It's that time of the year when newspapers - and many of us - getheavier. They're jammed with Christmas-ad supplements containinghundreds of suggested gifts.
But, along with all of the lovely, thoughtful presents, what horrors could also lurk under your tree, yet to be unwrapped?
WhenI was a kid, socks and underwear were especially unwelcome, ifseemingly inevitable, gifts. They elicited roughly the same responseRalphie had in A Christmas Story when he unwrapped that nightmarebox that contained giant-rabbit pink pajamas. He'd been hoping forsomething a bit more manly: a BB gun.
I've been wading throughhundreds of newspaper gift supplements and looking at cheesy TVcommercials and online ads to find cringe-worthy Christmas gifts thatwould make a chunk of anthracite in a Christmas stocking seem like animprovement.
Here are the finalists on my Christmas gift no-fly list:
1. Anything Chia
Nothing is tackier - or has more of acloying hipster aura to it - than one of these anthropomorphic earthencontrivances. Whether it's a Chia Obama, Chia Scooby Doo, Chia Mr. T. orthis year's highly promoted Chia Mickey Mouse (I prefer my Mickeysbeardless, thank you), when I see one of these things, my first impulseis to spray some Round-Up. (The second: to wish I had a hammer.) Thebald pottery figurines are unsightly enough, but attaching now-trendyedible nutritional seeds to them seems terribly misguided.
2. Fathead decals & posters (medical division)
ManyAmericans like their gladiator idolatry big. Way too big, one couldargue. You probably know from NFL broadcasts about these outsize walldecals with sports stars. (Nothing like a giant glaring LeBron Jameslooming on the wall to start MY day out right!) But did you know you cannow also order large Fathead medical wall decals with titles like "Artery Blockages Labeled"as fun gifts? I am not making this up. Handy for a cardiologist'soffice, sure, but these could be weaponized, as not-too-subtle remindersto Dad that maybe it's time to cut back on the bacon and burgers. Oneinset even features a close-up of a plaque-jammed coronary artery!
3. We wish you a hairy Christmas
Here's a not-so-subtle hint for a middle-aged guy: a copy of Paul Wojnicki's No Cure for Baldness?It's just a humor book about one man's funny fight to stay hairy, sodon't take it personally. Har de har har. For a more direct approach,the gift-giver could visit Amazon and give hubby a copy of So You're Going Bald: A Man's Guide to the Art of Power Balding. "Power balding?"
4. Anything labeled "some assembly required"
This almost goes without saying. Those three words strike terror inthe hearts of us males who are mechanical-aptitude-impaired. My wifeassembles everything we get from IKEA by herself, lest it come outlooking like a condemned birdhouse. I come by this ineptitudegenetically: My dad couldn't pound a nail in straight, nor can I.Dowels? Flat-head screws? Assembly diagrams? Therein lies madness.
5. Anything Duck Dynasty
Especiallyavoid one widely advertised item: the new "Redneck Wisdom Party Game."In light of the past week's headlines featuring anti-gay comments bycracker quacker Phil Robertson, this gift of alleged "wisdom" seemsinappropriate (to some, at least). By the way, the Chia people dodged abig bullet (or shotgun blast) this month: Two of the Duck Boys arefeatured on new Chia pets this year - but not, luckily, "eccentric" ol'Phil. Plus, aren't these boys' beards bushy enough already?
Old-fashionedpopcorn poppers with wheels (is anyone old enough to actually rememberthese?); woodburning hobby sets (I got one as a boy, and I still havethe scar to prove it); singing wall fish; Santa costumes for cats (everactually tried to put one on Kitty? I have a matching scar); any moviethat began as a comic book; netbook computers; snow shovels tied up witha bow (real subtle); another Fathead decal called "Simplified DigestiveSystem"; finally, "Mad Bomber" Hats (they make especially thoughtfulgifts for TSA employees).
Humorist Bill Mann lives in Port Townsend, Wash.