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Beyond Fruitcake: Gifts for People You Hate

December 2nd, 2010 (10:47 pm)

In theory, all gifts you gave would be from the heart. But in practice, sometimes you are obligated by various social customs to buy a gift for someone you deeply dislike.

When this happens, ideally you'd like to give something untraceably cheap. Craft fairs are perfect for this: a festive hand-crocheted TP roll cover with a reindeer head on top might have cost far more than the $10 coffee shop gift card the recipient would have preferred....they just don't know. Also, you can't return gifts from craft fairs. If you don't have time to go to an actual craft fair, use regretsy.com as a shopping site instead of just hitting it once a day to laugh at Etsy's most misguided crafters.

If you yourself are actually a crafter, for heaven's sake don't give this person something you made. Especially if you're a knitter. Hand-knitted items require time, skill, and (for all the knitters I know personally) vast quantities of beautiful yarn and should go to someone who will appreciate them (me, for instance). If you must give something made with your own hands, give baked goods, which take only an afternoon. Or less than that, if you make cookies with the pre-made dough from the refrigerated section. There was a trend a few years back to give "gifts in a jar," where you whipped up your own mix and packaged it in a cute jar with ribbons and instructions. What could possibly be easier than to buy a brownie mix, dump it into a jar, write the instructions on an index card, and stick a ribbon on top?

A photo gift is another way to be creative and personal in your passive-aggression. Ordinarily, if you give photos as a gift, you're giving pictures of someone or something you think the recipient will like looking at. If you're giving to someone you dislike, take a walk around your neighborhood with your camera and think carefully about framing. Perhaps you can get a picture of Minnehaha Falls but with a kid picking his nose in the bottom left corner. Or a shot of some lovely historic landmark where the only thing truly in focus is the heap of dirty snow out front. Once you're satisfied with your work, take a look at all the ways you could showcase your talent. A mouse pad? A keepsake box? A 20"x30" wall poster?

Books are always a good gift, and if you dislike the recipient, you're relieved of the hardest part of buying a book for someone, which is selecting a title they'll enjoy reading. The perfect book for the person you hate is the sort of ponderous, weighty hardcover that everyone is supposed to want to read (because it's "important" or "beautifully written") but most people just leave on the shelf forever (because it's also "boring" or "depressing as hell.") If they actually like books like that, get them Kardashian Konfidential or that book by Sarah Palin. Forget to include the gift receipt.

The ultimate gift for the person who complains about everything else is a gift card. Ideally, when gifting to someone you hate, you'll want to find a store that does exist in their town but has only one, horribly inconvenient location. Alternately, you could give them a $25 gift card to a store where nothing costs less than $50.

(Ed actually really likes fruitcake. So do the girls, but they can't eat it anymore because it always has cherries with red dye #40 in them.)

(I have been writing up "gift idea" articles for my gig at go2.com. I updated a "gifts for people you hate" article but my editor fixed it so it was USEFUL. He figures that you shouldn't be wasting your time and emotional energy carefully selecting the most passive-aggressive gift possible, you should just give them an amazon.com gift card and call it a day. And he's right, of course, but how fun is THAT?)

(I actually don't have to buy for anyone I dislike. And if you've ever given me a present and are wondering if I'm talking about you somehow, I'm not, don't worry. This came out of many message board conversations in which people groused about having to gift shop for their evil MIL, their impossible-to-please parents, etc.)


Posted by: Fruitcake Recycling (greatfruitcake)
Posted at: December 3rd, 2010 04:56 am (UTC)
I think I love you.

Passive-aggressive gift giving is an awesome idea. What a great way to pretend you care. I have a problem with Ed & girls liking fruitcake, but I'll overlook that because of the great shopping tips.

Posted by: Chris Hill (bookzombie)
Posted at: December 3rd, 2010 09:51 am (UTC)

Lovely ideas! I don't really have anyone I don't like to buy for, but do have relatives that you end up just getting chocolates for as they cannot give any ideas of what they want!

My in-laws had a habit in the past of getting presents throughout the year and then afterwards deciding who to give them to (hence one year I got a stout canvass bag, another year a cheese grater. It was actually a very good cheese grater and still gets used, but...)

The most awkward present in recent years was from a friend who is taking art classes. She'd done a painting of me and pennski, based on a photograph. Unfortunately the painting would be quite flattering if we where about 90! Politeness was the order of the day. We keep it out of the way and just bring it out to claim it's our Dorian Grey-style attic photo once in a while!

(Totally unrelated PS: I read your 'Freedom' trilogy recently - enjoyed it immensely!)

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: December 3rd, 2010 05:59 pm (UTC)

Oh, that's awesome (the awful portrait, I mean). (And I'm glad you liked my books, thank you!)

I have a cheese grater I love. I could totally imagine giving similar cheese graters as gifts except for the fact that everyone would stare at it, thinking, A cheese grater? REALLY?. It was the first kitchen gadget I ever bought (I think I got it at a K-Mart in 1991 or 1992, my freshman year of college) and was one of my best purchases EVER. (I also bought myself a set of four wine glasses that year at the local hardware store; they were made of fairly heavy glass and have held up extremely well and added a touch of class to my dorm room. They were also an excellent purchase, though they're white wine glasses so I don't use them much now. I get all nostalgic when I get them out, though.)

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: December 3rd, 2010 05:59 pm (UTC)

Thank you! I would click "like" if this were on Facebook.

Posted by: Magenta (magentamn)
Posted at: December 3rd, 2010 04:09 pm (UTC)

Do you make your own fruitcake without cherries? papersky posted a truly great fruitcake recipes a year or two ago - seeing her post reminded me. You can use various dried fruit instead of "fruitcake mix", and I have done it using oat flour instead of regular flour, because it doesn't rise much anyway.

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: December 3rd, 2010 06:03 pm (UTC)

Ed actually grew up on homemade fruitcake made by one of his uncles; it was made with fruitcake mix, though.

What he makes himself is plum pudding. It uses raisins and currants and is steamed in early December and then marinated in booze for several weeks before being re-steamed on Christmas Day and then set on fire. And then we put hard sauce on it. It's the sort of dessert that would ONLY come from England. (I mean, it also has suet in it. SUET. When I bought the suet today, everyone assumed I was going to be feeding it to the neighborhood birds because that is all anyone around here normally does with it.)

(I had to go to the co-op because Lunds was out so not only do I have suet, I have free range grass fed organic suet.)

Ed has made fruitcake in the past but was not sufficiently satisfied with the results to make it again. I think I did e-mail him the recipe when Jo posted it but he said he'd stick with making plum pudding.

Posted by: joykins1 (joykins1)
Posted at: December 10th, 2010 04:18 am (UTC)

I use this recipe for fruitcake. It is easy to make, delicious, and has no dyes at all. http://www.greensense.com/Features/Green_cuisine/fruitcake.htm

Posted by: Sylvia (sylvia_rachel)
Posted at: December 5th, 2010 01:28 am (UTC)


I get a lot of awful gifts from various ILs. (Some are passive-aggressive; most are just thoughtless. Although sometimes it's hard to tell :P) If only I could find a guaranteed non-offensive way to say "It's okay, I truly won't be offended if you just don't buy me anything. Honestly."

Posted by: Marissa Lingen (mrissa)
Posted at: December 7th, 2010 01:52 pm (UTC)

I am looking for a charity that gives some kind of electricity/power supplement to poor and underdeveloped regions.

That way I can give coal to my [redacted] without actually overtly giving them coal. "Look! It's a gift to a charity in your name! Which, when you think about it, is coal. Because you suck. Merry Christmas!"

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: December 7th, 2010 02:36 pm (UTC)

Oxfam lets you give people shit, crabs, and worms, so I'm a little surprised they haven't worked out a way to give people coal. However, they do have cooking stoves and solar-powered houses.

Posted by: Marissa Lingen (mrissa)
Posted at: December 7th, 2010 02:58 pm (UTC)

And I don't actually want it to say coal on it. Because that's, "Teehee you've been baaaaad, teehee!" I am, I'm afraid, more Minnesota deadpan passive-aggressive than that.

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: December 7th, 2010 03:20 pm (UTC)

I'd say the cooking stove probably works, then (or the house, but that's a lot more money).

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: December 7th, 2010 03:56 pm (UTC)

The Episcopalians also have a solar energy system for a family, or a smokeless stove.

Posted by: Marissa Lingen (mrissa)
Posted at: December 7th, 2010 05:14 pm (UTC)

The stoves are a really good idea, thanks!

Posted by: OneCrowdedHour (1crowdedhour)
Posted at: December 8th, 2010 09:46 pm (UTC)

Ideally, when gifting to someone you hate, you'll want to find a store that does exist in their town but has only one, horribly inconvenient location. Alternately, you could give them a $25 gift card to a store where nothing costs less than $50.

I've actually had a version of that $25 gift card tip done to me. My hat is off to you for thinking of the inconvenient location tip, which is even more refined.

Thank you for posting something really useful this holiday season.

Posted by: Jessie (orbitalmechanic)
Posted at: December 9th, 2010 08:54 pm (UTC)

I laughed until I nearly cried when you first posted this, but apparently didn't say so! Delicious, delightful.

Posted by: Nyet Ya Koshka (coldtortuga)
Posted at: December 10th, 2010 07:09 pm (UTC)

And on the flip side, there are the inevitable problems of trying to guess what everybody really does want for Christmas:

http://wondermark.com/684/ -- In which the Help is not helpful.

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