The consolation prize

I have several pieces of jewellery and I like them all, mostly because I chose them and bought them myself. I also have one ring that my parents bought for me, and I do love it, but story of how they came to buy it for me still makes me laugh (in a "laugh or cry" kind of way).

This is the ring. The stone is a grape garnet, which means it looks deep red when it's on my hand and has a purplish tinge if you hold it up to the light. I'd like to say that the channels on the sides contain diamonds but alas, they only contain cubic zirconias. (Zirconiae?) Anyway, they're shiny and I don't care that they're not 'real'. I love this ring.



In my family we no longer exchange Christmas gifts, but for a number of years there we did a Kris Kringle type of thing, where everyone draws a name out of a hat and you buy one gift and receive one gift. It's not a true Kris Kringle because it's not anonymous but the idea is similar.

A number of years ago I happened to be the first one to arrive at my parents' house for Christmas lunch. Neither of my parents had drawn my name in the gift draw so I wasn't expecting a gift from either of them. When I walked in my parents looked at me very seriously and said, "Sit down; we want to talk to you." I sat. My father continued, "Now... you don't have a husband." He paused and seemed to be waiting for a response. I said, in the type of voice one uses when addressing the dangerously confused, "No-o-o, I don't. Well spotted." My parents then explained that they'd become quite concerned about the unfairness of the Kris Kringle system, because it meant that I received one present only, whereas my siblings, who all have partners, received the Kris Kringle gift AND a gift from their partners. To try to even things up, they'd bought me this ring. So, in effect, they bought me a shiny, shiny ring to make up for the fact that I don't have a husband.

I find a whole lot of things about this very strange, but the weirdest for me is that they had clearly been sitting there for a couple of years doing a mental calculation on who gets what for Christmas. I hadn't even noticed who gets what and I had never given a second thought to the fact that my siblings might get gifts from their partners (and I should point out that not all of them do, but that possibility apparently didn't exist in my parents' minds). I would not describe my parents as materialistic by any means but they seem to have a blip in their brains when it comes to Christmas presents. Everything has to be FAIR and EVEN. In that spirit, they didn't want me to tell my siblings about the ring because they might find it unfair that my parents bought me a gift but not them. Anyone who's ever watched a sit-com can see the potential for disaster inherent in this whole situation.

Although I liked the ring, it did occur to me that this would happen every single year unless I put a stop to it. How to do that though, was tricky. I didn't want to throw the gift back in their faces, even figuratively, because although their reasoning both confused and annoyed me, it was well-meant. I decided the only solution was to make a joke of it... so for the next several months I took to referring to the ring as my "consolation prize gift" or my "husband substitute". My sisters joined in the joke and even my parents found it funny in the end. I had high hopes that this meant they wouldn't do the same thing the following year.

Who was I kidding? They bought me a camera.

The year after that they stopped buying me gifts and I think they've forgotten about it all now, but to this day I refer to the ring as the consolation prize - as in, "What jewellery are you wearing to the party?" "Well, I thought I'd wear the gold locket, my consolation prize ring and these earrings..."

Parents. Baffling, but mostly harmless.


4 comments:

Dee from Downunder said...

Parents do strange things... I have borrowed money off my parents still owe them a bit, but every year, they slip a money or a gift card into the christmas presents.

Just think, you have the ring without all the hassles of a husband.

Givinya De Elba said...

Dee said it well!!

I just loved these: "I said, in the type of voice one uses when addressing the dangerously confused..."

And also: "Parents. Baffling, but mostly harmless."

Hippomanic Jen said...

Very pretty ring. Sorry about the whole "laugh or cry" part of the equation. It's sweet of them to think of you, but not necessary - and where did they get the whole ring makes up for not being married thing anyway?

I struggled a bit when I was single because my Mum does have an tinge of "I've enjoyed and been fulfilled in married life, therefore my daughter is missing out".

Now I enjoy being married, but I was 100% of a person beforehand and I am 100% of a person now. I prefer life within marriage, but only because the other part of the partnership is my Beloved. I don't think I'd enjoy being married to anyone else (and boy, are there some horror stories out there).

It's okay, though, Mum's moved onto the fact that we have no kids. So it never stops.

Yep. "Baffling, but mostly harmless."

Femina said...

Yes, well that's the thing, my parents aren't happily married. Actually I don't know what my dad thinks - I suspect he's content to put up with the status quo - but my mother isn't happy and does very little except complain about men in general and my father in particular. There's a whole lot of history behind that, obviously, but given the circumstances it astonishes me that she would want me to be married when she sees marriage as such a disaster. And it's not just her marriage - she complains about my dad's brother (who is married to my mum's twin sister), my other uncle, my brothers-in-law, marriages on tv, etc etc.

Hmmm... now it makes me wonder WHY she wants me to marry....

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