For someone so fat and loud, Santa has a way of sneaking up on people. With just five days until Christmas, and you having accomplished about as much shopping as you have self-improvement over the past month, Evan Allgood and A.C. DeLashmutt (of “Evan and A.C. Disagree” fame) have you covered. Don’t know what to get your mother? That cousin you can’t stand? The man who has everything, or nothing? That girl you just started seeing? Grab your credit card and start—er, continue—reading, and please, for the sake of keyza partiers’ everywhere, check your inhibitions at the door.
For Your Mother, Whose Eyelid Is Twitching
A.C.: “Mummy’s fine! She’s fine! She’s just a little tired, that’s all! But you go on, go on, enjoy yourselves! Mummy’s just going to lay down for an eensy. Yes, on the floor! No, it’s really quite comfortable! Very! She could almost stay down here forever! No of course, Mummy’s just kidding, darling! Ha ha! Mummy’s being silly! Would you bring Mummy some of the grown-ups’ milkshake from the fridge, darling? The white one with the cinnamon on top that smells like Daddy’s breath when Daddy was a pirate for Halloween? There’s a good girl.”
The Christmas tree is the crucible upon which a mother’s devotion is annually nailed. By the time the holy day of celebration finally dawns, the Moms who have orchestrated the entire blessed event are plaster-smiled happiness mannequins. In private they quiver like those Chihuahuas who get dressed in holiday sweaters and stuffed into handbags. No amount of bath salts or fuzzy slippers are going to stave off the Sisyphean agony of knowing that almost as soon as she’s hung the swag on the mantle and the lights in the windows and all the sparkly crap on the tree, she will have to take it all back down again.
If you want Mom to really have a Merry Christmas, invite your friend Mary Jane. Forget the Godiva; unwrap some ganja. Sing along with Mom to some Buddy Holly. Are you picking up what I’m putting down? It’s practically legal now. Mom might feign ignorance or tut-tut coyly, but it’s what she wants, and more importantly it’s what she needs. That night when Auntie Jennifer forgets to take the roast out of the oven like she promised—when Mom goes up to shower for the first time in three days—and dinner is a little toasted… Well, hopefully Mom will be too. Now it’s a Christmas.
EVAN: CALL HER. Forget the ganja—basic, bare-minimum communication is like crack for these people. After your parents have finished updating you on which perfectly strange neighbors are moving out and in (“Never a dull moment!”), what the dogs got into the other day (“A whole pound of pulled pork!”) and how their house lately compares to Grand Central Station (“It’s like Grand Central Station around here!”), send your mother Maria Bamford’s hysterical new $5 standup special, which Bamford performed in her own home with her parents as the only audience members. Your mother will laugh, she’ll cry, she’ll know you give a shit.
For the Cousin Who Has Sucked Since Birth and Always Will
A.C.: Every two years or so the stars misalign and your slovenly, oafish cousin is attendant upon Your Special Day, a.k.a. Christmas. You love your aunt, your love your uncle; it’s just the disgusting fusing of their genes into this unwitting family planning advocate that you can’t stand. Your parents and siblings merely up their dose of barrel-aged Christmas Cheer and carry on—which means it will be up to you to remind your cousin how deeply appalling he is.
The correct gift in this scenario is, somewhat ironically, the gift of charity.
“Dear Cousin,” you say while his piggy eyes fix upon the white envelope you present to him, hands cupped as if it were the very dove of Peace, “I thought of your abiding love of education, expressed by your repeated, courageous re-enrollments in graduate school…” Or, “I was reminded of your passion for law enforcement and justice by the tireless hours you have dedicated to mastering Grand Theft Auto III…” and then he will rip open the envelope and find a “Thank You!” letter from, say, First Book or Homes for Our Troops, where you have made a generous donation in your cousin’s name.
You could roast chestnuts over the crackling hearth of your schadenfreude! With this Christmas ninja maneuver you’ve scored the hat trick of competitive gift-giving: (1) you look noble in front of your family; (2) your swinish cousin gets nothing except shown up; and (3) tax deduction, booyah!
EVAN: A.C., that is without a doubt the most viciously altruistic gift I’ve ever heard of. But when I think subtly punitive Christmas present, two words come to mind: Wizards tickets. The next time the District’s borderline-professional basketball team comes to his town, your cousin should be subjected to Jan Vesely—a former sixth overall pick who shoots 20% from the free throw line, his stroke that of an inebriated fan trying to win a car from halfcourt—and Jordan Crawford, a slouching, remorseless gunner whose shot selection can best be described as The World Is Ending On 12-21-12, So Fuck It. The ten-dollar Bud Lights and inevitable/intolerable Cupid Shuffling will only add to your cousin’s humiliation, which he is too obtuse to hold against you.
For the Wanker Who Has Everything
EVAN: Whether this is a self-flagellating workaholic or one of those insufferably charmed people for whom so much fluffy goodness falls into their laps as if shot out of a gently arcing t-shirt gun, what this wanker needs is not more stuff, but a unique, innovative experience. Lucky for you, I devised such an experience moments ago. I call it a keyza party, and it is exactly what it sounds like: a combination key and pizza party.
Is this wanker’s appetite for cheese as voracious as his appetite for strange sex? Has he often expressed a desire to wed the carb-fueled parties of his youth with the coke-fueled orgies of adulthood? Does he love key parties but hate that they always serve the same boring aphrodisiacal aperitifs and appetizers? (Champagne, oysters, chocolate, SNOOZE.) And is there a bigger turn-on than watching a woman unhinge her jaw to scarf down a wedge of Meat Lover’s, winking all the way and letting a little tomato sauce dribble down her chin? I submit that there is not.
So head on down to Food Lion and load up on off-brand two-liter colas, Solo cups, cheap paper plates, and a year’s supply of napkins—things are going to get a little messy. With a Sharpie, change all the esses on the Solo cups to Ys. Marvel at your wit. Call Pizza Hut, order thirty pies, assure them this isn’t a prank, and then call your wanker friend. Tell him to book a sitter. Tell him to bring his beautiful wife.
A.C.: I can’t believe that my name is attached to this Weather post. As a healthy alternative, may I suggest the MakerBot 3-D Replicator? Your beloved wanker can make resin busts of themselves in different attitudes: “Pensive Peter.” “Joyful Peter.” “Amorous Peter.” Just try to be gracious when you get an “Aggrieved Peter” for your birthday next month.
For the Wanker Who Has Nothing—Your Unemployed Friend
EVAN: Look: don’t even use the words job or hunt—let alone make any sort of winking I-know-a-guy-who’s-hiring promises—within fifty feet of this person unless you want her to locate the nearest window and dive out of it like Michael Phelps after a particularly sticky-looking nug of Maui Wowie.
Instead of hot job tips, send your friend that awesome Macklemore video that makes thrift shopping appear not only socially acceptable, but hipper and smarter than regular shopping. Your unemployed friend is broke, this video incredibly addictive. Looping it ten times will fill forty minutes of your friend’s free time—which is vast, rolling out before her like the Pessimistic Ocean. She will thank you and post the video to her Facebook wall, where you will Like it. More than anyone, your unemployed friend needs positive reinforcement.
That still leaves twenty-three hours and change to fill, so you should also buy your unemployed friend the new Walking Dead video game. Not only will dispatching the undead give her a healthy/harmless outlet for all the frustration that’s been blooming in her chest since she was handed that pink slip, or—worse—diploma, but assuming the role of a prisoner who has been given a second chance at life should resonate in a majorly hopeful way. If nothing else: zombies!
A.C.: Just continue to read chapters of her novel-in-progress and tell her it’s all gold. SOLID. GOLD.
For the Person Who May or May Not Be Your Significant Other
A.C.: Christmas is an emotionally perilous time of year. One day you’re a footloose swinging single, bulk-ordering your loved ones Slankets and telling Amazon to wrap them individually in Happy Kwanzaa paper (which is sure to amuse!). Then, that night, while watching Jimmy Stewart on TCM, you suddenly get a little Christmas spirit in your eye. Your heart swells up to thrice its normal walnut size and you decide you want to shower all the little Whos down in Whoville with thoughtful gifts that will make them feel warm and cherished.
Be alert, friend! What’s next? Are you going to hold the elevator for strangers? Are you going to start calling your parents every week?Are you going to fire your professional and walk your own dog? Pull yourself together.
When it comes to your own Very Special Who, try not to let the magic of Christmas and your urgent need for a date to the holiday office party cloud your judgment. The key here is to reinforce ambiguity. But don’t be clumsy about it—a gift card to Whole Foods will get you busted down from “Very Special” to just plain “Who?”
Try: a gift certificate for a couples massage… for her and her sister. Or: a romantic getaway to Paris… Texas. Or: a wine and cheese tasting that you would love to accompany him to… if only you could tolerate lactose. Of course, he’ll know that what you’re really intolerant of is not lactose, but love. But hopefully he’ll still come to your office party.
EVAN: Whether Christmas has arrived after just a couple weeks of casual dating, Dear Reader, or you’ve been stuck in relationship purgatory with a quasi-significant other for the past six months, I’m sorry this is happening to you. Either way: get the lady flowers, put on channel ORANGE, cook her this ridiculously easy Indian butter chicken, do all the dishes, and rub her feet during your wined-up wind-down viewing of MST3K: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. If she doesn’t melt like hot cheese at a keyza party, it’s time to move on.
Evan Allgood's work has appeared in McSweeney's, The Millions, LA Review of Books, The Toast, and The Billfold. He lives in Brooklyn and contributes regularly to Paste. Follow and maybe later unfollow him on Twitter @evoooooooooooo.
A.C. DeLashmutt is a Virginian living in New York. Her writing has appeared in McSweeney's, The Washington Post, theNewerYork, Flash magazine, and elsewhere. She also writes plays. Follow her on Twitter @acdelashmutt.