What To Buy Those Difficult People for Christmas

They sit around the Christmas tree, staring at you. Their eyes say what they mouths will not: What have you got me this year? And you know, you just know, that you're going to disappoint them. Again. Not any more. This year, with our help, you can finally get them what they want.

The Cool Uncle

He swans in each Christmas with the best presents, stays for a glass of wine and leaves in his expensive car, off to see one of several adoring women who have invited him round for dinner and a bit of you know what. He's got everything, so what could you, with your R150 and your good intentions, possibly give him? He wants something he can't buy, of course. And because a basketful of care and affection is a hard thing to find at Stuttafords, this is not an easy task. So get the experts to do it for you. If this guy is as sorted and tasteful as he seems he will be into self-discovery and have a cracking sound system. He will also have a big ego. Use these things.

Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton
Absolution by Muse


The Golf-Obsessed Dad

All he really wants to do, even while you're sitting there around the tree, is play golf. So it's safe to assume that all he wants to get is golf equipment, right? Wrong. He's got drawers full of the stuff, accumulated over the Christmases and birthdays stretching back years to the day he said, in a moment of weakness, 'just give me golf stuff'. How he regrets that decision, rummaging in his sock drawer through a pile of pitch mark repairers looking for socks, or sipping beer out of yet another 'funny' golf mug. The last thing this guy wants is another pink shirt, 'you know, that you can wear for golf'. Think laterally. If he likes golf he'll like nature and he'll like peace and quiet. It is therefore certain that he will like fly fishing. Here is your in.

A River Runs Through It (And Other Stories) by Norman Maclean
Music takes time. Golf time. Get him tees.


The Troubled Teen

He's 15. He wears black. He says 'whatever' a lot. He 'hates everything'. Trying to be cool by buying the latest death metal album just makes you look desperate and gives him another reason to march up to his room and play Carmageddon. But in every rebel, however well concealed, is a respect for former rebels. It is here that you must strike. Just don't ask him to open the gift it in front of everybody, don't expect him to show you any gratitude whatsoever and don't even think about trying to make them feel like you were as angry as him once. This will result in your gift being burned in a bedroom dustbin, and Christmas will be ruined.

The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Guevara
The Wall by Pink Floyd


The ‘But I Have Everything I Need' Mom

She's usually right, of course, and you know it. She needs another pasta drainer like a hole in the head. But this is Christmas and you've got to get her something anyway if only to make yourself feel better, so it's just too bad. But before you march off to some overpriced home store and return, proudly, with a pasta strainer that, unlike the other 18, has cute little pictures of cauliflowers cut into the metal, think about this for a minute. More than any other character around the tree, this one usually just wants to feel that you gave her something nobody else could have given her, even if she won't actually ever like/use/listen to/look at it. Seriously. If you've already done the '10 back massage tokens', try the following.

Your favourite book of all time.
Your favourite album of all time.


The New Love

The last thing you want to buy him or her is a teddy bear that repeats 'I love you' when squeezed, but something a shade too functional or unspecific can be as big a boo-boo. You're not ready to share your affinity for early 90s acid Jazz quite yet (and rightly so) and the books you keep picking up are almost always dull biographies about people you remember agreeing were cool. Don't buy these books. The secret here is decisive vagueness. You want to say a few things here, so that if you do hit a bum note there is enough other noise to soften the blow. To this end, the compilation album has never been more useful.

Three books, all as different as possible.
A compilation of your favourite music.


The Toddler

It may be cute, but the toddler is not old enough to pronounce even the most basic of words, let alone appreciate a gift, so what's the point? The trouble is, if you don't buy the kid anything then you're the one who doesn't like babies. And what sort of bastard doesn't like babies? You're not actually buying the gift for the toddler anyway – the parent opens it, the parent ‘oohs and aahs' and the parent thanks you – so see it as a tariff, a sort of Christmas Tax. If you want to avoid being scorned, just buy the child a rattle. Just make sure it is not one of those seed pods that give the impression of having been found in the front garden up the driveway that morning. Even if you did get it at the Organic market, it just looks like either you couldn't afford a real rattle from a toy shop, or couldn't be bothered to go. Neither is good.

Pop-up. No words, unless the child is beginning to speak, in which case, with words: you want to avoid suggesting that the baby is a slow developer.
Something light. A story read by an old man about a cow, perhaps?

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