MEL for DSC Magazine, December 2020

In this month's issue, we're figuring out what the heck to get everyone for the holidays.


Mistook your monthly magazine for a pack of One Wipe Charlies and flushed it down the toilet? No worries, here’s the online version!

In this edition:

  1. A Gifted Psychic on the Art of Gift-Giving
  2. What Is a Gift Horse, and Why Can’t I Look It in the Mouth?
  3. What It’s Like to Have the Gift of the Gab
  4. How To Recycle All Kinds of Christmas Wrapping
  5. The Lockdown Gift Guide
  6. Oh FAQ!: How Do I Accept a Gift I’m Not Excited About?


It’s December! And you know what that means? A new year is finally upon us, which also means 2020 is about to be in the books, for good. Goodbye 2020! You sucked and we won’t miss you!

Thankfully, in these here pages, we’ve got everything you need to know in order to ring in this as-sight-for-sore-eyes-of-a-season-of-giving as there has ever been — like how to even give gifts in an ongoing (pls end soon) pandemic, how to recycle all of the wrapping paper when you’re done, and the etiquette around how to properly receive a gift that, well, kinda sucks.

But then again, remember: Don’t look a gift horse look in the mouth (shameless plug because we explain where this insane phrase comes from and why anyone would ever look at a horse’s mouth, let alone a gift horse, whatever that is).

Happy holidays, everyone. Take a deep breath — the year’s almost over.

1 – A Gifted Psychic on the Art of Gift-Giving

Some people are so hard to buy for, it would take a mind-reader to figure out what they want, so we turned to psychic medium Kelle Sutliff for some gifting advice.

Do people ever use your services to get gift ideas?
Actually, yes. Most of my work is in missing persons, but I also do private readings and I have done readings for people where they ask, “What do you think this person needs?” People often give readings as a gift as well and I’ve done virtual readings with people all over the world. If you’re a good psychic medium, no one has to be in front of you.

Any advice on people that are hard to buy for?
I’d look to astrology. For an earth sign, get something you can do outside. A water sign would love water sports or even a picture of the ocean. Fire signs are all about momentum, so you’d want to get some sort of tracker — anything to do with time. Something to do with art would be great for an air sign, because they’re all about flow. For everyone though, a great gift this year would be something that helps to ground someone, be it a yoga mat or things that smell nice, or picture frames for the home office. That’d be the winner-winner-chicken-dinner after 2020. 

Is a crystal ball ever a good gift?
Very funny. Well, you know what, one year, my husband thought he’d be funny, so he got me a Magic 8 Ball for Christmas, so I’d say go with the 8 Ball, not the crystal ball.

2 – What Is a Gift Horse, and Why Can’t I Look It in the Mouth?

An etymologist explains why it’s something you definitely don’t want to do this Holiday season.

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Is there a weirder proverb that exists today? In the 21st century, you could be forgiven for not knowing what the heck a “gift horse” is, or why you can’t look at whatever a gift horse is “in the mouth.” But when you break the turn of phrase down, it starts to make a lot of sense.

“It’s an old saying, dating back at least to 1546,” explains Barry Popik, America’s foremost etymologist. “That’s when an English courtier named John Heywood published a book of proverbs, which included one that said ‘No man ought to loke a geuen hors in the mouth.’”

So what does it mean, exactly? “It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense now, but giving horses as gifts was far more common back when.” And if you got a horse as a gift, the last thing you’d want to do is look in its mouth to check its teeth, as if you were unsure of the horse’s quality — it would have been a gauche and ungrateful move. 

“Indeed,” says Popik, “if we updated the phrase for today, it might read, ‘If someone gives you a car as a gift, whatever you do, don’t look under the hood.’”

3 – What It’s Like to Have the Gift of the Gab

Talk is cheap — unless you’re Jeff Geddis, a Toronto-based film, TV and voice-over actor.

Voice of the People
“Growing up, I never thought I’d eventually make a living using my voice,” Geddis admits. “I could do the odd impression or amusing character voice, which can be good for animation, but back then, for radio and TV announcer spots, the popular sound was that classic, deep, radio-announcer voice. Luckily, by the time I started working my way into voice-over, the trend was changing for commercials; clients were looking for more real-sounding reads. These days, a less-is-more conversational sound is much more common.”

Just a Regular Day on the Job
“A few years ago, I worked on a pre-school animated series with another actor I know,” says Geddis. “ We were both playing magical teddy bears. He has a super-funny, cynical sense of humor and there we were doing this high-energy teddy bear sing-a-long — me all high-pitched and him doing this dopey, deep-voiced thing and we just couldn’t stop laughing. It felt so ridiculous. Two grown men with kids, acting and sounding perfectly insane.”

Trick of the Trade
“Want to project confidence just using your voice?” Geddis asks. “Smile! ‘More smile.’ That’s something you hear all the time in voice-over work — ‘More smile.’ People will hear it in your voice.”

4 – Recyclin’ Around the Christmas Tree

Christmas is, sadly, the most wasteful time of the year, so give the planet a gift by learning how to reuse and recycle all kinds of decorative wrapping.

Wrapping Paper
While plain wrapping paper is recyclable, the shiny, glossy, glittery, laminated kind is usually made with Mylar, a non-recyclable plastic film coated in aluminum. Not sure if your wrapping paper is recyclable? Try the Scrunch Test: Wrapping paper you can crumple up is a good candidate for recycling, but anything that resists scrunching is usually a no-no. As an alternative, reusable gift bags are always nice.

They may be neat to look at, but most decorative bows are made of a plastic-paper composite that renders them non-recyclable. Add in the glue that cements them to your Christmas gift, and they’re a paper mill’s worst nightmare. The upside: They’re super easy to reuse — even if they lose their adhesiveness, a sliver of tape makes them as good as new.

The cardboard boxes many of our gifts arrive in are great for recycling. It’s important to break them down flat, though. That way, they take up less room in the recycling trucks, those trucks then need to make fewer trips, which requires less energy and ultimately results in fewer environmental problems.

Tinsel and Ribbons
Not only are tinsel and ribbons non-recyclable, they can also cause serious jams in crucial equipment when accidentally accepted by a recycling plant. The result: The plant needs to shut everything down to remove the junk clogging their machines, which means less time recycling. Consider using paper raffia ribbons instead, which are both biodegradable and recyclable.

Plain-old paper Christmas cards can be dumped in the recycling bin, no problem. But the shiny ones printed on photo paper, or those with lots of glitter on them, unfortunately need to go in the trash. If you have one with lots of metallic embossing, you can do your part by tearing the card up and at least recycling the paper portion.

5 – The Lockdown Gift Guide

Don’t want to enter a crowded mall right now? We don’t blame you. Here are some other ideas for gifting during these strange, strange times.

The holidays are almost here, and for most of us, the idea of holiday crowds is less appealing than ever. So what to do about that long list of people you need to buy gifts for? You could always try the following…

Rethink Online Shopping
We’ve all been doing a good amount of our holiday shopping online for years, but wherever you’re buying from, it’s important to consider that you may not get the fast shipping this year that you’ve grown used to. Aileen Avery, author of Gift Rap: The History and Art of Gift Giving, advises that, “Gift buying under these conditions requires a lot more thought.” During a pandemic, you’ve got to plan things out a few weeks in advance, just to be sure you’ll be able to get things where they need to be on time, especially when it’s coming from independent sellers.

Avery says to not fret too much about the details, though. If an item is arriving to a loved one late, people will understand given the present circumstances. Just be sure to call them and let them know a package will be coming to them in a day or so.

Gift a Stay-at-Home Experience
It’s often said that an experience is the best kind of gift. “An experience gives the gift of time,” Avery explains, which is why it’s traditionally been ideal for you to buy an experience to do something with someone rather than just giving them an item to unwrap. But now, everything has changed: You can’t buy tickets to a baseball game or a Broadway show, as nobody knows when we can actually use those gifts. Gifting an experience in the traditional sense isn’t currently an option, which, again, requires more thought.

Still, Avery says that the principle of “giving the gift of time” still stands. While the circumstances for it are unfortunate, a lot of people have a lot of extra time on their hands, so Avery says to give gifts that can occupy that time. “Now is a great time for people to begin hobbies that they’ve always wanted to learn, but never had time for, like knitting and other artistic ventures.” So, when you’re browsing for gifts online, try to look for stuff like art supplies, model kits, puzzles, books and any kind of game. 

“This is also a great time to learn something,” Avery says, so try to recall things people have talked about wanting to know how to do. She says if someone’s been wanting to learn piano, now is a great time to gift an online piano course, or to buy someone learning subscriptions. 

If You’re Out of Work
For a lot of people, there is no option to work from home and after a long, long year, their wallets are already stretched. If you’re in this situation, Avery says that there are still ways to make someone feel special without a physical gift — or even your physical presence. Recalling the days when mix tapes were still a thing, Avery says that making someone an online playlist as a gift would really brighten their day, especially if it’s a collection of songs related to your personal history together. Similarly, sharing an online photo album of the two of you is a really sweet gift. “This is such an ideal time to go into your basement and dig out those old photos you’ve been wanting to organize,” Avery says. 

For the Kids
While it’s easy to buy a toy online, making a kid’s holidays special with so much stuff still shut down is even more challenging than it is for an adult, by virtue of their limited attention spans and often picky appetites. Now is the time to make at-home art class a regular feature of the holidays, as painting and drawing is almost guaranteed to happily take up an hour or two of a younger kid’s day. You might want to try activities like board games and print-out versions of classic games like Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey, too — just refrain from trying to do any kind of homemade piñata if you’re stuck indoors, as that’s a guaranteed disaster.

As for older kids, while family time and board games are a nice way to connect, this also might be the time to indulge them in a time-consuming video game as a gift. After all, a teenager is going to know that being stuck indoors most of the time sucks, and you can’t quite trick them into thinking otherwise like you can with smaller kids.

Safe Package Handling
With so much misinformation out there, it’s easy to get mixed messages, even for something as simple as package handling. I reached out to Jason “The Germ Guy” Tetro, author of The Germ Files and host of the Super Awesome Science Show, to get some tips on safely handling packages. He says, “The person is always going to be more infectious than the package,” so the first thing to beware of is direct contact with the delivery person. Keeping a distance of six feet is ideal, and if you do have to sign for a package or anything like that, immediately go to the bathroom and wash your hands.

When it comes to picking up the package, Tetro says there are no special instructions, just bring it in and immediately wash your hands. The risk of transferring the coronavirus via the cardboard is low, but Tetro says there’s no harm in getting a disinfectant wipe and wiping the box down before opening it up. Once you’ve done that, there’s no need to worry about what’s inside, as Tetro says whatever might have touched the contents is dead by now.

It might also be a good idea to share these package-handling tips with whoever you’re sending a gift to — that way, they don’t take unnecessary risks with a direct handoff, or they’re not so afraid to receive the package that they leave it outside. After all, the purpose of a gift is to be enjoyed, and in a time where we’re all feeling a little nuts from cabin fever, a thoughtful gift might make a huge difference.

6 – Oh FAQ!: How Do I Accept a Gift I’m Not Excited About?

Etiquette expert Elaine Swann explains how to turn a bad gift — and your reaction to it — into something everyone can stomach.

1. First, Tell Yourself ‘It’s Okay.’ “If you don’t like a gift, it’s absolutely okay to feel that way, and your right. Just because someone gives you something doesn’t mean you’re obligated to like what you’re given. Make sure to tell yourself that you are not a horrible human being.”

2. But Don’t Make a Face. “If they catch you, don’t panic. Just say, ‘Thank you for thinking of me. I really appreciate it.’ And then do your best to pivot the conversation. Try to get them to talk about themselves, or about the gift, like how they found it. And then you won’t be in the hot seat.”

3. Don’t Use It… “If it’s something consumable, like food, you can always set it to the side and say that you’ll dig in a bit later, and if they insist, just cut off a small amount and take an even smaller bite. But if it’s something like a sweater, just put it to the back of your closet and don’t wear it.”

4. …Lose It. “You can always re-gift a bad gift — just not within the same circle. So if a family member gives it to you, then give it to a friend that does not know your family. If it’s a friend and, you know, vice versa. Just keep it out of the same circle.”

5. Don’t Try to Sell It, Though. “You shouldn’t try to profit off of something that someone gave to you. You can give it away, though — give it to charity, Goodwill, or a second hand store. But I would not recommend profiting off of a gift that someone’s giving you — that’s not a good look.”

5. And Make Sure It Never Happens Again. “If you have a friend that’s a horrible gift giver, send them screenshots or links to things that you’re interested in, or drop hints in conversations or post photos of whatever it is on social media. The more you can show and tell them the better — hopefully it adds up to the gift you actually want.”

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