There are few certainties in the world, but one constant you can always rely on is that each Christmas you will receive a present that defies all sensible logic. We’re not just talking random presents here – shampoo for a hairless man, for example – we’re also talking insanely practical presents like screen wash for your car or some bin liners, gifts with about as much sincerity and thought as an interview by Tess Daly.
And these gifts prompt two things: firstly, they force the recipient into a hammed-up performance worthy of Eastenders where the horror at receiving, say, The Ornithological Survey of British Birds 2011, is covered by over-the-top gushing about how they admire the local magpie, who they’ve called Derek. Secondly, they initiate said recipient into some in-depth soul searching about what, exactly, it was about them that made someone buy them that Ornithological Survey of British Birds 2011 – and the answer to questions like that can often be upsetting.
Of course, one man’s nightmare can be another man’s delight – just look at the success of U2 – but it is still possible to whittle down ten things that you should really avoid when purchasing a gift for someone this Christmas to sidestep the trauma of the above. And here they are...
10. Personalised products
While technology may have given us the power to put our face on everything from beer mats to calendars, let us assure you that no-one wants to have your mug smiling at them from their, well, mug. Brace yourself, even your mother doesn’t want to have to look at you every time she fancies a cup of tea. Do everyone a favour and pick a tasteful landscape picture instead.
9. Practical items
“One Christmas I had the following in my stocking: grit salt, anti-bac tissues and a personal alarm,” recalls Lowri from Bournemouth. “Meanwhile, my dad had given my mum an implement to weigh her luggage before a flight.” Other people tell of receiving bins, windscreen wiper solution and a toothbrush. I could go into detail about why none of these items should ever be Christmas presents, but frankly, if you think otherwise you should just seek medical attention immediately.
This may well just be one for the fellas. Lads, what size is your girlfriend? You don’t know, do you? A thong so big it looks like a lasso and a bra so tight it leaves trackmarks is not going to get you anywhere but into a dry spell. Do yourself and her a favour: don’t try.
7. ‘Comedy’ t-shirts
Just because something is written on a t-shirt, it does not mean it suddenly becomes funny. Nor does it make the person wearing it funny. It makes the person wearing it look like an idiot. So in giving someone a comedy t-shirt saying something like “Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult”, you are basically offending them, and outing yourself as an accountant.
6. The Guinness Book of World Records
“I LOVE this book”. No you don’t. No-one ever reads this book for longer than five minutes. They look at a few pictures of the freakier feats, and then leave it on a shelf. Forever. The names of the attention seekers that have sacrificed their health, their families and their lives to get into a book are thus left unread. This is a tragedy and in buying this book you fuel it.
5. Budget gadgets
Dads get lumbered with everything from talking robots and GPS tags for car keys to mechanical jumper defluffers and nose trimmers… seriously, just buy him some real ale and a Pink Floyd CD, saving everyone the hassle of trying to pretend the reason the £20 remote controlled helicopter you bought him is not working is something other than the fact it is a £20 remote controlled helicopter.
4. Out-of-date fashion
“Bermuda shorts!” shouts Nikki from Bristol. “Worst pressie in the world at ALL times.” Quite. But such is the fast-moving world of fashion it is scarily easy to buy something you thought was trendy, but is actually less current than a Jim Davidson joke. The safest bet if you must buy clothes is to trick the recipient into picking something out. Then you can blame them.
OK, so giving someone a voucher does avoid getting them something they don’t want/need/like. However, it is also the laziest of presents and doesn't exactly show a lot of emotion or thought. Buying someone a voucher says: “I do not know you well, and I can’t be bothered to try. Here, I bought this on the way over.”
2. Misguided Help
Even if someone secretly realises the need for assistance in getting thin or becoming a more positive person, this does not mean that for Christmas they would like you to aid them by buying them some patronising self-help guides. There’s a time and a place to surreptitiously call someone a fatty, and Christmas is definitely not it.
1. Gifts for yourself
Admit it, when you go Christmas shopping you end up buying stuff you like, not what the gift recipient would like. Whether it’s DVDs, CDs, clothes, toys or anything else for that matter, stop and think: is this for me or them? Nine times out of ten you discover you just bought the Greatest Hits of Limp Bizkit for your elderly gran who is president of the Cliff Richard Fanclub.