James Lileks
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Today is Dec. 21, and the world will not end.

The day is still young! you say, and while it's admirable to look on the bright side, a planetary catastrophe will not spare you from the ethical quandary of regifting a fruitcake.

Then again, if you believe ancient Mayan calendrical prophecies, you may panic every December when you note that the calendars end at Dec. 31. No, seriously, every one of them in the store ended on the exact date! Surely they can't all be wrong!

Relax. There's another 365 days on back order, coming soon. I know this because I was just shopping for 2013 Page-A-Day versions. They're good gifts, tailored for every interest:

The Bruise-A-Day Calendar -- based on reader choices from weirdbruises.com

Jeff Foxworthy's "You Might Be a Redneck"

Prof. Geoffrey Foxworthy's "There exists the statistical likelihood you are a socio-economic cultural cliche" (MPR version)

Angry Birds; Angry Birds in Space; Drunken Birds; Hungover Remorseful Birds; Hungover Remorseful Birds in Space

The Hobbit (true to the movie, it lasts 1087 days)

There was one about Zombies which promised "Facts, Myths, Quotes and Stories." Intriguing, given that there are no possible facts, you can't have a myth about something that doesn't exist, and the only quote would be "Rrrrrraaargh." Seems insufficient for 365 days -- but no one makes it to the end of these things anyway. (They're the Tootsie Pop of calendars. Sometime around May we simply cannot be troubled to continue ripping away those sheets, and then we page through the accumulated days and rip them off en masse. The manufacturers know this. The last three months are usually blank. No one notices.)

Since I didn't find the calendar I wanted for my child, and because Mayan prophecy was unlikely to move this year into the "LOSE" column, I took my kid to a neighborhood gift store known for its bounteous collection of eclectic gift merchandise. See what she likes, buy it later.

The store is one of the city's best independent retailers: clever, trend-savvy buyers have located an astonishing array of books, toys, tchotkches, and arranged them in themed displays.

Women's section: gardening, perfumes, cooking, family, inspirational mottoes engraved on polished stones, tributes to the Wisdom of Moms, kitschy magnets that make a virtue out of hormonal outbursts.

Men: stuff about beer and Star Wars.

My daughter found a gift for her friend, and we went up to the register. At the counter by the candy and the novelty bandages and other colored things that would catch a kid's magpie eye was a bin full of lip balm tubes. The logo, the packaging: top-shelf design.

It was called "Lip Sh**" -- without the asterisks, of course.

Daughter looks embarrassed. THAT WORD. IN THE PRESENCE OF A PARENT. You almost want to ask the clerk how she feels seeing kids walk up and see Lip Sh**, but hey, if the owner doesn't care, why should you?

Daughter's 12. She's heard the word. It's a rude crude world out there, and you can't shelter your kids from the raw American vernacular spirit, or from marketers who won't be happy until a billboard for McDonald's shouts (F-word) AWESOME BURGURZ. But is it too much to ask of our fine, upscale, quirky little boutiques that they not stick the S-word at child-level?

You say: Man, how did you walk from the car to the store with your undies in such a wad? Right. I get it: Lip Sh** is edgy! A witty, mordant juxtaposition of crude lingo and exquisite package design. I'm sure there's a Facebook page with 10,000 likes and testimonials.

I don't care that they make it. I don't care if the store puts it in the corner, like Spencer Gifts used to segregate the "adult" stuff back with the Cheryl Tiegs bikini posters and mugs shaped like a pair of breasts. I don't care that it exists. It would be foolish nowadays to expect it didn't.

Just don't shove "Sh**" in my face at the checkout counter at Christmas time, OK?

However elegant your handbags, however lovely your locally produced jewelry, however tasteful your selection of plaques with life-embracing quotes, you're just paving the way for the day you stand before a store window looking at Yukon Cornelius having an orgy with Rudolph in the manger, thinking, "My, how did we come to this point?"

The Mayans had it wrong. The old world doesn't end all at once: It just dies a little bit every day.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858