Never drink box wine through a 3-foot bendy straw.
It is not advisable to set an apron on fire and then raise it up a flagpole, to dramatically flap fireballs across the neighborhood, even if the article is composed 85 percent of nonflammable jingle bells.
And, sometimes, to secure the perfect outfit you've just got to suffer a fash rash.
These are a few important holiday party etiquette rules that Emily Post never addressed. Instead, I had to garner this wisdom experientially, at a Christmas party I held several years ago.
It was the last First Annual Heckel Tacky Christmas Gala, a festive blur of gold lamé turtlenecks, Slim Jims and Easy Cheese platters, Carlo Rossi wine sold by the jug and three hours of dirty regret before the party ended early in the emergency room.
This was back in the infancy of ugly sweater parties, which have become a December staple. Unable to procure an apron hideous enough to match my vision, I bought a mistletoe-print apron and hot-glued on it hundreds -- nay, some might venture thousands -- of jingle bells. Inside my front apron pocket, I placed one juice-box-style, single serving of wine, which, by the way, is actually a thing. Logically, to allow easy access to wash down the sausage log from Big Lots, I ran a bendy straw from pocket to mouth. I couldn't have been tackier if I had been Clark Griswold's cousin Eddie's dog.
The party, serenaded by a Chipmunks Christmas cassette tape, was running smashingly until I finished my juice box of wine. My skin instantly broke out in a rash, and I felt woozy. Sweaty and woozy and weird. My stomach! Something was wrong. Although I had invited only my closest friends -- or maybe because of that -- I feared I had been drugged.
In my poofy red '80s gown with feathered bangs, I raced to the nearest ER. Where the doctor charged me about $500 for his sage advice not to drink wine through a straw while eating discounted tubes of meat. I was fine.
When I crawled back home, the party was over, but my apron was blazing above my apartment, thanks to my compassionate chums, and I shamefully swore to the Ghost of Christmas Passed Out to never participate in ironic holiday festivities again. In trying to mock awkward, I had outdone even my own costume -- with my real-life actions. Because going to the ER with an Easy Cheese belly ache is truly the rock-bottomest.
That being said, I do now possess expertise on the topic of awful holiday parties.
And I've got your hook-up; no hot-glue guns required.
Shinesty (shinesty.com) is a Boulder-based online retailer that specializes in only the worst, best clothes ever made. Looking for a sweatshirt featuring a Christmas tree made entirely of assorted buttons? Of course you are. How about a suave suit made out of red Frosty the Snowman material? Rhetorical. Sheesh.
Shinesty employs a crew of expert thrift-store hunters across the country whose job is to procure Christmas sweaters so joyful they make your kindergarten teacher look like the Grinch; flag-covered duds so patriotic they knock the "A" right off 'Merica; retro ski suits so colorful they'll melt pow-pow upon contact; and early '90s windbreakers so neon they should come with a "radioactive" warning label.
No need to set up a tent outside Savers and accost every cat lady making a clothing donation to score a winning outfit this holiday season. Most of Shinesty's items are vintage real-deals, interspersed with a few modern designs that just have that magical je ne sais quoi.
"If people don't say, 'This is ridiculous, awesome or outrageous' when they see it, it shouldn't be on our site," says Jens Nicolaysen, co-founder of Shinesty.
(Like the Please Buy This Tacky Atrocity So We Can Take It Off Our Website snowman sweater, for only $3.59. Seriously, please buy it. It sucks.)
Most products sell within a few weeks, he says, with one order every two minutes this holiday season. Since launching last winter, sales have increased 800 percent, the company says.
Some scores sell within minutes, such as a red, white and blue Starter jacket featuring a bald eagle devouring the Olympic rings.
"The stuff we cannot keep in stock is the big, bold, extremely patriotic USA stuff," Nicolaysen says.
The most popular holiday selections tend to be all about those little details, such as a special Christmas tree zipper pull. So do the items that are so peppered in bells that "you couldn't sneak across a room if you had to. You could not do it," Nicolaysen says.
Unfortunately, jingle bells traumatize me. Instead, I'm entranced by anything made out of Tyvec, a thin, paper-like material that breathes about as well as a Ziplock bag. Look for bald eagle-covered Tyvec shorts this Fourth of July; yes, a sauna suit on your loins in the summer.
"No one said fashion was comfortable," Nicolaysen says. "Sometimes you need to baby powder up and just go for it."
Ultimately, the perfect worst outfit comes down to the beholder, he says. There's one thing Nicolaysen hears over and over from happy customers.
"They know it when they see it. When you don't doubt it, you know," he says. "When you get that feeling, like 'This is it.' It just feels right."
Unless it's a charred mistletoe apron with a wine pocket. No matter how right that bendy straw feels, don't do it.