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Bad Gifts #1: Things with Sayings

December 18, 2011

Look at our great gifts -- thanks for all the crap, Santa!

It’s almost Christmas.  And it’s no secret that 1981-Angie was all about the presents.  So this week, I’ll be sinking to the darker depths of shallow than even a six-year-old can plunge.   

Because I’m not only focusing this holiday week on presents, I’ll be counting down the worst ones.

And I know a thing or two about bad presents.  I’ve received many.  Many, many, many.  And I’ve given my fair share of them too.


Today’s bad gifts:  Things with sayings.

I’m talking things that are printed with try-to-be-clever sayings of any sort.  I’m talking things no one would ever want for themselves.  But I’m talking things everyone loves buying for other people.  Especially for Christmas. 

Kiss the cook and then kiss my grits.  Menopause is not for wimps.  Are we having fun yet?  My other car is a Chevy truck.  Caffeine is my BFF . . . just sayin!  Shih Tzus are angels with fur. 

Typically these adorable sayings will be spotted on coffee mugs or throw pillows or wall plaques or picture frames or beer koozies or androgynous sleepwear (in the case of the menopause gift line).  

But those gifts may also take the form of:

Tourism promotion.  


Passive aggressive jabs at family members.  (Unfortunately, the Snoopy line of college dorm decor didn’t include the slightly less subtle “Can’t you get up before noon just once, you lazy hippie?”  Or the even more direct “Stop smoking pot.”)  


And gotcha interpretations of children’s feelings about life.  (Correction:  bedtime was the pits.  And then I got this nightgown.  Gee whiz — now bedtime is fun!) 

One of the worst of these gifts was given to me when I was five.  “Worst” because it cut me right to the bone.  And that’s about all I was back then.  Bone, blond hair and scabs. 

That Christmas, my Aunt LaVonna had purchased all dozen-some grandchildren their very own Fonzie-style plastic handled combs — just like all of the cool kids carried in 1980. 

These combs were perfect for sliding into the sculpted back pocket of your Jordache jeans.   Perfect for picking out undissolved Pop Rocks from your teeth in a pinch.  Perfect for feathering the sides of your hair in the bathroom of the roller rink — just in time for the spotlight couple skate to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.  

To make the gifts even better, all of the grandkids had their names printed on their combs.  Oh joy!  Somehow my Aunt LaVonna found combs with everyone’s names.  That even included my brother Tony.  Okay, actually his comb might’ve said Anthony or maybe even Tony the Tiger.  But I would’ve given anything for Amy or maybe even Andy.

That comb did the trick.

Because there was no Angie comb.  Nope.  All sold out.  Not even an Angela to be had.  So instead, when the other cousins were off enjoying their redefined sense of identity, I got a comb that stated No Cavities.  

To add salt to the wound, I had at least three.  Three ready-to-fill cavities and counting.  And I could remind myself this every time I feathered my hair in the roller rink bathroom — feathered hair now being the only thing I had going for me in this world, what with my teeth all rotted out.

Because, as you guessed, 1981-Angie was all about the candy too.

39 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2011 6:34 am

    Oh, that hurts!

    • December 18, 2011 7:02 am

      Yes, the cavities and the no-name-comb thing. And both still sting a bit — especially when I chew on aluminum foil.

  2. December 18, 2011 6:49 am

    Angie, this post made me tear up. I, too, was nothing but “Bones, blond hair and scabs”. And the comb? The pathetic nameless comb? You can probably guess I never ever found one with my name on it either. I did have a Ziggy one with the words “Life Sucks”. Oh, the horror we both faced in our youth! How did we ever survive?!

    • December 18, 2011 7:05 am

      Poor Darla! You probably never found your name printed on anything fun. Fortunately, the ushering in of iron-on t-shirts (and iron-on lettering) probably did wonders for your sense of self.

      Wow, I didn’t remember Ziggy ever went quite that low. Poor guy.

      • December 18, 2011 7:24 am

        I just went over to see you win big on GG’s blog and he’s vacationing in Korea! So he won’t post the caption contest winner until tomorrow?! I think you might have won though, just a wild guess.

      • December 18, 2011 2:34 pm

        Oh, no — I saw that too. I think Paul must’ve realized I didn’t win fair and square due to my intensive lobbying efforts. Maybe he’s just stalling until he finds a regulation loophole so he can overrule my probable win ;)

  3. December 18, 2011 7:25 am

    I should stop reading your blog in the mornings when I am drinking my coffee. The spit-take burns are piling up.

    • December 18, 2011 2:24 pm

      Are you sure it’s my blog causing this problem? Because if you happen to be drinking from one of those adorable coffee mugs that reads “The next person who asks me a stupid question on a Monday will get hit on the head with this coffee mug,” than I could see that causing a few spit-take burns.

  4. rose permalink
    December 18, 2011 8:12 am

    Hilarious :) I might have gotten my daughter a nightgown just like that one.

    • December 18, 2011 2:25 pm

      I’m guessing after receiving that nightgown she had no more issues with her 8:00 bedtime ;)

  5. December 18, 2011 9:50 am

    Oh wow. I always hated that pencils, erasers, combs never had my name on them. They sometimes had “Jillian.” So close! My mum once tried to draw over a J and replace it with a G, but that salted the wound. She never tried that trick again!

    • December 18, 2011 2:32 pm

      That is a tricky name to find for sure. You’re either in trouble with an uncommon name or in trouble with the most common name. I think I would’ve appreciated your mom’s effort though — if it were me, I would’ve happily swapped my “No Cavities” with “Phalange”. I have a feeling that Phalange would be a bit trickier to find however.

  6. December 18, 2011 2:19 pm

    I think you need a TV show.

    • December 18, 2011 2:43 pm

      Ha – thanks! That’s funny. I’d love to sit in on the casting call for a bratty, blond-haired, scabby-kneed, bony girl to play me.

  7. December 18, 2011 5:09 pm

    Just perfection. I love that Christmas requires us to buy stuff for everyone, and since everyone has already bought the stuff they’ve wanted for themselves, we are left to purchase novelty mugs that say “not made in China,” but clearly are because what isn’t?

    I believe I received a felt Snoopy flag-thing-a-ma-bob. I don’t remember what it said, but I’m sure it was the height of cleverness. What happened to those?

    I’m also curious if that is a dead dog behind you in that picture of you holding the cabbage patch nightgown?

    • December 19, 2011 4:42 pm

      Fortunately, as you’ve pointed out in a past post, I think Paula Dean candles have solved the problem of what to buy for the person who has everything.

      My question is what were those flags-thing-a-ma-bobs ever for? Were we expected to fly them somewhere, and from what and how?

      Dead dog? No, he’s just sleeping, I think. He drank a lot of eggnog that day.

  8. December 18, 2011 5:20 pm

    Are you hoping for the matching brush this year? Then you’d have the set.

    • December 19, 2011 4:43 pm

      The matching brush would’ve been just swell! Except I don’t think it would’ve looked quite as cool in my back pocket.

  9. December 18, 2011 5:40 pm

    Sis, I don’t remember ever seeing most of those photos! So funny!!

    I hated those combs! I couldn’t get out of my desk at school because the handle sticking out of my pocket would hook the back of my chair.

    • December 19, 2011 4:45 pm

      That is a fantastic memory! That does not sound like something Fonzie would’ve had a problem with though. Although, his comb didn’t have a handle.

  10. December 18, 2011 6:46 pm

    No cavities – couldn’t she have just gotten one with nothing written on it. Kind of makes you wonder which ones she cast aside before she chose that one for you.

    I nominated you for the Liebster Award. You can check out my blog for the small print that goes along with such an honor :)

    • December 19, 2011 4:46 pm

      Fortunately she didn’t select No Head Lice. Because I got that once too.

      Thank you for the shout-out/award nomination! I’m grateful for you sending some of your readers my way.

  11. December 19, 2011 1:25 am

    I thought this was probably the cutest blog I’ve read in a long time.
    And then I saw the dead dog.

    • December 19, 2011 4:50 pm

      If by “cutest” you mean like koala hugs or whiskers-on-kittens — eek! I might have to put some more dead dogs on my blog to avoid that description :)

  12. December 19, 2011 10:55 am

    “(Correction: bedtime was the pits. And then I got this nightgown. Gee whiz – now bedtime is fun!)”

    oh man, that made me lol this morning. So funny. I wish I could remember this stuff like you do!

    • December 19, 2011 4:53 pm

      Fortunately I have a large archive of family photos that help me remember this stuff. Otherwise I don’t know that I could’ve told you I had a nightgown just like that one.

  13. December 19, 2011 5:49 pm

    Congratulations on winning the caption contest, you genius you!

    • December 19, 2011 6:54 pm

      Thanks, Lisa! Um, yeah, about that promise I made to you if I won . . .

      Do I sound like a politician?

  14. December 20, 2011 2:21 am

    Absolutingly, hootin’ hilarious. With a family like this, you’ll never be empty of ideas for wordy revenge.

    • December 20, 2011 8:08 pm

      Thanks for stopping by. As a writer, I’m fortunate that I grew up in a household just begging to be spoofed in a Saturday Night Live skit.

  15. December 20, 2011 8:01 am

    I LOVE the picture of you with the nightgown, both your expression and how the grownups are sitting back enjoying the show.

    Also, there is no personalized merchandise with “Dory” on it either, so I feel your pain.

    • December 20, 2011 8:15 pm

      Why do they even make pre-made personalized merchandise — now that I think of it, it just seems cruel that this stuff exists, knowing that some kid named Jebediah is going to be left out in the cold.

      Yes, I love how thrilled my grandmother in particular looks (at left). I can tell she wants one just like it.

  16. December 24, 2011 11:33 am

    Oh the gift ideas you are giving me…if I start early…I should be able to find those combs…and EVERYONE will have their name on it! Only 365 more days!
    Maybe I could take over Lela’s role…what do you think??

    • December 24, 2011 2:32 pm

      Seriously — it’s a good idea. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve argued with my daughter that, no, it’s MY comb. I would love it if you took over Lela’s role. I will be expecting some gift-wrapped chokecherry jelly in the mail by New Year’s.

  17. skynyrdgyrl81 permalink
    March 8, 2012 12:32 pm

    Hilarious post. I almost spit my Count Chocula all over the screen. I totally feel on the name thing. Me and my brother both had the problem of finding cool stuff with our names on it. I remember in third grade everyone had pencils with their names on them. My mom could not find one single pencil with “April” on it. I mean seriously, is it that uncommon of a name? Four thousand Jennifer’s, Amanda’s and Becky’s but not one April? My brother’s name is Heath though, so he really got screwed.

    • March 10, 2012 8:47 pm

      No April is about as ridiculous as no Angie. I mean, come on! Our names soared in the 70s and 80s. We should’ve owned those personalized notebook and comb factories based on the popularity of our names alone.


  1. Speed It Up A Little . . . More! «
  2. Bad Gifts #2: Clothing « Childhood Relived
  3. Bad Gifts #3: Things in Tiny Packages « Childhood Relived

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