If you’re wondering whether this article is for you, here’s a quick checklist:
1. Ever had to warn your prospective spouse about certain family members, noting particular habits or quirks?
2. Is there someone who is notorious for being “difficult” or “eccentric” during the holidays?
3. No matter how hard you try, do you have one or more family members who are sure to return whatever you bought, even if they asked for that specific item?
4. Does someone usually break into tears at Christmas dinner or shout or act in ways that make people wince? Is it the same someone every year?
I think you get the idea. This Christmas list isn’t guaranteed to please the difficult people in your life (what would?) but at least you’ll tip the odds in your favor.
Here’s the list:
1. For the overly stressed:
Dr. Freud’s Therapy Ball – If you remember Magic 8 Balls, this works the same way. Basically, it is a round black ball with a drawing of Freud on the front. Shake the ball, turn it over and you get a therapist’s response to your concerns, with a Freudian twist. Examples of answers include: “Go to your happy place”….”Tell me about your mother”…..”Umm….hmmm..” …or “How did that make you feel?”. There are 20 phrases in all, enough to cover nearly every situation.
In a totally unscientific survey I conducted, a random group of friends found it eerily accurate. Some even call regularly to see what advice it has for them (consider yourself warned). You can find it at: www.officeplayground.com/drftherapyball.html
Bonus: Until you give it, you can use it, for a lot less than the typical charge for therapy. Makes a nice paperweight, too, or a gift for the right therapist, one with a solid sense of humor.
2. For the person with no taste:
A Leg Lamp. This is based on the one found in that classic holiday movie, A Christmas story. These come in a range of sizes, from full-size to miniature (you can even buy a Christmas ornament version, if you like). If you know someone who has a certain undefinable style (tacky), this ought to be perfect. After all, it was considered worthy of “major award” status in the movie, so it should be equally loved (or not) by your quirky relative or friend. See it at A Christmas Story’s gift store: www.redriderleglamps.com/Store.cfm
Bonus: Until you wrap it and give it to some lucky recipient, put it in your window and shake up the Homeowner’s Association during Christmas season.
3.For the Know it All:
Smart Ass Board Game – Perfect for the person who never says, “I don’t know”, the one who always has the definitive answer – and lets you know it. This game is actually fun to play and allows anyone to yell out the correct answer.
You don’t have to be particularly smart to succeed at this game, so it levels the playing field. If you can’t change a person, why not join them and have a little fun at the same time? Available at: www.walmart.com or at Amazon.com or other retailers. Put the game’s name in the search form.
Bonus: You get to give the recipient a taste of his or her own medicine and have fun at the same time. For a short while, you’ll get to be a Know It All, too. Just don’t get too used to it.
4. For the difficult person who doesn’t fit any other category:
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? DVD version. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, those two dramatic and fiery stars, are at their best here. Taylor actually lets herself be haggard and it works. Worth seeing for her performance as Martha, the bitter wife of George (Richard Burton). George Segal and Sandy Dennis are also excellent in this one. You can find sources for the film as well as a review at: www.imdb.com/title/tt0061184/ I suggest you get the black and white version, just as it was originally filmed. If any movie deserves to be seen in black and white, it is this one.
Bonus: Nearly any family looks good compared to this couple so you might want to watch it yourself., if only to gain some perspective on how much worse things could be. Also, it is a wonderful movie, insightful, though tough to watch at times.
5. For the person who never grew up:
A Whoopie cushion or a life-sized Whoopie cushion costume: This is a classic, loved by children for generations. Oriental Trading Company has a range of these simple rubber bags which emit just the right farting noise when an unsuspecting person sits down on a chair or sofa. The price is right, too, sold by the dozen for only $5.95 (plus shipping) at: www.orientaltrading.com/ And yes, the company also carries Whoopie cushion costumes, for those who want to role play and imagine life as a fart machine. . Be sure to put the words Whoopie cushion in the search form at the Oriental Trading Company site. .
Bonus: Your kids will like this too. A present that does double duty, keeping a real child and adult child equally happy. Plus, since you get a dozen for one low price, you can stuff a lot of stockings with these.
6. For the anal types, control freaks, people who spend a lot of time in the bathroom:
Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Christmas Collection or any of a number of similar bathroom readers. Packed full of seasonal trivia and oddities, from facts about the origin of Christmas traditions to holiday disasters. Sure to entertain someone who spends a lot of time in the bathroom, for whatever reason. Find this one at www.amazon.com This is part of the critically acclaimed Uncle John Bathroom Reader series. To find a copy, put the title in the search form at Amazon or scout out a copy at a local bookstore.
Bonus: If you like trivia, you’ll like this, too. You might want an extra copy on hand for your own bathroom. The information is fascinating and the book is fun to read.
Although I’ve just touched the tip of the Christmas iceberg when it comes to gifts for the dysfunctional person in your life, this ought to give you some starting points. You might want to have a few extra swigs of eggnog before handing out the gifts, though.