10 Gifts for Grumpy People

Sometimes one man's smile is another man's frown.

Grumps come in a variety of spots and stripes, but we all know at least one member of the species. They haven't mastered the polite laugh. They don't pause at the water cooler to chat. Greetings and dismissals are usually offered in the form of a grunt, if at all. So when the holidays roll around – an opportunity for outpourings of feeling – you might feel discouraged trying to choose the offering that would be least scowled upon.

Grumps aren't necessarily natural-born jerks who boil with rage. The grumps we care about are still nice – just not very social. Perhaps your uncle is a bit withdrawn because he feels awkward around new people. It might happen that your co-worker is a no-nonsense type that prefers to get the job done instead of gossiping about reality shows. Maybe your best friend communicates mainly in mumbles and facial expressions so that government listening devices won't record her breakfast order.

For those who coin dour expressions to traffic in straight talk, frivolous or pretentious gifts are likely to earn a blank stare rather than gushing gratitude. Forestall uncomfortable silences by adhering to these simple rules:

  • Don't try to change someone's life. Grouchiness, like bubbliness, is a defense mechanism against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that accumulates over many years. Spa gifts, self-help books, or stress balls are merely ways to say, “I care about you, but I wish you were completely different.” Consider their perspective rather than approaching it with your own agenda.
  • KISS (Keep It Simple, Santa). Grumps are by nature people who dismiss the superficial. They will almost universally prefer elegant simplicity over acrobatics of generosity. You should be more surgical in your approach, rather than, say, making up a treasure map of your home and sending a sourpuss on a domestic “adventure” to find a present. A well-considered token of your esteem will go a lot farther than overwrought attempts to impress.
  • Don't be maudlin. Try to avoid giving puppies wrapped in big red bow ties or calendars full of sleeping babies dressed up as garden insects. Look instead for something that might see some use. It's fine to personalize a gift with some flair, but any grump worth his bile is going to remember the fine pen more than the engraved inscription.

What to Buy?

If you're still having trouble, we've cribbed a cheat sheet of ten items that may not only bypass crabbiness, but revel in it:

  1. 1Perfectionist OCD Cutting Board

    Sometimes crankiness is the natural consequence of not finding the world up to snuff. Forms are never properly collated, traffic is always a snarl, and the big game keeps getting pushed back for rain delays. You can help a grouser clean up the edges of his life with the cutting board engineered for precision. A mere $25.95 can provide the tool needed to make vegetables approach the Platonic ideal of perfection. The geometric measurements scored into the sturdy beech wood guide a knife to cut the various sizes required for statistically significant cuisine.
  2. 2Livescribe 4 GB Pulse Smartpen

    Does your conscientious co-worker pull her hair out because fickle clients keep changing the things they ask her to do? Outfit her with the pen that records what someone is saying as she manically scribbles it down. The onboard memory not only records 400 hours of audio, but links it by time stamp to accompanying notes with a mere tap on the Livescribe dot paper. If someone tries to fuss that they wanted the report by Wednesday instead of Friday, your beloved grouch can instantly reproduce hard evidence to the contrary from the pen itself or from the free 500 MB of online storage provided at Livescribe.com/community. Vindication comes at the price of $169.99.
  3. 3Ultrasonic Electric Aromatherapy Diffuser

    Sometimes all a grump needs is something to help him wind down from a long, hard day at work. After breathing in the fumes of society and cheerfulness all day, a little aromatherapy can go a long way. The Ultrasonic Electric Aromatherapy Diffuser is here to help, whether at the household or the office. The unit is offered in white or black, and begins diffusing within seconds of pressing the button. It can also be used at night as a nightlight and mini humidifier, because sometimes all a grump needs to get through the next day is a good night’s sleep.
  4. 4The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm

    It isn't that a grump has no sense of humor, only that it's often drier than a week-old steak. James Napoli, Executive Vice President of the National Sarcasm Society (motto: “We totally wish you would join”), has penned a guide to help bridge the gap between the witty and the witless. The benefits are two-fold: the tome will help people to better understand the sarcast-er, and the owner might even become better at distributing his special brand of humor to the sarcast-ees. This piquant instruction manual is available for $14.95.
  5. 5Artificial Jellyfish Aquarium

    Don't let a hectic schedule keep someone from owning an exotic pet. The best part of the 1 ¼ gallon Artificial Jellyfish Aquarium is that, unlike with other pets, you're not giving the gift of a perpetual chore. The only care and feeding required for the seven LED-illuminated jellyfish comes from an AC outlet. A whisper-quiet motor gently circulates water that undulates the invertebrates in a lifelike ballet. You can easily class up the office in which he's spending all of his time for only $79.95.
  6. 6Moodmatcher Color Changing Lipstick

    Although her emotional range may seem to bounce between impatience and irritation, you can help her communicate how she really feels with Moodmatcher lipstick. Her lip color may belie her natural scowl as the shade alters with body warmth. Available in seven styles for $3.99 each, the color stays on for twelve hours and won't smudge on pencils chewed in annoyance. Similar products require multi-step applications, but Moodmatcher is formulated to go on in one easy coat. She doesn't have to know that you're helping yourself out as well by giving something that helps indicate the best time to ask her a favor.
  7. 7Wild Game Meat Sticks

    To a man of few words, the best thing one can do with his mouth is eat. Food is always a great replenishable gift, but recreational snacking gives an aloof fellow one more reason not to have to talk. Convert his taciturn teeth-grinding into much more constructive mastication as he dines on hearty links of bison, elk, and venison. You could risk life and limb hunting down big game yourself, or you can spare yourself the trouble and pay $29.95 for seven sticks each. He'll be happy either way – or as least as far as you can judge from his stoic expression.
  8. 8Ford GT Road Mice

    Your beloved grump may choose to do all of his socializing on the internet. For $31.95, you can make sure he hits the information superhighway in a sweet ride. This optical mouse is realistically shaped like the Ford GT sports car that was produced from 2004-2006 in memory of the automaker's classic GT40 racer. Illuminated headlights on this accessory contribute to the verisimilitude as they light up the darkest corners of the web. As an interesting final touch, each mouse comes with a unique vehicle identification number that can be registered online in exchange for a certificate of title.
  9. 9Digital Binocular Camera

    Ever since he retired, Grandpa's made a full time job out of keeping neighborhood kids off his lawn. Enable his crotchety ranting with the Digital Binocular Camera, which captures images of strange cars coming and going at 10x zoom. Vivitar's new-fangled $49.95 doo-dad stores up to 160 high definition photos that can be downloaded to any computer via USB and edited with the included software. You might have to do the gimrackery for him, but it's a better way for you two to spend time together than watching him yell at stray dogs from the front porch.
  10. 10Shakespearean Insult Bandages

    If you prick a grump, does he not bleed? Yes, he does. But he'll appreciate the wry humor of the Bard as he adds insult to injury by plastering cuts with cutting lines culled from Shakespeare's works. The decorative tin contains fifteen 3 x 1-inch latex-free bandages and a secret prize. He can enjoy a unique barb each time he dresses his scrape, for what wound did ever heal but by degrees? Virtue itself escapes not calumnious strokes; but you can help him patch them up with Shakespeare's grumpiest verses for $5.69.

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