Gifts for a catastrophe
June 14, 2022 6:18 PM   Subscribe

You are my friend and everything is just the worst. Truly catastrophic outcomes on many fronts. Things are shockingly, numbingly bad and there isn’t anything anyone can do to change outcomes. You otherwise have a good support structure and practical needs met, so I send you a token of my affection. This token nods to how truly awful the situation is, but conveys love instead of pure horror and with any luck elicits a wry smile. It requires absolutely nothing of you. So friend, what did I send you and where did I buy it?
posted by this-apoptosis to Shopping (29 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
I like to send one of Emily McDowell's empathy cards with a note just letting them know that I love them and that I know things are terrible right now.
posted by assenav at 6:21 PM on June 14, 2022 [17 favorites]

I am kind of that friend right now—and what I have loved is my support system just reaching out with a note/card or even a text that simply says they love me and are there for me and are thinking of me.
posted by bookmammal at 6:29 PM on June 14, 2022 [8 favorites]

A Donald Trump coloring book and a lighter.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:33 PM on June 14, 2022 [3 favorites]

it's either a note or a cake, and under those circumstances I cannot imagine caring where they were from. (But if this person is far away, Goldbelly delivers so many very delicious things to a variety of locations.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 6:37 PM on June 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A friend sent me a postcard roughly once a week for months when I was going thru it. Just a simple "thinking of you" type msg on each one.

The fact that one would arrive regularly was comforting - she was acknowledging the on-going situation and demonstrating her continued support.
posted by jenquat at 6:39 PM on June 14, 2022 [25 favorites]

Ridiculous Inflatable Swan Thing (if your friend likes to swim/ has access to swimming… there’s also a stress ball version but it’s less epic).

A This is Fine Dog sweater.

An experience tube or any number of other psychedelic ephemera from Meow Wolf.

A decent hammock and hammock straps.

A Hoomband headphone and a list of good podcasts and/or a link to a perfect playlist.
posted by leastlikelycowgirl at 6:50 PM on June 14, 2022 [7 favorites]

Handwritten mail - like jenquat, postcards would be ideal. Messages that might make me smile might include specific, detailed things that make you think of me - “there’s a yellow rose on my corner, and I smell it as I go by and smile and think of you!”
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 6:53 PM on June 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

Plan A

You give me a t-shirt acknowledging the suckiness and dark humor of the situation like a “it’s a cat-tastrophe” shirt. You give it to me - I smile - then you unzip your jacket and show me you are wearing a “this is fine” t-shirt. I laugh and call you a goose. Deep down I know I am not alone.

Plan B

You get me a cameo video message from some complete tool (Rudy Giuliani maybe?) which essentially lets me know life could be worse. I laugh with tears streaming down my face as Rudy unknowingly repeats some secret message only you and I could understand.. Oh Rudy!
posted by inflatablekiwi at 6:54 PM on June 14, 2022 [5 favorites]

When my nephew was going through a protracted rough time, I periodically sent things like a card, goofy socks, toys/games, etc. The point was that these were things that I knew would divert him from the suckiness that was his life at the time.
posted by DrGail at 7:11 PM on June 14, 2022 [3 favorites]

Adult coloring book with a new set of markers or pre-sharpened pencils. I like any of the johanna basford ones (order on Amazon)

Handwritten notes of any sort (postcard, greeting card, scribbled on a sheet of paper, doesn’t matter) expressing your most heartfelt emotions. Don’t offer platitudes. Something like ‘i wish i had magic words that could help, but i don’t. I am thinking of you always’. Don’t be afraid to be hokey

Regular check ins via text or email that explicitly say they don’t need to respond, you’re just letting them know you’re thinking of them.

Here’s some things I’ve sent to people over time. Depends on the person, obviously, so I’m just listing all of them:

/sparkly water bottle (nordstrom)
/Nice hand lotion (kiehls)
/succulents (call local plant store)
/silly nail polish (olive and June)
/book of poetry i had read and enjoyed
/hat to put on dog (Amazon)
/flowers (farmgirl flowers)
/cool sunglasses (goodr)
posted by you'rerightyou'rerightiknowyou'reright at 7:21 PM on June 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

I can't believe I am recommending this but it has brought much joy to our house: the Screaming Goat
posted by tafetta, darling! at 7:25 PM on June 14, 2022 [3 favorites]

Things I've sent in this kind of situation:
An adult coloring book and a set of markers. Images included curly writing saying "fuck this shit"
Face masks
Candy (Yum box is fun)
Uber Eats treats like cinnabons, cupcakes, fancy juice, comfort food, etc
Uber Eats gift card
Housekeeping service card
Very comfy hoodie
Heated blanket
Loving note
posted by nouvelle-personne at 7:45 PM on June 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have, this pandemic, started sending people really lush throw blankets and some kind of treat* and a nice note.

*I like to go a little absurdist with these. Target often has some really weird/good pop-tart special editions, and once I found a four-pack of ready-made boba drinks (that I knew her kids would claim, and they did), plus I included a half-gallon of cold unsweetened iced tea (it was probably covid, her throat was terrible and the tea went down well), but Target also has really good hot teas. I already have a Shipt membership so sending a Target delivery to someone's door same day has been extremely satisfying.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:05 PM on June 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

My friend emailed me every single day for almost a year. Like, she just made it her job to email me but didn’t make any effort to say anything in particular about my catastrophic life. Many days she had very little to say, maybe her grocery trip or whatever. The point was that she was there and it didn’t matter if I answered. She was there. And let me tell you, many people who should have been were not, so it made the gift of presence extra valuable.
posted by HotToddy at 8:13 PM on June 14, 2022 [24 favorites]

Things to send in the mail: if you have access to The New Yorker - clip cartoons, stickers, goofy cards, vintage-ish postcards (some used book stores have them), refrig. poetry magnets or similar, stickers, candy, a different rubber chicken every few weeks, glitter bandaids, artisanal bacon or other food they like, groucho glasses. Books, probably not self-help, but 'good reads'. Print cartoons from the web, lego minifigs.

Mostly, the act of having such a great friend caring for them is the thing. Thanks for being that friend.
posted by theora55 at 8:23 PM on June 14, 2022 [3 favorites]

cheap: bring home cooked food (if you can nail it) and wash their dishes.

spendy: a night at a hotel with a massage.

things i have sent: good coffee, a giant variety pack of gourmet chips, shortbread cookies, boutique chocolate, all the spices and grounds for turkish coffee, a well-matched book, small art print, hmmmm that's enough random ideas.
posted by j_curiouser at 11:04 PM on June 14, 2022

One of my friends has gone on etsy and found lots of cards that acknowledge my own personal catastrophe but are funny and obscene and those give us a smile.

Not particularly wry but extremely welcome, many of our friends have sent us DoorDash, Grubhub and UberEats gift cards and we love it so so much. Even though we could totally afford our own takeout it makes it just a little more delightful that it's free. And since we keep eating, it's fine if people keep giving them to us, because our situation keeps being sucky.
posted by Jenny'sCricket at 2:00 AM on June 15, 2022 [3 favorites]

I send people care packages, like for summer camp. Mostly food items. A place where I live sells a lot of snacks and sweets in very small packages, like 4 oz. Sometimes when you're stressed, a tiny low-commitment food comes in handy.
posted by BibiRose at 3:18 AM on June 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

A care package that would make me feel known and loved might include things like: a card with a picture on the front that will make me smile, colourful stickers, origami paper, a press-out-and-make paper or card model, an interesting chocolate bar, a puzzle book and a four-colour biro, a bouncy ball, a packet of sweets of a kind that's been around since my childhood, a yo-yo, a wind-up toy, one of those silly fingertip monster things, some cartoons cut out of the newspaper, a pack of felt-tip pens in bright colours, a small cuddly toy... Stocking filler stuff, basically. I am not particularly grown up at the best of times, and when everything is catastrophe, letting me retreat into childhood for a moment is an escape.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:31 AM on June 15, 2022

There are some wonderfully sweary and rude embroidery kits on Etsy (example, example, example) which you could send to them or maybe complete and send if that would be too much of a burden to them at the moment.
posted by humph at 4:28 AM on June 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Wow, that screaming goat would be the perfect gift for me in that situation. What a great idea, taffeta darling!. Absurdist relief, without the undertone of “Here, this is so you can escape from the situation for a while!” when you know you can’t.

These Kikkerland music boxes are fun in an obviously useless novelty way, and depending on the situation there may be one that’s sort of… appropriately inappropriate?
posted by breakfast burrito at 4:49 AM on June 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

During the height of the pandemic when our only outside shopping was my monthly pharmacy run for a non deliverable prescription, I would come back with The Worst Snack Food I Could Find. Off-brand teriyaki-flavored cornchips, cake batter flavored peeps, Reese's cups that have potato chips in them for some reason. An absolute highlight, even or especially when the taste test was a rollicking failure.
posted by heyforfour at 5:02 AM on June 15, 2022 [3 favorites]

We had an awful spring this year, two separate rounds of COVID in our house, with my mom's sudden death sandwiched in-between, all within six weeks. I don't know whether you are close enough to stop by, but the gifts I loved most were some of the "boring" ones. A friend showed up with a random paper bag stuffed with cookies, tissues, sanitizing wipes, vitamin C, and tea. She may have just grabbed it around her own house. It was wonderful. Another friend left a bag of pasta sauce, noodles, and a frozen garlic bread. I couldn't think that night, but dinner was in front of us. These little offerings hit the sweet spot of ways we could take care of ourselves, but made it easier.
posted by hessie at 5:56 AM on June 15, 2022 [9 favorites]

Preparing, acquiring and sometimes even eating becomes a chore during these periods, at least for me, so I’ve loved gifts of calorie and/or nutrient dense foods. Bonus: they take up no space once they’ve been consumed; nothing to dust, organize, figure out storage for etc. Memorable favorites: a whimsical delicious cheese, with crackers; two amazing, fridge-or-eating ready prepared meals (lunch and dinners worth) from a wonderful local farm to table place too spendy for me to do but once in awhile, etc. Pre-COVID: massage certificate.
posted by blue suede stockings at 8:51 AM on June 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

When I had a friend who was buried in catastrophe I sent her TikToks. So many TikToks, every day. Completely ridiculous ones and adorable animals and reminders to drink water and be kind to ourselves. It showed I was thinking of her and sometimes made her smile and didn't require her to talk about all the catastrophe if she didn't want to.
posted by tangosnail at 9:32 AM on June 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In a similar vein to the "This is Fine" dog merch, I like Effing Birds, perhaps this "Are you fucking kidding me with this shit" mug
posted by DebetEsse at 10:08 AM on June 15, 2022 [4 favorites]

During my divorce a friend of mine gave me a beanie baby sized stuffed moose. He was a steady companion through hard times.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:13 AM on June 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

If your friend enjoys hot drinks, a mug with an appropriate picture or saying on it. Appropriate = whatever your friend would appreciate most, whether pretty, calming, comforting, funny, wry, or some combination.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 11:26 AM on June 15, 2022

Best answer: Adorable flaming dumpster fire night light? (Or seconding Effing Birds).
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 11:30 AM on June 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

« Older Email woes. Use own domain? Help!   |   How to install a new toilet on an uneven basement... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments