With Memory and Honor

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2009

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2009

OK, kids, it’s time to get serious, because the violence against the TG community is very serious indeed.

This Friday, November 20th, marks the 11th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. This event is held to pay respect to those who have lost their lives to anti-transgender violence and reckless hate; it is also held to increase awareness within the community at large to this violence and the danger it holds, not only for gender-variant individuals but those who share their lives. In 2009 alone, 99 individuals worldwide have been murdered either because they were transgendered, were involved with someone transgendered, or – perhaps most unsettling of all – were perceived to be transgendered by their attacker(s). With the violence against the community escalating at an alarming rate (2009’s murders to date are more than twice that of 2008’s), informing the public and working to educate others is a key step in reducing these senseless acts and preserving the dignity, safety and lives of all citizens.I encourage you to participate in your local events; the light of awareness helps to dispel the shadows of ignorance and hate.
For more information, or to find an event near you, please visit http://www.transgenderdor.org or http://www.transohio.org.

Out and About

So here’s the thing, kids:

It’s National Coming Out Week, and as I do every year, I pause to reflect on the general status of both the LGBT community and the larger world in which it must function. We’re all another year older, another year further down the road to equality, another year further down the road to an apocalypse starring John Cusack.

Rather than try to create something long-winded and deeply philosophical (for a change, cough, cough), I have created two lists this year: one contains hopeful signs that humanity will indeed embrace its angel and not its ape, learning at long last to love and cherish each other. The other list contains signs that God was a little too hasty in promising never to flood this blue rock ever again.


1) Obama finally owned up to his promise on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Hurray! Barack remembered that he made a promise when he was campaigning to get elected! Now, if he can just come up with WHEN he will repeal it…

2) And speaking of politicians doing the right thing, Governor Schwarzenegger created Harvey Milk Day this year. It’s very encouraging to see the heroes and martyrs of our community being granted the same respect and honor as other key figures in American history. Also, bonus points to Arnie for not trying to shoehorn any catchphrases into the legislation.

3) A Trans-inclusive version of the ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) was finally introduced this year. At last, there’s a real chance that LGBT Americans will be protected from the discrimination millions of us face every single day of our lives. No one – NO ONE – should be denied a job, a home,  or a chance at a productive life because of their sexuality, and when this passes, it will be a huge stride forward for this country and for equal rights.

4) Even without an inclusive ENDA, we occasionally win the respect we deserve. Now, having been on the end of some not-so-subtle discrimination myself, I felt Diane Schroer’s pain when I first heard about this story. You don’t have to be Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius, to see that a job offer that’s rescinded when one reveals that they are transgendered is a little suspect. And yes, I know this is hardly Hollywood-movie triumphant – the administration’s refusal to appeal the decision isn’t the same as saying “Hey, genius, lay off the hatin'” but progress is progress.

5) Iran allowed its first Transgendered Marriage this year. I’m on the fence about this one, actually. Yes, it’s great that transpeople can marry, but Iran, a notoriously oppressive theocracy with zero tolerance for any sort of homosexuality, has embraced transgenderism because (in the case of heterosexual couples, at least), it conforms to the traditional male-female paradigm. And,  as the article notes, there’s very legitimate concern that not all of Iran’s transgendered people are transgendered; in fact, some may be lesbians and gays circumventing the law with what can only be called extreme dedication.


1) Violence against transgendered people worldwide is on the RISE. Iran may be all set to let us get hitched, but worldwide, it’s still a very dangerous thing for transgendered people to be honest about their identity. It can cost us our jobs, our familes, and, increasingly, our lives.

2) In fact, all LGBT folks are painted with targets these days. Violence is not okay. It’s not okay as a tactic to demean, to defile, to diminish anyone. It’s not okay to incite aggression and hatred for someone because you happen to disagree with their lifestyle.






3) We still can’t get married…well, at least not everywhere. Canada, America’s Hat, has it. A sprinkling of US States have it: Iowa; Vermont; Connecticut; Maine; Massachusetts.   Many others allow domestic partnerships, or, as I like to call it, “Marriage Lite.” So what’s the hold up, people? The states where LGBT couples can marry didn’t sink into the ocean or disappear in flashes of light. It’s time to recognize that two people of the same sex can and do share loving, lifelong relationships (many with greater success than their heterosexual counterparts…I’m looking at YOU, Hollywood!).

As usual, I like my “Good” list to be longer than my “Bad” list. I could, of course, go on and and on about the injustices and indignities suffered by LGBT people in today’s world, but I’d rather focus on the triumphs and successes. After all, we’re not solely defined by our LGBT-ness; we’re parents, siblings, children, spouses and friends, and beyond that, we are all (regardless of color, creed, race, gender or sexuality) human beings.

Overall, I’d say things are looking up, and that in a lot of important ways, 2009 will go down in history as an important part of both LGBT history and history in general. If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, don’t be afraid this week (or any other week) to be honest with yourself and others about who you are…you owe it to them and you owe it to yourself.

And those of you who aren’t LGBT but have a loved one or friend who is, I encourage you to remain (or become) a supportive and loving part of their lives. Coming out of the closet can be a scary thing, and it’s always nice to be greeted by a friend rather than a fist.

Saying Goodbye

There once was a girl, and she was loved.

Loved by her parents, by her friends, even by her bratty little brother, who delighted in torturing her by, well, being a little brother.

She was a shy girl, but by all accounts as sweet and kind as you were likely to find in the human species. Behind her thick glasses were eyes that saw the world as inherently good, and a mind ready not to judge, but to seek out that goodness, and cherish it.

The girl grew into a woman, and found herself a man. The man was very gruff and hard, with a lot of rough edges, but over the long years of their marriage, her sweetness washed over him in patient waves, smoothing those edges and softening the jagged hardness of him, until people who’d known him as a young man would remark that he was as transformed as Saul on the road to Damascus.

The woman had two children, who she raised to be hard-working and brave and as kind as she. Later, when her bratty little brother, having grown up as well, had children of his own, she was as loving and generous an aunt as anyone might ask for, ready to dole out hugs or treats or gentle encouragement as the situation required. She was especially kind to her nephew, a child of odd and precocious nature, a bookworm and a smartass. Unlike so many others, she remained kind and loving to that same child when she became her niece.

There was once a woman, and she was as loving as she was loved.

Years passed. Toward the end of her life, she developed diabetes, and the complications that often arise with it. She was a woman long accustomed to taking care of others before herself, and so found herself spending a lot of time at the doctors, at dialysis, at the hospital. During what would turn out to be her final stay in one of these hospitals, she contracted MRSA after having some reparative surgery, and all too soon after that, she was gone.

We tend to take the warmth of the sun for granted until it passes behind a cloud, and this is how it was with my aunt Pat. We’d kept loose tabs on each other over the years, not seeing each other as often as we’d like, but maintaining a fundamental love that never faded, touching base at holidays and birthdays. And now that she’s gone, I find myself wishing for one more conversation about the day, one more story about my dad’s childhood brattiness, one more hug and a smile. The sun has gone behind a cloud, and I find myself ill-prepared for the chill in the air.

There once was a girl, and she was loved.

She still is.

You can’t spell “Personal Identity Theft” without “iPod.”

So here’s the thing:

My mother is eternally at war with any technology more advanced than an 8-track. We bought her an iPod for her last birthday, an act akin to giving a nitrogen-cooled-Cray to someone looking to play Internet cribbage. Ever since then, the calls have been pretty steady:

<RING, RING> (because I apparently have a Bakelite phone, circa 1954)

Yours Truly: “Hello?”

Ma: “Hi, honey. I think someone is trying to steal my identity.”

YT: “Why?”

Ma: “Well, I had to put my credit card in for that eTunes Podstore thing, and now there’s a dollar charge on my statement.”

YT: “Ma, they just do that to verify that your account is valid. The charge won’t be processed, they just want to make sure it works for when you DO purchase something.”

Ma: “Well, nobody’s stealing MY identity. I saw it on the news. Those hackers can get in and steal anything they want! I took that credit card right out of there!”

YT: “OK, Ma, that’s fine. You’ll just have to re-enter it before you can buy anything.”

Ma: “Well, they’d better not try to do anything fishy with my card! I know my rights! What if they try to buy a bunch of drugs?”

YT: “I’m pretty sure that drug dealers stick to cash, Ma, but if you see a charge for “Cucuy’s Cocaine Cartel” on your statement, we’ll talk to the bank.”

My mother views the Internet with suspicion and dread. This is not necessarily a bad thing –  she has a point about identity theft – but her terror is such that the slightest interaction with it becomes a trial. Over a year after receiving her laptop, my mother uses it for exactly two things: playing Mr. Do, a circa-1982 video game most vibrantly remembered from the ColecoVision, and making snowflakes on the Internet.


And, the thing is, she’s REALLY into it. She’s apparently the best of the bunch in her little gaggle of Snowflake Friends…everyone compliments her on her structure and symmetry. She’s the glittering silver queen of the (ahem) flakes.

The scary thing is, I see in her the same rabid enthusiasm I have for, say, Guild Wars, and I am forced to ask myself, “am I really conquering evil here, or am I just one more flake in the storm? Am I really more advanced than my technophobe mother, or am I just making fancier snowflakes?”

These are questions destined to remain unanswered, at least if I want to keep my therapy visits to once every two weeks.

Thanks, Easter Bunny! (bawk, bawk!)

A very Happy Easter to you,  dear readers.

The topic of today’s post is not, as one may infer from the title, this mess, but instead, the Easters of my misspent youth.

As a child growing up in the banjo-riddled fens and dales of SW Ohio, Easter was for me a day of sweet surprises and infernal discomforts.  The sun would usually be peeking through the clouds as I awoke, bleary-eyed and restless from a thin sleep (having been kept awake most of the night by excitement and anticipation of the basket awaiting me below, trying to figure out if the Easter Bunny, falling into one of my hastily-improvised traps, would be furious and smite me on the spot, or reward my ingenuity with an EXTRA batch of treats. Given that the Easter Bunny sounded a lot like my Dad angrily muttering “Now what the hell is THIS?”, I never descended to find out).  I would stumble down the stairs and, in the early years, try to find where my basket had been hidden.

Was it behind Dad’s Barcolounger? Nope. Was it behind the sofa? Wrong again. Was it in some way related to the large, basket-shaped lump behind the living room drapes?

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner.

To this day, I don’t know how my parents did it. My continued faith in the existence of both Santa and the Easter Bunny despite mountains of empirical evidence to the contrary was due, in large part, to the sheer bounty that appeared on Easter and Christmas morning. How could my parents, mere mortals that they were, provide such splendor? Here, nestled in a throne of whispy green Easter grass, was a giant Peep™, resplendent in his sunny yellow coat of tooth-destroying sugar, attended by a host of bunny retainers in blue and pink and green. Here was a book I’d been coveting but could not afford on my allowance of, y’know, NOTHING. Here was a king’s ransom of jelly beans, a veritable rainbow of deliciousness (this was before it became, ahem, “cool” for jelly beans to taste like something found on the floor of an especially dirty theatre). Here, in the center, was not one, not two, but THREE Cadbury Cream Eggs, each one heavy with the promise of creamy satisfaction (followed by oft-repeated and deeply-felt conviction that eating these things more than once a year would almost certainly be fatal). And, standing over it all, perhaps wearing a cheery bow tie or a saucy bonnet, was a Giant Chocolate Rabbit. Here, in short, was what every child EXPECTED to appear on Easter morning, and more. As an adult, I see my parents’ willingness to make do with old shoes, mended clothing and cheap (or no) nights out on the town as the sacrifices they were, but back then I could only think “Man, Dad and Ma need to ask the Easter Bunny for some new stuff!”

This solitary ritual was amended some years later when my sister KR was born. At first I was mildly concerned that another kid to visit would mean less loot for me, but instead I was amazed to discover that not only did I receive all my usual stuff, but there was a slight increase in the bounty, as if the Easter Bunny was saying to me “That’s right, it’s just like AmWay – the more people you bring in, the more you make!” My mother, wearing the same robe she’d worn since the early 70’s, and my Dad, gazing at us fondly through glasses that were cutting-edge when Eisenhower took office, smiled as my sister and I tore into our baskets like rabid wolverines, gleefully conspicuous in our consumption, blissfully unaware that Dad was working 80 hours a week not because he enjoyed calibrating parts to the billionth of an inch but because he enjoyed moments like these.

By the time KM came along, my sister and I not only hoped for great Easter baskets, but expected them. We’d long since worked out a system for redistribution of loot – I would take all the licorice jelly beans off her hands in exchange for anything with a discernable head (Peeps™, not having really distinguishable features, were exempt). Whereas I adamantly refused to eat most things with a head (biting the head off anything, even a candy bunny, made me feel like either Ozzy Osbourne or George C. Scott in Firestarter), KR positively relished the act, happily chomping into their defenseless bodies with zeal not normally seen outside the lion cage at the zoo.  I’m not sure if she enjoyed the act itself or the discomfort it caused me more, but either way, the candy community remains utterly terrified of her to this day, whispering stories about her to their tiny candy children in order to get them to behave.

That’s right, my sister is the Cucuy of Candyland. There – I said it.

But I digress. Sitting here, a woman in her early 30’s, trying to figure out if the Peeps™ I contributed to the groaningly overloaded Easter baskets my nieces and nephews received this morning will even register in their awareness as they whip themselves into a sugar frezny, I find myself taking a moment to reflect on the rest of Easter morning. Ma, her hair and makeup expertly applied and coifed, elegant in her Easter best, sitting me down to comb my hair with water, struggling to keep herself dry and my unruly hair in order. Dad, obviously uncomfortable but very handsome in his suit, checking his watch for the hundredth time, every fiber of his being focused on his Easter mission, which is strikingly similar to every mission wherein Swiss Family Jackson must travel anywhere on a schedule:

1) Get to church at least an hour early, as parking takes forever and you know that bastard Williams will take the shady spot by the trees just to spite us


2) Get home as soon as possible so that the suit can go back in the closet where it belongs and a man can sit down to a decent dinner, damn it.

Church was a necessary and solemn component – the reason for the season, as they say, and the contemplation of one’s faith and the notion of triumph through resurrection certainly whetted one’s appetite for Easter Dinner.

Oh, Easter Dinner…I’d describe it, but you’d never eat again, saddened by the fact that anything you eat will not, cannot be as exquisitely delicious.

What the hell, you’ll learn to live with disappointment.

My parents, having spent the night before skulking around planting Easter baskets in various locations, trying to not make any noise that would disturb our gossamer-thin sleep and cause us to leap from our beds to discover they were, in fact, the providers of our basket bounty, now went about their remaining duties. Dad went into the living room to watch television (aka, fall asleep immediately but retain sufficient awareness of his surroundings that changing the channel was impossible) and Ma, already tired, set about serving up the Easter feast. Magically, the banquette filled with steaming delicacies. Salad picked at the height of freshness, dewy with rinsewater…ham  studded with cloves and pineapple…chicken fried crisp and tender…corn dripping with fresh golden butter…pie exploding with cinnamon and apples….

See, I told you.

After dinner, we’d all crawl to our respective lairs to recover for a while, then reconvene to play a game of cards or a board game (and, inevitably, after mild but completely insincere protest, more pie).

That’s Easter to me. It’s not so much about the things anymore, but about the togetherness and the tradition. These days, Grammy and Grandpa are doing well enough that the grandkids’ baskets don’t beggar them for months to come, but I know my Mother, despite the fact that the kids aren’t at her house until mid-day on Easter, is still up late, setting out baskets so they’ll be the first thing my nieces and nephews see when they arrive. There’s usually a note or a story from Grandpa about how he almost shot a bunny for dinner but decided he would let him go since he dropped off so much loot for his bratty grandkids. KR, KM and I have gone from basket-receivers to basket-givers, and for the most part, we’re okay with that. I certainly don’t need any candy laying around the house, and if I need a Peeps™ fix, I can trot off to the Kroger and buy some for myself. KR has (mostly) gotten over her love of decapitating helpless foods, but she usually catches my eye long enough to chomp down on at least one rabbit every year, her face a chocolaty rictus of triumph when I turn green around the gills (to nobody’s surprise, The Little Emperor inherited this trait from her, and now I must contend with two serial candy murderers mocking me with their crimes).

I wish you and your family a very happy Easter, friends. Whether you’re Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Trekkie or something else, I hope you have a chance to celebrate the renewal of the Earth, the renewal of life, and the renewal of your family for the year ahead.

Chuck E’s in Traction

This post has been crafted at the request of my pal Sra, who recently requested that I share a childhood memory in narrative form. For those of you unable or unwilling to remember, there is a song by Ricky Lee Jones entitled “Chuck E’s in Love.” This little ditty has nothing to do with the story I’m about to tell you. So don’t come begging for royalties, Ricky Lee!

When I was younger and still trying to figure out what sort of error had been made during the placement of my female soul into my leviathanesque male body, I was frequently compared to a host of literary characters – Gentle Ben, Frankenstein’s Monster, whatever the hell that giant thing was in the Neverending Story – known for both their enormous size and gentle demeanor (at least until provoked). However, some things in this world will try the patience of even the most even-tempered among us – and this, my friends, is one of them. This is…


My sister’s fifth birthday party was supposed to be pretty standard; balloons, cake, presents, a bunch of screaming brats running around (or, depending on KR’s opinion of their present, running for their lives). I was looking forward to a little free cake followed by a quick exit, stage left, when Ma suggested we take the kids to Chuck E. Cheese for KR’s birthday instead.  In a world where KR was an only child, this would’ve been fine. However, since I am averse to both creepy animatronic bands with the eyes of the damned and costumed characters of any kind, this did not sound like a fun time of fun for me. Familial obligations proved to be mightier than my objections, and Saturday found me shuffling half-heartedly into Chuck E.’s den.

For those of you who have not experienced Chuck E. Cheese’s, let me attempt to share a soupcon of the putrid bile that is its ambience. Imagine a low-rent carnival (you know, the kind that used to camp out on the edge of the Fairgrounds, waiting for the gullible and the weak), transported to the inside of a warehouse-sized pizza restaurant.  Now, further imagine that everything has been painted in garish, fevered colors, and that you are twelve years old and already uncomfortably aware that not only is this sort of thing not fun now, but that continued exposure to it will cause you to black out, praying for death’s sweet release. By this point, adding costumed characters to the mix was just the pus-filled cherry on the scabrous sundae of repulsiveness.

I managed to endure dinner, poking at the undercooked, flaccid pizza and counting the minutes until the party ended and freedom would be mine. As things were wrapping up, I stood up in the vain hope that doing so would act as a cue to the rest of the table…a psychological gambit that had worked before but proved frustratingly futile this time. Even worse, standing up seemed to have attracted the attention of Chuck E. Cheese, the tattered eponymous pile of fur that was the dark lord of this hellish carnival of the damned. He came over to our table, hugging the other children (whose eyes were apparently blind to the pulsating aura of pure evil surrounding him). I walked away, standing at the railing just inside the entrance, hoping that whatever nightmare-inducing secrets Chuck E. was whispering in the ears of my sister and her little friends would not reach mine. And then…it happened.

Every child, I think, has a moment when they learn that, for whatever reason, adults are not to be completely trusted. Having set a trap for Santa as a child and finding only my visibly irate father standing in the moat of flour I had poured around our chimney, I knew that adults could, and did, lie to us, either directly or via omission. I was mostly okay with this, because I was sitting on a pretty big secret of my own. I’d also learned that some adults not only didn’t love children, but actively disliked them; the idiot husbands my older cousins chose were of this ilk, and took great delight in holding me down for Indian burns and wet willies and the like. And now, standing at the railing, I discovered yet another reason to distrust adults: some of them wanted to torture you, and because they were adults, they could do it and laugh.

Ma’s best friend at the time, a woman we’ll call “Demonica,” had noticed my discomfort, and decided I wasn’t quite discomforted enough. She leaned over and whispered into Chuck E.’s no doubt mite-infested ear, pointing at me and grinning.  Chuck E.’s blank doll eyes seemed to glow a little brighter, and he started his hellish shuffle toward me in what felt like super-slo-mo. Everything receded into the distance but that damned rat, his arms flung wide, his malicious buck teeth ruddy with conspicuous consumerism and, let us assume, the blood of his other victims…I froze.

But only for a moment. As Chuck E. drew in for a hug I knew would end with my dessicated corpse dropping to the carpeted floor, drained of all life force, I pushed away from the railing and ran for it. Of course, in doing so, I was fleeing the only point of ingress/egress in the whole damned place, and as I raced around the arcade machines, through a flock of puzzled middleschoolers and dodged the stage full of mechanical puppets, I knew my course could only have one endpoint. What I hadn’t counted on, of course, was Chuck E.’s willingness to chase me. He followed me through the whole restaurant, moving faster than a person in an eighty-pound suit should be able, and at the last moment, I found my escape cut off by a jeering Demonica, who encouraged Chuck E. to give me a big old hug between cackles. Back pressed against the railing, I tried to reason with the demented mouse, but he would not be dissuaded. Finally, overcome by fear, my adrenalin maxed, I ducked around him and let fly with all the pent up rage I could muster.

In case you’ve never punched a person wearing a fake head before, this is what it’s like. First, your fist hits the reinforced, papier mache-like head, covered in fur and plastic. Then, if your punch is driven by, say, the utter terror of an exhausted but freakishly strong pre-teen just discovering that 90% of the objects in the world will be destroyed by their unchecked wrath, there will come a second blow, this one coming as the fake head is knocked loose and is driven into the REAL head beneath. If the fake-headed person is unlucky enough to be standing with, oh, I don’t know, their back to a railing, then they will be driven back over that railing, falling down the stairs behind it to the floor like a broken marionette, and you will have time to leap over them and flee to the car because no one – not even you – will be able to believe what you just did.

I would’ve run and never looked back if I could. But it was the girlish scream of pain that left me shaking and sobbing in the van afterward. At first, I’d assumed the scream had come from me, but my Mother would later report that I had been eerily silent during the whole affair, my lips drawn back in a snarl of unadulterated loathing as I drove my fist into my opponent’s noggin’ “like a jackhammer. Good God, I thought you’d killed her.”

And of course, it was a HER. The young woman, probably working her way through college at the time of this story, had a sprained wrist and some bruising, but was not seriously hurt. For my part, I sent her a fruit basket via the restaurant, but as I was banned for life, I’ll never know if she received it.

The school paper did a write-up, and I became a minor celebrity, at least among small-town Ohio kids. My sister never had another birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. Demonica, her amusement somewhat diminished by the fact that she’d driven me to assault and battery on a beloved children’s character, gave me a wide berth after that day.

And me? I’m still unnerved by the costumed characters. A few years after the Chuck E. Cheese Incident, I was knocked unconscious by a lamp post (apparently part of the 10% of objects not susceptible to my bulldozer-like powers) while fleeing Scooby Doo at King’s Island. Scooby hadn’t made any motion toward me – hell, Scooby hadn’t even LOOKED at me – but one can’t be too careful, and as I was running away, I glanced back to make sure Scooby (or, it goes without saying, any member of his Gang) wasn’t following, and ran smack into the lamp post. When I woke up, I had gained both perspective and a sizeable goose egg. Outside of Hollywood and the type of carnivals that lurk on the edge of fairgrounds, costumed characters aren’t out to get anyone. They’re just people doing a job, and now when my friends ask for the Chuck E. Cheese story, I may threaten to beat them instead, but I almost always end up telling it, with my oldest friends adding color commentary just in case I leave out any good bits for the uninitiated.

And somewhere out there is a woman in her early forties who I hope went on to a successful college and professional career, a woman who can only sigh and relent as, once again, her friends call for another telling of the time some batshit Mexican kid socked her in the jaw.

I like to think of her smiling as she tells it.

Claire’s Giftstravaganza Guide 2008

Well, it’s that time again, kids. Sleigh bells are ringing, and carolers are singing “Be of good cheer…” It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

For retail, at least.

My personal plan, in this era of shrinking budgets and industry bailouts, is to move to handmade gifts for next Christmas (and beyond). However, this year, I remain a member of the huddled masses eager to pre-spend their economic stimulus on stuff the recipient will most likely forget about within a fortnight, and in my role as such, I humbly present to you:

Claire’s Giftstravaganza Guide 2008

The Recipient: Grandma

The Gift: Slanket

The Reason: Grandma’s old. She’s tired. And she is always – ALWAYS – freezing cold, even in her condo in Miami. Unless you have one of those irritating “hip” grandmas, chances are she’s stretched out on the davenport sipping chamomile tea, working her puzzles and watching her stories, at any given moment of the day. Ideally, grandma would like to be able to do these things while also maintaining a body temperature above 62 degrees. Enter…the Slanket. Designed by top engineers,  this blanket with sleeves (see what they did there? Eh? Eh? And…cue vomiting) will keep your nan ensconced in a toasty fleece cocoon that she’ll have to leave only for trips to the potty….and depending on her age, maybe not even then!

Where to Get It: The fifth circle of Hell, or here.

The Recipient: Your Geeky Brother (or Sister, if she goes for this sort of thing)

The Gift: The only thing that could make him take down his Enterprise schematics.

The Reason: Exposed to Star Wars at an early age, your poor brother/sister never had a chance. Now a full-fledged geek, his/her only hope of finding a mate is to either become the head of a giant soulless corporation or trolling the conventions for a similarly afflicted female/male/etc. of the same species. Until the day he/she invents the iPhone app that translates Huttese to Klingon and makes his/her fortune, he/she can draw inspiration from this excellent poster of Princess Leia. I know I’ve seen Carrie Fisher in other movies. I’m sure I even enjoyed some of them. But when I hear the words “Carrie Fisher,” I think not of  “When Harry Met Sally” or “Drop Dead Fred,” but instead Leia, chained to Delta Burke Jabba the Hutt and further complicating the Rube Goldberg mechanics of my burgeoning sexuality. Chances are, so does your brother/sister.

Where to Get It: Harrison Ford’s jumble sale, George Lucas’ attic, ThinkGeek.com

The Recipient: Your Unwanted Secret Santa

The Gift: Something under the $20 limit.

The Reason: We’ve all been there. You’re in a club. You work in a “fun” office. You stumbled into an AA meeting by mistake, liked the coffee and ended up staying despite the shady moral implications. At some point, we’ve all drawn the tiny piece of paper with some random person’s name and wish list written upon it and thought “Aww, MAN!” That’s right – you’ve drawn the name of the last person you’d ever want to purchase a gift for, and as you suspected, their tastes run in the direction of the absurd/lame/possibly illegal in certain states. So what’s a reluctant Santa to do? Well, there’s always the gift that says “I don’t give a damn about you, but I feel compelled to fulfill my obligations. Ho, ho, ho!” Or, if you’re a more kind-hearted sort, why not give them a gift basket? There’s a gift basket for every occasion and recipient…even weird Judy, who sits quietly conversing with the copier when she thinks no one is looking.

Where to Get It: Oh, just about anywhere – poke around, lazy. Yeesh. Ok, fine, here.

The Recipient: Your Boss

The Gift: How should I know? They’re YOUR boss.

The Reason: Buying a gift for your boss is a task fraught with the potential for reward and disaster alike. Who among us (well, the mercenary among us) hasn’t given a gift to our boss and thought “Yes! The promotion is mine!” only to be told, in a quiet tone that nevertheless betrays the simmering rage beneath, “My brother was killed by a novelty pen holder in the shape of a golf ball, you heartless bastard!”? OK, probably none of us, actually. However, my completely unrealistic example should encourage you, gentle reader, to learn your boss’ interests and hobbies (assuming they have them and are not corporate automatons whose only goal is the glorification of their employer and better stock options). Why? Because if you get them something they’ll use (e.g. a golf range finder, tickets to the Osmonds, ShamWow, the chamois that makes you say “Wow!”), then they’ll be out more often, using it…which means that you can finally finish that report/take a nap/beat Frostmaw’s Burrows and complete your Master Dungeon Guide.

Where to Get It: Again, it’s your boss, yo. But it can’t hurt to try here.

The Recipient: Your Helpmate, Your Beloved, The Very Shade of Your Soul

The Gift: Something befitting the person to whom you’ve already given your heart.

The Reason: Ah, love. It manifests itself in so many ways…the gentle caress across your cheek, the way they let you say “sammich” instead of “sandwhich” because it’s “cute,” that one thing they do in bed that causes you to make a noise the neighbors assume to be a mountain lion being fed into a woodchipper…for all these reasons and more, the gift you give your significant other should be one that comes from the heart. Stymied for ideas this year? Hunting for something that says “my love for you is deeper than Heidi and Spence’s operatic tale of mutual adoration?” Well, pardner, you’re in luck, because there are as many ways to say “Happy Holidays, love” as there are loves! For example, the more clingy may want to check out the personalized photoframe. They get a physical reminder of your constant, smothering affection, you get the peace of mind that comes from knowing they’re under your hawklike gaze 24/7.  Prefer your lover stay with you out of devotion rather than abject terror? Then you should sign them up for a “whatever-of-the-month” club membership. They get a yearlong reminder that you’re thinking of them, you get infinite brownie points every month when they open their newest shipment. “Oh, honey, that’s okay, I can take out this heavy bag of trash. You just sit there and enjoy your premium microbrews I bought for you out of pure and unblemished love.”  Finally, for those of you with a saucy side, there’s always the much-anticipated (or dreaded) sexy Christmas gift. What better way to say “I would prefer our first child be born in early September” than a sexy bit of red-and-white lingerie? (Insert your own candy cane joke here. Or your own candy cane. It’s none of my business, buster).

This concludes Claire’s Giftstravaganza Guide 2008. I hope it proves useful in your search for the perfect gift, and remember, the best gift you can give is the gift of yourself (unless they already have one of you, in which case I’d go with one of those envelopes from the bank with a cutout for the face on a crisp $50).

Happy Holidays!