CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Last year, while struggling for Christmas gift ideas, I discovered a helpful little shortcut toward pleasing that most difficult of all to shop for -- the teen.
Thanks to this shortcut, I was able to select gifts teenagers would actually use their parents' money to purchase for themselves. My niece, who'd only just moved here from Texas, admitted feeling a bit "creeped out" last Christmas as the gifts we gave her suggested we knew her far better than she thought we possibly could.
Christmas gifts that creep out a teen. Is there anything better?
Considering there are few in this age group who would be caught dead reading this column, I feel safe in sharing my secret with you.
Go on Facebook and check out their Wall. There you'll be provided with a list of their favorite bands, television shows, movies, books, etc. Scroll through a few of their posts and you can learn what concerts they're hoping to see, places they hang out with their friends, and the names of their favorite restaurants and stores. Take this information and shop accordingly.
Hot Topic has a huge selection of music T-shirts. Go online (sites like ebay and autographstore.com) to find authentic autographed photos of their favorite celebrity. (Read the description carefully to make sure it's an original autograph, not a reprint of an autographed photo.)
Teenagers might seem like tough nuts to crack, but you can go a long way with a gift that shows some thought went into finding something they'd like. (Just be sure to keep quiet about the Facebook thing, lest they feel like you're spying.)
Granted, there's always that one-size-fits-all gift-cash -- but unless there's something to unwrap, it can hardly feel like a holiday. Below are a few gift suggestions (all vetted through a bonafide teenager) that also might work for the teen on your list.
Adventurous types would love a gift certificate for one of the West Virginia zipline tours. Prices range from $35 (at burningrockwv.com) to $109 (at newrivergorgecanopytour.com). Whitewater rafting excursions are another option to consider.
If the teen you're shopping for is especially tough, I personally recommend the Lightning Reaction shocking game, which I bought for my nephew a few years back at Kid Country Toys. The game led to a fun day of trying to determine who could endure the most pain, as players receive actual shocks of varying intensity. (The pain is similar to hitting your funny bone.)
Or if you've always wondered where you can get a personalized message written on an impressively large beer belly, then photographed and sent to your loved one, look no further than fiverr.com (search for "the beergut man"). The best part is that it's only five bucks. In fact, that's the beauty of fiverr. Everything there costs five dollars. The site showcases individuals from all over the world who offer random services they'll provide for five dollars. You can have a song written and performed for your loved one, get a cartoon drawn from their snapshot, have a picture of their face Photoshopped onto a foot ---it's all there.