Photo by Flickr user Charles Hutchins.
Far be it from me to criticize without offering solutions.
Therefore, I present to you the top seven worst Christmas gifts I have ever received, and seven improved options that I totally wish I'd received instead. Please slip this hint list under Santa's door, affixed to a bottle of rum so he doesn't miss it.
1. Michael Jackson cologne. Not only do I heed the distinct difference between cologne and perfume, but if I did want to smell like a dude, it would not be MJ (pre or post death). Adding to the insult was the fact that this gift was from the dollar store, and it turned out I was acutely allergic to it, so I spent the rest of Christmas morning itching my head-to-toe hives with red weeping eyes.
Instead: MyChelle Dermaceuticals Fruit Enzyme Mist ($14.19). Spray this antioxidant-rich toner onto your face to rehydrate and repair firmness. Contains goodies, like mangosteen (supports collagen), pectin (protects from cellular damage) and pineapple (boosts natural exfoliation). Also rich with inflammation-relieving turmeric -- making it basically the opposite of the MJ torture tonic.
2. Pope on a rope. Because a soap on a rope isn't useless enough, let's put a religious figurehead on it, too. So I can scrub my naked flesh with the bishop of Rome's face. On the Savior's birthday. No thanks, I'd prefer not to explain that one to St. Peter.
Instead: A Lush Cosmetics festive gift set , like Christmas Bathtime Favorites.
This beautifully packaged (and practical) gift contains Bath Melts, Bath Bombs and Bubble Bars, all of which can transform your bath water into holy (awesome) water.
3. Several framed crumbling leaves. My definition of artwork is open and expansive, but you can't just rake your lawn, slap it in a plastic-front frame and expect me to hang it above the couch. Moreover, this gift still contained its price tag. I'm not sure what is more offensive: the fact that they only spent $7 on me, or that they spent 7 whole dollars on Dumpster filler.
Instead: How about some real artwork, like unique jewelry by Colorado artist Molly Hargarten (mollyhargarten.com)? She makes earrings and necklaces out of her old watercolor paintings. Each piece is different, colorful and light.
4. Former Colorado politician Stan Matsunaka's head on a can of tomatoes. Wait, what? Yeah. You heard me. This exists, and this was given to me.
Instead: Um, anything. How about a subscription to Mile High Organics, which delivers fresh, organic produce to doors along the Front Range. Still produce, still Colorado, minus the politics and utter awkwardness.
5. "Make IT Happen" key chains. Inspirational? Not exactly. Because I know your computer-based job distributed these suckers for free with their holiday cards. How do I know this? Because you gave one to everyone in my family, and it had your company's logo on the back.
Instead: A personalized, hand-stamped sterling silver key chain from the Boulder-based shop RubyLoves.Etsy.com. Artist Caroline Loewengart's jewelry is clean, modern, high quality, sophisticated, simple and meaningful. As she puts it, "Ruby Loves jewelry is simply easy to wear and hard to take off." And if you really love nerdputer puns, order your own custom "Make IT Happen" accessory.
6. One single unicorn tile, slightly chipped. Do you expect me to tear out all of the tile in my bathroom to insert this mismatched accent piece? It's not a gift if it comes attached to work. Or is busted. Or has a unicorn on it and it's not 1986 and I'm not 10.
Instead: Tile that I can wear, like these earrings made out of repurposed Scrabble tiles, by Etsy crafter BBCraftsandSupplies. Although I did also love Scrabble when I was 10 in 1986, it remains the best game ever, as long as you don't bring your dictionary and you believe every word I throw down because you're too embarrassed to admit you've never heard of a "qruroletkx."
7. A stack of thank-you cards. Um, thanks? What's the etiquette here? If I don't thank you, you'll know I had the resources to. But wouldn't that be regifting? Do I have to send a different card back? And anyway, is this some kind of passive-aggressive hint? If so, I'm not so sure I'm thankful. Although I do need them. So it's kind of cool. So why do I feel like crying a little?
Instead: Unique greeting cards by Boulder-based AnangkaArts.Etsy.com. Sarah Elizabeth Tax Schantz, artist and witch, prints her cards by a local, sustainable and independent printer that uses 100 percent wind power and recycled paper. These cards are highly detailed works of art, in and of themselves, and belong framed after they're read. Give a card (like my favorite, The Crow Lady) along with a beautiful frame and the recipient won't have to wonder what to do with the card after she reads it.