Bad Gifts #2: Clothing
In continuing my holiday theme week featuring the top bad gifts, I recognize I’ve picked a controversial one for today.
Because I suspect you might vehemently disagree.
Because I suspect you might say, “My wife always gets me the best fleece hoodies! I couldn’t tell you exactly what they look like, but I do know they have the Steelers on the front.”
Or you might say, “Hey, I bought my son a pair of $100 jeans last year and he loved them! He wore them every day for a year. We had to pry them off his body with a shoe horn.”
Well I see your designer jeans and your Steelers fleece hoodies and I raise you one pink velour turtleneck.
I was five when I was cursed with the infamous pink turtleneck. My mom made sure it was put to good use. And so it became a ribbed velour noose around my neck for months to come, squeezing the very life out of me in revenge for my wickedness.
I received the shirt for Christmas from my Aunt Lela — who was known throughout the Midwest for her signature Oh, you shouldn’t have (no, really) gifts. In looking back, I can’t imagine what I didn’t like about it.
For one, it was pink. Though, true, less “pink” of the Care Bear variety and more “pink” of the Pepto-Bismol variety. But it was also velour with a splendid cozy plush feel, like the Velveteen Rabbit, like the Jack Tripper line of chic tracksuit loungewear.
And I was five, for crying out loud. What did I care? What did it matter to someone who drew style inspiration from Mork? What did it matter to someone who thought wearing Smurf pajamas to the grocery store was being fashion-forward? Why, it was only the previous year that I opened another turtleneck with an expression that looked just like this.
Note my cousin Mike in the background. He is not wearing the same expression. And I can be certain he is also not wearing the turtleneck he just got.
My expression the following year, the year I opened the pink velour turtleneck, could not be captured in a photograph. Sadly, I have nothing to show you of its existence. Indeed, my mother wouldn’t have allowed cameras in the room during that regrettable moment. But I can tell you when I opened the box in front of two dozen smiling faces my exact words were . . .
I know because I can still hear these words reverberating in my conscience like it was yesterday, like a horrendous record-scratching interruption to an otherwise delightful family gift exchange.
And to that response of gratitude, my great aunt replied as she slapped her knee with her new embroidered checkbook cover, “Oh, come now! Now that shirt is cute and it looks very warm.”
Which brings up a common fumble in the sport of clothes gifting. If you’re purchasing clothing for children who are older than, say, five, and who are old enough to know that their friends are now ready to size them up and throw them under the school bus for wearing rainbow suspenders, consider not using these words as determining factors in your selection:
2.) Warm, and
3.) Free with a purchase
Fortunately, in later years, children become strong enough to physically take action on such gifts.
My family folklore contains the legend of an immortal shirt that my brother received from my Aunt Lela one Christmas. After taking the unsightly frock straight to the thrift store, where it had the chance to find someone who’d really love it, the following year Tony received the same shirt.
Unfortunately, after my brother burned it the second time around, we suspect its special polyurethane fabric components gave it the ability to extinguish itself, regenerate arms and pull its body from the smoldering ashes of the trash dumpster.
Fortunately, in the case of cotton turtlenecks, we have learned that burning is not necessary.
Because simply tearing them apart at the seams . . .
. . . is usually enough to kill them.