Every year I find myself in the same dilemma: what to buy all those people I've accumulated on my X-Mas list that I don't particularly like but am obligated to buy something for anyway. As you can imagine, each year brings new mildly insulting, passive-aggressive challenges. Lucky for me, however, our economy produces more than enough gifts of marginal quality and questionable taste each holiday season to keep all the cretins on my list satisfied, or at least without too much to whine about publicly. Since I can't be alone, I've decided to share. In Animaniacs fashion, I call them my "special friends" or SFs for short.

Well if it's the Editor's Mess, let HIM clean it up! The key to this form of "giving" lies in walking that fine line between being directly insulting and just being socially awkward and/or inappropriate. I think you'll get into the holiday spirit after some examples that have worked for me in the past.

1. Expired Gift Cards.
Since they're expired, you can usually get these for extremely low cost or free from quality department stores and financial institutions throughout the country. Personally, I've found the $1,000-$10,000 levels work particularly well with significant others you're looking to ditch/divorce, live-in-but-about-to-separate-anyway girlfriends or boyfriends, or anyone who will be likely to give you sex as a result of the gift without being suspicious enough to make sure that the card will actually work beforehand. I can't emphasize that last point strong enough, speaking from personal experience and still walking with a slight limp.

When found out, of course, you must reinforce how much you spent on the card and promise to raise all sorts of hell with whatever establishment you purchased the card from. This one requires the most acting talent of the list but is also one of the most fun if played correctly.

2. A Suggestive Greeting Card That Indirectly Hits On Your Special Friend's Girlfriend or Boyfriend.
You can usually find something perfect in Spencer's for this one in whatever is sex appropriate for your special friend. It should say something along the lines of, "Wow, how did YOU get so lucky?" with a picture of a sexy girl or boy on the cover (whatever your friend's S.O. is), and inside print your phone number with a little smiley face. For the final touch, include a crisp $50 bill.

3. Overly Complicated Much "Assembly Required" Toys For Your Special Friend's Children
If your special friend has younger children, buy them extremely complicated, tiny-parts toys that will require your SF several hours to assemble, during which the children will incessantly be asking, "When will you be done, mommy or daddy?" I suggest any type of Bionicle or sufficiently complicated Lego kit, like the space shuttle, empire state building, or International Space Station.

4. Extremely Noisy And Annoying Toys For Your Special Friend's Children
Here anything that talks, sings, or preferably plays music is the key. It really helps if the voice is suitably annoying, like a Spongebob Squarepants or incomprehensible Scooby Doo. Make sure there is only one or two volume settings and that several sets of C or D-cells are required -- 4 to 8 is good -- but don't include them with your gift.

5. A Large Quantity Of Food Your Special Friend Is Allergic To.
Large tins of cashews or equally expensive legumes for those allergic to nuts, milk or dairy products for the lactose intolerant, and, of course, chocolate or caffeine for those who suffer from chronic migraines. If they are rude enough to remind you of their allergy or condition, smack your noggin like a V-8 commercial, play forgetful, and hint at how much you spent and how much trouble you went through, to the point of making them embarrassed for bringing it up in the first place. (This one can be enormously satisfying because it is, in fact, a completely useless gift.)

The key to this form of "giving" lies in walking that fine line between being directly insulting and just being socially awkward and/or inappropriate.
6. Flavored Condoms.
This will only work for less casual, more intimate acquaintances, but not really your S.O. or spouse, unless, of course, they're way uptight or Republican. Let's face it: giving your special friend that you don't know very well -- woman or man -- a box of flavored condoms will always be at least mildly awkward and almost always insulting.

7. A Case Of Odious And Probably Corked Wine.
If you're a wine drinker, you've learned to spot the signs: bad region, bad year, bottles stored incorrectly to virtually guarantee a cracked top and corked vino. Pick up as many as you can (for as cheaply as possible, let's face it this is basically vinegar grade stuff here), wrap it attractively, and present it warmly to your SF.

8. Sexy Underwear For Your SF's Spouse or S.O.
Skimpy v-strings or thongs for the ladies and sexy speedo-style briefs for the men. The message here is clear: either you'd like to see the S.O. in these, or you already have and want more, in either case be prepared for a fight depending upon how far you take this, how much you dislike your SF, and how much you like your SF's S.O....

9. A Book You Bought, Read And Didn't Like.
Something by John Grisham perhaps, or maybe Tom Wolfe or even veritable cranky guy Andy Rooney. In any case, the criteria here is bad, but not too bad: bad but imminently popular, at least in some snobby circle. Thomas (*yawn*) Hardy type bad. This will give you "critical deniability" when your SF discovers how awful it is.

For full effect, you must make sure to work into conversation that you've read the book and didn't like it, either before or after they've opened it, depending upon the effect you wish to have.

10. A Big Book On Resume Tips.
This one works like this: "gee, how thoughtful," your SF says, since it's a "how-to" book and you're perceived as being helpful and nice. Then, "Wait a minute, what's this guy saying here? My job sucks and I need to get a real job, is that it? I'm lazy, is that what he's saying?" And finally, "Okay, well cram it with walnuts, curly, I'm getting you 50 Ways To Satisfy Your Lover next year."


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