Why you should care
If you’re obligated to give something, it might as well come with a message.
Before we begin: If you are looking for a present to give someone you don’t know very well — say, someone’s plus-one spending the holidays with your family for the first time or the grown child of your father-in-law’s dad’s girlfriend — the answer is socks. There are many proposed demarcations between childhood and adulthood, but the relevant one at this moment is: Adulthood begins when you stop thinking of socks as a bad Christmas present and start hoping someone will give you nice socks. They come in various sizes, and you can get some decorated with cute penguins, and every time the recipient wears them, that person will think of you fondly, even if the individual can’t remember exactly who you are.
But that’s not what this gift guide is about. Instead, these are suggestions to get people who you just don’t like very much, but who are still close enough to you socially that you should probably get them a physical present.
For Your Friend’s New Boyfriend Who’s Coming to the Gift Exchange, Even Though That Seems Weird. Is That Weird? It Seems Weird.
Your job, as a friend, is to be accepting and joyful for your friend’s happiness. But you also want to make your priorities pretty clear: This guy is here because someone you love fiercely loves him. Big Little Lies is prestige TV and everyone likes box sets, but more importantly, the show makes clear how far women will go to protect each other from men who behave badly. In 2017, we were all awash in terrible male behavior, and Big Little Lies showed one way — OK, probably not the best way — to deal with it. Don’t ever let him forget what you’re capable of. Plus, if he scoffs and says he doesn’t watch “women’s television,” she’ll know it’s time to break up with him because he’s a garbage person. Win-win-win.
For the Relative You Argued About Politics With at Thanksgiving and Still Haven’t Forgiven
For a holiday about togetherness and eating, it’s unlikely you’ve ever had a Thanksgiving go by without some kind of dispute. And in 2017, it’s not likely to be about who put the lumps in the mashed potatoes, but rather about sexual harassment, Russian collusion or whether Bernie would have won. If your argument was about politics, get this relative a copy of The Federalist Papers. If it was about sexism, maybe Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists. This gift says: I trust you to get it eventually, you absolute nincompoop.
For the Boyfriend You’re Definitely Breaking Up With as Soon as He Takes You to All These Holiday Parties
Break up with him now. Nothing is worth that.
For the Boss Who Expects Presents From Employees Even Though She Should Be Getting YOU a Present
Honestly, this one depends on the boss. If it’s someone you like — say, you just happened to draw her in your office gift exchange — try something professional, yet genuinely pleasing: A really nice coffee mug would do it, or some generic food gift like one of those giant popcorn sampler buckets. If you actually hate them, go for humor and buy a copy of the movie 9 to 5. Or back to the food idea, but pick something they’re trying to stay away from, like chocolate.
For Your Mother-in-Law, Who Obviously Hates You But Is a Great Babysitter for Your Kids
You’re married to this person’s offspring; you have got to make it look like you care. The good news is you can do something nice for your kids at the same time: Fund an outing for them all to do together — buy tickets to an ice skating rink or a holiday film they can all see together. She gets to see her grandkids, you get the afternoon off, and the present’s sorted. You’re welcome.