There's an undeniable pomp and circumstance in the air, which means every weekend for the next month will be a cake-comatose blur of graduation-party RSVPs, but one important question is hanging in the air like a graduation cap that was tossed perhaps a little too high: what thoughtful, profound gift should you bestow upon the graduate in your life?
To help you make that all-important decision, here's a definitive list of five gifts graduates do not want to receive to commemorate their commencement:
1. A copy of Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss
On the surface, this gift seems like an optimistic, literary promise that your little magna cum laude is on a rhyming path to greatness. Unfortunately, it won't be long before reality sets in, and this kindhearted hardcover will mock an innocent graduate right from his or her bookshelf. Instead of seeing great sights and joining high fliers, the graduate will soon be receiving job rejection emails and joining the ranks of ugly criers. Not to mention, until a college grad gets on his or her feet, a more accurate title would be, Oh, The Places You Can't Afford To Go!
2. Any stuffed animal wearing a graduation cap
Who among us hasn't fallen victim the charms of the graduation teddy bear? Unless you want to put a recent graduate in a really uncomfortable position, leave ConGRADulations Teddy on the shelf in Hallmark. No one has successfully discerned the etiquette for owning a stuffed animal that's wearing a graduation cap. Sure, it's cute and commemorates a special accomplishment, but what happens when graduation season is over? Does it go in the closet until next year? Is it thrown away? Once the graduation ceremony is over, grads will be focused on resume writing, scoring interviews, and nursing rejections, is this really the appropriate time to throw an identity crisis-prone stuffed animal in the mix?
3. A coffee mug with the graduate's graduation year on it
A mug that exclaims, "Class of 2014" in bold bubble letters seems like a great idea now, and it will still be a bit of a novelty in 2015, but once ten years have passed and 2024 rolls around, no one wants any coffee mug to remind them that they graduated a decade ago. You don't want your gift to be the painful realization mug that gets hidden in the back of the coffee mug cabinet.
4. An overpriced, fancy pen (with or without engraving)
What might have been a status symbol and guaranteed indicator of success in 1991 BI (Before iPad) has become a gift that says, "Here's a little trinket that will inspire revulsion in your future colleagues while simultaneously bringing back the inferiority complex you cultivated in third grade thanks to your struggles with writing a cursive letter 'G.' Congrats Grad!" It doesn't help that fancy pens often come in a box that is also the ideal size for holding a stack of cash. Assumed stack of cash > fancy pen.
5. Anything else that doesn't involve money
The phrase, "It's the thought that counts," is great for birthdays, holidays, or anniversaries, but when it comes to graduation, it's the dollars and Annual Percentage Yield that counts. This is one of the rare gift-giving instances when you're encouraged to channel your inner forgetful uncle and write a check for an odd sum of money. Do not fall into this trap: "But they're going to get money from everyone else! I want my gift to stand out!" Wrong. No graduate teetering on the precipice of the real world has ever received cash, and thought, "Gee, I really wish so-and-so had made an attempt to stand out instead of providing me with currency I can spend in any way I choose..." Graduation gift-giving is not the time to showcase your originality.
No matter what gift you end up giving to the graduate(s) in your life, as long as you stay away from Dr. Seuss (and Pinterest), you should be okay.
Follow Katie Hoffman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bykatiehoffman