The gift that says: "You mean a little to me"

    Everyone has a friend who he or she does not like very much. It is a fact of life. Between group projects at school, one-night stands and even the resulting illegitimate children, chances are that you have collected some superficial pals by the time you hit college. The main problem with obligation friends is that, someday, you will owe them an obligation gift. Anniversaries, engagements or a birthday for that three-year-old you left in Santa Cruz are all occasions when you need that perfect gift, the one that says, “I care about you enough to have someone else assemble and mail you something impersonal.”

    I’ve had my fair share of these friends and can assure you that nothing will make you hate people you mildly dislike more than going out of your way for them. So, after many awkward encounters and cop-out gift cards gone awry, I’ve compiled a list of gift options you can send from your dorm room that will by no means make you seem too affectionate, but will save you from scoldings by your more-polite elders. Because, let’s be honest: Your cousin’s fiancée is not worth pulling yourself away from Top Model. Or even a really good bag of Fritos.

    For anyone on your list who wears mom jeans

    Shopping for older women — particularly relatives — can be difficult. They are temperamental, domineering and often menopausal, and this is a dangerous combination. They are like werewolves in housecoats and red hats, and a hit gift one day could make them flip some serious shits the next. A ridiculous but proven alternative? PajamaGrams. Although they’re packaged in cute, mom-approved gift wrap, they are, essentially, pajamas in a box and unlikely to send the I-adore-you message you’re trying desperately to avoid. The risk you run here is that they may be offended by the idea of a gift that you would clearly not send to a 20-year-old woman. You might also consider Bibacity, which will deliver a bottle of booze and a handwritten note. As for how to decide which gift to send to someone you don’t care about enough to know that well? You’ll just have to sync it up with lunar cycles or something.

    Give the gift of diversion

    For the little cousins, babysitting charges or big kids who refuse to act their age, SENDaBALL is a great way to make that token effort without risking shin-kicks or groin-level hugging. They will deliver you a ball. Seriously: They mail balls. Once you get your giggles out, peruse their selection of personalized kickballs with cringe-worthy puns. So they’re also appropriate for that English major you hate. Be warned, though: This is not an appropriate substitute for child support. But their creative selection, ranging from “HAVE A BALL on your birthday” to “HAVE A BALL in your new home,” should get you out of any upcoming bar mitzvahs.

    For the over-21 crowd … because ‘drunk’ rarely equals ‘tolerable’

    A personal favorite, the Bear Can is literally a slightly tipsy teddy bear and a can of beer, delivered to your door. Perfect after a one-night stand, right up through anniversaries or even engagements if you’re a frat boy (or with one). Honestly, I cannot think of an occasion when this would not be a sufficient gesture: It gets the job done and reeks of “he’s just not that into you.”

    For the creepy relative I know you all have

    Finally, I bring you the gift to end all gifts for that awkward, 30-year-old single cousin who shows up at family parties talking about things he’s seen on the History Channel. A simple Google search reveals a disturbing selection of mail-order brides, the ultimate home-delivery gift. Though not necessarily in line with your goals of total aloofness (prepare for grateful thanks from Uncle Lenny … and also his mom, her sister, your uncle, grandparents, etc.), this simple gesture will definitely get you off the hook, long-term.

    Good luck loosely maintaining those social ties with the ones you love enough to point, click and charge without leaving your dorm. Like I always say, it’s the lack of thought that counts.


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