'Tisn't Yet the Season
Holiday shopping tips for the overzealous
Halloween in October, Thanksgiving in November, Christmas and Hanukkah in
December. Right? Right -- unless you ask at The Mall. We went out the other day
and were alarmed to realize that it's the holiday season; the stores are all
decorated, and Santa's having his picture taken at the mall. Every mall.
We must have missed Thanksgiving somehow.
No, wait.... The masthead says it's still November. What gives?
Uh-oh. That means Black Friday hasn't even happened yet. Well, we couldn't
reach a consensus on how to handle the whole holiday shopping experience, so here
are all of our suggestions.
Judy has the luxury of being a college student; the holiday fluster isn't
usually as thick on college campuses. Her suggestions are ideally suited to the
ironical among you.
- Shop early, shop often, and remember -- there's no such thing as too
many trial size perfumes and colognes.
- In order to really impress your friends and family, incite a
small-scale riot on their behalf in the establishment of your choice. For
example, do your friends always complain about the produce section at the
supermarket? Show them you care by smashing all those damn overripe tomatoes on
the floor and staging a sit-in.
- If you know that your partner is buying you, say, a ruby hair clip for
adorning your beautiful long hair, cut all your hair off, sell it, and use that
money to buy your partner, say, a nice leather bowling ball bag for the bowling
ball that s/he just sold in order to buy you the hair clip. Boy, will your faces
Craig is our resident curmudgeon. His first suggestion began with the claim that
"I absolutely love the holiday season." Don't believe it. The rest of his first
suggestion was too curmudgeonly even to appear here.
- Step one for the holiday season: please please please please (please!)
leave your home prepared for the season. This means: If you are afraid of snow,
sleet, freezing rain, hail, snow, slippery conditions, snow or snow, stay in
your house! If you can't drive safely in the above conditions, stay in
your house! If you aren't prepared and dressed to be walking outside of your
car for at least 30 minutes, then stay in your house! Some of us are
going about our normal holiday business in good cheer. We don't
particularly feel like being hit by you or stopping to help you.
- If you have to go to a mall, my sincerest condolences. Try to do the
following: go in a group of people with an even balance of men and women. That
way if the group splinters (shops/arcade, shops/cd store, shops/food,
shops/hardware isle, whatever) no one gets left alone. Make sure you
drive. (Why? I'm glad you asked. If you have the keys to, preferably, the only
car in the group, then you can wander wherever you want and everyone has to
follow or find you. This is my Standard Plan for enjoying a mall.) Also, if
possible get at least two large males to avoid shaving for three days before the
trip. They can then walk straight through the mall and everyone else can follow
in their wake.
- If your children aren't old enough or well-trained enough to obey you, do
not bring them with you to the mall. Screaming infants and cranky kids
have no place in a retail establishment. When I was young, unacceptable behavior
was -- imagine this -- not accepted. If I misbehaved I was punished
appropriately. So if your kids have had it and are ready for home, please
take them home. There's always tomorrow.
- Wait 'til the last minute. Explain that you couldn't find anything really
good for each person you didn't get a gift for. Give cash.
- Never give cash. Everyone will think you're lazy, that you waited 'til the
last minute and then just blew off Christmas shopping.
- Join TNAFTACMBT (The National Association for the Abolition of Christmas
Music Before Thanksgiving).
Jesse looks to the untrained eye like a staid conservative. But peel off that
conventional outer layer, and we've always suspected that there's a staid
conservative underneath -- albeit a staid conservative wearing wacky underwear.
- Some guys like pants and shirts, but almost every guy likes to get
boxer shorts. I know I do, the more flamboyant the better. You can dress as
staidly and conservatively as you have to on the surface, and let your true self
shine underneath your slacks.
- For that matter, neckties are a major personality statement, too, and one
that you can usually get away with flaunting in full view of everybody. You just
can't do that with boxers. A lot of people think neckties are stuffy, but they
don't have to be. They're as much fun as you want them to be. I have a standing
Christmas order with my grandmother: find me a really fun necktie. And I wear
them all whenever I get the chance. Keep in mind, too, that some women look
really hot in men's shirts and ties. If your girlfriend is one of them, don't
even think twice about it.
- There are so many good books out there, that rather than recommend any one
of them, I'm going to say you should go to your local independent bookstore -- if
you are lucky enough to have one, and if it's a genuinely good bookstore -- and
see if they have a gift certificate program. Or, if the staffers appear to be
readers themselves, see what they think. I've very rarely gone wrong reading a
book recommended to me by a bookseller.
- This applies to music, too.
Tina's holiday shopping suggestions tend toward the sneaky and the sadistic;
follow them at your peril. She has, as you can see, plenty of holiday spirit --
not cheer specifically, but some sort of spirit....
- Make sure you remember to cut the tags off so no one knows you bought
their "designer original" at the local thrift shop.
- When you recycle the hideous paisley scarf that Aunt Mathilda gave you for
Christmas last year, make sure you don't give it to Aunt Mathilda.
- Give tiny decorative buckets of coal to all the small children you know. Tell
them Santa knows they've been bad. (They probably have been. They're just not
- Give the gift of software. Make sure it's totally incompatible with the
system it's to be run on.
- Don't give gift certificates. You know the recipient's tastes better than
they do, and besides, you don't want them to know what a cheapskate you really
- Give "some assembly required" gifts with the instructions missing. People
love a challenge. Better yet, hide the instructions and leave cryptic clues to
- Make sure that you wrap your package in something with lots of glitter and
tinsel. It'll never come out of the carpet, thereby ensuring that you'll be on
their minds all year long.
- Wrap a large box with several smaller boxes inside. Leave a note in the
smallest box that says, "Ha ha, fooled you." (Ideally, this should be a jewelry
box. It's the perfect gift for all those guys whose girlfriends have high hopes.)
- If you give clothing, make sure it fits and is flattering, so that you can
borrow it often.
Eric says it himself:
I'm a known grinch. I enjoy winter solstice far more that any of this
Christmas stuff, but if I don't give out the obligatory Christmas gifts, then the
family will probably disown me or at least throw me out in the snow. My strategy
for surviving the hordes of blood-thirsty mongrels at shopping time has always
been as follows:
Don't shop. Make gifts, steal gifts, mail-order gifts from the comfort of your
own home. Use the Net; geez, you're on it already. There are thousands of Web
pages just aching to take your money and ship you something. If you can't find
any, e-mail me and I'll give you a URL. But if you must go out and shop:
- Make a list -- a battle plan if you will -- of all the things you need,
in geographic order by store.
- Wear appropriate battle gear: boots, fuzzy sweaters, jeans. And always carry
extra plastic; it's the weapon of choice for those who hope to survive the melee.
- If you can't run 100 yards with your capture, then go back to your vehicle
periodically and make small sorties.
- Don't go in platoons. This is guerrilla warfare; a single person can move
faster and cover more ground.
- If your plastic is declined, run for the nearest fox hole and hit the
- Remember: those fighting against you aren't the real enemy; they're victims,
just like you. The real enemy is the corporate giants who bring out the Santa
dolls and trees the day after Halloween.
Anabella is probably the best gift-giver on staff, if her suggestions are any
indication. Can't you just hear the sleigh bells ringing in the background? Some
of the Scroogier staff members had to stop reading half way through...
I love Christmas. Even wrapping presents is fun to me; I sit around with
friends and family, have hot chocolate, and make a big, great, colorful mess next
to the Christmas tree. Those of my friends who hate the wrapping part just keep
me company as I color coordinate their paper with their bows. Great fun.
Sometimes I even make my own paper at another, earlier mess.
I like the getting-presents part, too, but I really, really hate the
crowds. To me, shopping isn't just getting stuff for people, it's thinking about
them, about the things they like and the things we like together so I can get
presents for them that I like too -- presents that say something about me and how
I feel about them. That's pretty hard to do when you're all worked up and cranky,
and there are five people crowding you at all times. So I try to live by some
- Buy Christmas presents all year round, not 10 days before you're supposed
to give them to someone. This way you take advantage of sales when they're really
sales and not make-believe "We-know-you-don't-have-a-choice" sales -- and
you're done when everyone else is just starting. Easier on the budget, too. It's
too late this year, but I know someone who buys two presents when she buys for
birthdays, and saves one for Christmas.
- Don't get near the malls. Find the small neighborhood stores, the art
galleries, the "we-made-these-ourselves-this-week" places. They're less crowded,
and they have better presents.
- Make presents out of stuff you do anyway. Frame pictures you took; give
someone a set of homemade paper stationary; dry flowers and make a bouquet; give
away that watercolor painting you made, or the piece of software you wrote that
will save someone tons of hours. (Just get an artsy sort to make you a cool
- I don't like presents that are gone the next day, like cookies, but hey, some
people will appreciate that complicated recipe you only make once or twice a
- If you don't have a choice but to go to a mall, decide what you want ahead of
time, get in, and get out. This is not the time for browsing; you couldn't even
if you wanted to.
- If you do go to the mall, don't make plans for later. You'll be miserable and
probably not very good company.
- And one more thing. Don't ask me what I want for a present. I hate that. If
you don't know me well enough to know that, you shouldn't be giving me anything.
Unless you're one of those people who buy useful things. In that case, I
need a toaster. But you should know that.
Scott plans to start his shopping around Dec. 20th, probably at The Mall.
- If you smoke -- and maybe even if you don't -- buy some nicotine patches and
gum before embarking on a trip to the mall. All the malls are smoke free now, and
store clerks won't sell you anything if you come in wailing about "those damn
- Budget yourself. I speak from experience. All the delighted surprise in the
world will not pay January's rent.
- Many retail establishments are open late the whole month of December -- but
not many shoppers have the stamina to stick around the mall until midnight. The
trick is to start at ten o'clock. That way, you can beat the crowds --
without using a stick and being "arrested" by mall security.
- Just remember that this trick doesn't work after about the 20th. Shoppers
still don't have the stamina to stay 'til the mall closes. But when
they're down to the wire, they'll be there anyway, dragging their asses around in
a sort of aphasic apoplexy. And they'll probably have the ankle-biters with them
-- up way past their bedtime. If you must shop late in the season,
take a stick.
- My mother swears by her mail order catalogs. I've found them useful on
occasion myself, though I don't get them in such quantity that my mailman needs a
wheel barrow. Every year around mid-December, my family has a catalog-disposal
party at Mom's house, so there's space in the living room for the tree.
- These parties are a lot of fun, so if you're a catalog shopper, I heartily
recommend you have one.
- A friend told me recently that by the time he's found presents for everyone
on his list, he finds he doesn't really like those people as much anymore. Try
not to hit that point. Give yourself time after shopping to relax and drink hot
chocolate, heavily laced with something.
And by all means -- as long as they aren't violent means -- try to have a