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    Gift Ideas for Jessica’s Thirty-third Birthday That Aren’t a Candle


    It’s that time again! The day before your college friend Jessica hosts a birthday dinner on the twinkly patio of a TikTok-friendly pizza parlor. The therapist you ghosted said that you should socialize more, so you R.S.V.P.’d yes to this celebration of an acquaintance’s “Jesus year.” But what to get Jess? Your gut suggests a musky candle purchased with Nordstrom points, but you’d rather be forgotten entirely than remembered for a shitty gift every time your junior-year bully reads Sally Rooney by candlelight. But then you recall the advice of a British girl giving a YouTube tour of her Etsy cart: “Give the gift you want.” O.K., British girl with anemia and a child’s headband. Why not?

    Six Hours with a TaskRabbit

    Step aside, Seven Minutes in Heaven. It’s time for Afternoon with a Handyman. Who wouldn’t appreciate being sequestered with a capable fellow and his strong jawline? Jessica usually socializes only with unavailable guys when her friends’ boyfriends want to discuss dead comedians or breweries in upstate New York. Consider pooling funds with Jess’s four other friends to reserve one of the two hundred hunks with power drills in her area. She’ll finally be able to mount her TV, finish building that IKEA sectional, and hang the poster she purchased after her sexual awakening at the 2019 Broadway revival of “Oklahoma!”

    Fancy Sunscreen

    As Baz Luhrmann famously said, “Colonel Tom Parker should be the protagonist,” and, also, “Wear sunscreen.” And, indeed, the advice to constantly lather one’s face in ozone-blocking white cream should not be taken lightly. Jessica is getting older, and her wrinkling has caused a sagging of the spirit. What better pick-me-up than mineral sunscreen, which goes on as thick as Jess’s generational insecurity? Maybe guests could commit to the theme and go in on a one-way ticket to Seattle. With proper protection, she won’t know what hit her. (It will be blocked by a UV filter.)

    Cameo from Lou Bega

    Ask any millennial to name the hottest fedora-wearing crooner of the twentieth century, and you’ll get the same response. Why do you think so many women in their thirties have cats named Louie? Because of Lou Bega (and Princess Mia Thermopolis). Help Jessica travel back to a time of hope, possibility, slap bracelets, and plastic chokers—a time before Anne Hathaway mysteriously fell out of favor and then back into it, having not aged a day. Remind Jess of the glee she experienced upon purchasing an album at Tower Records (even though she was interested only in the fifth mambo). With a flash of Bega’s pearly whites and the blare of a nearby trumpet, she’ll remember why life is worth living. “A little bit of Jessica, here I am!”

    Clean Out Her Closet

    Sounds like a lot, but this will take three hours exactly, which is less than one episode of “Outlander” if you pause to rewatch the sex scenes. Speaking of sex: Tattered bras? A Madewell prairie shirt? Sweatpants purchased for a 2008 high-school dance, featuring an elastic waistband that has been through a war? Toss them when Jessica isn’t looking. Who knows why she has accumulated so many pairs of ill-fitting underwear. Get rid of all of those.

    Portable Power Generator

    Climate change is here, and it is happening! As sweaty boomers overwhelm electricity grids, we’ll all need to explore the survivalist life style. Before getting Jess a book on how to preserve deer meat, build a fire, and whittle a shiv, grab her a portable generator. Jessica will be endlessly thankful when her power fails while she’s microwaving oatmeal during the “Love Is Blind” finale. And then even more grateful when it gets a little chilly.

    Three Miniature Candles

    I bet you’re wondering how this got on the list. Well, your favorite consumerist podcast posted an Instagram Stories rundown of its favorite seasonal gifts, which included a three-candle box set. Suddenly, you’re certain that Jessica can’t live without a boxed triptych of “Lilac Rose,” “Amber Oak,” and the mysterious “Los Angeles.” Also, it feels so thoughtful—a package of three small candles says, “I thought about you three times!” And, look, honestly, it’s either that or the terra-cotta saucepan that Jess will use only once when she attempts (and fails) to make a pilaf for her office holiday party. Yeah, candles are probably your best bet. ♦

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