Much as I adore spoiling myself over the Christmas period, there is a small downside to industrial capitalism’s ability to deliver everything our heart desires within a 48 hour period. Like most people I’m too selfish to lose much sleep over sweatshop working conditions or the destruction of local retail, but am genuinely saddened at the new social complication in gifting somebody a really passive-aggressive Christmas present.
It’s harder to stay poker-faced over “accidentally” buying petrol station milk chocolates for a vegan when they know full well you could have ordered some kale crunchies during your last Amazon binge, or giving a cousin an itchy cardigan in the wrong size when they can easily exchange it for credit against a couple of Michael Bublé DVDs. I’m certainly not about to give up my crown of Christmas bitch, so the only thing for it is to go all-out and show people you care about the message you give at Christmas – by lumbering them with the most inappropriate gift that the internet can possibly provide.
The annoyingly perky
Winding these people up is like shooting fish in a barrel, but is reliably delicious, like smashed fish bits deep-fried and covered in salt. Christmas is already the hardest time for the self-righteous salad gobbler, as they cannot go for a power walk without coming face-to-face with an exhortation to surrender to their true desires, skip crossfit and binge on mince pies. I recommend adding to their misery by gifting them sinful treats that cannot be returned (such as fresh chocolates or 1kg of belly pork) or by polluting their household with the anti-Nutribullet – a kitchen gadget that cannot possibly be used to prepare healthy food. I defy anybody to construct a nutritious meal with a toastie maker or candyfloss machine, and equally defy them not to sneak down at 2AM and undo two days’ gym with a butter-fried salami cheese surprise.
The conservative mother-in-law
If you like them, a conservative, boring person is far and away the easiest person to buy a gift for. There are millions of them out there, and huge segments of our economy are set up to appease the interests of ITV-watching, Michael McIntyre-appreciating Robbie Williams fans. They view culture like cows view grass, and will be happy enough with whatever mass-market pablum is stacked up near the till at the supermarket. So obviously the best way to generate Christmas friction is to find something challenging, offensive even, and trick them into enduring at least the first ten minutes of it. I recommend getting the latest DVD of Miranda Hart, and replacing the disc with “Hated”, the documentary about abrasive punk rocker GG Allin, who was famous for attacking his audience and using his own body as a toilet. For music, substitute The Best of Cliff Richard with an early album by Ice Cube or the evergreen death metal classic “Eaten Back To Life” by Cannibal Corpse. These people also love gadgets and ornaments, so if you can find a nicely ambiguous sex toy there’s a chance they will use it as a back scratcher or leave it on the mantlepiece until February.
The moody teenager
I pity anybody who cares enough about the feelings of a bratty teenager that they try and purchase something that these hormonal malcontents will sincerely enjoy. Although I was a vile teenager myself, I am aware they’re not all bad, so if you know a good one just give them cash and hope they don’t spend it on drugs or fake ID to get a tattoo. For most cases though, you should work hard to hit that sweet spot of a gift that is totally uncool, completely impractical and that they will be forced to pretend they like. A good start is to go to the doctor’s office and find a magazine from two or three years ago – any fashion item or cultural product contained within will now be so past-it that you might as well be gifting them a glowing lump of uranium. For maximum effect, pretend that you are “down with the kids” and insist on them opening your present in front of their peer group, accompanied by inappropriate slang and a request for a group selfie. They will hate you forever.
The lazy sports fan
Getting wound up by irrelevant things is key to the identity of the sports fan, so it isn’t hard to goad them with an inappropriate Christmas gift. For many fans it’s as simple as confusing their team with another one from the same city, and you get bonus points if the other team plays a completely different sport. “Here you go Dave, I know how much you love Manchester City Hockey”. To work that angle, British football fans are also guaranteed to be infuriated by any gift involving American football. Ironically, if the recipient is a true armchair dwelling beer swiller, one of the coldest gifts you can get them is the necessary equipment to do some sport themselves. It’s a bit like buying a housecat a guide to spotting birds, catnip locations or the joys of still owning your own balls.
The embittered nerd
Most nerds are pretty chill, but for people who love to go on about how they were bullied at school, there’s a sizeable minority who are hilariously intolerant of anything that doesn’t fit their rigid perceptions of what “geek culture” should involve. The reaction to the recent Lady Ghostbusters film would have been overblown even if the filmmakers had ceremonially executed Bill Murray atop the temple of Zuul, rather than just made a new film that was slightly better than Ghostbusters 2. If you know one of these sensitive nerds and you’re trying to wind them up there are a lot of options because their tastes are so arcanely specific. You can get them the “.. For Dummies” book for any technical subject, ideally for their least-favourite computer operating system. You can buy a modern remake of a classic movie (Total Recall; RoboCop; one of the Star Wars prequels) or a version of their favourite video game that’s two or three years old. In fact, you can look at any of the other groups I’ve described in this article and just buy their ideal gift for the nerd instead. For a bedroom-dwelling comics obsessive the Robbie Williams CD, Manchester United strip or a Nutribullet is the equivalent of Dracula unwrapping a garlic shower set and some crucifix cuff-links. Just don’t ask them to fix your computer ever again, because they have memories long enough to remember George Clooney as Batman, and your laptop will end up connected to the dark web and running a Russian cyber attack against the CIA.