Toy Clowns and Donuts

Good afternoon everyone, I hope you are all set for the weekend. The arrival of another weekend, also brings with it a glimmer of hope as we see the promise of a little normality beckon from the horizon. We’ve all dealt with lockdown in different ways, but one thing a lot of us have in common is that we have had chance to catch up with friends from years gone by, as well as new friends and technology has been the facilitator. Whether it be Zoom, Skype, Whatsapp or Facetime, many of us have clocked up extra minutes cementing friendships and forming new bonds.

During a recent chat with a female friend we chuckled over the worst presents we’d ever been bought. Of course gift buying is a nerve wracking experience for many of us and we worry if the recipient will like it and if we’ve got it right. For others, they simply pick up the first thing they see and think no more of it.

Having two sisters, I think I’ve picked up various tips and tricks over the years to refine this art, and it pretty much comes down to listening. I’ll hear someone mention something they like and it will either go in the memory bank, or I’ll jot it down in the notes on my phone if it’s not a name I’m likely to remember. That’s kind of the cheats way to getting it right as guess work is much harder! Half-listening can often leave the gifter on dodgy ground. I remember once being presented with a tatty old key ring while an ex proudly announced, “because you like unicorns.” As I looked down at the pound shop tat, made from cheap material which was filthy on one side, I felt a sense of dread as I looked at their face and realised they expected some sort of praise for presenting me with the worst sort of junk pocket change can buy. By no means was this the worst gift however.

One of my friends revealed that for her birthday an ex boyfriend had bought her lingerie in a size 14, and perhaps if she hadn’t have been a size 12 she might have been touched, despite the face she wasn’t even into crotchless knickers! (who actually is?)

I could see her predicament. One might reason that he was at least trying to be romantic and had bought her a gift that could be considered frivolous, which might be perceived preferable to a practical gift of say, a hand whisk! However, buying her the wrong size underwear was such a rookie error. Over estimating and rounding her up to the next dress size was the grand error and what really lead to him being in the dog house though.

We were giggling away and I said I was sure I could beat her in the tacky gifts department, and I use the word gift in the loosest possible sense of the word.

Let’s back track several years. It was Christmas time, there was a chill air and a smell of roasted chestnuts hung in the streets. I had just arrived back at my flat, armed with glittering bags, goodies & silver bows for friends and family. I was excited, bouncing around and humming Christmas songs. Christmas always brings out my inner child and I’m full of beans and the magic of it all. My then ‘boyfriend’ turned round grumpily and announced that Christmas was a waste of time and we shouldn’t bother with a tree or decorations. He moaned he didn’t have money to buy his family gifts as he didn’t work and that I should give him pocket money. I told him that I’d already bought his family gifts from both of us and he moaned that he’d have liked to have impressed them with flashier presents. As it was Christmas, rather than saying he’d be able to if he got a job I reminded him that Christmas wasn’t about flashy presents, it was about showing people you care by spending time with them and doing thoughtful things. He then said ‘I haven’t even got you a present. I might need to borrow some money’ and that as I’d bought his whole family presents he’d have to get me a little something.

I ended up handing over £50 to him to buy myself a present. It sounds ludicrous doesn’t it? It reminded me of the way a Mother might give her six year old five pounds for Mummy’s birthday present, yes that’s how creepy it felt watching this man child with it’s hoof out, in expectation of money.

He left the flat and was gone about 45 minutes, returning with tales about what an ordeal he’d had and how he had gone out of his way for me facing the local shopping centre at Christmas time. (We lived next to the High Street).

Despite his whining and moaning, I had still clearly over-estimated the Christmas Grinch. Some foolish part of me had half hoped he’d sneak off and wrap whatever cheap gift he had bought in pretty shiny, paper at least. Even that would have suggested that there was some kind of care behind it. Alas, I could not have been more wrong! There and then and several days before Christmas, he pulled 3 cheap items out from a bag which read The Card factory ( the shop that was nearest to our flat.) There he stood three mugs on the table. One he pulled aside immediately and said “that’s my Christmas present to myself,’ another he broke washing up a week later so I don’t really remember it. The third stands out in my memory, and even as I remember that moment of sinking dread, I can now laugh out loud. Things are a lot funnier in hindsight when you are removed from the situation. The mug, which you’ll see an exact replica of in the photo attached to this blog featured a donut, some kind of revolting turd and the phrase, “I donut give a shit.”

He thought a sh*t mug was a romantic ‘jester’ but I didn’t see the funny side!
He brewed a storm in a tea cup, but he was the real mug in the end.

Symbolically he had told me exactly how he felt, that I was a mug for supporting him and giving money and that he didn’t give a shit about me. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and if I had the wisdom then I have now, I would have packed his bags and presented him with a toy clown with “I donut have a girlfriend” emblazoned all over it.

To add insult to injury I later discovered the mugs cost £3.99 each. He’d ‘bought’ two for me and one for himself, a total value of £11.97, which meant he’d kept the remain £38.03 for himself. I’ve given him £50 and he’d given me an insult worth £7.98.

Finally, the subsequent break up happened, which had always been on the cards (and mugs) from day one, though I dealt with it maturely and dismissed any notions of toy clowns and donuts.

I will give you a little context as to how liberating it was when I threw away the unpleasant reminders of the past. Over the years, my favourite Gin glasses and other drink vessels had been broken by the Grinch, but that bloody mug never once broke. It stayed intact, taunting me with its sinister face peering back at me from an abhorrent poo emoji. In my mind, it took on the malevolence of a haunted old urn in a pub famed for ghostly apparitions and I relegated it to the back of the cupboard.

So when I finally plucked up the courage to issue the marching orders and took my door keys back, I knew I had one thing left to do. I confess I took great joy in smashing up that awful, bloody mug and banging it against the brick wall. The feeling of satisfaction as it shattered was far greater than I’d anticipated and I smiled as I picked up the useless shards and chucked them into the trash.

I’ll share a few pointers from what I learned.

1: If someone really tells you how they feel (even if symbolically via a crappy mug) believe them the first time and don’t issue second chances.

2: When making peace with the past, it’s better to eliminate junk you don’t need that reminds you of it. While charity shops are always crying out for stuff, they won’t just take any old rubbish. Have a good clear out and dispense with things that are no good. Discard things that are broken, useless or simply have no place in your life.

3: Don’t feel compelled to keep rubbish people have given to you. What are you? A storage facility for other people’s junk? Trash it, burn it or give it away. You’ll feel so much better afterwards!

What’s the worst gift you’ve ever been given? i would love to hear. You can either leave a comment here or on my twitter page at www.twitter.com/kabxx

Kaz B

Writer, podcaster, creator

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