(Stu, don't get any ideas... we've already got stupid in-jokes, and you shouldn't gild the lily)
I was reading this Slate article giving advice on giving gifts that will be appreciated.
Now, I understand the affliction of having a difficult time of picking out gifts, but the gifts that are remembered? The fantastic flops.
I remember a sum total of one gift for what I thought was positive reasons: my stepdad John gave me a 4-pack of gold-rimmed wine glasses. I tell you whut, I used the shit out of those glasses. Something about those glasses were just compelling.
[Yes, Stu, I remember a lot of stuff you have given me. Three of them are living with us right now. This is not about you.]
But what I remember the most, in general, are the gifts that missed the mark (but I understood the very good intentions behind them... these gifts weren't intended as insults and weren't intentionally thoughtless -- the people actually tried very hard. And I've been in the same situation as a gift-giver, so I can relate).
I've got two favorite stories here, one of which is a group story.
Growing up, we had a "tradition" of exchanging gifts with another family in my ma's extended family -- my Aunt Neena & crew. Generally, I would "give" a gift to cousin Robbie, Amy would give a gift to Jennifer, and Carey would give a gift to Katie. This generally worked.
One year, my mother told us that she had talked with her sister, Aunt Neena, and our theme that year was going to be "funny gifts" for cheap. So we went to a party store or Spencers (can't remember which) and got silly stuff like a pair of plastic sunglasses that had a bead that rolled around the frames (I can't remember the exact details). This was Oriental Trading Company quality stuff. So, you know... all gag gifts.
I do remember getting the gifts from Aunt Neena's crew out of the shipped package, and they all had similar bulk & squishiness. We were big believers in shaking and prodding presents before Christmas, in an attempt to deduce the contents. The packages all had similar qualities.
So our tradition was to open presents on Christmas Eve. I can't which of us three was the first to open the Aunt-Neena-crew gift. But whoever it was opened it up, and it was a generic Kmart sweatshirt decorated with puffy paint. Uhhhhhhhh......
[and we realized the other two were going to be the same]
There was a communication issue that year. I think Aunt Neena called us that evening about the gifts. She claimed that she said the theme was "creative gifts"... in any event, we laughed pretty hard over that one.
And I have never forgotten that.
The other gift I have never forgotten was a sweatsuit set I got when I was in middle school from my Grandma Cook. It had a dalmatian puppy theme. With glow-in-the-dark paw prints. I think I was 12 or 13 at the time, and considered it infantile. And then I heard -- horrors! -- my Aunt Pat (after whom I was named) had helped Nana pick it out!
As per Ralphie in The Christmas Story, and the bunny pajamas, I was mortified at the time. But it actually didn't take a long amount of time before I found it hilarious.
Seriously, it was extremely tacky.
I mean... kids have no taste, but.... come on. I was 13 or so.
Now, I'm not encouraging people to give presents that are personally insulting, like nose-hair clippers or breath mints, but I think one shouldn't worry too much about giving bad gifts.
Very few "appropriate" gifts are remembered. The "off" gifts are remembered forever. It cements human bonds.
Or just makes you an object of ridicule.
Don't worry too much about it.