The Huddle: God-Awful Gifts


Even the most well-meaning gift givers can give you something ridiculous. While it might not be so great at the time (who loves to feign excitement over something crappy?), the crazy presents always make for great stories later in life. Honestly, do you remember the ones that are “just fine”? Probably not.

So, group, what was the weirdest gift you ever received?

Dana Piccoli: Last year I got a crocheted wool hat, designed to look like a cupcake. On your head. Cute for a little kid, but as you may have noticed I’m a grown woman. I felt not unlike Ralphy in A Christmas Story when he had to wear the pink bunny pajamas. This was indeed a cupcake topped with buttercream and humiliation frosting.

Emily Hartl: The weirdest gift is sort of a culmination of things in reality, but I’ll narrow it down to just one. My mother had the tendency to send myriad strange knick knacks that I would never in a million years actually keep or put up in my house but I think the worst one was this small teddy bear that was holding a shopping bag that said “Born to Shop.” Apparently my enthusiasm for style translated into a tacky bear that I immediately put in the “donate” bag for Goodwill.

Dara Nai: The weirdest gift I ever received was a mannequin head made of green glass. It’s also one of my favorites. The best gifts aren’t the ones you wanted; they’re the ones you didn’t know you wanted.

Lucy Hallowell: The weird WTF gift that comes to mind is a hat my grandfather gave me in my senior year of high school. He went to Princeton and played hockey there. By the time Christmas rolled around I knew I was going to a different school to play hockey but that didn’t stop him from presenting me with a brand-spanking new, black and orange, Princeton University ice hockey hat. I have no idea if he expected me to wear it or if he was just being a dick (we’re WASPs, passive aggressiveness is second nature). One of the biggest WTF moments of my life.

Punky Starshine: When I was a wee pre-teen, at that juncture in my life where it was about time to start shaving my legs, my aunt got me an epilator for Christmas. I opened it in front of the whole family and was MORTIFIED. Luckily, my cousin had gotten one as well, because I got a frantic call early the next morning warning me to never use it, because my cousin had been traumatized by the pain and the blood caused by what my aunt assumed was just a very effective electric razor, but was actually more akin to a medieval torture device. If it had been the first thing I had ever used to shave my legs, I probably would have never shaved them again. And that’s one stereotype I’m A-ok with not fitting into.

Ali Davis: My first Christmas after I moved to Chicago after college, I couldn’t quite afford to go home, and I was the lowest bartender on the totem pole at my job, so I kind of had to take the shift anyway. So I worked my day job (with some sweet time-and-a-half pay) in the morning and afternoon and then had just a few precious hours to go back to my apartment and open the lone gift that had made it to me in time for Christmas before heading off to start tending bar.

It turned out to be a light-up glass ringed planet, presumably Saturn, only it was blue. The light wasn’t strong enough to actually brighten any part of the room. It was just meant to sit on an end table, which was a kind of thing I didn’t have in my tiny studio apartment. I put it on the windowsill and would occasionally turn it on and stare at it in puzzlement until the cat knocked it off a few years later. But at least they had their shit together with the mailing.

Marcie Bianco: The worst Christmas gift I ever received was also the best one I ever received: a 1926 first edition of Gertrude Stein‘s “Composition as Explanation,” published, yes, by Leonard and Virginia Woolf‘s Hogarth Press.The gift was the best one I ever received because this was and still remains my favorite Stein text; the fact that it’s a first edition printed by the press of another modernist giant, Virginia Woolf (via Leonard), made the gift just oh-so-sweeter.

It was the worst gift I ever received because it was from a woman who

I was in love with — what? Yes. A Shakespeare scholar across the

pond with whom I had a very hot affair with the summer before—she had

been my advisor a handful of years before that time, so the sexual

tension by that summer had aggregated to a boiling point. She, more of

a stone butch of the heart than in the sheets, said she “wanted [me]

but did not want [me],” and was feeling, like the stereotypical

Radclyffian butch, utterly torn by these passions [cue melodramatic

opera]. By the fall she told me to “put [my] love somewhere

else”—heartbreaking, for sure, which made the arrival of the gift a

few months later that just overwrought with displeasure and heartache.

Elaine Atwell: When I came out, my parents didn’t take it very well. They didn’t disown me or tell me I was going to hell or anything, but it took a really long time for them to stop saying that it was just a phase. So I was stunned when, on Christmas morning two years after dropping the gay bomb,I opened a package from my mother containing the dykiest leather jacket I have ever seen. It had studs, straps, and about a hundred zippers, most of which served no purpose. I think I said “Um, thanks. This isn’t really the direction I’m taking the whole lesbian thing though.” Then I modeled it for the family and we all laughed until it hurt.

The Linster: This. Yes, it’s a cookie cutter. Um, OK.

Bridget McManus: This is more sad than weird. A now deceased relative gave me a used, dirty, pea soup green house coat with a sparkly brooch

that she used to cover up a stain on the collar. I was 10 and very confused.

Erika Star: Not once, but twice in my young adult years my mom gave me a hammer for Christmas. On two separate occasions I woke up to hand tools in my stocking and then she seemed surprised when I came out as a big ol’ lez years later. Talk about your mixed messages.

Trish Bendix: My mom is the queen of buying people things she thinks they should like but never will. Even if you specifically ask for something else, she’ll buy you at least one item that makes you say “WTF?” A few years ago, she bought me a camouflage bandana “for yoga.” First, I am not down with camouflage. It’s not just a good look for me. Second, I do not own any bandanas for any practical or fashion reasons and do not intend to start a collection. If I ever need one for a hanky code-themed party or some other situation, I borrow from a friend. Thirdly, FOR YOGA? It was my wife’s first family Christmas with us that year and when she saw how hard my sister, dad and I laughed at the gift, she was appalled, thinking me ungrateful. But now that she knows how my mom works, she practically begs me not to have my mom buy her anything every year. Every time someone in my family asks me what I want for Christmas or my December birthday, I say, “I could really use another camo bandana.” It was just a prime example of how my mom is perfect at buying people things they don’t want.

What’s the weirdest gift you ever received?

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