Christmas tree with presents
(Photo: Getty Images)
By Bill Mann
Special for USA TODAY
It's that time of the year when newspapers - and many of us - get heavier. They're jammed with Christmas-ad supplements containing hundreds of suggested gifts.
But, along with all of the lovely, thoughtful presents, what horrors could also lurk under your tree, yet to be unwrapped?
When I was a kid, socks and underwear were especially unwelcome, if seemingly inevitable, gifts. They elicited roughly the same response Ralphie had in A Christmas Story when he unwrapped that nightmare box that contained giant-rabbit pink pajamas. He'd been hoping for something a bit more manly: a BB gun.
I've been wading through hundreds of newspaper gift supplements and looking at cheesy TV commercials and online ads to find cringe-worthy Christmas gifts that would make a chunk of anthracite in a Christmas stocking seem like an improvement.
Here are the finalists on my Christmas gift no-fly list:
1. Anything Chia
Nothing is tackier - or has more of a cloying hipster aura to it - than one of these anthropomorphic earthen contrivances. Whether it's a Chia Obama, Chia Scooby Doo, Chia Mr. T. or this year's highly promoted Chia Mickey Mouse (I prefer my Mickeys beardless, thank you), when I see one of these things, my first impulse is to spray some Round-Up. (The second: to wish I had a hammer.) The bald pottery figurines are unsightly enough, but attaching now-trendy edible nutritional seeds to them seems terribly misguided.
2. Fathead decals & posters (medical division)
Many Americans like their gladiator idolatry big. Way too big, one could argue. You probably know from NFL broadcasts about these outsize wall decals with sports stars. (Nothing like a giant glaring LeBron James looming on the wall to start MY day out right!) But did you know you can now also order large Fathead medical wall decals with titles like "Artery Blockages Labeled" as fun gifts? I am not making this up. Handy for a cardiologist's office, sure, but these could be weaponized, as not-too-subtle reminders to Dad that maybe it's time to cut back on the bacon and burgers. One inset even features a close-up of a plaque-jammed coronary artery!
3. We wish you a hairy Christmas
Here's a not-so-subtle hint for a middle-aged guy: a copy of Paul Wojnicki's No Cure for Baldness? It's just a humor book about one man's funny fight to stay hairy, so don't take it personally. Har de har har. For a more direct approach, the gift-giver could visit Amazon and give hubby a copy of So You're Going Bald: A Man's Guide to the Art of Power Balding. "Power balding?"
4. Anything labeled "some assembly required"
This almost goes without saying. Those three words strike terror in the hearts of us males who are mechanical-aptitude-impaired. My wife assembles everything we get from IKEA by herself, lest it come out looking like a condemned birdhouse. I come by this ineptitude genetically: My dad couldn't pound a nail in straight, nor can I. Dowels? Flat-head screws? Assembly diagrams? Therein lies madness.
5. Anything Duck Dynasty
Especially avoid one widely advertised item: the new "Redneck Wisdom Party Game." In light of the past week's headlines featuring anti-gay comments by cracker quacker Phil Robertson, this gift of alleged "wisdom" seems inappropriate (to some, at least). By the way, the Chia people dodged a big bullet (or shotgun blast) this month: Two of the Duck Boys are featured on new Chia pets this year - but not, luckily, "eccentric" ol' Phil. Plus, aren't these boys' beards bushy enough already?
Old-fashioned popcorn poppers with wheels (is anyone old enough to actually remember these?); woodburning hobby sets (I got one as a boy, and I still have the scar to prove it); singing wall fish; Santa costumes for cats (ever actually tried to put one on Kitty? I have a matching scar); any movie that began as a comic book; netbook computers; snow shovels tied up with a bow (real subtle); another Fathead decal called "Simplified Digestive System"; finally, "Mad Bomber" Hats (they make especially thoughtful gifts for TSA employees).
Humorist Bill Mann lives in Port Townsend, Wash.