The meanderings of a recovering ex-expat with the occasional identity crisis
If you’ve ever questioned your man’s love for you, just take a look at the presents that you’ve received from him during the course of your relationship. Perhaps you can the remember the story behind that 50th birthday diamond necklace, or the memories from your 10th wedding anniversary when you were whisked away to a remote tropical island, where there were straw huts with thatched roofs and monkey butlers serving you meals in hollowed-out coconut shells, while playing The Girl from Ipanema on their mini-accordions.
But if you’re like me, you’ll wonder why you have a soup ladle that’s larger than the size of your head and ass combined. It may also take several months for you to realize that no amount of washing and drying that size “L” Turkish bathrobe is going to bring it down to a “XS”. And, despite your best efforts, you discover there really are no other uses for a lemon peeler – other than to peel the lemons you’re going to suck on, when you discover that the soup ladle was something your ex had laying around and had never used.
If the gifts that I’ve received from my exes are supposed to represent their feelings towards me, then their message is unanimously loud and clear – Clean, mend, or cook something and look like an incredible douche bag while doing it.
The first present I had ever received from a boy I liked was in the fourth grade during my birthday party. The boy – Robert Fernandez. The present – an intricately-woven sewing basket with with padded green satin lining, filled with various colored threads and needles, and a perfectly-smooth, egg-shaped rock. Robert was first-generation Spanish-Canadian, and his family was from a land, where the word darn wasn’t negative when used with the word socks. Robert’s parents had probably thought that a sewing kit was the perfect gift for a fourth-grade girl, who could barely button her shirt properly.
But I was on the right track with the egg rock: by placing the rock inside my gym socks, tying it at the end and waving it around over my head, it proved to be a formidable weapon against those who dared to suggest that I should learn to sew.
The gifts didn’t get any better after Robert. In the sixth grade I got the flu from Trevor McAllister when we were practicing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. To be fair, Trevor hadn’t meant to give me his flu – putting myself solidly in front of his one-nostril, fire breathing, phlegm hacking breath did that. But given his immense popularity in school, most girls would have given their right lungs to get tuberculosis from Trevor.
For about two weeks, through glassy eyes and a raging fever, I basked in the glory of having gotten my flu from Trevor McAllister. Mono – the kissing disease – would have been better. However, beggars like me couldn’t be choosers of their diseases. Trevor, on the other hand, doesn’t remember me and nor the fact that I had deeply-inhaled in his direction every time he opened his mouth, during the three weeks of rehearsals.
The first time I had ever received a bouquet of nice flowers that was sold in a store and not illegally-picked from someone’s cat-pee yard was at the age of 20 from Michael Yu – a 30-year-old self-proclaimed Gynecologist, whose motto was, If you’re not drinking, smoking, or womanizing, you’re doing something wrong! The fact that Michael had enough pictures of ex-girlfriends to fill two shoe boxes somehow made him seem glamorous to me – like a guy who had over ten thousand friends on Facebook.
The flowers, like our relationship, had to be kept a secret, otherwise his other girlfriend(s) would find out. For some reason I can’t remember now, I’d kept the vase of flowers in my closet, and one day, when reaching for my frumpy red nightgown, knocked the vase over, shattering it into a million pieces – a fitting analogy for what eventually happened to our relationship.
Now, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful about the presents I’ve received throughout the years from my exes, because gift-giving between couples is a tricky thing even in the best of relationships. I’d like to think that the ex who had given me the Old-Mother-Hubbard-style red nylon nightgown saw me as a sexy and sensual woman and not just another excuse for impotence. And that Cuisinart food processor/blender-giving ex is still pining over the breakup of our relationship almost 15 years later, despite the fact that I had never once used the food processor when we were together and was never able give him the finely-diced onions he desperately needed on top of his hot dogs and tacos.
I believe the main issue with gift-giving in a relationship is the dollar value of the gifts versus the sentiments evoked versus the appropriateness of giving certain gifts during certain points of the relationship. For example, if Johnny’s been dating Nancy for only one month and Nancy’s birthday comes around, what should he give her? Silicone breast implants seem too soon and costly, but a ceramic toothpick dispenser in the shape of two large breasts might not properly convey Johnny’s deep feelings for Nancy’s noble knockers.
And what about the two-year relationship that has now become a platonic friendship? One month after the breakup, it may seem odd to just give your ex-boyfriend a Costco-sized bottle of Rogaine, when only two months earlier you were effusing about the “thick, luscious head of hair” that you had delighted in running your fingers through everyday.
Which brings us back to my lemon peeler. If you’re an observant lush, like my friend WSW, who eagerly makes and knocks back cocktails, as if there’s a penny to be found at the bottom of every drained cocktail glass – you’ll notice that the peeler shown makes the twisty rinds used as garnishes for cocktail concoctions. This lemon peeler was given to me for Christmas – along with a Wusthof knife, a copy of Tina Fey’s “Bossypants”, and a bottle of very spicy, pepper-infused balsamic/olive oil blend for dipping bread.
This basket of gifts was totally unexpected, as my ex and I had broken up less than one month earlier. We were at that awkward stage of gift-giving, when it was no longer appropriate to give each other hilarious intimates that ride up your crotch or give you a uni-boob, but it was still too early to resort to last-minute purchases from the local Walgreens.
Confronted with the gift-giving uncertainty of freshly-broken up couples, my ex had stayed safe and spent about as much money on the gifts as he would have were we still dating. (That Wusthof knife was not cheap.) However, when a man gives a woman a gift basket containing a lemon peeler, a dipping sauce that is so spicy you’ll want to cut your tongue off with the sharp German knife, and a NYT best-selling book written by a cute and hilarious comedienne with dozens of accolades under her belt, even the most delusional among us knows that the relationship is over. The dollar value of the gifts might have been there, but the sentiment clearly was not.
Here are a few more gift-giving ideas for the ex in your life: