In the end, bro packed a wobbly and stormed out, shouting that if he couldn’t have a hover skateboard or a computer bike then he wouldn’t have anything (Dad was so mad and embarrassed it was only Mum’s intervention that stopped brother dearest getting lumps of coal that year).

    I chose an awesome silver and red peugot(?) BMX btw. Bro got star wars pajamas.

    Christmas morning, there was my BMX in all it’s shiny sliver glory – and the best part was that now they had to let me play with them whether they liked it or not. Heh!

    Last year, I found a photo of the fabled computer bike online, and photoshopped my daughter into the picture, then framed and sent it to bro as a birthday present. He didn’t say much, but sent back a lump of wood and a brick so i could make a ramp.

  146. One of my aunts once gave me a glass container of potpourri. I instantly said with a complete lack of guile, “Does my room smell bad?”

    But the best bad gifts that I’ve seen are the ones that my in-laws get from the rednecks who work for them. (I live in Oklahoma. They are rednecks. They are also very nice people who give very misguided gifts to their employers.) I have never seen such endless parades of food combination kits, nor smelled so many terrible bath set perfumes before this; it is one of the highlights of Christmas, seeing just how bad these presents can get. But, still battling each other for dominance for Most Memorable and Horrifying, are the giant Nativity scene made of I-don’t-know-what (fake plaster?) with a black and a white person for each character that clearly did not come from a smoke-free home, or the giant dream-catcher with an also-fake-plaster Native American with a headdress and bulging eyes attached to the center that came from a woman who claimed to be “one and one quarter” Native American.

  147. Worst presents: a garage door opener, and lotion (I hate lotion). On a slight tangent, I am still bitter about the year they had Christmas without me (I had to work that day).

  148. I have just acquired a free corporate logo Snuggie and can’t wait to give it to my brother as a gag gift;-)

    Hehe. What’s the logo? What I love is all the crap that shows up at thrift stores featuring the logos for medications. I was compelled to torture a friend of mine by giving him a nylon CD-carrier thing advertising a cure for vaginal yeast infections. I also love the ‘Zoloft’ clock, which, in spite of being battery-powered, tick-tocks very loudly. (Tick. How soon will I feel better? Tock. Six weeks if it works at all. Tick. Fuck! Tock.)

  149. Worst gift: a Precious Moments Prayer Journal. It was a sweet thought by a friend who thought we could keep prayer journals and pray together more… great idea but… Precious Moments? Yeah, not so much.

    Best gift: Long story.

    When I was eight years old, at Thanksgiving, my cousin told me she thought my dad was thinking of getting me a kitten, because she had overheard her mother talking about it.

    I said, “No way, Dad hates cats, he would never get me a kitten.”

    Fast forward a few weeks, and it’s a few days before Christmas. I come home from school, walk upstairs, and there’s a cat sitting in the hallway. In astonishment, I call downstairs, “Dad, there’s a cat in the house!”

    Dad calls back, “Quick, catch it and throw it out!”

    And immediately Mom chimes in, “Don’t listen to him, that’s your kitten. She’s eight months old, and her name is Suzie.”

    My dad hated cats. But he loved me enough to put that aside and get one for me. He helped take care of her until I could manage the full responsibility. He always paid for veterinary bills with no hesitation. And he learned to love Suzie. She loved us all, but Suzie and my dad had a special bond. In the evenings, he would sit in the dad-chair (ratty old Laz-ee-Boy), and brush her until she purred.

    Oh, gosh. I’m getting a little teary eyed. He’s been gone for 20 years, and she’s been gone for 14. I miss them both, this time of year.

  150. I’m going to be a bad gift giver this year. :o I’m so ashamed.

    BUT I have excuses!

    I’m an Americorps (so I make $796 a month)
    I’m traveling back home and my biggest/only suitcase is carry-on sized.

    And thus…. $20 gift cards for everyone!

    Although I still have to buy something for the boy, but since he’s out here and I won’t see him until the 30th I can sneakily wait until after X-mas sales.

    I really hope I wasn’t supposed to buy things for extended family, as I have spent just about all the money I can without having to go into (more) debt. ;_;

  151. Wait, no! Can I take back the Precious Moments Prayer Journal? That was totally not the worst gift ever.

    Worst. Stocking. Stuffer. EVAR: A little book called “Almost Twelve”, the year I was eleven. Little Facts of Life dealie. I was the youngest in my family, so all my siblings had read it before.

    Did I mention, it was in my Christmas stocking?

    Socks and underwear would have been an improvement.

  152. Ooh, Seroquel mug. Hard core. I wonder if it came with matching pillowcases.

    In my briefcase is my spare toothbrush, in a toothbrush-holder advertising ‘Clavamox,’ an antibiotic cocktail specifically branded for veterinary use.

  153. my best present was a tutu for my birthday and it has a little back story to it as well.

    my aunt lisa had put up a bunch of old pictures of facebook, including the following:
    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v116/BrittanyMarie/brittanydesmondtutu2.jpg
    i am the little girl with no tutu. see how sad i am? other people noticed and were commenting that ‘oh poor brittany; she looks just depressed that she doesn’t have one’. i agreed that i look sad and said ‘on april 1st i will be 23. can i have a tutu?”

    on march 20th or so i got that bad boy in the mail. my (other) auntie (she’s the one who made the tutus the twins are wearing in that picture) wrote a sweet note saying she even made it big girl sized too. (she, like me, is also big girl sized)
    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v116/BrittanyMarie/brittanydesmondtutu.jpg

    it has little plastic jewels dangling off and everything. it is so awesome

  154. @Grafton – my favourite medical logo mug is my hubby’s “Test-o-gel” mug. It is the biggest mug in the house and great for soup! Hubby brought it home from work after someone said to him “Takes a very secure man to use a mug advertising testosterone supplements!” ;)

    He also has a “Pfizer” tie and matching boxers with “little blue pills” all over them – yep, that’s Viagra!

    Ah, the joys of medical advertising – half the pens in our house are advertising drugs I’ve never even heard of. I’m a doctor myself but some of this stuff is weird…

  155. Ooh. Testosterone mug. Jealous. Though I think my mug advertising a de-wormer for horses is more appealing. Part of the joy of these pharma giveaway items is that the objects bearing the logos are so often inappropriate. Because, you know, I do totally want to think about yeast infections while picking a CD to listen to in the car, and I want to think about doggie diarrhea when brushing my teeth, and Strongyloides over coffee. I wonder if there is a blog of these items, now.

  156. @grafton: the snuggie is black and has the word “catapult” embroidered on the front pocket. look for them and related corporate logo snuggies at Goodwill stores near you in a few weeks.
    a whole bunch of red gift boxes showed up at work today. they were addressed to business development folks who were laid off last month and are no longer around. All the rest of us have layoff notices for Dec. 31 or Jan 31. Needless to say, morale sucks. After about an hour, half the gift boxes were gone. I grabbed one and took it home and opened it up. There was a card saying “Have a snug holiday”, a box of chocolates, a bottle of port, and a snuggie.
    So yeah, my coworkers and I are a bunch of unrepentant Snuggie thieves. Meanwhile, I still can’t imagine who would think that a corporate logo snuggie would be a good gift, even as a hipster joke The port and chocolate would be more than adequate.

  157. My wife is always coming home with gifts from work that have the company logo on them. She told me that the company gets some sort of extra tax-break if they give their employees crap with the logo on. Often enough it’s stuff with the logo embroidered on in thread the same colour as the fabric, though, so it’s not bad.

    Maybe I’ll look at the thrift stores. Does anybody like snuggies anyway? A few of us neurologically disabled freak-os discovered that our patron saint also protects survivors of rape and women who’ve run away from abuse, so we’ve started buying Goodwill stuff for the women’s shelter if we find something that’s nice-as-new and the right tag-colour for our broke butts, but I am under the impression that the snuggie is tacky regardless?

  158. I feel your office swap pain, SM. When I was teaching in Korea the only males were two of us foreign teachers and the (socially lower than teachers and thus invisible) bus drivers (yeah yeah, WATMz) and all the gifts were quite girly (or else alcohol, oh if only). I gave: $20 gift certificate to Outback Steakhouse. I got: Santaey picture frames and fancy candles. FMXMAS

  159. I try not to dwell on my ex-husband much – he’s not a bad guy, was just a terrible husband – but one Christmas he gave me a textbook on capitalism. Which would be great if I were at all interested, but I’m not, he was. I spent a bunch once on a desk pen that he said he wanted. He spent 10 minutese telling me what could have gotten that he would have liked! Dude, if someone gets you a gift (within reason) the correct response is “Thanks.”

  160. Elizabby,
    You made me think of a character in Beat The Reaper, a prestigious quack doctor whose scrubs are emblazoned with advertising like a NASCAR vehicle, with heart medication patch over his heart, imodium over his tokus, etc.

  161. My boyfriend and I made the “no presents” agreement, and instead have planned for a lovely weekend getaway at the end of January. This past weekend, however, I did show up at his house with mixing bowls and measuring cups. When confronted with the “no presents” reminder, I told him that was my Christmas present to him for me, since I always end up baking when I’m staying with him. He decided that was my equivalent of leaving an extra toothbrush in his bathroom.

    I am terrified that gifts I give will be ill-received. I think I’ve done all right this year, for the most part, but I’m worried that my parents will not enjoy the as-seen-on-TV microwave pasta cooker. However, I am certain that my brother will love his Slap Chop (if only to make his own parody videos).

    A few years ago, my ex-husband and I received this hideous electronic painting of a waterfall, that lit up and moved and made swooshing water noises when turned on. I think that was conveniently lost when we split up stuff for the divorce.

    When I was nine, my parents gave me the make-believe office supply kit for Christmas: a big box full of pens, pencils, notepaper, paper clips, white out, erasers, index cards, binders, a stapler, “while you were out” notepads, a bulletin board, and a vintage typewriter and typing paper. I’ve always had this odd fascination with stationary so I absolutely loved this gift. Looking back I realize that was a year when my parents didn’t have too much extra cash, but they still managed to get me an amazing present.

  162. Worst gifts were always clothing from people who guesstimated my size, they never fit and were usually something they would wear. I don’t do sweats with words on the bum MIL, thanks anyway.

    Best gift is this year. My friend sent me personalized ornaments she painted herself for me, my fiance and each one of my birds! The fact that she did that for my little feather heads warmed my heart like nothing else.

    As for the economy, I haven’t been able to do any holiday shopping. Bills outnumber my pay and this time last year I was still homeless so my gift to all my friends is they don’t have to worry about me as much this year as they did last. I will make it up to them later, in some way. <3

  163. The worst gift I ever received was a T-shirt with a teddy bear embroidered on it.
    Admittedly, it was very cute, but 2 things made it an awful gift.
    1 I was a teenager at this point, cute teddies really weren’t my thing. and
    2 My younger sister LOVED teddies, (still does actually) and she didn’t receive anything!
    I think this was a birthday present, and her birthday is only 4 weeks before mine.
    So not only did the sender know anything about me, it also made me feel pretty guilty to be on the receiving end of a gift that excluded my sister.

  164. For medical themed crap, I will always love my Viagra pen that ran out of ink.

    Best present as a kid was probably the computer in ’95. My dad had previously sworn that he’d never get one because we didn’t need a giant gameboy in the house, but apparently changed his tune thanks to this new fangled internet thing.

    Best present as an adult in would probably be books from my husband. World War Z on Valentine’s Day (along with a zombie survival kit), The Lies of Locke Lamora for Christmas, Absolute Sandman Vol. 1 for birthday, the man can pick books. <3 I've gotten other things from other people, sometimes more expensive (ipods, cameras, etc) but I always give extra points to people who not only pick out books for me, but pick out the right ones.

    I think the worst gift ever was all the unicorns I got after about age 11, especially when my older sister (only one year older) was getting "big girl" gifts like makeup. It was almost the perfume set my SIL gave me last year (which she wasn't around when we opened thank goodness because I was slightly rude about it). I don't wear perfume, like, at all, ever. What saved it though was that it came with some gift cards for my husband and I to use, so can't really complain there.

    On the subject of what my family likes to call "the gift that keeps on giving", another aunt sent my mom this metal serving platter with a bizarre pattern on it with grooves and things. We figured out you're supposed to serve meat on it and the grooves catch the gravy, but it's kinda ugly. That year we decided it should be given to the next person to get married with the date and names engraved on the back. You can't give it to anyone else until there's another marriage, and when all the cousins have run out of weddings, you have to wait until kids start getting married so don't get it last. I'm the most recently married so i'm waiting for it to show up.

    As far as toubled economic times and gifts, I'm out of work this year, so gift giving from my husband and I has been pretty lean. We spent the most per gift on the neice, nephew, and godsons, adults get small things (mugs for my parents, christmas ornaments for sisters and stuff like that) and anyone we're obligated for in a decent driving radius is getting a small box full of some of the 10 varieties of baked goods/candies that I made in the past two days. Lucky them having an out of work pastry chef as a giver.

    Shoshie, what's that confectionary science book you have called?

    And MinervaKoening, If you can't find a way out of getting Christmas gifts, take the stress out of it for yourself and give all the adults ornaments for their trees. They're easy to find, never wrong, and they work EVERY YEAR. It could be your "thing", and it should appease anyone that's cranky about your gift issues because you're "making an effort".

    I better get my ass off the couch and wrap those Christmas goodies now…

  165. Best gifts – one year for Christmas, when we were both poor, almost broke students, my best friend (who is now my husband) bought me an axe. Not a hatchet or a lumberjack axe, but a beautiful, double-headed battle-axe style axe. The very axe I had been lusting after for 6 months, but had reluctantly concluded I did not really *need* and couldn’t really afford. ( I’ve collected medieval-style weapons from the time I was 17). It was (and is) beautiful, and more importantly, it was something that I wanted *so much* but never expected anyone to buy for me – but he did.

    On a similar theme, when we got married, we told everyone to skip the gifts – we’d both lived on our own, and then co-habitated for some time, so we were already all set in the household goods department. We just wanted people to show up and celebrate with us. Most people took us at our word, but a few of our friends bought us scotch and ammo. It was at once really funny (redneck central!) and really sweet – they had found out our favorite types of scotch and bought us high-end carry ammo for our primary firearms – the gifts were very personal and much more appropriate for who we were than linen napkins or appliances would have been.

    Best worst gifts – I have a slightly batty family friend (she looked a bit like the godmother form Disney’s Cinderella, so when I was small I declared that she was my fairy godmother) who is an obsessive garage sale shopper and general bargain hunter. Over the years I have gotten any number of very peculiar presents from her – old chocolates, puzzles with missing bits, shop towels, and the like. Some are very cool (the 6-inch high model guillotine) and some are just baffling (I still don’t know what some of them were intended to be used for).

    I’m hoping that none of my gifts this year end up as someone’s “worst gift” – I bought things for my family, but everyone else got something handmade – soap, cookies, wassail, treasure boxes, or some combination of the above.

  166. Bests: The blue topaz tennis bracelet from my grandfather, amethyst earrings from Dad, anything from my mom. My mother has a real talent for gifts, they’re always something incredibly awesome that you would never buy yourself, but really love. Last year, a handbag shaped like a toad. The year before, a miniature shopping cart. Perfect for holding coffee supplies. Before that, Hello Kitty Toaster.

    Worst: The Goddamn Elf Feet. I think my aunt may have made them. And they are skillfully made. I think they’re pillows, maybe? But, they’re shaped like stockings, with curly toes. Four of them. One each for mom, dad, me and little bro. They’re in the box of Christmas stuff, and every year, my mother asks if she has to put out the Goddamn Elf Feet.

  167. pudgy ninja:

    I’m hoping that none of my gifts this year end up as someone’s “worst gift” – I bought things for my family, but everyone else got something handmade – soap, cookies, wassail, treasure boxes, or some combination of the above.

    Me, too. My brother made a comment some months ago that he has a problem with socks. Apparently, once they’ve been washed, the seams on the tops of commercially manufactured socks irritate his feet, so I made him a pair of gray seamless socks of a wool/silk blend. I made his wife a pair of pink ones to match (she loves pink.) I hope socks and candy won’t make this list if they handmade. :/

  168. Worst gift I ever received – a crossword dictionary from my mother. I was a 23 year old black-wearing, shaven headed, pierced freak and she gives me a crossword dictionary that she picked up on a Newsagent sales table.

    The same year, my 20 year old brother got a $350 autographed and glass-framed jersey once worn by the captain of the Australian cricket team.

    Yeah… I think you can see the issues in my family!

  169. Worst: The Goddamn Elf Feet. I think my aunt may have made them. And they are skillfully made. I think they’re pillows, maybe? But, they’re shaped like stockings, with curly toes. Four of them. One each for mom, dad, me and little bro. They’re in the box of Christmas stuff, and every year, my mother asks if she has to put out the Goddamn Elf Feet.

    Oh wow, those sound nice and creepy. They also sound like amazing inappropriate joke fodder.

  170. Am really enjoying this thread. I’ve never done Christmas, nor any winter-gifting festival, and the more I read here, the more grateful I am that I don’t! I love to give gifts, but don’t like to get them. As a child I felt I was expected to express great appreciation for things I really didn’t want or need; and any anticipation (eg at birthdays) was always greater than the reality. And I’m a horrible people pleaser so would genuinely try to like hideous things; even wearing clothes that don’t suit me (rolls eyes)

    Favourite gift: writing paper (in the days when people wrote letters) in a cute cat themed folder when I was 9 yrs old (from my school, who did do the Christmas thing: I thought my parents would make me bin it, but I was allowed to keep it)

    Worst: clothes that don’t fit or suit me (I’d never buy clothes for anyone else unless they’ve explicitly said what they want); a “how to cook” book from my MIL, with the implied suggestion that her son was going to starve.

  171. This isn’t my story, it’s my friend’s: on her first Christmas after getting married, her mother-in-law gave her and her husband a used blender under the explanation that “they could use help getting on their feet.” Which would have been fine, except the blender had mold growing in it.

  172. De-lurking for the first time :) Love the site.

    My boyfriend’s family keep getting me bad gifts and it bothers me because they seem to be treating me as Generic Woman when, after 5 years, they have quite a lot of contradictory information. Ferinstance:

    I’m 6′ tall, fat, and have size 8 (UK) feet. I tower over them, and they comment on this a lot. And then give me socks or slippers ‘to fit sizes 2-6′ or items marked ‘woman’s medium’.

    I don’t cook, the BF does, he doesn’t read much, I read all the time – which they know – but I get the pasta maker, he gets books off his Amazon wishlist.

    I knit a lot (which is approved of) so they give me craft kits — any craft, as long as it’s not one I actually do though!

    OTOH my BF is really good at buying me things I want and which make life easier but which I can’t quite justify spending the money on, like a new clothes horse, a mobile with a working battery, a camera which takes photos without being sworn at… he’s lovely.

    I think the best gift I ever got was a plane ticket home at a really tough time.

  173. Hands-down winner for the strangest Christmas gift I’ve ever received was a Groucho Marx ventriloquist’s dummy. My sister-in-law knew that my husband and I have a small collection of animal hand puppets (like the kind you buy as souvenirs from the zoo) and she thought this would make a nice addition, despite the fact that 1) it wasn’t an animal, and 2) neither of us are Groucho Marx fans.

    She is such a good-hearted person that I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, so I did my level best to keep the “what the bejeezus were you thinking” look off my face after opening the gift. (The item was not inexpensive, either, as I later found out through the family grapevine.) Fortunately, my brother is a *huge* Groucho fan, and coveted that dummy the minute he laid eyes on it. So, it now has a happy home elsewhere. Thank God.

  174. My wonderful yet slightly insane brother posted me some cheese. A wedge of Brie and a wedge of Cashel Blue, just stuffed into a brown paper envelope and sent through the mail. It had leaked smelly oil and the cats had chewed the edges through the paper as it sat on the doormat all day.

    That was the most amazing present ever. I laughed until I thought I was going to throw up. And then I ate some of the cheese (I like it ripe!) and laughed some more. I’m still giggling out loud just at the thought of it. My brother rocks, and the best present I could possibly get this year would be to hear that his lovely Texan fiancée has got her visa so they can get married in spring. Bastards at the British Embassy said no, but they’re appealing the decision. Wish ‘em luck.

    I’m struck by how many people’s Best Gifts would be my Worst Gift and vice versa!

  175. When I was sixteen, my grandmother bought a job lot of neon peach-colored wool yarn. She knitted all our Christmas presents. Mine was a knitted bikini – yep, I kid you not. It grew and expanded when wet and revealed more of my body than I was comfortable with at the age of sixteen. It had one outing only! However, the “Peach Year” has given my family a gift that keeps on giving as we share over and over our stories of the awful presents we got – and howl with laughter as we talk about it. (My grandmother never knew!)

  176. I have a refrigerator magnet with a picture of the Pope and the caption: “Cardinal Ratzinger–Putting the Smackdown on Heresy Since 1963.” That is a favorite gift.

    I read this as “putting the smackdown on Hershey” and my mind raced to figure out what was so sinful about cheap chocolate.

    Oh yeah. It makes you FAT.

  177. “Cardinal Ratzinger–Putting the Smackdown on Heresy Since 1963.”

    This makes me wish cardinals chose their professional names like porn stars do. It might raise their ranks. (And, yeah, I know Ratzinger’s the Pope’s real name. Still.)

    I don’t celebrate Christmas, so I’m doing no less gift giving this year than last, but I wish I had cash to burn on the Darth Vader toaster, which burns a face of Darth Vader into your breakfast every day.

    I am going to be so glad when I can go back into public without an onslaught of Christmas music.

  178. Worst gift: a fringed, knee-length tank top from my grandparents who had just gone to Jamaica. It was neon-pink and said “HEY MON” on the front in foot-high letters. And it was an XL (nothing wrong with that, but I about 16 and very sensitive about my size, although I was actually pretty thin). Mostly it was just really long – the armholes came down to my waist. My stepsisters got them in neon orange and yellow. Thankfully they had sent them to us, and weren’t sitting there when we opened them.

    Then again, maybe this was the best gift as it gave me, my stepsisters, my mom and my stepdad a big family laugh together!

    Also, LOL @Starling, waaay above. I nickname my exes too! There was The Wake-Up Call (penchant for middle-of-the-night nookie, so irritating), Shotgun Wedding Guy (knocked up someone else, oops), Ward Cleaver (wanted 1950s style wife who didn’t work), etc. etc. One just wound up being called Asshole. Not too creative, but it got the point across…

  179. Re: Dan Ackroyd and his cinematic greatness: I was born in ’87 and graduated high school in ’06 with someone named Dan Ackroyd. Poor guy.

    Re: the actual topic of this thread, I’d say the best gift I’ve ever received came a few months ago when my parents told me that my graduation present in May would be a weeklong vacation in London for the three of us. I studied abroad there last year and have missed it ever since. And the gesture’s even more touching when you consider that my mother’s a bit afraid of cities and my father, in his own words, “doesn’t see why anyone would ever want to leave the United States.” (It apparently took a lot of coaxing on Mom’s part to get him comfortable with the idea, but the second he was, he pulled a 180 and has been startlingly excited about it since.)

  180. Best gift: for my 18th birthday, four of my friends gave me 18 rubber duckies, 9 rolls of duct tape, a Bob the Builder children’s book, and a decorated toilet seat, all in a Walmart bag. All were related to inside jokes between us. I’ve long since used up the duct tape, given away the book, and passed on duckies to important people in my life, but I still have one that sits on my bookshelf and reminds me that I have friends who care about me. The toilet seat, sadly, “mysteriously” disappeared when my parents moved house. Other awesome gifts include a trip to the Galapagos, various tools for my hobbies (ball winder from my roommate this year!), and a copy of a textbook that I really wanted—it cost $250!

    Worst present: I haven’t really gotten any truly horrific presents, mostly a bunch of stuff as a kid from friends of my parents who had no idea what I actually liked. My parents finally impressed upon them that the best present was a bookstore gift card. Well done, Mom and Dad. I also got some fascinatingly awful clothing from my aunt. Who needs a flannel shirt with tuxedo ruffles? Not this dude.

    On the other hand, I tend to be very, very specific about what I want, and have trained my relatives to refrain from giving if they don’t know what I want. Or to give me food.

  181. Re: corporate mugs – one of my favourites comes from a place where I used to work. It was a clinical trial on stroke prevention, and the design showed a cross section of a jugular vein being cut into by a scalpel. When you put hot water in the mug, the scalpel blade went red. The surgeons participating in the trial loved it, apparently. And I loved working there, so am oddly fond of it in all its hideousness.

  182. I’m hoping that none of my gifts this year end up as someone’s “worst gift” – I bought things for my family, but everyone else got something handmade – soap, cookies, wassail, treasure boxes, or some combination of the above.

    Same, but I am afraid that my best and worst efforts are already pretty much set, this year. Best was when my Lady Gaga-fangirl friend and I exchanged presents and for hers, I dressed up and performed the entirety of the dance from the “Bad Romance” video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrO4YZeyl0I) — something which at the time was terribly embarrassing, involving as it is some clomping around and such, but which in retrospect I am perhaps a little too proud of.

    The worst gift I’m giving this year is, I fear, my mom’s; in October, on a weekend trip, I bought her a sweatshirt at a store she likes, but on Thanksgiving I saw that my aunt was wearing the EXACT SAME ONE. In the same color. My mother will never want to wear it once she realizes her sister owns the same one, but I’ve exceeded the time allotted on the store’s return policy. (Not to mention that I’d have to drive four hours to get to that store.)

  183. I like smelly candles… but not blueberry!

    My most memorable bad gifts are the ones where the recipient was clearly trying and yet went horribly off-the-mark… the sort of “I know you always said you wanted to go to France, so I bought you a French tourism book! That is, a guide to touring Mexico. Written in French. Which you don’t speak.” (Not an actual example, because I’d feel bad listing the real ones. They were vaguely related to what I would want, but completely wrong in bizarre ways.)

  184. This thread is hilarious. And add me to the list of people who would *love* some of that “worst gifts” that have been mentioned (novelty socks!).

    Worst gift: For Christmas 2005, my mother bought me something that she insisted upon telling me ahead of time was “small and very expensive, but it’s something you really, really need.”

    Stretch mark cream. Ridiculously overpriced, “scientifically proven!” stretch mark cream.

    (My first child was born on December 26, 2005. Neither my mother nor her mother got stretch marks when they were pregnant – in fact, Mom had never even seen stretch marks until I showed her mine. Apparently she was so horrified that she went right out and bought the stuff.)

    Best present: Our first Christmas together, my now-husband bought me a silver ring with “My beloved is mine and I am his” engraved in Hebrew. I wore it on my right hand for years; now that multiple pregnancies have left me puffy in odd places, I wear it in place of my wedding ring.

  185. Best gift: The Janome Memorycraft 600P my mom gave me for Xmas. I literally hugged the box when I unwrapped it. I had been sewing and quilting for ten years, first on a cheap machine I got off the back of a truck (the presser foot kept falling off), then on a $100 machine from JoAnn. The Janome is the smoothest, best, most wonderful sewing machine ever, with extra-long arm. I use the HELL out of that thing.

    Worst gift: Upon college graduation, a FOTF gave me a 6-inch high crystal 1. Yep, a crystal number 1. I displayed that thing for years, but never understood what would impel someone to buy something so expensive yet so utterly useless. It wasn’t even that pretty. Just… 1.

  186. My sister is a musician, so she has learned to be the queen of inexpensive presents. Usually it works out awesome, because she is thoughtful and creative like you wouldn’t believe. I still treasure her elegantly handwritten list of reasons I’m a good sister, and the jazz piano arrangement of the song my parents made up for me when I was tiny. (Sample lyrics: “J-A-C / Q-U-E / L-I-N-E, Jacqueline! / Jacqueline!”)

    But last Christmas, she had terrible luck. The women of the family got homemade cosmetics in cute little jars, but something went wrong with the recipes: what we wound up with were a series of jars of hard white wax with a thin scum of rancid-smelling essential oil on top. And our dad got the special features disc for Catch Me If You Can.

  187. BTW, if you receive a gift fail, is it better to try and explain why they got it wrong or just keep quiet? I am a keep-quiet kind of person, my husband seems to think I ought to make it clear to people when they’ve done something baffling so that they won’t do it again.

    I just received a stack of video games for a variety of different consoles, NONE of which I own. I can’t even give them away, because they’re from another country so they won’t run on anybody else’s consoles either unless I spend more than the value of the games to send them back where they came from. But the giver was *trying*, and I don’t want to be mean by explaining how silly this was…

  188. This is awesome! (And a “Star Wars” tie isn’t THAT bad…OK, yeah, it is.)
    I can’t really think of any bad gifts. Usually my sisters-in-law give me clothes, because they know how completely hopeless I am when it comes to fashion.

    For years it was a running joke in our family that we shouldn’t even bother asking my dad what he wanted, ’cause he’d invariably say “Socks.” And he’d be REALLY excited when we actually bought them. He passed away last year, and just a few days ago I was thinking ‘Y’know, I could really use some socks…”
    He may be gone, but his spirit lives on!

  189. I was thinking I didn’t really have any bad gifts to contribute, but then I remembered last year when my gift in a Dirty Santa game was a birdfeeder…which would have been AWESOME because I live in the country and love birds, except that one of the glass side panels was broken in half. In such a way that the gift-givers couldn’t possibly have missed it before they shoved the whole thing in a gift bag with a package of cheap seed. Funny part is, it wasn’t until later that I actually realized it was broken; at first I thought it was somehow part of the design and was like, “Oh, huh, look at this, what’s this about?” And they didn’t make a PEEP.

    Worst gift I’m aware of, given to my cousin-by-marriage: when she was maybe 15 or so, a package of thong underwear. From her uncle. At a family Christmas party. Just…ew. Glad that uncle lives out of state.

    My husband has given me some amazing gifts in our time together. Most recent was an Xbox 360 for my birthday, the first game system I’ve ever owned and something I didn’t think we could afford for another couple of years. But the best one would have to be when he flew me to Salem, MA for my birthday (which is on Halloween) a couple of years ago and proposed to me in the oldest cemetery in the city. Can you tell we’re goths at heart?

  190. Re: handmade gifts.

    An old friend reminded me that once during my “college broke” years I acted out the entire first half of Rocky IV including singing “Living In America”! She claims it’s still the oddest gift she’s ever received and wished she had recorded it.

    Yeah, like I said, I miss as much or possibly more than anyone.

  191. Oh, was this good reading or WHAT??? I hope I am in the good loving hands category, but usually include something beyond my own efforts (which are never cheaper than buying gifts). This year folks are getting hand made felt earbud holders. They didn’t come out as charmingly loving hands as I had intended, but I did break into the nice vintage buttons, so…
    I THINK everyone looks forward to our preserves.

    Worst gifts. Hm. I remember for my 11th birthday inviting all the girls in my class at school and getting FOUR copies of the Captain and Tenille album with Muskrat Love on it. Which was horrifying until I realized I could return them and get FOUR Ramones albums. Talk about not knowing your recipient!

    Not a holiday gift, but still worst: All the women on one side of my family are unapologetically fat, and mostly this is a good thing. Mom’s only super annoying thing was/is her prudish ideas of what fat people should wear….she is still worried about my two piece bathing suits. Meh. Anyway. When I was in High School, I had a smallish lead in a musical. Mind you, I sang the first lead from behind the curtain while the pretty cheerleader lip synced to my vocals. The creepy xtian choir director told me the part could have been mine if I’d lost weight. Yeah, I know-sounds like a bad movie. Anyway. All the other girls’ folks brought roses to present at curtain call. My mom? She made me a very professionally done super large beach towel embroidered with.. a sparkly Miss Piggie. Yep. I kid you not-unfurled this thing on the stage. And continued to give me Miss Piggie gifts for several years afterward. (shudder).

    SIL gives really excellent gifts, even though she is a big shopper. She gave us a really really expensive top of the line rechargeable toothbrush. LOVE it, love the way our dentist loves it. I gave one to my sis for her 50th. Would never, never have gotten one for myself, but it is the bomb.

    As for best gifts, best one given and best one received are the same. When I was about 8, I remember taking the bus alone downtown (an hour trip) to purchase my Grandma’s gift. I forked over a sweaty handful of change for a somewhat victorian looking necklace made of faux amber and filigree beads. She loved it and wore it all the time. Years later, when Alzheimer’s had set in, she gave it back to me as if it were new. I was really touched that she still associated it with me. Best of all, I still have it and 10 years after she’s gone, it STILL smells like her! Man, I could never wear that “Youth Dew” perfume, but when I smell it, it’s like she’s right there.

  192. Andy Gibb record, from my cousin. I was 15, it was 1984, and my favourite album was the Pretenders’ Learning to Crawl. The Andy Gibb album was a new one, and didn’t even have Shadow Dancing on it. Not that I could tolerate the man by then….I was fifteen! I wanted to be Chrissie Hynde! I went home and broke the vinyl Andy Gibb monstrosity to pieces.

  193. BTW, if you receive a gift fail, is it better to try and explain why they got it wrong or just keep quiet?

    OMG, never tell anyone they got you a crap gift! That would be incredibly rude. People are under no obligation to get you a gift, and they if they choose to, they are under no obligation to get you exactly what you want. Throw it in the Goodwill/returns pile and move on. You can ask people not to get you gifts at all if you are tired of getting crap, but saying, “I know you wanted to get me a nice gift, but this is crap, do better next year” is… kind of selfish. If they ask why you don’t wear the sweater they got you (or whatever) I always say something along the lines of “it was beautiful, but not really to my taste.”

    Also, some gifts that seem like crap at first can end up being awesome, like one of those wooden frogs that make croaking noises… baffling for a 22 year old, but a few years later it made a perfect toddler toy.

  194. Best Holiday Gift: Jane Austen Action Figure complete with quill and writing desk.

    Worst Holiday Gift: A…Porcelain? Doll thing. With those creepy moving eyes. The look, but don’t touch kind. About 10 times the size of a “figurine,” but a quarter of the size of a real child, if that makes any sense.

    Best was from my besties, worst from my aunt. My father doesn’t know or care enough to get me something thoughtful, so it’s been cash pretty consistently since I graduated from college. I don’t complain about cash, though. Who could? My mom is sometimes hit and miss. This year she took me shopping for clothes, which was nice, because I needed some. I’ll never forget the year when we were shopping at Toys R’ Us and she turned to me, I was 6 or 7, and asked if I wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid. I had never even thought of it before and the excitement and decision-making so elated me that I went home with a doll in hand and the best mother in the world.

  195. Travel Noughts and Crosses*. A fliptop case with little metal Xs and Os. If they had been magnetic, it might have had some novelty value, but as it wasn’t, it’s just junk.

    And way more hassle than the regular way of playing while on the move – paper and pencil.

    *=Tic-Tac-Toe for non-Brits

  196. OMG, never tell anyone they got you a crap gift! That would be incredibly rude. People are under no obligation to get you a gift, and they if they choose to, they are under no obligation to get you exactly what you want. Throw it in the Goodwill/returns pile and move on. You can ask people not to get you gifts at all if you are tired of getting crap, but saying, “I know you wanted to get me a nice gift, but this is crap, do better next year” is… kind of selfish.

    That’s the thing, I don’t WANT gifts, and I certainly don’t want to be rude, I’ve just got my other half nagging at me that it’s my fault if I get given crap (which seriously cannot even be given to charity or returned because of the international problem) because I failed to send the right signals.

  197. For many years, I’ve tried to deny the truth but after reading through this thread I realize I have to be honest with myself. Although I love my mother to distraction, and think she is a wonderful woman, she is not very adept at giving me gifts. In previous years, I chalked this up to her stretching herself too thin, and trying too hard, so that she found herself at the last minute without gifts for her only child, resulting in poorly chosen and expensive impulse purchases, including diamond jewelry (I have never worn diamonds and I am loudly on the record as being opposed to diamonds) that, diamonds aside, was very much not my style and utterly useless electronic geegaws of the sort one finds in Sky Mall catalogs. I have not one, not two, but five different novelty lights, including two kinds of book lights, a wind-up flash light, a mini light that clips onto things, and a USB-powered light that is in the shape of this weird, goose-neck jointed, magnetic pawed humanoid thing. Electronic magic eight balls. A hand-held electronic 20 questions game.

    Last year we set very distinct limits on our spending. I thought this would fix everything. She has been hassling me to get a fancy electric toothbrush for years, and I told her that I would cheerfully accept such an item for Christmas, so surely, I thought, my one gift would be an electric toothbrush, which while not something I particularly want, could at least be practical in a dental hygiene sense. But no. I am a size 20W, with a style that runs distinctly towards vintage/classic/gently gothy or at least very black. My mother bought me a lavender henley top and a sage green boucle sweater, both in XL, from a catalog retailer that specializes in sporty, Soccer mom clothes and does not offer plus sizes.

    There is nothing objectively wrong with those garments, mind you, but they are so not me in size, style, or color, that I honestly though my mother had miswrapped gifts intended for one of my cousins. So while there is no one particular gift that stands out as terribly insulting, pretty much every gift my mother has chosen for me once I reached adulthood (with the exception of the year I was 18 and she gave me $200 and sent me out on Christmas eve to purchase my own gifts, which was fine with me) has been strangely off base.

  198. @Megan: OMG I’ve been wanting one of those croaking wooden frogs for years now! Also one of the chirping wooden crickets! One person’s junk really is another’s treasure, I guess. :D

  199. One terrible gift that instantly comes to mind needs some background. My family used to go to Table Rock Lake in Branson every year, we’d spend most of our time on the lake waterskiing, cliff jumping and one year we found a rope swing. There was a small one like you’d see in movies and then there was a super high one that you had to climb a steep incline to a platform to get to. My older sister decided to try it. After putting on sunblock. She slipped and fell onto sharp rocks and then into extremely deep water and had to be rescued from drowning, I think she still has scars on one side from it.

    My aunt sent her a picture of her on the platform right before she fell in a cheap crappy frame. Seriously.

    My worst present was from an aunt on the other side of the family who doesn’t really get me and my sister and our weirdness. She asks us each year what we want and we always send her to our amazon wishlist. One year she bought me a book off the list which I thought I would give a try since so many people seemed to like the series at my school, and she picked it because she knew what it was. It was “Gossip Girl.” I read it decided I hated it, and I thought that was that, but the next year she bought me the exact same book despite the fact that it was no longer on my list.

    I’ll forgive her that though because recently she’s stopped looking for things to “bond” over and has started buying what I say I want, even if it’s weird or she doesn’t know it. She bought me “Cannibal The Musical,” last year (it’s one of my favorite movies, and I’ve wanted it since I saw a preview for it before another troma movie when I was like 12) and this year she’s getting me bear feet slippers!

  200. WAIT I forgot. My dad’s family has a thing for taaaaaaaaaaacky Christmas collectibles and one year I got what I can only describe as an “Aryan nativity scene” in which every participant was blond haired and blue eyed and light skinned and which included a little white dude playing the bagpipes. And one year there was a really terrifying two-foot scarecrow-style Santa. They also tried to get me started collecting little ceramic Christmas village houses, which is just what every atheist living in a 500 square foot apartment with one closet wants.

  201. Okay, one more and then I’ll stop. Here’s another example of my Mom missing the point. One year, to be safe, I asked for socks. And I got socks. I got eight pairs of socks. Eight pairs of Christmas-themed ankle socks. Note: I live in Chicago, where “ankle socks” and “the weather in December” are absolutely not compatible.

  202. That’s the thing, I don’t WANT gifts, and I certainly don’t want to be rude, I’ve just got my other half nagging at me that it’s my fault if I get given crap (which seriously cannot even be given to charity or returned because of the international problem) because I failed to send the right signals.

    I might think in the case of impossibility – you literally cannot use the gift – that might be the one time you might say something, as gently as possible. “I so appreciated the thought, but we don’t have X game console in this country. Do you know someone who might be able to use them?” or something to that effect. In that case, it’s mind-bogglingly silly not to check that someone owns a specific game console before giving them games for it and there’s really nothing you can do. If it’s a taste/style issue, I think it’s different.

  203. Our family does a white elephant thing, so we sort of rabidly look forward to terrible gifts to use. And we love sucking in new people with new terrible gifts.

  204. (OTM – your waving otters is full of teh cutez).

    I would totally go in for a swap – may I call the wind-up candy-pooping penguin mentioned upthread? I have a friend who would love to add it to his toy collection. It would hold a place of honor next to the walking lederhosen, karate-chop Jesus and Moses figures, and fart-in-a-can.

    Alix – we must examine family trees sometime. My family (all recovering/ed Roman Catholics, >200yrs of combined parochial school education) has the joke religous/Elvis thing as well. I just got the toaster Mary for my aunt. Another aunt has a 3ft high pink Elivs bust lamp. One of my mom’s most cherished possesions is an orgy of the two themes: a collectors plate showing Elvis and Mom in front of St. Peter and the Pearly Gates. WOOOOT!

    Grafton; I have a stress hand-squeezy in the shape of a red cell from Haemonetics, and a measuring tape with human genome alleles on it from Genzyme. This is less useful than you might think, as the genetic code makes it hard to read the inches/cm markers.

  205. I’ve always hated getting gag gifts, myself. I’d frankly rather be gifted scrub sponges and dishrags. That said, I’ve had a couple of friends who liked oddball junk, and it *was* fun to shop for them. One year I found a sperm-themed hostess set for one of them, and I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite so crass and tacky since.

    My grandmother used to doll up household supplies as housewarming gifts – I don’t think she ever gave them for Christmas – tying dishrags into little shirts and dresses, tucking sponges and soap bottles into them, that sort of thing. She did much the same with money, and I still have a wonderfully folded shirt made of dollar bills – complete with buttons! – she gave me when I was in my teens.

  206. Oh, yes, forgot to answer the “best gift” part.

    Best Christmas present? Was an original Game Boy (this was Christmas of 1990)… I swear I played Tetris until I could see the pieces falling even when I wasn’t playing the game.

    Loved the thing until I didn’t have time or energy for it and ended up giving it to my younger brother, who played it to death.

    <3 that thing though! =D

    I have yet to give or receive a gag gift, although getting good quality ginger ale always counts as "awesome!" in my book. =D

  207. C. Shuy said: I swear I played Tetris until I could see the pieces falling even when I wasn’t playing the game.

    I did this when I got my iTouch for my birthday (Officially the best birthday present ever, though I did, in a way, guilt it out of my mother who called me on my birthday to ask me what I wanted) and immediately went searching for the apps to all of the time-wasting games I love, including Tetris.

  208. I swear I played Tetris until I could see the pieces falling even when I wasn’t playing the game.

    I’ve definitely gotten to that point with Tetris. And Snood, which I find equally addictive.

  209. One year my mother gave me the book “10 Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives”, by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. She used to listen to Dr. Laura on the radio in the car, and I was forever rolling my eyes and shouting back at the “advice” she gave callers. Apparently Mom thought I could use some of that advice myself. (I laughed, thanked Mom and told her I planned to use it as a to-do checklist for my twenties.)

    One of the best gifts I received was a surprise, and not on any holiday. I was a senior in high school, and my dad told me he had plans for us one weekday after school. He drove us to a metro station; I had no idea where we were headed, but when he said “This is our stop!”, we stepped off, rounded the corner and saw a huge billboard for Annie, the musical, at the box office of a theatre. He had gotten us tickets to see the Broadway tour, with Nell Carter as Miss Hannigan. I LOVED Annie as a child, and LOVED theatre and musicals all my life. It’s one of my most cherished memories with my father.

  210. @ Sarah B, LilahMorgan

    Tetris addicts unite!

    (that reminds me… I should probably pull out Tetris World and play that one version with the exploding blocks that is for the Advance… I now have a GBPocket with my original Tetris game, and an original DS)

  211. Also as an Atheist who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, I am at the point of being resigned to having Christmas happen to me. This year I got gifts for my Grandparents and Parents (from my Ireland trip since the G-rents helped me get there, and from my law school bookstore because my grandma mentioned wanting a t-shirt with the name of my school on it.) and everything else I’ve bought has been specifically for the kids in my life. Just because I specifically love buying kids presents and also because I don’t see any need to ruin their holidays with a concept they don’t yet understand. In the past I’ve donated money to a charity in lieu of gifts and sent neutral winter-type cards (kitten and a snowman anyone?) stating as such. It also helps that I’m a broke student living on loans, so people don’t really expect anything from me.

    Not sure what I’m going to do when that ends…

  212. Most disappointing gift: My sister ostensibly lived with me (she stayed with her boyfriend much of the time), and I knew she didn’t have much money, but she did have a lot of sitting around time. I asked her to clean the house as her Christmas gift to me. She bought me a Jessica Rabbit keychain. When I asked her why she hadn’t just cleaned the house she said “it isn’t my mess”. THAT’S WHY IT’S A GIFT! IF IT WERE YOUR MESS, YOU’D HAVE TO CLEAN IT ANYWAY! I still use the keychain, but when I remember how I got it, I get a little more bitter.

    Oh, gift that was awesome then got annoying in retrospect. For my high school graduation my parents got me my very own sewing machine, a very nice Kenmore, with the carrying case. It was pretty sweet, until my sister graduated and got a trip for the three of them to Disney World. I couldn’t go, because I had finals. Sewing machine is still good, but compared to a trip to Disney Land? Even my practial side is jealous.

  213. @buffpuff: Try Accoutrements.com. Click on “products,” then “amusements,” then “action figures.” My co-worker has the Jane Austen one (it’s just a few feet away from me as I type this), and there are many other funny ones available. I’m partial to “Lunch Lady.” Just ignore the “Li’l Tubby” one.

  214. I believe the best gift I’ve ever given is the one I’m giving my brother this year: A hand-made custom Weighted Companion Cube storage ottoman. Its taken me almost a month to construct in my spare time. Though its hard to say if that or the perfect condition 300-disc CD changer I scored for free off a coworker that I’m giving my dad is the better gift.. I am leaning towards the ottoman because it has taken so much effort to make and has my parents nearly in tears over what a good sister I am :P

    The worst gift I’ve ever received was the only year my uncle bothered sending christmas presents to the family. We all got matching ugly flannel shirts, and I got a Barry Manilow casette tape. Note that I have never liked Barry Manilow and this was well after CD players had become ubiquitous.

  215. The worst present I ever gave was to my then-SIL. She’s a lovely woman, but she always said she didn’t know what she wanted for any presenting occasion. Finally I got sick of guessing wrong and gave her something I’d knew she’d have a use for: hot dog buns. (She ate nothing but hot dogs and hamburgers.) See Garfunkel & Oates video linked above for her expression on unwrapping them. Miraculously, she knew what she wanted for the next presenting occasion.

    Best gift I’ve gotten lately is a clock in the shape of an elephant with a monkey carrying a parasol on its back. It’s tacky as hell and I love it.

  216. Hi, first time poster. This thread is too hilarious to keep my mouth shut.

    I have a crazy uncle who I adore because he wears bling, has a gold front tooth, and doesnt care what people think of him. Every year I would get a Lady Stetson gift set (if you have ever smelled that c@%*, you know it should NEVER be worn, especially if you are 12 years old).

  217. The best gift I ever gave, which I can never ever top: my grandma and I collaborated to make her life story into a book.

    http://www.cafepress.com/AndreaCrainShop.15423940

    Then we gave it to everyone on that side of the family for Christmas. My mom cried, my other relatives loved it, and my grandma was incredibly proud of it until the day she died, which was unfortunately this past February at the age of 92.

    If anyone is still reading this thread after over 200 comments? Do this project yourself. It cost like 9 dollars a person, but it was truly priceless.

  218. Sarah B, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t celebrate and participate in gift-giving. Mid-winter festivals have been going on since the dawn of civilization all over the world (ok, the southern hemisphere at a different time, but you know what I mean). The days are short, the weather sucks, and we needed to manufacture a celebration to help deal with the cabin fever and make us happy with each other when stuck in close quarters. Celebrating the holiday in a secular way is older and more traditional than just about anything else.

  219. Car: I don’t care to debate the tradition of winter celebrations, but I did attend the Solstice service at my church for the first time and enjoyed it a lot.

    I think the short of it all is that I’m disillusioned by the Commercialization of the holiday on top of my disbelief in the “reason for the season.”

    That being said, I actually do love buying gifts for people, I really do. I am truly broke and have been for the past two Christmases. When I said I let Christmas happy to me, I meant that I can buy presents for people and give them in honor of Solstice/New Year’s, but I can’t hand boxes to people and say “Happy Solstice!” My family are WAY too Catholic for that.

  220. I can’t think of any really great gift I’ve gotten where I haven’t specifically asked for it and since my family is really obsessed with the idea that presents should be surprises, that doesn’t happen very often. This year I did manage to talk my mom at least into buying me boots when it first snowed and calling them my Christmas present so we could skip the usual after-holiday exchange of giant scented candle and bath salts for the boots I’d asked for in the first place.

    Because my family doesn’t seem to know me at all, I get pretty much the same stuff every year. Scented candles, lotions, body sprays, make-up kits, “fun” socks, Claires-type costume jewelry, inspirational books from the discount rack at Wal-Mart, etc. I’m allergic to most of the things I listed, I don’t wear make-up except for eyeliner sometimes, I never wear jewelry and while I love books and I appreciate the effort to get something that they think I might like, why oh why would anyone who knows me think that I’d be interested in 23 Minutes in Hell? My grandma bought me Twilight last Christmas because it was on sale and she had no idea what it was really about, just that it seemed to be something the girls were into last year, which is really hilarious because I know that she really does seem to think I’m still 14. I’m 28.

    The worst, though, were from my dad when I was 15. He bought me Dr. Ruth’s Sex for Dummies and Women Who Run With Wolves. He had no idea how to have the sex talk with me and thought that the Dummies book was a humorous way to get around it. The second one, I just don’t know.

  221. OTM:

    And one year there was a really terrifying two-foot scarecrow-style Santa.

    Ooh, you know what would really complete the decor with that Santa? Yeah, Elf Feet.

  222. In my family we have a fun time with the $10 (I think it’s $15 this year) gift exchange. Everybody puts a wrapped present under the tree and we draw lots to set the order we open them. We’re allowed to steal a present that’s already been opened (three times only) so there’s some good-natured wheeling and dealing.
    My BIL and his brother also have a contest to give each other the tackiest gift they can find; they both work in retail so there are some really choice items. I found a print of the Last Supper with Colonel Sanders and a bucket of KFC in it in a free box and donated it to my BIL for the contest-I bet he wins this year…

  223. There is another Maya! Who knew?
    I honestly can’t remember the best or worst gifts I’ve ever received, because the people giving me gifts (friends and family) are generally really generous.
    Actually!
    The best gift I ever got was my beautiful, wonderful viola from my parents. It’s my passion and my favorite thing, and it wasn’t so cheap… There could be nothing better :]

  224. Hello, other Maya :) I recently met a few young Mayas but there were never any other Mayas around growing up.

    Your post makes me wish someone would gift me a cello. I’d like to learn it, but even a students cello is 800 dollars or more.

  225. My Mum gave my husband one sock for Christmas two years ago. She hadn’t finished knitting the other one. Still hasn’t.

    It didn’t fit, anyway.

  226. I think whether or not you tell people about bad gifts involves a decision about whether they want to know. My boyfriend and my mom want to know, f’rex — if I don’t wear shirt X because it’s the wrong size or the neck bothers me (my neck is really sensitive) they’d rather have that information so as not to make the same mistake again. Other relatives haven’t bothered with me for years, so that point is kind of moot.

  227. “My Mum gave my husband one sock for Christmas two years ago. She hadn’t finished knitting the other one. Still hasn’t.”
    ———————
    That is priceless. That belongs in the Hall of Bad Presents, In-Law Division.

  228. I think the short of it all is that I’m disillusioned by the Commercialization of the holiday on top of my disbelief in the “reason for the season.”

    Ah, that is a harder one to deal with. I’ve tried doing handmade gifts, but I stink at making gifts, so I still haven’t figured that one out.

    I meant that I can buy presents for people and give them in honor of Solstice/New Year’s, but I can’t hand boxes to people and say “Happy Solstice!

    I get it – sorry I misunderstood! My family is fundamentalist, so I feel your discomfort as well. I’m over a thousand miles away, though, so although I get sad at not having them around, it is a bit easier on that front. Best wishes for the holiday.

  229. I’m Christian, so I say Merry Christmas but I’d like to wish everyone a Merry whatever kind of day you’re having. Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddist, Pagan, Heathen, or don’t believe in a damn thing. I hope the day is wonderful for all.

  230. @becki – Women Who Run with Wolves is a classic!
    We didn’t celebrate Christmas growing up so I don’t have many stories of good/bad gifts.

    I’ve received a lot of nice gifts for birthdays and such … jewelry, gift cards, a bicycle, spa treatments, etc. Can’t really think of any bad gifts.

    My favorite gift that I ever gave was for a Christmas Party/White Elephant Gift Exchange. I’d spent much of the afternoon at the hospital with my grandmother, and spotted a cart loaded with linens and bathroom supplies. I grabbed (stole?) a packaged “waterless shampoo cap.” I wrapped it and gave it as my white elephant gift. It was a big hit! The other best part was that when my grandmother saw that I was holding this waterless shampoo cap, she said, “Ooh, get me one, too!”

  231. “I’m Christian, so I say Merry Christmas but I’d like to wish everyone a Merry whatever kind of day you’re having. Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddist, Pagan, Heathen, or don’t believe in a damn thing. I hope the day is wonderful for all.”

    Thanks, Gail! And this atheist joins you in that wish. Whatever people celebrate – up to and including ‘I won’t have to listen to another freaking chorus of White Christmas for another year” – may it be joyful.

  232. Hubby worst gift: Last year, the hubby and I decided that we would keep it simple and not spend much on each other. So, the hubby, who is normally a very thoughtful man, gave me a set of cheap, plastic yellow bowls with cherries on them (I love stuff with cherry motif but these are terrible). The type you buy from those horrible “gift” catalogs that schools push on parents for fundraisers. Talk about PRESENT FACE. He saw right through it though.

    The funniest thing is that the whole year I had been dropping hints about getting a PS3. ( “I’d love to have a PS3 so that we can have Rock Band parties!”). So, he calls my brothers and asks them what he did wrong, to which they both basically said “dude, you should have got her a PS3″. So, he went out and did. So the best and worst were wrapped up together.

    The egg donor used to order terrible crap from those cheap-ass catalogs where everything is plastic, of lead-laden Chinese origin. Stuff like slippers with a battery powered warmer built in. She’d get all sorts of extra freebie crap in the shipping box and yup, those would be given as gifts.

    Best ever gifts are the totally random “I saw this and thought you’d love it” gifts. I’d rather do those all year round instead of holidays.

    And if I ever strike it rich, I’m buying Maya a cello.

    PS: I’m totally buying Maya the stinkiest, tackiest scented candle crap I can find from now on. Oh and useless bath crap. Love you! :)

  233. Up until I was about 12 years old, my family was pretty good when it came to gift giving. Then again, I was an easily pleased child. Once I hit puberty and started developing a sense of style, self, and wanted things other than toys, games and dolls, my family kind of lost the plot. They had no idea who I was or who I was trying to become. And they didn’t make an effort to find out, either.

    Some of the worst gifts I received were actually birthday gifts. As a morose wannabe goth at age 15, all I wanted was a pair of black hobnail boots and a broomstick skirt. My aunt gave me a white, gold studded clutch purse and a Jean Nate bath set. Yeah.

    When I was in my late 20s, single and trying out the dating scene, my mom gave me a series of ‘self-help’ books, starting with Dr. Laura’s “10 Stupid Things Women Do To Mess Up Their Lives,” including “There Are Plenty Of Fish In the Sea,” and several other degrading, meant to be ‘helpful’ book titles. I would have much preferred a thoughtful conversation with her when one of my relationships ended, rather than having to listen to her usual advice like, “honey, you’ll never catch a boy if you’re so aggressive,” or “sweetie, guys don’t like a bossy woman,” and receiving the ‘gift’ of self-help literature on my following birthday. Yeah.

    On the christmas tip, Snarky’s office party/bad candle story reminded me of an office Secret Santa gift exchange from a few years ago where the office manager decided it would be “amusing” if you could take someone else’s gift from them if you liked theirs better. While everyone else was happy with their Starbucks gift cards, Isotoner gloves and bottles of wine, I ended up with a bed tray. Yeah, one of those white pressboard trays with legs on it that you can prop over your lap while in bed to…I don’t know…eat breakfast, pay bills, whatever. I’m sure there are some people who would appreciate such a gift, but I’m not one. I have no use for a bed tray and don’t like to do anything else in bed besides sleep and have sex. I can almost guarantee it was a re-gift, too. I sincerely doubt anyone from my office actually *bought* the bed tray, but had it given as a gift to them at some christmas past and decided to get rid of it as a re-gift at the goofy office party… ho ho ho.

    After focusing on nothing but the negative, I thought it would be nice to focus a little on the positive, too. Again, it falls not on christmas, but on my birthday which, about every 8 or 9 years, happens to fall on Easter. It happened once when I was a kid, turning 9 years old, so my mom decided to turn it into a big celebration. I woke up Easter morning to find all kinds of stuffed toys (mostly rabbits) and Easter baskets, large and small, at the foot of my bed. There were more presents and Easter baskets in the family room, and it seemed like the whole day was just for me. It’s one of my favorite childhood memories.

    Years later when I was turning 24, I was working as a college radio DJ and my show happened to fall on the night of my birthday. Being the microphone ham that I am, I figured the best way for me to spend my b-day was on the air, so that’s what I did. I was sad at first that none of my friends showed up to keep me company, and only a few of my regular listeners called in to wish me a happy b-day. But then during the last hour of my show, a bunch of my DJ friends started to show up, and then my college boyfriend showed up with a homemade cake for me (he’d made it), and proceeded to embarrass me on the air with birthday tomfoolery every time I turned on the mic. The boyfriend also got up on the table in the studio facing the control room and did a dance just for me. It was one of the best, most thoughtful things anyone could have done for me, and remains one of my favorite memories from that time.

    Anyway, happy holidays, all. I hope everyone has a good, relaxing one and receives only good gifts.

  234. I’ve gotten some ridiculous gifts, most of which were of the strangely misguided type, but I think the most baffling bad gift was shampoo and conditioner. Not fancy stuff–a cheap kind you can buy at the grocery store. I finally decided it was one of those ‘oh shit have to wrap something‘ gifts, but… seriously? Cheap shampoo?

    I just got, as in five minutes ago, one of the best presents I’ve ever gotten–my girlfriend commissioned a mutual friend who’s art I adore into painting my favourite character from my girlfriend’s stories.

    I’m about to cry, in the best possible way.

  235. Out of all of these terrible presents, I think the terriblist is the bee bracelet because it is suuuuuper cheesy and not only disregards the identity and preferences of the recipient, but also assumes that drummergrrrl is going to change her name AND all of her tastes to fall in line with all of the other bee ladies. Like, whatever you were into prior to marriage is out the window and it’s all bee collectibles from now on!

    Good job not marrying that guy!

  236. Just wanted to note, for aliciamaud74: Mr Farore is a potter/sculptor, and he says that bright blue glazes are usually made with cobalt, which, while it can be harmful in powder form, once fired should not be able to cause any damage. So, while some misfiring may have caused it to produce awful smells, there is most likely not anything lung- or brain-damaging going on there. :) Now you can burn your stinky nightmare penguin candles in peace knowing that your lungs, if not your poor, penguin-assaulted eyes, are safe!

    On the other hand, er, it might have a plastic coating, so if it smells like burning plastic, you should probably stop heating it up >>;

  237. Yay! Thanks, Farore. . .I actually have grown fond of the weird little item and it’s amoebic shaped penguins, so it’s good to know I’m not ruining them (nor my lungs!) by using the gift!

  238. @Renatus: Your girlfriend rocks.

    @thirtiesgirl: That radio station birthday sounds sooooooo cool! I want to be there right now. Also? The Easter of thirtiesgirl? Made me wibble in a happy way.

    @OTM: I completely agree with you. The bee thing sucks and blows at the same time on so many levels it boggles the mind.

  239. Nobody’s probably paying attention anymore, but my MIL usually wins at least an honorable mention for the Worst Gift Ever.

    She asked her (now ex-) husband for a chest freezer, and . . . he didn’t get it for her. But she really thought he did, because he kept dropping hints about how much she’d like it — like, on purpose to make her think he got her the freezer. She asked, “Is it big?” He said, “Yep, pretty big.”

    “Does it have a lid?” “Yep, it has a lid.”

    “Can I put cinnamon rolls in it?” “Well, you could . . .”

    Christmas morning she gets a giant, lidded, wheeled trash can.

    She always says she should have known, because his father got his mother a broom for Christmas one year.

    The best present I’ve ever gotten was either my KitchenAid mixer or the fryer (pan) that my boyfriend-now-husband got me for V-Day after we’d been living together for a few months. (I’m the kind of person who loves kitchen supplies.)

    I’m hoping I get a food scale for Xmas — not for dieting, for making awesome recipes that require measuring flour in ounces. Oh, and also for soapmaking. :-D This is the kind of present that I suspect others are going to think is a horrible, horrible gift, and yet it’s exactly what I want.

  240. Stephanie, you and I are twins on this issue. Mr. Twistie finally broke the ‘girls don’t like to get kitchen stuff as gifts’ barrier for my birthday this year when he got me a fabulous 14-cup Cuisinart.

    My mother was just like us. When she and my father first started dating, he caught her drooling over a Sabatier chef’s knife. When she wasn’t looking, he went back and got it for her for her birthday…and then spent the next week or so in Hell thinking she was going to open it up and kick his ass. He needn’t have worried. She loved it. In fact she loved it to her dying day.

  241. My best friend and I knew we were going to be spending Christmas with our families, so she’s not going to be around to nag me into being happy, and not self-harming. So, right before she left, she wrote ‘I LOVE YOU’ in permenant marker on my left forearm.

    Best. Christmas present. Ever. ^-^

    I’ve got some pretty inappropiate stuff from relatives over the years… not in a ‘this is horrible’ way, but just in a ‘this will never in a million years be me’ kind of way. Most of it that was clothes and jewellery has now been donated to my theatre group’s wardrobe. Nothing story-worthy.

    I think I’ve had a pretty year for buying good stuff (just being in the right place at the right time. For instance, Johnnie Walker Black Label whiskey for aforementioned friend on a £15 limit, due to it being half price), but I’ve been told by her bf that I have ruined his university career and social life for the next six months by buying him a collection of Fallout 1, 2 and Tactics. Oops. ;)

  242. The most absolutely 110% totally perfect and appropriate present I’ve ever had was from my friend Jas for my last birthday. Three out of my four favourite things are: long hot baths, reading and drinking wine, preferably together (the fourth is eating but apart from chocolate, I don’t tend to do it in the bath). And she got me a suction-cup wine glass holder for the bath. So I could have my hands free for reading. Win win win. I think I may even have done a little jig. That girl rocks.

    The best gift I’ve ever given was to Jas for her 30th birthday, when our mutual friend Gill and I got all our friends to club together cash to buy her a trip to NYC, which she’d always wanted to do but could never afford.

    At her party with literally 50 of her family and friends standing around her while she was opening her presents, we gave her in turn the ingredients for a Manhattan cocktail in separate little parcels (jar of cherries, bourbon, bitters etc), then a postcard with travel stamps (including a stamp from JFK) on it, and finally an NYC guidebook for the finale and to make it absolutely obvious.

    The thing is, Jas is the biggest Food Nerd Ever (her amazing food blog btw is http://ginandcrumpets.wordpress.com ) and only two or so ingredients into the cocktail was having an inner monolog something along the lines of: “These are the ingredients for a Manhattan, omg, omg, they’ve bought me a flight to NYC. Wait a minute, they couldn’t have, that’s like hundreds of pounds, it must be the SATC total boxset. Don’t get too excited, pretend to be nonplussed in case it’s not the SATC boxset. The SATC boxset would be awesome. Wow the SATC boxset! Calm down, don’t get too excited. But now it’s a postcard saying a ticket to heaven. Omg omg. It *is* a trip to NYC. Omg omg omg, but it can’t be and etc…..”

    She then pretty much turned an amazing shade of pink, grinned like a Cheshire cat and then the jumping around started. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed giving a present so much in life and to someone so fabulous who so deserved it. And the fun we had when we went to NYC for Halloween, NY Marathon and Obama’s election: unforgettable. Drunk British girls with a food and shopping fetish set free in NYC is something to behold I promise ya!

    The worst ever present ever was my 18th birthday present from my sister. In fact, she is always my worst present giver (note to self, do not start ranting about your horrible, self-obsessed, selfish sister who once told you you were fat and ugly and no-one would ever love you….ahem). She bought me giantly large, cotton candy pink and cornflower blue enamel-decorated, twisted 18ct gold semi-hooped earings (the kind that are three-quarters of a circle and have a butterfly fastener at the back). And I don’t ever wear gold. Or large jewellery. But more importantly, I didn’t actually have pierced ears…..*sigh* I am truly the Empress of Present Face when it comes to my sister….

  243. I love useful gifts, and it took years to get the spouse to realize it. His mom was the kind who always got practical gifts but wanted the jewelry/froufy/pretty stuff, and taught him well to always get “nice” things. Then he ended up with me, who would be a lot happier with snow tires than a necklace. :) I finally managed to explain how much I like the nice, contented, safe fulfilled feeling of having an actual need taken care of, and it’s been pretty good since then. He’s still a little embarrassed to admit to other people what he got me, because he gets “Oh no! You got her what??” reactions, but we’re getting there.

  244. I’ve probably given my mom when I was in elementary school one of her worst gifts ever – a neon green stuffed lion! lol I don’t have any clue why I got it for her. haha

    I am making a lot of gifts myself this year. I embellish pictures that have been printed out of cotton photo fabric and then sew it onto a cotton bag. They’re pretty cute, if I say so myself. For my dad, this year I took old family photos and made them into slide shows and put them on disc. He really likes that kind of stuff.

    My worst was probably this glove that lights up. Really, really weird.

    Best holiday gift was probably getting cats for the first time my Christmas in second grade.

  245. My list of inappropriate and hideous gifts is sorrowful and lengthy:

    Ex-fiance – got me two pieces (for lack of a better word) of art made by a coworker with artistic delusions. Made of unpainted plywood, about 4 feet tall, with metal gee-gaws attached: one looked like an enormous cheese-grater and the other appeared to be a giant doorbell.

    Different ex-boyfriend – although this idiot was a computer geek, he did not research the animal and bought me a spur-thigh tortoise for Valentine’s Day. It was adorable, I love critters, but this beast was expected to grow into one of those monsters a few children can ride in a zoo. I lived in a 3rd floor apt without access to a yard. Found it a home through Petfinder’s.

    Co-worker – a container with blueberry flavored coffee, already opened!

    Ex-girlfriend – took a pottery class and made me a mobile using a huge rusty door hinge she found in her family farm. She hung ceramic cut-outs that resembled shriveled penises (or Jalapenos?) and flowers. Also an ashtray that looked like it was made by a spastic 3 year old. (I don’t smoke.) She loves to send me packages filled with odd things like boxes of cereal, condiment packets and birthday candles. I can’t decide if she’s being passive-aggressive, has lost her mind or is terminally cheap. “great big box of WTF” indeed!

  246. Best gift I’ve ever given? Packers tickets to my husband for the playoffs between the Packers and the Giants in January 2008. It was Favre’s last game as a Packer, and it was a terrific surprise b-day gift for him. I don’t think I will ever top it.

    Worst gift I’ve given? Probably a tie to my dad.

    Best gift I’ve ever gotten? I am embarassed to say this, but I cannot remember a truly great gift that someone’s given me. I think I am difficult to buy for. For me, it would mean a lot more if someone was to plan a surprise party than if they were to give me a gift.

    Worst gift I’ve ever gotten? a voodoo flag from my dad, who really has no idea what I like. But it was the thought that counted, and he meant well, so I still mustered a lot of joy in my heart.

  247. Oh, the amount of bad gifts I’ve had over the years from my grandparents. Right after I decided to become a vegetarian (with some ideas about animal rights activism, although still fledgling because I was in middle school) my grandmother got me a really expensive leather purse. This was possibly the same year they came back from safari and brought my oldest brother an elephant-skin wallet (my brothers aren’t as gung ho about animal activism as me, but he was still horrified by that). She’s also given me fugly jewelry (last year’s Christmas gift was amazingly fugly, something I wouldn’t imagine wearing in a million years) and useless things like silk scarves (they’re pretty, but I am not a silk scarf wearing person). I think she’s finally given up, though, this year she gave me a gift card to Macy’s (which is still a bit baffling, since I’ve never shopped there in my life, but I’m sure I can find something).

    I think the best gift I can remember getting (although my mom has given some other awesome ones in the past) is a box set of Stephen Sondheim DVDs. I hero-worship the man and adore everything he’s ever done, and my mother got me that for my birthday one year. I got really excited and she said “well you’re so easy to shop for” which unfortunately made me burst into tears because my dad had ignored all of my wishes for that birthday and just sent me money instead of a real gift. *Facepalm* That’s kind of typical for my family, that my dad gives “WTF how is this useful” gifts and my mom gives “… you know me so well! <3 " gifts. The real problem is that his gifts tend to be horribly expensive as well, which makes it so you can't really refuse them or even return them (I mean… not that a $1k TV is bad, but it can't exactly fit into a dorm room).

  248. Just as I was going to bed last night I remembered the actual, honest-to-dog bad gifts I’ve gotten. What’s worst about them is that with some thought on the part of the giver, they would have been the best gifts.

    The first was this dinky little computerish toy back when I was 9 or 10. Early in December my grandparents sat me down in front of it and asked me to ‘figure it out’ to see if it was appropriate to give to my grandfather’s biological granddaughters. I was puzzled and a little crushed because I loved tech things and would’ve liked one for myself, but I spent a few days working through its manual and playing with it and exhausting its options before I declared it fun enough for someone a couple of years younger than me.

    What do I open on Christmas day? … I got some use out of it, but after having wrung every ounce of fun of it I could because I was sure I’d never see it again, its charm had paled.

    The second was an acoustic guitar for my 16th from my mom and grandparents. I was big into grunge and a guitar was possibly the most awesome thing I could have gotten. Except… I didn’t get so much as a how-to guide, much less lessons or any sheet music. The guitar was also much, much too big for my tiny girly hands, so when I finally did scrape up the cash to buy a how-to magazine, playing was so painful I gave it up, wondering what I did wrong.

    The third was a lap harp when I was 19. I was ridiculously into all things Celtic, so I was delighted!–except, no classes, no manual, no music, not even a tuner. And then I found out my mom had sold the guitar to pay for it because ‘I never played it.’

    I got a how-to book and a tuner some years later, but by that point I’d given up. I left it with my mom when I moved overseas, and I hope she’s sold the wretched thing since.

    All I can think is that my mom and grandparents have little experience with musical instruments, so maybe they assumed my two years of band back in middle school playing a wind instrument somehow gave me insight into how to play everything else. Or they expected me to be a musical prodigy sooomehow. The computer toy, though, is still utter WTF for me.

    I still love them lots, but I’ve been relieved every time they’ve given me cash instead of things.

  249. My uncle excels at giving obligatory gifts — the kind of stuff that just turns into clutter. I think my worst gift ever, however, was a Harry and David fruit basket from my sister. She’d had a hard time that fall, so I understood that she didn’t have the time to give a thoughtful gift, but it flabbergasted me how expensive those things are (at least $50) and how low quality the contents are. My father used to send me cheapo fruit baskets while I was in college, and those things had fruit and candy at least twice the quality of Harry and David’s. I guess that company gets away selling such low quality stuff since it’s the epitome of an obligatory gift where the sender has no reason or way to verify that it’s worth the money.

  250. I think the best present that I’ve gotten this year wasn’t even a Christmas present, and I hope my dad knows how much it means to me. About two weeks before Christmas, we went shopping together for presents, and I had planned to take him out to lunch (it was just the local IKEA cafeteria, but that’s what I could swing at the time). I was dreading it a bit because ever since I’ve gotten into high school, it’s been hard to talk to my dad about anything, and I’ve often felt like we’re not connected as much as I’d like to be.
    But we actually talked about things, and I found out some things I never knew about him. It was really fun. :)

  251. The gift that made me cry this year was actually cash. Which sounds stupid, but there is an explanatory back-story.

    My gran promised all of her grandchildren 250 Euros if we didn’t smoke till we were 21. By the time I turned 21, her health had gotten so bad that she no longer thought about it. And then last year she died two weeks before christmas.

    This year, my mom reminded my uncle that gran had asked in her will for the remaining grandchildren to still get the money if they kept their end of the deal.

    So I got a gift from my gran even though she wasn’t there to give it to me. Bawled my eyes out.

  252. I don’t really know what the recipient thought of this, but I thought it was really funny. So did my accomplice.

    All three of us — my accomplice, me, and the recipient — were about 15-16 years old and complete music geeks. The recipient’s father taught orchestra in my accomplice’s town, but that orchestra was a little bit thin in the string section, so the recipient and and I had come to sit in and fill it out a bit. And afterwards we all went out to a restaurant.

    Now what was funny was that the recipient and I were good friends but not romantically involved in anyway, and he had a huge crush on my accomplice. A huge crush, but not many social graces, because he evidently spent a lot of time telling her what a horrible person I was and how he had no interest in me. My accomplice and I had met at a music camp and she was astounded to find out that I wasn’t a horrible person at all and we became great friends, but we didn’t say anything to the guy (recipient) and he didn’t know that we knew each other.

    So before that Christmas concert we knitted a pair of very peculiar socks. She knit one sock and I knit the other one. (They were rib knit and wound up crescent shaped and they were two different sizes because our stitches must not have matched.) We wrapped up each sock separately. Our friend (“the recipient”) opened the first one and didn’t know what it was because it looked so peculiar and there was only one. When he opened the second one we probably told him that this was a pair of socks and we had each knitted one of them. Or maybe he figured it out on his own.

    Anyway, he was so busted.

  253. OK, just back from xmas with the family, 2 hours away. As I indicated in my previous comment in this thread, my family is not great when it comes to gift giving; at least they haven’t been since I was about 12. This year was a very small christmas for us, which is fine by me. My mom is ill and bedridden, so her housemate and constant nurse did all the shopping this year, when she had time in between caring for my mom. I was surprised to get something I actually wanted this year: a Snuggie – leopard print, no less! I was considering buying one for myself, but hadn’t quite made up my mind yet. So I was pleasantly surprised by my xmas gift. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone make up your mind for you. Yay, xmas!

  254. @hsofia – yeah those PS3′s are pretty spendy. We had decided to keep it simple, however, he never used to listen to me. This one particular time he did. To be fair, he got a new laptop from me.

    This is why we decided to completely opt out of the whole thing from now on.

  255. Best gift received: there are actually three here, all fairly recent. My grandmother, who died in July, had already made me a scarf for Christmas. It’s red and white and fuzzy and frivolous, and I love it. My dad and stepmother are giving Mr. Other Becky and me two days — one to come over to our house and help us with indoor work, like installing new cabinet hardware, hanging a new storm door, hemming and hanging curtains, etc., and one to help us with yardwork.

    The third “best gift” has some backstory — I love to sleep. When asked when I want to get up, my traditional answer is “Thursday.” So, a few years ago, my husband took a giveaway old-fashioned alarm clock (the kind with the bells on top) from a trade show, removed the face, and replaced it with a new one that just says “Thursday.”

    Worst gift received — nothing memorable. Just the usual impersonal candles, bath stuff, and journals. People who don’t know me well tend to extrapolate from “introverted bibliophile” to “keeps a journal,” which I don’t and never have and have no interest in starting. They get points for effort, though.

    We usually give homemade cheese straws for Christmas, and this year was no exception. We also usually give a little something extra to our nearest and dearest, and this year that was all homemade too. (Dried tomatoes, salad dressing, Kahlua… there’s a surprising range of stuff that can be homemade without too much effort.)

  256. Worst gift: A copy of the book Sexy at Any Size, from a friend who said, “I thought you could use that,” when I opened it. Ummm…yeah. Thanks.

    What COULD have been a Worst gift but turned out to be fantastic: hubby got size 7 women’s Ugg boots from his company gift exchange this year. I last wore size 7 shoes when I was 7 years old. So he took them back, and I ended up with a $152 store credit to Sports Chalet. Booyah! Got new gym shoes, hiking boots, and a Spinning saddle pad.

  257. I had an aunt who was an expert at giving “almost-but-not-quite” presents. One year I asked for a crock pot so I could put dinner in before I went to work. She gave me another kind of cooker that was slightly hotter, so anything that I put into it for eight hours would be MUSH. Another year I asked for camping gear, as my husband and I were starting to camp. She got me light weight “snug sacks” that were too light for the cold weather camping we did, and DIDN’T zip together–after we had been married about eight years!

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