'Tis the season when the ubiquity of gift-themed commercials and entertainment makes the ubiquity of American Idol in May feel like the subtle nudge of a kitten.
People are giving each other gifts, promising each other gifts, buying gifts, receiving gifts, and wrapping gifts all over your television, and they know they have you as a captive audience, because what are you going to do, go outside? Read a book?
The least you can do for yourself is be aware of the biggest gift-giving lies in popular culture, and fortunately, we have a list.
It is a good idea to give someone a surprise car with a big bow on it. The car bow is a cliche now, and Lexus is routinely slammed for their bizarre holiday ads, which suggest that you should not only buy a person a car as a present (and hope they don't, you know, LOOK OUTSIDE), but you should also invest in a giant red bow and perhaps a custom music box that plays the Lexus Love Theme, which you have helpfully had your custom music box maker orchestrate.
Or maybe you shouldn't buy the car as a gift. Maybe you should just buy the car and assume it will cause a hot person to appear in your life. You know, stranger things have happened.
But before you buy your giant car bow, keep in mind that unless you share no financial burdens whatsoever with the person you're giving the car to, and unless you will not be driving it, what you are really saying with a surprise Lexus is, "Merry Christmas! We bought something expensive you didn't know about!" Oh, and also, if your neighbors see a car in your driveway with a bow on it, you are never getting invited to a neighborhood party again.
It is a good idea to surprise someone with a pet. If Saturday Night Live really wanted to mock a true holiday trope, they'd have made a song called "Dog In A Box." Despite the fact that dogs don't like being in boxes, cats don't like being in boxes, and you're very likely to open a box full of distressed animal to find plenty of evidence of animal distress, the myth of opening a cardboard box to find an imprisoned puppy retains some charm for some people.
In addition to the fact that a pet is not the kind of thing you surprise someone with ("Surprise! This will be going to the bathroom somewhere in your house for the next 15 years!"), the match between pet and owner is such that nobody should be denied the opportunity to fall plainly and majestically in love with a pet and choose it on that basis. Otherwise, it has the potential to be like going on a bad blind date and finding out that you have to take the person home, feed him, wash him, clean his parts, and walk him on a leash till death do you part.
All women love jewelry. Don't get me wrong. Jewelry can be a great gift. If a woman likes jewelry, or if it's a lovely piece of jewelry, or if it's been carefully chosen with love, it can be a great gift. But don't think that women aren't aware that it can, in the wrong hands, be the soap-on-a-rope of gifts for women, the "here is a thing I am giving you because it's the day for thing-giving!" of discouraged shoppers. Please resist the urge to be the guy who expects that if he gives the gift of jewelry, then without fail, there will suddenly be classical music and people leaning out of windows calling out their congratulations in Italian or whatever it is that happens in diamond commercials. Witness this sadistic, mean lady who acts embarrassed and horrified and withholds her affection when her fella yells that he loves her, but declares her love when he gives her stuff. She is not to be trusted.
Snow globes are the most sentimental gift that can be passed from one person to another. I am convinced that the best PR professionals in the entertainment field work for the snow globe industry, which I imagine has secret kickback deals in which the International Snow Globe Manufacturing Association is giving checks under the table to everyone who overstates the significance of the snow globe in gift-giving culture. Because any time there is a script that contains a moment when a gift should be given, and it should be clear that the gift is a gift with all kinds of feeeeeeeelings involved, there is an excellent chance that the gift will be a snow globe. Now, tell the truth: If you are not a snow globe collector and you do not do your Christmas shopping at the airport, how many snow globes have you bought and sold, relative to how much love you have given and received? I REST MY CASE.
You should write in a book that you give to a person who loves books. I'm certainly not saying you should never write in a book that you give to a person who loves books. But there are different kinds of book people. One kind of book person doesn't mind dog-eared pages, broken spines, and other signs that books have been handled by humans. The other kind of book person sees an old ten-cent paperback being thrown in the recycling and calls the How Could You Police. If you have the first kind of book person, you should feel free to write in the front of the book, "I thought you might like to read this! Merry Christmas!" If you have the second kind of book person, it might be safer to insert a card in the front of the book so that the person can throw it in the recycling and retain a pristine book that still appears untouched by human hands. I'm just saying, it could be a safer choice than writing a lovely inscription that, whatever it says, will be read as "I got you some offensive and unfeeling vandalism! I hope you like it."