The Modernist gift guide
[Note to editor: I am not calling this a holiday
gift guide as I originally intended, not just in hopes
that this piece will have some relevance on this site post-holidays
or for those geeky bastards who already did their holiday
shopping, but also because I havent gotten a good gift
in years. Birthdays, anniversaries, whatevers. People need
help, always. Okay? You can print this part.]
My little brother and I took German as our foreign language
in high school. Four years. I dont know why reallyI
suppose it was just the impractical, fuck-everything sort
of thing to do if you were a leftie, black-wearing, perpetually
sinister, constantly reapplying anarchy-symbols-in-white-onto-your
back-pack, NIN-loving, suburban, ugly intellectual-thug nerd
who hated yourself and everyone else equally. As life goes,
our teacher Frau Ross, was, of course, a Nazi. Totally revisionist.
So the whole thing ended up being more entertaining than we
bargained. I got my only A+ in German. Astoundingly, today
the only thing that sticks with me is scheise
(which frankly, I could have picked up anywhere) and ich
habe keine Ahnung (which means I have no idea.)
But other than fond memories of our extra credit projects
that involved abstract video art scored with Einsturzende
Neubauten tracks, I do remember the Fraus Christmas
tales. She said in Germany there was an evil Santa, Kris-something-that-isnt-Kringle,
who would put coals in your stocking if you were bad. Now
granted I was a 15 yr old woman at that pointI
hadnt thought about Santa in about a decadebut
this legend gave me chills. The good kind. It made me like
Germans. It made me see the subversive radness in giving.
Everyone in your life sucks anyway, so this Christmas send
If only we could put our benevolent phoniness on hold and
do just that. But, brethren, our problem is deeperwe
dont even know how to give anything anymore much less
combustible dark mineral chunks of carbonized vegetable matter.
Recently I meditated on why Christmas sadly means nothing
to me any more, and I thought, what is missing? Oh, what could
be better than fake fat red suited guys and weird stop-motion
animation Rudolph shows, and candy that you were allowed to
eat in shocking excess? One word: GIFTS. Fucking pres-ies
for no reason but ceremony. There was a time when everybody
was doing it. But then along with the acne and low self-esteem
of your teen years, suddenly all of it came to a stopexcept
for your parents and perhaps their annual material testaments
to how little they know you. Yet another sucky way to say,
For a moment, lets just pretend Bush aint gonna
win. Lets say later to this fine Republican
by doing one last conservative capitalist evil thing ... lets
circulate material things! Gift-giving. Lets buy stuff!
For people we like! Isnt that so fucked up? I hate
gifts! I hate when people get me things. I hate when people
buy stuff instead of giving me hugs! Horrible!
Knock it off, herbs. Christmas, youve lost that loving
feeling... admit it: nobody doesnt like gifts. So recently
in considering the season, I decided to create some gift guidelines.
All I propose is when you decide to give, think
about it from the getting point of view (like,
as in, um, sex and stuff.) I dont want the incidental,
I dont want whats easy, I dont want a nicely
wrapped whatever, I dont want your metaphoric
STD. If the shit deserves wrapping, the shit deserves thinking.
When I was a kid, my dad said poor people routinely gave each
other toothbrushes as gifts and left coupons or stamps as
tips in restaurants. I once did the lattera coupon for
a free Baskin Robbins fro-yo, at a shitty diner because I
was totally poor and starting to call my poor mislead trouble-making
choices punk rock. I dont know what happenedI
dashed out and felt bad later and probably put no dent in
the universe with such rebellious cheapness. However, I never
gave a toothbrush or got oneIll admit it, I cant
bring myself to. Why? Obviously because of an ugly elitist,
insecure, superficial aspect of my nature, because when I
think about it, its not so bad. I mean, dont we
all hate buying toothbrushes? It sucks. Plus, a few years
ago, a friend of mine in the UK, with a mom who was in a real
live cult in Fiji, told me for Christmas the cult leader gave
them all a wish list. On top of the wish list: a toothbrush.
A $600 toothbrush. Awesome!
Forget toothbrushestheres a whole slew of other
things in this category that we hate to buy that are like
laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, trash bags, but look
a (very slight) notch classier when given...a Brita pitcher.
IKEA wood do-hickeys. Target plastic storage knick-knacks.
Expensive(-looking) frames. Fancy hooks. You know.
Recently I splurged and bought myself a Dirt Devil for $30!
Dirt Devils are a wonderfuland now that I really consider
it, entirely indispensablepart of a hygienic home. And
now in their truly devilish shiny red, aesthetically pleasing
as well. When I consider this against a gift for myself that
I most regreta $330 Tufi Duek white leather beach bag,
in a moment of PMS insanity, back in the old late 90s wealth
bubbleI think, yes, there is something to the simple
things in life. A Dirt Devil reminds me that I care about
good investments and the abolishment of day-to-day accumulating
household dirt; the Tufi Duek bag reminds me of the inferiority
of woman and their stupid shopping impulses and certain obscure
high-fashion Latin American designers that are battling the
global market predicament by making sweatshop workers out
of us, the consumers.
A lot of people think these things, like wedding registries,
are so grody. Believe me, I understand, but lets look
at the real message behind this gift. Whats better than
someone saying, my taste is never going to be anywhere
as good as yours, youre complicated, difficult as fuck,
rather regal in fact, so the best I can do is make a guess
at a place where you would want to shopand even that
was stressy, you fancy-pants!so here, heres a
piece of paper with a dollar value that says on me!
Loot. Thats pretty awesome. Sure weve all pretended
to be disappointed when someone close to us gives
us the thin envelope, with the cheesy card and gift certificate
tucked inside...but really, it was just the cheesy card. Go,
GC-ers. The only better thing: MONEY.
No matter what anyone tells you, no matter what people try
to say this symbolizes, no matter how your better judgment
says tipping is for your superintendent, please know: there
is zero shame in this game. Nobody doesnt love your
benjamins. (Note: Hamiltons and Lincolns not only dont
sound as good, they wont suit your lovelies trembling
hands as much upon envelop-rip.) And its unique! Face
it, none of your friends give this gift. Cut the middlemanand
hey, give them a way to get you something!
A Gift You Made
Our culture tells us this is the sweetest thing of all. You
know what our culture is basing that on? Your mother, circa
kindergarten. Face it, your mama would have rather had a Rite-Aid
Designer Imposter than that crappy, gluey, glitter-ridden,
paper-mache heart-esque atrocity you presented to her, but
she loves you in some surreal extra-human way, so no one can
compete. Nobody likes arts and crafts by professionals, so
what makes you think theyll like your amateur art or
craft? Sure, it may elicit a chuckle, a nostalgic
sigh, a fond shake of the head, a mantle-piece placement,
but your pottery, your charcoal portrait, your weird wood-box-Martha-Stewart-thing,
is a cop-out. Nobody wants it. Kids know that. When was the
last time a parent gave their kids shit they made? Kids wont
put up with that bullshit. Their wish list is at a strip mall
near you. Put the felt and needles down, sweet stuffdont
let your poverty and kind heart (a dangerous combo) distort
what giving is all about.
Hardly as successful as the 20-something plague that is Friendster,
there was however, a time that this trend was spreading like
crabs among unemployed, un-laid city hipsters. I swear. Many
people have blocked this one outno doubt due to how
embarrassing it wasbut I promise you, more than one
person you know got/gave it. The verdict: hell no, Romeo.
Leave the written-word creamery to Danielle Steele. That shit
needs to be deliveredregardless of owing.
I dont want to have to turn in a fucking construction
paper ticket to get a BJ from your coy, creative, lil cacatalkin
glossy mouth. Grow up. And dont fret: I am sure we can
find a way to get it on regardless, I promise.
I know you got that at Urban Outfitters. Okay? Ha, hipster
brownie mix, poo art, a blow-up doll, a weird dirty action
figure, a hula girl lamp, one of those monkey-sock thingguess
what, your lameness is the equivalentand deserves the
expression upon receiptof the term kewl beans!
Nobody is laughing more than your poor purged wallet. This
is the fruitcake of all gifts. The joke is on you. You are
Martha Dumptruck and the whole world is your Heathers, cackling,
at the caricature that is you.
Okay. I say okay. Im not one to turn down booze. Who
is? Food is a little lower down the tier, but if its
not some ironic atrocityha, ha the fruitcake
(but joke is on you bastard, because I am one of these weird
birds who loves that shit)it will get eat. Okay, so
youre poor and unimaginative and busy, fine. I know
that it is my responsibility to consume whatever you got me
anyway, or the starving children in Africa will carry on with
that starving-in-Africa stuff, right?
Gifts That Are Really Gifts For You
Dinner out (with me)! A vacation to an amazing exotic locale
(with me)! I love you so much-and I love me so much! So,
because normally I am a masochistic deprived bored bastard
with friends who will never think to get me a cool thing like
this, I am going to involve both of us! The only catch is
you have to deal with me through it. I say, Italy: ok;
dinner with you at the trattoria where you work at (cause
you get 50% off): no, nobody is getting laid.
Gifts From Faraway Places: I went to ___ and all I got
you is this dumb ___
Wow, I am so glad to be friends with all these jetsetting
cultured global typesI LOVE getting mass email blogs
about what youre up to in Singapore and Bali and Croatia.
It is so cool to be a white person who can go to these shithole
paradises and actually make money because their country is
sooo poor and so shithole that your dollar can buy a condo,
if only the poor fools had them to sell! Awesome. Look, Im
not going to refuse those Moroccan old man slippers, Hawaiian
macadamia nuts, French undies from Pigalle street vendors,
an orange wood rocking horse from Sweden. It will all sit
on my shelf and rot and remind me of how I am so lucky to
be friends with people luckier than me! I swear, friends,
it will make me like you more and hate me more at the same
time. Rad. But in all seriousness, there are some gifts from
far-away that have some value: if you can find the possibly
fictional real Prague absinthe, or those mythic
used schoolgirl panties from Japanese vending machines. But
think creatively and pragmatically. In high school, I traded
a piece of The Wall that looked likeand really may have
beena piece of any wall, for my friends used Doc
Martens, and do you think I regret it? Sometimes the follies
of youth are actually right the fuck on.
Gifts Inspired By Hatred
Sometimes we have these friends out of obligation. What can
we do? Theyre our friends but they suck
too. In a way, wed love it if theyd get the hell
out of our lives, so we wouldnt feel like cell-phone-screening,
email-ignoring, antisocial mean bitches. So sometimes, in
an act of passive aggression, we want to dish out the proverbial
coals and ruin someones day with a gift.
This is often a thought, a theory, not everyone can put this
in practice. But if you couldwow, you ubermensch! But
I warn you if theres an off chance that karma exists
this one can hurt. In a fit of rage, I once got an anorexic
friend of mine cookies and a scale. Okay, Im lying.
I almost did that. I came as close as humanly possible in
Walgreens at the Entemanns and ThinkThin
scale sections. But you know what? I feared karma, not hurting
this friend, and I didnt do it. You see
enough of karmas dirty full circle in everyday life.
Remember, you are a giver. Twisted spirituality
need not be involved.
Ill be the first to raise the ol hand and say
Ive been given (an eightball of cocaiokay, lets
just face it, laxativesfor my birthday) and Ive
gotten (a chocolate-covered shroom for Valentines Day.)
Dude, it was crazy.
A-OK, you self-destructive law-breaking desperado, you!
Lowest on the list: marijuana. It says: hello, Im
a scummy Phish-loving hippie who has some excellent weed connex,
and sometimes I call it Mary Jane! Most acceptable if
in the form of a holiday confection.
Ectasy: hi Im a little sketchy, but awfully happy
and friendly, and I swear this shit if from SF via the UK
via Amsterdam. 100% MDMA! Smooth not speedy. Lets roll!
Only acceptable if you still own your old raver pants; your
gym shoes are overpriced, European and very techy; and have
some place to go that you would actually fit in doing that
shit. Viva la 1997! Embarrassing but who caresyoull
be nice for a night, and have an excuse.
Cocaine: Hi I am a hot rich bitch, with fucking awesome
shoes, an old modeling career to provide endless entertainment
for my loser friends, I am head to toe in designer and in
debt, and I have a fucking bad temper, but you want to fuck
me so here. Roll me a hundred and take me to the toilet rim,
slim. Acceptable. Imagine the stylish packaging options.
Imagine the sexiness, the violence. Imagine the disappointment,
the unfulfillable hard-on. Your coke fix will be done for
a year or two. Thats success.
Heroin: Hi I am a very dirty degenerate who is dying inside
and I want to alienate you by giving you a Jack Kevorkian
type pressie, mercy killing, life sux and then you die, here
lemme introduce you to shooting up, junk rox yeah yeah yeeahhueiriei83r8e8rudhfjs.
Acceptable: are you kidding? This jokester is gonna die! But
then again, so are you one day... hmmm...
Cigarettes For New Yorkers
These hooked fools are standing outside their bars in the
2am 20-degree cold, smoking their $8.50 a pack and Phillip
Morris wants to tell me this shit isnt addictive? At
a third their price, your Delaware Parliament carton is gonna
make this neurotic NYC mess real happy... for at least a couple
Really REAL gifts
Hey, I got this friend Sallie Mae who Id love to pass
on a hearty five figures too? Wanna give her that gift from
me? That would be real. Making my dear Sallie Mae happy.
Hey, you know that hot shit job you have? The one where you
dont do anything and get paid shitloads? I remember
you saying you were feeling guilty about that paired with
the trust fund. No worries. Put in a good word, and Ill
deal with it. Really now.
Look, we all know what we all really want. Sure:
Love. Happiness. Totally. I want to be guaranteed employment
and retirement for the rest of my life; I want you, hot-asshole
who I am having a thing-thing with to make like a Morrissey
ballad and tell me that you love, tell me tell me that
you love me; I want my menopausal mother to stop her whining
on the phone, her tearful life-hating everything-obliterating
3000 mile away plaintivity about all humanity; I want my 20
yr old brother with his perfect grades and perfect girlfriend
and perfect rock band to step outta the perfection for just
one sec and remember to call me so I dont become a menopausal
mom calling with all sorts of pathetic plaintivity about all
humanity; I want my parents to remember I didnt ask
to be born and send me money aka love; I want friends, real
friends, not the type that end in ster;
I want an agent; I want my dog to stop wanting things all
the time, food-this, walk-that, pee-pee-this, poo-poo-that,
and remember this fucking dog ma rescued you from a goddamn
racetrack where in infancy you were forced to eat dangling
bloody rabbits and bust your goddam chops at 60 miles an hour
for a friggin good word, asshole; I want Al Quaeda to quietly
come, quietly take Dubya, and leave; I want really
good-tasting food for really fat people to eat without getting
fat; I want children with cancer to stop getting molested
by Jacko; I want the Forbes 400 to start a starving artists
fund; I want Brooklyn to be affordable again; I want to know
we all have a chance at dying of natural causes;
I want to rewind before that first cigarette; I want a heaven;
I want to wake up with a fresh-baked lemon meringue pie outside
my door and no note; I want everyone from Tupac to Elliot
Smith, and even that kid from The Neverending Story
to pop up and say just kidding, just messing with you,oh
my god, I guess I do want world peace.
Start slow, thats what I tell myself. I want you to
put down that UO Paul Frank Astroturf-cased wooden bong and
pick up that The Oral-B® CrossAction® Vitalizer
Advantage® Plus Control Grip®, and think. Think does
me + $$ + holidays = this? Then make your move. Its
up to each and every one of us, in yet another season of upwardly-rising-suicide-rates
and socio-psycho-culturo-geo-economic depression, to put a
lil pleasin in the season.
Or, go the classic, forever, deserved routeas weve
all been very bad this year, againjust get em
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