13 September 2012

On Gifting

Picking out a good present for someone is difficult.

It should be something that's relatable, useful and enjoyable. If you only hit on two of the three categories you've got a near-miss and if you only satisfy one category, it's going to look like you didn't put any effort into it. I think a Venn Diagram is in order. As always, I'll be shopping for your mom - a big fan of cats:

3D effects make for bad infographics.
A relatable gift is important, but it's not enough on its own. Your mom loves cats so a cat anything is both expected and dull. But it's your safety gift. At the very least she'll be nonplussed.

Enjoyable gifts are great but they may not make any sense. You like grain neutral spirits and, from what I've gathered, your mother is more of the wine cooler type.

Gifts that have a +2 useful modifier are great, but if all they are is "useful" then you've just given someone something boring. Go buy $50 worth of Bounty paper towels or something - you know they'll use it!

Moving on to the intersections of the circles; these can possibly yield some valid gifts. Probably not the butterfly knife but damn if they aren't awesome and useful. A cat lover loves cats (by definition) so your mom may like a new cat, but it's probably going to be the opposite of useful. Buying a new cat tower or a set of cat toilet seats or a potted catnip plant or whatever isn't going to be enjoyable. But it will be useful and it will be personally relatable. To your mom. Who loves cats and adult contemporary jazz.

The best gift you can give is the one that satisfies all three criteria; the one that lurks at the center of the Venn diagram. I spent too much time trying to figure out the best gift for your fictional mom so I just filled in it with question marks. I don't recommend buying your mom punctuation unless she's a huge fan of typography.

I've also included a Venn Diagram for purchasing gag gifts.

There's more art here, but you definitely have to touch on some of these to successfully execute a gag gift. Note that "Personal" does not figure into the equation. This is about you, not them.

On the surface, something like a Shake Weight might look good here.

But you would be wrong.

It's more sad than absurd, and it's probably not fun to buy. And it's just useful enough for someone to question whether you're suggesting they need to tone up. And it may turn out to be deeply personal.

Something like Kentucky Deluxe "Bourbon" would fit nicely in the center of this gag gift diagram. Why? Moving clockwise from the top: it's a cartoonish caricature of "whiskey" (absurd), liquor stores are a blast (fun to buy), it's undrinkable (useless), no one actually likes it (unrelatable), and it takes up space in a liquor cabinet (burdensome).

And nothing says "I wasn't thinking about you" like cheap whiskey. I call it a win. In fact, you may want to keep a caseof cheap whiskey on hand in case someone unexpectedly gag gifts you. That way, when they pull out a 20 lb. sledgehammer from their trunk adorned with a satin bow, you can turn right back around and gift them a bottle of Old Granddad with a silk ribbon tied around it.

No one's feelings get hurt, and everyone leaves feel encumbered.

Also, you set yourself up for the bonus situation of explaining to the police why you now have a sledgehammer, a case of whiskey and 100 yards of silk ribbon in your trunk.

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