Tuesday, January 13, 2009

You only annoy the ones you love.

In 1994, Counselor Shelley and I scratched one major thing off our Lifetime To Do list.

We spent a week in Paris. Granted, we were on a starving student budget – youth hostel accommodations, no five-star restaurants – and there was a language barrier to overcome, but we caught a ferry from Dover with high levels of excitement.

We hated Paris. With a passion you wouldn't believe. It held the record as worst trip ever for a long time (our 30th birthday trip to New Orleans finally displaced it). I know many people think it's equivalent to heresy to hate Paris, but by day three we were on the phone home begging our parents to change our plane tickets and get us the hell out of there. (They wouldn't.) The other kids at the Youth Hostel were begging their folks for more money, claiming they were never coming home while we were at the airport six hours early for our flight just so we wouldn't miss it.

(A tangent – there's a reason the word “Hostel” and “hostile” are pronounced the same way. Staying in the one is guaranteed to make you the other.)

We haven't been back, and at this point, we don't plan to.

However, if you've ever been in my office, your confusion at my feelings for Paris would be understandable. Most people think I must have loved Paris and end up with furrowed brow when I tell them otherwise.

My collection of Eiffel Towers confuses them. It's an odd collection of Towers, and every last one of them was given to me by Counselor Shelley.

That's what friends are for, right?

Shelley, of course, has an equally as impressive collection.

It's a tradition, now, in a way. A private joke, if you will. Dog knows if anyone else gave me an Eiffel Tower anything, it would be in the Goodwill box before I even got the Thank You note written.

Last year, I gave her a four-inch, rhinestone encrusted Eiffel Tower paperweight. It was fabulously tacky. This year, though, Shelley hit a new high (or low, depending on how you look at it) with these:

Yes, Playfriends, those are hot pink toe socks with an Eiffel Tower and “Oo la la” on them. That's also a chicken you see on them, but I'm confused as to why anyone would tie a chicken to the Eiffel Tower. They're hideous, but I must wear them with proper reverence. Hey, at least they are warm (even if the toe things drive me a bit batty).

Nothing like opening a box with a beautiful cashmere sweater and horrific toe socks in it and trying to keep a straight face at the incongruity of the set.

We only torture the ones we love, right?

So are Shelley and I just weird? Anyone else give gifts just to annoy the snot out of the recipient – even if it's done with love? I think some families have traditional “bad” presents – like a fruitcake from 1984 that gets passed around. But this is different somehow. I don't get to give these socks back. I must accept them with the love and joy (and evil glee) in which they were given. I must appreciate the (evil) thought behind the gift. I must remember the (evil) shared experience.

I must start shopping for next Christmas's Eiffel Tower horror now.

Can't let Counselor Shelley think I don't love her anymore, you know.


*No offense to any French readers. I also spent a week in the Trois Vallees – Courchevel, specifically – and adored it. The fabulous food, the great people, the amazing scenery. I'd go back in a heartbeat, even though my skiing skills have not improved. It was just Paris... I didn't particularly care for Minneapolis either – but at least no one put egg on my pizza...


Playground Monitor said...

Oh. My. God! I'm not sure you can ever top those socks.

I've been to Paris twice. It would be the perfect vacation spot if they'd ship all the locals out of the city. The DH worked at the American Embassy there and every morning the snippy Parisian woman who worked in the cafeteria refused to give him his croissant and butter until he correctly pronounced butter in French. She'd squeeze his cheeks to help him along. He'd have decked her if it wouldn't have damaged US/French relations. By the end of his assignment there, he hated butter and ate his croissant with only marmalade.

Give me Austria or the Netherlands any day.

We don't have any bad gifts games, but we used to hide Andes mint wrappers at my mother's house and wait to see how long it took for her to find them. I believe I hold the distinction of "Most Creative" hiding place. I unrolled the toilet paper a little bit, placed the wrapper on the roll and then rolled the paper back in place. When my mother unrolled the tissue the next time and the paper fluttered out at her, you could hear the scream clear across the house. I guess that's my inner wild child at play again.

PM's Mother said...

PM, you just think you had the most innovative hiding place for Andes mint wrappers...my friend George put a number of them on the ceiling fan blades in the living room (where I hardly ever turn on the fan) and then complained about it being stuffy in the room. When I turned on the fan, wrappers flew everywhere. You tied!

Worf verification - "pande" - must be short for "pandemoneum" as in when the wrapper fell out of the toilet paper!

Maven Linda said...

For years, just because I could, I'd drop lint and other tiny things in DH's work boots. He was completely bewildered, because it was never anything big and obvious . . . mostly just the little pieces of lint you mysteriously find in a house.

He never said anything about it, but one day he caught me doing it and from his reaction I gather the lint problem in his boots had been driving him nuts :-).

M.V.Freeman said...

LOL, I also found Paris hostile (the countryside was a diff. story). But, the only redeeming thing was the Louvre.

And since I'm from the Twin Cities (Minneapolis & St. Paul), You know that's a frigid place...LOL And hence, I am no longer living there...

As for gifts..., I'm with P.M., you can't top those socks!

Smarty Pants said...

My grandmother made a joke years ago about how one day, when she was rich (ha), she would get one of those fountains with the frog spitting water. (Cause the boy peeing is too tacky...) From there on, my mother started buying her the ugliest frog things she can find. You'd think she liked frogs. Nope. Just an inside joke since its as close as she'll ever get to her fountain unless she's living in my guest house.

Anonymous said...

No crazy stuff in my family, just the crazy family. I've never been outside the country, so no comment from me on that.
word verification: affisto

Angel said...

My husband's family has an interesting tradition for Christmas each year called Homey Claus. Anonymous gifts arrive under the tree for the family get together, supposedly from him. They end up being gag gifts related to something stupid you did that year or something funny in general. Wigs for men going bald, shoe candy for the shoe obsessed among us, butt spackle for one family member notorious for showing her crack... Leads to lots of laughter and fun on Christmas Eve, let me tell ya.


Darling Geek said...

Am I allowed to point out that "hostel" and "hostile" aren't pronounced the same?

Also... "butt spackle"?

Wait... I don't want to know...

Problem Child said...

DG, I think it depends on where you live...

In other words, leave my accent alone! :-)

Crystal Lee said...

Those are some of the most eye-opening socks I've ever seen. Oh, my! I have some witchy socks, toes and all, but none to rival these. Yep, I'm having a bit of difficulty thinking my way past those socks...

Instigator said...

You two crack me up! And I agree...those socks are going to be hard to top.

Hmm...don't think we have any weird family gift traditions. Perhaps I should start one.


Linda Winstead Jones said...

I'll have you know we've only been passing that fruitcake around since 1987, not 84. In the name of detail . . .

The socks are priceless. :-)


Christine said...

I love Paris, but I am aware of the fact that Paris is about as much like France as NYC is like the USA... it is unlike the rest of the nation (that's true of DC as well).

I love the socks and covet them for my daughter as we give her a "chicken" gift every year. Those socks would be perfect. We give chicken gifts because weirdos get chickens for Christmas and she is-- well--it's an inside joke that keeps going and going... I did great for a while with the chicken limbo games and Chicken Soup for the Soul, a few chicken movies, and now it's getting a bit harder. I did manage to find Chickens from Webkins... she has a FAMILY now. Sheesh

Maybe I should get the chickens?

And being from the Netherlands, I can say I love that country as well. But Amsterdam no longer holds any allure for me. Den Haag and the coastal areas are so nice, but Amsterdam is not really true Dutch to me anymore.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Those socks are absolutely hideous -- which makes them perfect, I suppose. :)

I loved Paris, but I was 18 and it was my first trip without my parents. I traveled with an art history class, and our assignments were to tour the Louvre, the Jeu de Paume, the Picasso museum, and some funky place of which I forget the name.

We stayed in a hotel. We drank wine and got propositioned by a dirty old man, we stumbled tipsily through the Latin Quarter. We went to someone's apartment for a 'salon', which was cool. Our professor was a hip lady with a doctorate in art, of course, and she spoke French fluently and had many friends there. It was a totally cool experience.

My only regret is that in all the years I lived about 5 hours from Paris, I never went back. :( Always wanted to, always ended up putting it off or doing something else.

My family doesn't have a gag gift tradition, and I can't remember a truly awful vacation to make into one. And I'm glad no one is going to give me socks that ugly. *g*

(Egg on pizza isn't bad, IMO, but I prefer it a bit more cooked than the French tend to do.)

Rhonda Nelson said...

Those socks are positively hideous! Well done, Shelley. :-)

Kathy said...

I went to Paris as child, but didn't get the chance to go back when I was older, even though I could have gone. What I wouldn't give to see the Louvre, especially after seeing the movie, The Davinci Code.

We don't give joke gifts. I actually never thought of it before. LOL!

My girls would love your toe socks, PC! ;)

word verfic: preogie
(Sounds like something that would happen in a hostel. ;)

Angel said...

Egg on pizza sounds nasty, but that's just me. And my daughter would love toe socks too.

I've never been out of the country, except to Scotland, but Paris has never been high on my list of places to see. Now, London I'd go for any day.