A Guide To The Most Ridiculous Gift Guides

Let’s take a minute to expose a few very expensive mistakes

Image: Kasia

Every year, various publications and companies put out so-called gift guides to supposedly help shoppers find the perfect something for family and friends. Inevitably these gift guides include some presents that are just a touch too expensive to ones that would make a hip-hop mogul blush. Now it’s entirely possible Jay-Z and Beyoncé do their own Christmas shopping, actually read these guides, and think, “Why, yes, let’s do get Solange a $1.5-mil rose gold Cobalt Valkyrie-X private plane to match her phone. She certainly deserves it. How did we never think of this before?” But the vast number of us just sigh and skip to the next item, brought low, however fleetingly, by the image of yet another wondrous magical thing that we will neither get nor give this holiday season.

These moments can accumulate into a minor depression over time if we don’t acknowledge them head-on. Ultimately these sparkly, out-of-reach gifts are truly nothing but headaches wrapped in 24-karat gold paper. And there is no better therapy for these inescapable materialistic fantasies than dreaming them through to their logical and terrible ends.

First up is the Peninsula Grand AirCruise, which I first learned about from a New York Magazine gift guide. It costs $159,000. Initially, the idea of a jet flying you around the world for a month to stay in luxurious hotels and explore international cities sounds fantastic. And then a peek at the itinerary makes you realize, no, this is going to be exhausting. You are going to be jet-lagged for a full month. You’re going to spend approximately five seconds per exotic locale. Maybe you have infinite energy and don’t mind all the radiation you’ll get from perpetual air travel for a month, but I mind. Also $159,000. Come on.

Next, the Harper’s Bazaar “Gift Guide: For the Luxe Ladies,” which reminds me of that song “400 Lux” by Lorde, except that I liked the song, and I did not like pretty much everything on this list. In fact the only gift that held any charm for me was the $1,355 Agent Provocateur slip in gold silk and black lace. But, boy, did it hold a lot of charm. Wearing such a slip, I could imagine myself waking up in a little auberge on the French Riviera, floating down the curved staircase to the breakfast nook, taking a bite out of a fresh, buttery croissant, and — no. No way anyone who wears this slip can consume carbs. In fact you know what this slip means for the woman who receives it? Regretting two months of holiday eating. Purchasing a gym membership or, worse, actually making herself go to the gym she is already a member of. And worst of all… hand washing. Ugh.

Last year, Buzzfeed provided holiday shoppers with “19 Extravagant Gifts You Totally Deserve This Year.” How did they know? I totally did deserve to, as they posted in the Parks & Recreation meme at the beginning of the list, treat myself. But with what? The item I most liked among all the Millennial debt bait was the aptly named Impossible Project Camera, a Polaroid SX-70 that then went for $408.99. The camera currently retails for $559.37 (if you want film and a case) or $399.90 (if you want a four hundred-dollar brick that’s easy to break). Everyone loves a spiffy camera, and if I could hoard cameras, I would. My house would be filled with Nikons, Polaroids, Canons, Panasonics, Fujis, and I don’t know how to make Olympus plural. Also I’d get that mirrorless Sony just to make sure the other cameras didn’t get big heads. But not only do I not have that kind of money, if I owned all the cameras I wanted, I would never use them because a.) I would never be able to choose between them all, and b.) my smartphone, bro. Unless you’re a professional photographer, which I’m pretty sure is a made-up job like professional unicorn handler or Justin Bieber, you’re the same.

I like Wired. Their wish lists often have the price points in the headline, and since they are a technology magazine, when I see something like 2014’s “20 Extravagant Gifts over $500,” I am not annoyed. Computers. Robots. Jet packs. These are expensive but practical items that every home needs, so I thought here’s the list that might damage my bank account but has every right to. But then the list had coats and art on it, and I was like, come on, Wired. What exactly do you do with a parka in a Gadget Lab, Gadget Lab Staff? Is it a smartparka? Can it tell you what the temperature is, or that your top doesn’t match your khakis and also, ew, gross, khakis? No, it’s just a regular overpriced coat. I expect this from Buzzfeed, not you, Wired.

But then! Partway through the list was a $900 Teenage Engineering Swedish speaker. Be still my heart. Finally, the gift that would win Mads Mikkelsen’s heart. I would buy anything for that guy. Sure he’s married and 18 years older than I am, but does that mean he doesn’t deserve nice things and to love me forever based entirely on me giving him said nice things? Of course not.

Alas, there’s no truth in advertising, guys, because the little red disk on top of the speaker to give it that toy bomb detonator look that appeared in Wired’s photo was subsequently missing from TE’s online store photos. Yes, a slick high-end speaker would be fantastic, but dream speakers are always cooler than real-life speakers, particularly when they don’t actually look like something Wile E. Coyote would carry around. Anyway, who needs speakers? Don’t we all have ear buds permanently attached to our skulls?

(Also, turns out Mads Mikkelsen is Danish.)

Then we come to the gift guide that you need to wear sunglasses to read, that’s how shiny it is: Neiman Marcus’s annual collection of Fantasy Gifts, a list of presents ranging from a Broadway cameo to a slumber party at the Dallas flagship store. Guess which costs more? No, really, guess. Did you guess the slumber party costs $120,000, FOUR TIMES the Waitress walk-on? A slumber party! Has anyone ever gone to an actual fun, supportive, pleasant slumber party where all of the guests were included and no one had nightmares and the sleeping bags didn’t smell like old meat? So, clearly this gift didn’t appeal to me at all, and neither did the Broadway walk-on (stage fright), but A Week of Luxe (that terrible word again) Living at Three English Estates? AKA “Downton Abbey” LARPing for a week? Sign me up. But then I remembered about how sometimes I fell asleep during “Downton Abbey” and also what British food is like and Brexit and was like, “Nah, I’ll save my $700,000 that I don’t have, thank you very much.”

At last, I am as much to blame as any of the aforementioned companies and publications, as I too have a wish list that I have compiled over the years, just hanging out on Amazon and being ridiculous. In reviewing the items I at some point have claimed to want over the last several years, I discovered an iBride Iron Joe Polar Bear Bookshelf from SwitchModern. It’s a $6,680 bookshelf. Shaped like a polar bear.

Once again, that’s a bookshelf that costs nearly $7,000 built to resemble a polar bear.

I added this to my wish list in October of 2013, apparently during some kind of mental breakdown. SwitchModern no longer sells it, but I think we can all agree that a bookshelf shaped like an endangered animal has a limited novelty lifespan and should be avoided at all costs, but most of all at the cost of $6,680. I have now deleted said bookshelf from my list and will understand if we can’t be friends anymore.

The $899 professional Geiger counter, though? I’ll let that stay. Not because I want it, but because knowing that I was crazy enough in 2011 to add that to my wish list but not crazy enough to actually buy it is the gift I truly deserve this Christmas, and it didn’t cost a thing. Take that, Buzzfeed.

Disclaimer: All gifts received by author this holiday season, including and possibly especially the ones derided above, will be happily accepted by the author and will be acknowledged with a thank you note. If she remembers.