How to Make a Last-Minute Gift Count

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How to Make a Last-Minute Gift Count
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How to Make a Last-Minute Gift Count

Christmas is mere days away and, if you're like us, you haven't bought a damn thing for anybody yet. Normally you'd be in a panic, grabbing whatever you first see on the shelf at Restoration Hardware and throwing some wrapping paper around it. But not this year. This year you will find that neglected someone in your life, and you will find them something perfect.

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For the Sibling You Didn't Know Was Coming into Town

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You haven't talked to Sue in, what, six months? Oh, right, she called about your dad's retirement thing, the party or whatever, back in August. Wait, was that this August? Anyway, the point is you flew in last night and on the way to the house your dad said, "It'll be nice to see Sue, huh?" and you were like, "Huh?" and your dad explained that she lost her job at the stationery store (of course) so she decided to drive home and "hang out" at the house for a little while. So, great. Now you have to get something for Sue, who will probably complain about where it was made ("Have you seen pictures of those factories??") or will say something passive aggressive like, "Oh, I don't need a frivolous thing like that. Why don't you take it?" She is impossible. Your brother Brad agrees, but he's married now so he gets to go to Sheila's parents' house and doesn't have to worry about this, he'll be down all warm in Miami, drinking whatever cocktail Sheila's dad has made that hour. The point is, you're on your own. The best option, then, is to make a small donation to some really blandly positive charity in her name. There's nothing controversial about UNICEF, is there? What about the ASPCA? Once you figure out the right one — she went on some dumb rant about Oxfam two Thanksgivings ago, didn't she? — she'll piously thank you and then gently explain that she didn't get you anything because she doesn't "believe in the consumer tradition" of Christmas. But of course you'll know that the real reason she didn't get anybody anything is because she hasn't had a real job since she stumbled out of Wesleyan with that theater degree.

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For the Parent Who Just Got Back from a Cruise

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Whew! Your mom has just had quite the time! She and Ginny and Barb and Holly from work just went on the nicest cruise to Bermuda! And, nudge nudge, they got a little wild at the discotheque one night. Have you ever had a kamikaze shot? One of Ginny's kids — you know, Brandon, the one who lives in New York and has the roommate — he made Ginny try one over the Fourth of July, so she ordered a round for everyone at the discotheque and whoo hoo! Anyhoo, it was a blast and your mom is just riding the high and has so much to do before the holidays that she doesn't have even a second to think about Dad and whatshername moving into some ungodly big place in the city and all the fancy dinners they go to, while your mom shuffles around this old dump and, what, stares at the wall? Yeah. She says she doesn't want anything, but of course you have to get her something. She said she and Barb went to a musical revue or something on the boat, so maybe look on Broadway Across America to see what show is coming into town in the near future? Get her tickets to that and suggest she take Mr. Arthur, your seventh grade math teacher who she still keeps in touch with ("We Skype, I'm Skyping. Your old ma, on Skype!"), and hope it's enough of a distraction that she doesn't notice how, uh, big in the stomach whatshername has been getting since she and your dad got back from Tahiti.

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For the Significant Other Who Just Found That Email

It was an accident, a total accident, he was just looking for the Evite from Wendy to see what time you were supposed to be there, and there was the email from Scott that you most certainly didn't tell him about. And you'd replied. And it looked like you've been in touch for a while. (You have.) So he wasn't snooping but now he knows and he said he was going to go stay at his brother's for a few days and he's being really curt over text messages, just saying "Ok" and "yeah" and "no." So you're in the dog house for something bad, actually it might be worse than that, he might really be hurt, so you gotta get him something good. Something that tells him that you were only talking to Scott because you were drunk that one night back in June after you had dinner with those clients and he was out of town and it was warm out and windy and you felt kinda sexy but lonely so you just emailed Scott, just on a whim, and he replied right back, but mostly it was just catching up, that's all it's really been. That "haha why don't you say that to my face" in that last email was not flirting or an invite to meet, it's just an expression. You somehow need to say all that with a gift because you're pretty sure he hasn't listened to the voicemail you left him at 3 a.m. yesterday. And really what better gift for this type of situation is there than a puppy. Yes, a puppy. He's waned one for ages and you've said no in the past because it will get hair all over the good sofa and a dog is like having a child and you don't want a child right now, but now is the time. Show him you love him by going down to the animal shelter and picking out the cutest mutt you can find and putting it in a box (with holes!) and wrapping a bright red ribbon around it and driving over to his brother's house and delivering it to him now, right now, no waiting until Tuesday. Yup, that will fix it, he'll realize you mean it if you give him a puppy. This is a great idea. The puppy will cure everything. Puppies always cure everything, don't they? So, ignore that text from Scott saying "hey, here, where r u?" (OK, maybe it was an invitation to meet up) and get your sorry ass down to the dog pound.

For the Coworker Who Told You She Loves You at the Company Christmas Party but Doesn't Remember

So... uh, last week? After Rick and Arlene had made their speeches thanking everyone for a great year, after Linda's husband fell into a plant trying to do "Gangnam Style" (Linda's husband is the worst), after you'd had about three too many vodka sodas, Deena walked up to you and was all, "Hey do you have any cigarettes," and you did because you knew you'd want one at this nightmare of an event, so you two went outside and got to talking and she was clearly drunk, but it was fine, she was fine. Well, until she leaned her head on your shoulder and said, looking at the snow, "You know I've always been in love with you, right? You're just the best, I think you're the best," and the moment was kind of romantic, so you went with it and there you were making out in the snow, with Deena!, and it was kind of great and kind of weird. But the next morning you snapped out of it and thought, "Oh god, I gotta nip this in the bud," but when you got to work it was obvious that Deena didn't remember — she was two hours late and had her head down on her desk all day — and you didn't want to be the ass that brought it up, like, "Hey remember when we made out, well that didn't mean anything," so you just let it go. But of course you know now that she has feelings for you and you feel really awkward about it and to top things off you just pulled her name for Secret Santa and christ you have to get something by the end of the day. Something impersonal that doesn't encourage her feelings. But not, like, pens. The best option? Run over to the Dunkin' Donuts across the street and get her a gift card. She's always drinking that coffee, isn't she? She'll use that. Don't sign it or anything, just throw it in the pile with the rest of the shitty gifts and hope that she's over you by New Year's. Meanwhile, if you're Deena, text your friend Sue and say "LOL told Scott I love him and he's totally freaked out but I didn't mean it!"

For Yourself

It's been a bad year. A real humdinger of a stupid, awful, terrible year. Where to start? You had to move to a smaller, uglier apartment farther from the train because you got reduced to a "freelancer" at work and COBRA payments are insanely expensive. Because of course you still need medical insurance to cover the Lyme disease you got from a godforsaken tick while hiking with your girlfriend. You know, that trip you took right before she dumped you and moved home to Portland to "hang out" at her parents' house and "sort things out"? So that all happened, plus Nana died in August and then your friend Pete got married and basically disappeared, so, yeah, all told it's been a real bitch of a year, thank you very much. You're not going to go home and spend time with those ghouls you call parents, so it's just you by your lonesome this Christmas. Meaning, it's time to splurge and take a cruise. Yup. Just get on a boat and sail away from your problems and hope they're all sorted out by the time you get back. Your graduate school applications will have magically finished themselves, the sink in the bathroom won't be doing that hissing/dripping thing anymore, and that drunken Facebook message you sent to Deena from high school last night will have been lost in the Internet ether before she had a chance to read it. Hell, who knows, maybe you'll meet some nice, lonely older lady on the who's there with friends who could treat you to the fancy dinner place or buy you shots or something. Everybody would win that way. Yup. You're doing it. A cruise. It's going to be the best Christmas ever.

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