I really need to migrate my blog so that I can use wordpress,org instead of wordpress.com and install the plug-in that allows me to ditch the Block Editor. I decided I didn’t want to migrate during election season, and like a lot of tasks, procrastinating on it a little made it feel insurmountable. The other problem is, I really hate using WordPress this way (I’m using a different workaround, posting from the wp-admin page, but this is also really annoying) and that means that stuff I ought to be posting isn’t getting posted either. I have got to figure this out before the next election season starts, but I also have a short story due to an anthology on the 31st. It’s a conundrum.
In the meantime, I did want to bring you a belated Gifts For People You Hate, although I imagine obligatory gift purchases are down this year. The pandemic means you have an ironclad excuse for skipping any family gatherings with people outside your immediate household (and I hope you’re doing so) and workplace Christmas parties are not a thing (I hope). But, this year — should you unexpectedly receive a gift tomorrow from someone you didn’t buy for because you don’t like them — tell them it’s in the mail, you ordered it weeks ago but COVID and DeJoy have screwed up the post office so thoroughly you don’t think they’ll see it until January, and then return to this list for ideas!
As always I should note that I don’t give gifts to people I don’t like. If I gave you a terrible gift, I really thought you’d like it, I swear.
On Brand for 2020 Novelties
Who in 2020 doesn’t want a salt and pepper shaker holder that looks like a skull, with the shakers resting in the eye sockets? Or we could go with a salt-and-pepper shaker holder that features the Grim Reaper. Or for something marginally more subtle, there’s a salt-and-pepper shaker holder that’s got a skull with a raven perched on top. Any of these are the perfect way of saying “stop fucking going to parties, and wear a mask, you fucking asshole,” but with a bow on top.
These are possibly in the “actually awesome” category but when everything under “dumpster fire” on Amazon was kind of boring I checked Etsy, and you can buy a miniature dumpster with a fire that ACTUALLY TURNS ON AND FLICKERS. It’s a pointless novelty that will quickly become dated while reminding people of 2020 and therefore it’s terrible (but it’s also pretty awesome).
I saw (and shared) a meme the other day about how if you eat scrapple, you’ve got no grounds to complain about the ingredients of the covid vaccine, and in honor of this I went looking to see if artisan scrapple existed anywhere that you could buy and have shipped. I don’t know if I’m surprised or not surprised to find out that it does not, in fact, exist anywhere that I could find. I did find a t-shirt proclaiming the wearer’s love for scrapple, though.
From Calamitywear (which usually makes Blue Willow-style dinnerware but with stuff like Godzilla on it), you can get a print suitable for framing commemorating the year 2020. Comes unframed, so the person who gets it will have to frame it in order to display it.
And I don’t know if this is exactly “on brand for 2020” but it’s certainly a weird, pointless novelty: a Pencil Terrarium.
Off Brand for 2020
A cute shoe-polishing kit. Questionable as a gift in a normal year (it’s in the “gifting someone a chore, but fancied up” category), hilariously inappropriate in 2020.
Travel accessories! Packing cubes are actually great but needless to say mine haven’t gotten much use this year. This tech organizer looks like it would be super handy if I were ever going anywhere again. I’ve never found quite the right neck pillow gadget for long flights and maybe this is it? LOLSOB.
Anything makeup-related but a lipstick-brush kit really would feel like it had been dropped from another timeline at the moment, I think.
“Wouldn’t you like a new hobby” Gifts
People have responded in very different ways to the pandemic, and a lot of people have picked up a new hobby. (I now do embroidery while on Zoom calls, because I find it easier to listen if I have something to occupy my hands.) The thing about these hobbies is that they really are only appealing if you chose something that appealed to you — craft supplies for a craft you’re not interested in is just clutter.
And there are so many kits available! Especially on Etsy! Many very reasonably priced. And when you buy them, you’ll be supporting a small business!
Beginning tatting kit. Tatting is a lacemaking craft and the results are very pretty but the process involves math.
DIY lip balm. There are people for whom this would be a fantastic gift. If your recipient is a devoted Carmex user, this will definitely be a bad gift.
Macrame Kit. Macrame is one of those crafts I associate strongly with the earlier part of my childhood — it’s very 70s and not, I think, all that primed for a comeback. You can use macrame to make plant hangers but this kit makes a wall hanging.
Needle Felting Kit. Here’s the thing about needle felting, according to a friend of mine who took it up: it typically involves you accidentally jabbing yourself in the finger with the needle a whole lot of times.
Herb Garden Kit. If this person already gardens, they either already grow herbs indoors or there’s a reason they don’t (like that their cats munch on the basil shoots the second they emerge from the dirt, or knock pots off windows). If they don’t garden, there’s probably a reason for that, too.
Terrarium Kit Without a Container. This actually looks adorable if you already have a container you’re planning to use.
Other ideas: any sort of fancy food or drink if the person is not all that into cooking; any sort of “kit” where the main thing you’re getting is a weirdly impractical presentation (there are “hot chocolate tubes” all over Etsy where you get hot cocoa mix + some candies and flavorings in a corked test tube); any kit for something this person pretty much never uses, whether that’s bath bombs or scented candles or hot sauce.
Memberships and Gift Cards
This is a really hard time for small businesses, and for arts organizations and museums, and one of the ways you can support them is to buy gift cards that can be used after the pandemic. You’re genuinely being thoughtful, here: they’ll be able to use this gift card someday, and you’re investing in that nice thing still being around when the pandemic ends.
You should gift them something from their own community, obviously, but here’s a list of stuff from mine to give you ideas of things to look for.
The Science Museum of Minnesota, which is automatically extending memberships while the museum is closed. I dreamed the other day that I had for some reason gone to the Science Museum, only to find myself wandering around a big space full of people without masks, and I suddenly realized “wait, I’m not wearing a mask, no one’s wearing a mask, what set of decisions brought me here?!?” Anyway: they’re currently closed, but you can still buy a membership, as noted.
The Bakken Museum (“the museum of electricity and life”) is one of my favorite museums in the Twin Cities, and offers memberships for individuals or households.
The Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) sells gift memberships, which is bonus hilarious because the basic admission is always free. (You get some stuff with a membership, like priority access to special exhibits.)
The Guthrie Theater sells gift certificates. Give your recipient a $25 gift certificate, which will be absolutely useless unless they pony up some extra money. (OK, that’s not entirely true; they can use it to stream this year’s Christmas Carol, which is only $10.)
Mixed Blood Theater has memberships. This is a theater in Minneapolis that focuses on “addressing injustice, inequities, and cultural collisions & providing a voice for the unheard on the stage and beyond” — they’ve done some really interesting shows, although everything at the moment is virtual.
For suitable memberships and gift cards, look up art museums, science museums, history museums, and theaters in their area. Any sort of science museum membership seems like a good gift for people who have demonstrated a significant deficit in scientific knowledge since March, although use your own judgment if you’re concerned that this person might be inclined to go straight in the minute things open up, unmasked — you don’t want to give the gift of COVID to a museum staffer.
You could also gift a restaurant gift certificate: to make it a bad gift, you can either give a gift card to a place that’s doing takeout, but with food that doesn’t transport well, or you can give a $25 gift card to a place where a meal is going to cost at least $50.
Masks as Gifts
Got a maskhole in your life? I’m 100% in favor of gifting that person a mask. You can still buy a wide variety of handmade masks on Etsy in a plethora of designs, and you can include a note explaining that just like people give three-year-olds underwear with their favorite characters to get them to use a toilet, you’ve bought them a mask with (Batman, their favorite sports team, Bible quotes, etc.) to encourage them to use this simple, necessary device, and by the way, it goes over their nose. If they actually have a reason to find masks difficult to wear there are a number of add-on gadgets you can get, including inserts that hold it out slightly from your face, extender straps that are an alternative to putting the things around your ears, and stick-on aluminum strips that help you fit it better over your nose so your glasses don’t fog.
This has been such an utterly wretched year that I’m finding it hard to humorously suggest that you give someone a Naked Mole Rat Species Adoption to call them a dick. There’s an awful lot of need just about everywhere, and if you want to make a charitable gift in someone’s honor, I’d suggest a food shelf, homeless shelter, shelter for victims of domestic violence, or any group in your area that’s helping to keep people housed, fed, and safe.
My book CATFISHING ON CATNET came out in 2019 (just in time for holiday giving last year) and is still available and you can definitely give it as an (excellent) present. You can also preorder CHAOS ON CATNET, which will be out in April.
Passive-Aggressive Gift Giving Guides from Previous Years:
2010: Beyond Fruitcake: Gifts for People You Hate
2011: Gifts that say, “I had to get you a gift. So look, a gift!”
2012: Holiday shopping for people you hate
2013: Gift Shopping for People You Hate: the Passive-Aggressive Shopping Guide
Gifts for People You Hate 2014: The Almost-Generic Edition
Whimsical Gifts (for People You Hate) 2015
Gifts for People You Hate 2016 (the fuck everything edition)
Gifts for People You Hate, 2017
Gifts for People You Hate, 2018
Gifts for People You Hate, 2019
My Twitter feed: @naomikritzer
And my fiction that was published this year, in case you missed it:
Monster, January 2020 in Clarkesworld.
Little Free Library, April 2020 on Tor.com.
A Star Without Shine, May 2020, written for the Decameron Project.
I also wrote an essay, “Didn’t I Write This Already? When Your Fictional Pandemic Becomes Reality” for Tor.com.
Happy holidays! And whatever good luck traditions or rituals you might know of for the New Year, let’s all try to do ours for 2021.