Which makes me think about the worst Christmas gift I ever got.
I'm not sure why I'm thinking about Christmas now, but I rarely live in the moment and usually spend most of my time looking forward to what's coming instead of what's actually here. I already enjoyed summer in April. It was nice.
The worst Christmas gift I ever got came from the wife of one of my father's business associates. Heretofore, her gifts had always been...if not fantastic...at least, passable. Books. Pens. Stuff like that.
That all changed when I was twelve years old. Little did I know that the woman coming up the driveway with a bundle of packages was about to forever alter what I thought a bad gift could be. After her visit, and for the rest of my life, I can honestly say that I will never receive a gift as bad as the bad gift I got on that bad gift-giving day. In fact, you could give me dog poo in a baggy and I would still say it was better than that bad gift I got. Of course, if you were to give me a gift of dog poo in a baggy, I would hope there would at least be some clever card or something to explain why you were giving me a baggy of dog poo. But let's leave that aside because I'm getting queasy thinking about it.
Now then, the worst Christmas gift I was about to be given by that woman on that bad gift-giving day was:
PANTEEN SHAMPOO FOR DAMAGED HAIR
As everyone in my family opened their presents from this woman, I stared blankly at the plastic container of shampoo. I looked at it and read it over and over. Panteen Shampoo For Damaged Hair. Panteen. Shampoo. For. Damaged. Hair. Did I have damaged hair? I didn't think so. Maybe I did. But if anyone was going to give me Panteen Shampoo For Damaged Hair, it should be my parents. Quietly. In another room. Preferably in the presence of a doctor or a school counselor. This was not a Christmas gift. Shampoo is not a Christmas gift. It wasn't even Avon shampoo in a cool, racecar dispenser. That I could have lived with. I wouldn’t have liked it. But I wouldn’t have remembered it to this day.
The shampoo I had been given was clinical and scientific and no fun whatsoever. For heaven's sake, it was Panteen Shampoo For Damaged Hair!
As everyone in my family oogled at their gifts of transistor radios and Almond Roca, I ran into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. I had a fine head of hair. I had a lot of hair. And not one strand was damaged.
I wanted to run back into the living room, thrust the plastic bottle at the woman and say, "What is the meaning of this?! Why have you given me Panteen Shampoo For Damaged Hair? What did I ever do to you?! This is an outrage! You don't give a 12 year-old boy Panteen Shampoo For Damaged Hair! You give them Robots and stuff! You give them things that need batteries! You give them footballs! You give them...anything! Anything but Panteen Shampoo For Damaged Hair!"
However, I was raised to be a polite child. (At least to persons who weren’t in my immediate family.) So, I went back to the living room with my bottle of shampoo and sat down. I tried to smile. Perhaps sensing that I was contemplating suicide, my mother asked to see what my gift was. I stood up, walked over and silently handed her the bottle. She looked at it and read, “Panteen Shampoo For Damaged Hair.” She looked over at the woman. “Isn’t that thoughtful.”
At first I was embarrassed that other members of my family had heard what I had been given, but then my mood brightened. In hearing my mother say, “Panteen Shampoo For Damaged Hair”, I knew this had to be a mistake. Who on earth gives Panteen Shampoo For Damaged Hair as a Christmas gift?
Any second now, the woman would say something like, “Oh my heavens! How did that get in there? That’s for my elderly mother with liver disease. Her hair is damaged. No. No. No. Paul’s gift is in the car. It’s a robot that needs batteries.”
That’s not what she said. She said, “Yes. I thought he’d like it. I got it at Broadway. It was very expensive.”
I never opened that bottle. I re-wrapped it and took it to school for the secret Santa gift exchange. I had now made some other 12 year-old miserable. I felt bad about that. But it needed to be done.
I am sure, in the many years since then, that bottle has been rewrapped and re-gifted at least 100 times. It’s still out there, too. Somewhere.
If you happen to ever get it as a gift, would you mind sending it back to me.
I have damaged hair.