Looking A Gift Horse in the Mouth

Posted on September 29, 2010


When my husband Dan was in Greece this past month, he saw a friend of his who was visiting there from his home in Germany.  He and his wife stayed with us last year and I still affectionately refer to them as “The Guests From Hell.” The wife gave Dan two sets of long-handled spoons for me as a gift.  One set had straws attached (for those times when because of a time constraint, you need to stir and sip at the same time), and Dan thankfully left those behind.  He brought the other set to me.  I thought her choice of gift was interesting because when the gift giver and her husband were staying with us last year, she gave me two sets of long-handled spoons then, as well.  That’s four sets of spoons for one person.  Four non-matching sets of long-handled spoons.  Call me crazy, but I have never had the need for one set, let alone four.

This reminded me of some interesting gifts I’ve gotten from people over the years:

1. a toothbrush sterilizing unit, given to my ex and me as a wedding gift

2. ditto for an electric carving knife: Normally there might not be anything strange about getting a carving knife as a gift.  But we were starving grad students who ate meat only when it was already ground up and reduced for quick sale.  The knife sat in a closet until we bought a coconut one day and my ex got the brilliant idea of using the knife to open it.  That was the end of the knife.  He finally threw the coconut off the balcony and we went down and picked up the pieces and ate it.  Years later, I found out that one could open a coconut without throwing it off a balcony.

3. a carton of Taryton cigarettes, given to me by my ex-sort-of-but-not-really boyfriend in high school.   He simply called me one day after we had stopped sort-of-but-not-really seeing each other and announced he had a gift for me.  Based on his long history of creative ways to get back at people (including a bag of pubic hairs tacked to somebody’s door), I assumed he would show up with something lethal.  Much like a knife or gun, I took the cigarettes as his way to end my life, only more slowly and a lot more expensively.

4. a gorgeous vintage family portrait photo that, unfortunately, was of the gift giver’s own family, not mine

5. a Koran, technically not given to me but to my son on the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah.    For those of you who are not laughing so hard that you are squirting things out of your nose while you are reading this, I suggest that you Google both “Koran” and “Bar Mitzvah.”

I’m not including the bad taste/wrong taste/no taste other gifts I’ve received.  And I admit I’m a terrible person to buy anything for.  My daughter Yael yells at me because my “Thank-yous” are, at times, so forced.  The bottom line is that I’m much happier giving than receiving, and that has nothing to do with being an inherent “giver” type personality. I just get tired of smiling and saying things like, “But how did you ever know that because I have such short arms and own such tall glasses, I need a lot of long-handled spoons to reach whatever it is in the bottom of glasses or cups that I should be reaching!”