Novelty Gifts That I Hate and/or Hate Myself For Loving -The Toast

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Every year around this time I find myself aimlessly searching online for Christmas gift ideas. One of the sites I frequent is a notoriously trendy retailer that epitomizes the mass production of “originality.” I don’t waste my time with their overpriced fashion offerings, but proceed directly to the novelty bonanza that is their “APARTMENT” section. Mundane suburbanites need not enter.

My visits to the store’s website are never without internal conflict: On the one hand, I love clever things that look pretty. On the other hand, I am morally opposed to this store’s shady business practices, like using sweatshops and capitalizing on that whole ‘Indian Chic’ fashion trend. Ultimately, my primal yearning for savvy design and slick concepts will prevail. Not that I necessarily buy things there, but I do like to window shop while shaking my fist and muttering “sons of bitches really outdid themselves this year.”

As I scroll through page after page of charming gift ideas, I will turn a blind eye to this shamefully accurate provision of whimsy. Ha, looks like they really got my number, those sly devils. Good for them! It’s all fun and games until I encounter some items that are so egregious they serve as a shock to my system. 
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1. Ironically Priced Bean Bag

I want them to send this photo to all of our enemies abroad who say that Americans are lazy and wasteful and materialistic. Just troll the hell out of them.

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2. Fancy Ass Cake Topper

The only reason I can see for getting one of these things is for the sole purpose of posting a photo of your precious princess cake to Instagram. That being said, I think it would be a great idea for someone to keep one of these in their purse and whip it out on first dates to set the mood “for the first night of the rest of our lives.” Better yet, they could do the same thing at a job interview to let the prospective employer know that they appreciate the finer things in life. “A smidgen of class could really improve morale around here,” they would suggest before being escorted to their new corner office.

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3. Flash Drive / Statement of Originality

Are we living in a Wes Anderson movie set in the future? Pretending to stroll along the beach and find some nostalgic message in a bottle from the good old days of USB technology while listening to French rock music? Because that sounds freaking awesome. Maybe the bottle contains a plea for help from an orphan who has been stolen by a houseboat­inhabiting harpie in order to retrieve a giant diamond from a bayou cave? Maybe the message is an ‘SOS to the world’ from an aging rockstar who will soon find 100 billion similar bottles on his island lost at sea? All of these scenarios sound delightful for a person who may or may not be a character in a stop motion hologram animation.

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4. Stump Scraps

The very night before I saw this on the store’s website, I was out to dinner with a friend of mine and we passed by a Christmas tree stand. My friend starts eyeing a box of stump scraps that are being cut off the trees on the lot. She wants to see if we can buy some because they would be way cheaper than the actual trees or wreaths. I tell her that she is embarrassing me because this is not the Christmas episode of Saved By the Bell where the kids are working at the gift wrapping station in the mall and learn the true meaning of Christmas by giving their discarded wrapping paper ends to the needy.

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45. Ugly Ass Pillow

What even is this? I thought this store had been trying to tone down all the cultural appropriation? Apparently not. Apparently this is what passes for taste nowadays. Maybe if someone was still reeling from the backlash of their ‘Sexy Pocahontas’ costume that all the Halloween #haterz sucked the joy out of, this pillow would be a good way to double down on the cultural sensitivity. It would really let people know how much they appreciate Native Americans for all their valuable contributions to looking cute and, like, communing with nature and shit. If visiting Mohegan Sun has taught this person anything, it’s that you gotta go all in when you already have a great starting hand.

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I want to meet the Lothario that says to himself “I really need to get a tent for this upcoming outdoor excursion, but I also need people in the vicinity to know what is happening inside that tent, which is obviously a lot of smooching and sexual congress.”

Also, this tent costs as much as one month’s rent in some places! What gives? Does the tent come with an interior coating of pheromones and a bottle of vintage Courvoisier? Maybe I am just seeing the perspective wrong. Maybe this tent is actually 50ft long and could serve as a venue for large swinger gatherings in a jiffy. If so, then that is a steal.

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7. Obscure T.V. Show Board Game

I envision the eBay tycoons out there salivating at the thought of throwing this baby in the vault. Sure, it’s worthless now, but it’ll be worth a small fortune as a kitschy collectible in 20 years. Better get a few just in case. They’re in this for the long grift. The New Girl board game boxes will stack neatly between the plastic tubs of vacuum-­sealed Beanie Babies and the Scully and Mulder Dolls encased in lucite.

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8. Fake Poor Tree Decor

What a predicament! You want your tree to be shabby chic, but you don’t want it to have any actual filth on it because that might give your guests the impression that you are one of the Poors. Quelle horreur! This ornament offers the perfect solution: Instead of having to drink a cheap beer and hang that empty can on your tree for a dollar, you can spend 12 times that amount and come off smelling like a rose. Well done!


Emily Niland is a Brooklyn-based illustrator/writer. She likes her humor dark and her whiskey neat. Emily's art blog is here. You can also check out some primo examples of asshattery in the arts community via her past project, All Art No Pay.

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