in my humble opinion

The gift horse

By JONATHAN CHARLES FOX
Posted 12/23/20

Bah, Humbug. There, I said it.

Contrary to popular belief, I’m not a very nice guy. C’mon now, don’t gasp, don’t shake your head, don’t start cryin’. If we all …

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in my humble opinion

The gift horse

Posted

Bah, Humbug. There, I said it.

Contrary to popular belief, I’m not a very nice guy. C’mon now, don’t gasp, don’t shake your head, don’t start cryin’. If we all accept this shocking revelation, it’ll be that much easier to move on once the tinsel is off the tree and the last useless (you heard me) gift has been unwrapped.

Now that Hanukkah is over, it’s time to make room for the dude in a sleigh who will undoubtedly make a pit-stop here at Camp Fox, even though I have literally begged friends and family to avoid me and gift-giving at all costs. Why? I’ll tell you why: Because I don’t want a pile of unwanted, unasked for, unnecessary and/or hideous crap. Bah. Humbug. There, I said it.

It all started years ago when my mother (uh huh) decided that there was nothing she couldn’t make herself. Being a sullen teenager, it never occurred to me that my parents lived above their means, or that they couldn’t afford to shower me and my sister with gifts, but hindsight is 20/20, as the old saying goes. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t actually wanting for anything, nor were we spoiled, but I rarely got gifts I actually asked for.

Still, a holiday tradition was born circa 1969, when all I desired was a suede-fringed vest and bell-bottom jeans in order to have groovy swagger like the older-than-me hippies I admired, much to my mother’s chagrin. Still, she was a trooper, and unbeknownst to me, decided she could make the vest (and pants) herself. Uh huh.

 In retrospect, I have to assume that either the suede was too expensive, too difficult to sew, or… I don’t know—maybe she just wanted to make the damn clothes herself. She chose to use Naugahyde for the vest and terry-cloth towels for the pants instead of leather and denim… and the end result was less than stellar, IMHO.

Naugahyde: noun, trademark – “an artificial material designed to resemble leather, made from fabric coated with rubber or vinyl resin” (www.wikipedia.com).

I don’t know if it still exists (let’s hope not), but Naugahyde was extremely popular in the sixties. It was used for a number of purposes, including the divan (I use the word loosely) in our den, which was made out of old saloon doors (uh huh) topped with Naugahyde cushions in alternating shades of burnt orange, harvest gold and avocado green—the holy trinity of the ‘60s color palette.

One would think that making an entire hippie ensemble would stop anyone in their tracks, but not my mother. Instead, she forged ahead, starting with the vest. She clearly believed it looked just like suede, especially after she meticulously measured and cut the fringe with scissors, ignoring the fact that when the “suede” swayed, one could easily discern that the reverse side was “artificial fabric, designed to resemble leather and coated with rubber.” So not cool.

Adding insult to injury were the bell-bottom pants fashioned out of (I kid you not) terry-cloth bath towels in alternating stripes of (uh huh) burnt orange, harvest gold and avocado green. Each garment was emblazoned with personalized labels (sure, those she purchased from a catalog) that proclaimed they were “uniquely handmade with love by Mom.” Can you imagine the unique look on my face when I opened my gifts? Uh huh.

Devastated, I found it impossible to hide my disappointment (to be honest—I didn’t even try) and my mother’s expression said it all. “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” she said sternly. “I worked really hard on this outfit,” (nowadays, it’s called a costume) “but you obviously hate it.” Crestfallen, she looked down, picking up her pack of Virginia Slims before slinking away to chain-smoke in silence.

Of course, I tried them on, and of course, I fumbled my way through an apology of sorts, but we’ve already established that I’m not a very nice guy. I was frank: “I can’t wear this in public, I just can’t,” I said. “I mean look, Mom; my pants are made out of towels, for cryin’ out loud. And my vest isn’t fringed, it’s sliced… and literally coated with rubber. Please,” I begged her. “Don’t make me do it.”

It was then and there that the holiday tradition was established. While acknowledging that she was still going to try her hand at making stuff for me, clothing was “strictly off limits,” and we agreed that she would attach a note with the words “no offense” on it, indicating that I didn’t have to pretend to like it. If there was no note, I had to fake my enthusiasm, like believing that Naugahyde was “just as good as leather” and, well… you get the idea.

Thankfully, the towel-pants ripped upon my first attempt at shimmying into them, so they were in the garbage before I could even pretend to leave the house. And the vest? What I wouldn’t give to have that proudly on display (in an acrylic frame) adorning the walls of my tastefully decorated home—a tribute to the woman who made me the not-very-nice guy I am today. My holiday advice? Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth... it might come back to bite you in the ass.

Fun Fact: Where did the phrase “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” originate?

This phrase alludes to the fact that the age, hence the usefulness, of a horse can be determined by looking at its teeth. The expression says that if a horse is given as a gift, you should not look at its teeth to determine its quality. It is an ancient expression and the exact origin is unknown.

Comments

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Keah Casner

My sister used to make those vests..not for me, alas. And my mom, while she sewed most of my clothes never tried to foist terry towel on me, but did get everything on sale year after it was the fashion I So i wore those little white ggogoboots to school in sixth grade, humiliated becasue everyone else had stopped wearing them the year before

thus was delightful.

Sunday, December 27, 2020