A Gift For Me? Really, You Shouldn't Have

November 29, 1992|By KEVIN COWHERD

Whenever the subject turns to incredibly bad gifts, I think of that Christmas morning three years ago.

We were all gathered around the tree opening our presents when my mother, who was visiting for the holidays, handed me a large, square box. The wrapping paper had a sort of psychedelic candy-canes-and-teddy-bears motif.

That alone should have tipped me off to what lay ahead, but it was 6:30 in the morning and I hadn't even had a cup of coffee yet.

Besides, the kids were going nuts tearing into what Santa had left them and you couldn't really concentrate, because every few seconds you had to look up and admire someone's Malibu Barbie or remote-controlled Desert Thunder tank with missile-firing capabilities.

Finally, all the presents were open except for the one my mother was pushing at me.

Maybe I should explain here that I don't like opening presents in front of people. Because no matter how lousy the present is, you have to act like it's the greatest thing anyone's ever given you.

The whole business has always struck me as being extremely phony.

But now everyone was staring at me and my mother was practically jabbing the present in my stomach.

So I tore into the wrapping and opened the box and there was a . . . sweater. A green and white sweater. Which doesn't sound so bad, right?

On closer examination, however, the full horror of what I was seeing began to set in.

Emblazoned across the front of the sweater were . . . close your eyes and try to visualize this . . . little prancing red reindeer.

Altogether there were 20 little reindeer (that's right, I counted them). Ten of the little reindeer were prancing to the left. The other 10 were -- stay with me here -- prancing to the right.

Of course, even as the enormity of the situation sank in, I began gushing about what a great sweater it was.

"It . . . goes with everything!" I actually heard myself say, although frankly, the only thing you could comfortably wear with this sweater were Oshkosh overalls -- it was that childish-looking.

I eventually started using the sweater as a utility rag while changing the oil in my car.

Every once in a while, my mother would say: "How come you never wear that nice Christmas sweater I got you?"

"Well, it needs to be cleaned," I'd tell her.

Which was true, since it was soaked with 40-weight Quaker State and hanging on a hook in my garage.

So when I think of gifts I don't want this holiday season, right off the bat I think: sweaters with tiny red reindeer.

And no socks, either. I don't know what it is that compels people to look at a grown man and think, "Bet he could use some socks."

Do they think he's not capable of buying his own socks?

Look, I don't need any socks, OK? I got 20,000 pairs of socks. I got black socks, navy blue socks, maroon socks. I got argyle socks. I got socks that'll go with everything from a glittery Wayne Newtonish tuxedo (which I don't own) to camouflage fatigues (which I really don't own). So forget socks.

(By the way, two weeks after my mother gave me that hideous sweater, I was in a men's store and actually came across a pair of green socks with tiny red reindeer. Swear to God. How frightening is that?!)

Here's another gift I could live without: fruitcake. My mother used to send me a fruitcake every year at Christmas. The thing had the density of boron and weighed as much as a bowling ball. It tasted awful.

I'd see the UPS truck pull up to the curb, and I'd hide behind the draperies while the driver rang the doorbell, hoping he'd go away. So no more fruitcakes -- I got fruitcakes left over from the Nixon administration.

Let's not send any tools my way this holiday season, either. Look, I can barely work a shower curtain. So the last thing I need is a Craftsman 10-inch compound miter saw, unless you want to see my wife down in the basement sweeping up three or four of my fingers.

Another thing: no pajamas.

I don't even wear pajamas. What I wear to bed is an old Pittsburgh Steelers T-shirt. You want to get me sleepwear, make it another Steelers T-shirt.

I guess it goes without saying that if I don't wear pajamas, I don't want a bathrobe this Christmas, either. I once put on my brother's bathrobe and looked in the mirror and it was like seeing Ricky Ricardo lounging between sets at the Copa.

The main thing to remember, though, is:

No sweaters with tiny red reindeer.

Please.

& I'm asking you nicely.

Kevin Cowherd is a columnist for The Evening Sun.

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