GEMINI JIVE • The Robe: A Holiday Parable of Excess and Ecstasy

December 17, 2008


me-mask1Maralyn Lois PolakOperation Itch Contributor    
 (c)MLPolak 2008   See all GEMINI JIVE
People get nuts around this time of year trying to use gift-giving to make up for having an unhappy or unfortunate childhood, so shopping often becomes an exercise in personal pathology rather than an expression of generosity.  You think NOW they will really really love you if you get them this PERFECT gift. Sure, I’ve actually done that myself, but I’m better now, aren’t I,  Dr. Briggs? 


We all must know someone like this: an underemployed woman let’s call “Lydia,” not her real name,  scrambling and struggling to pay her bills for basic necessities like food and rent, who actually starts her compulsive holiday gift shopping in July and spends way beyond her means for present after present for long-suffering friends who inevitably will then watch her periodically crash and burn since she still doesn’t have enough to eat.

 Lydia, Lydia.

 As for me, I’ve passed through indiscriminately purchasing presents for the masses and gone way beyond worrying if Re-Gifting’s all that tacky. What currently concerns me is the process of UNGIFTING– unloading leftover gifts from the formerly fabulous OLD BOYFRIEND COLLECTION after I can no longer stand to have the items under my roof.
  Hey, here’s conclusive proof it’s unhealthy to think about politics 24-7 —  Humanity needs a break from such High Seriousness!

 I mean, do you believe  objects have lives of their own? Do they become imbued even temporarily with the essence of their possessor? We’ve all seen movies like “The Sisterhood of the Flying Pants,” so you know what I’m saying, right?

 For instance.  I  finally, yes, happily broke up with  Grumpy Guy recently. He was not particularly a gift-giver unless you picked it out for yourself at the Dollar Store while he was standing there alongside you. Anyway, I was stuck with  his cast-off ratty flannel black-watch-plaid Ralph Lauren bathrobe he had given me when I got him one of those lusciously thick unbelievably luxe imported Hammacher-Schlemmer white terrycloth Turkish bathrobes — now as grungy as its predecessor.

 Yup. The Robe!

 Well, once it was definitely OVER,  I decided I just didn’t want Grumpy Guy’s grungy old robe hanging around in my house any more. Wearing it felt creepy, like a clingy, smothering embrace from the Undead or something. At first I thought I’d mail the robe back to him — he lives in another state– and even went so far as packing it in a large padded envelope, which, natch, lay around in the living room for over a month, mocking me.

 Then I realized why bother sending it back when I can barely even bring myself to speak with him right now. Eventually I put the robe out on the street, hoping a needy person would avail themselves of this fashion opportunity. Alas, it was still there a few hours later when I returned from my errands. No one bothered to take it.  

 I confess I briefly considered re-gifting it awhile back to a good  male friend of mine, but nah, all  the complaining Grumpy Guy did probably lingered in the robe. Better disperse it  among strangers– someone else might be happy to be wearing a Ralph Lauren label while being innocent about the garment’s pathetic romantic history.

 Last Friday I visited a thrift shop in my old nabe and noticed a sign on the door ‘NO DONATIONS UNTIL AFTER THE HOLIDAYS’ but when I told the manager about the  Ralph Lauren robe she smiled conspiratorially and told me just bring it on a Tuesday or Wednesday. So I did, after a night of sleepless torment because I was obsessing having its bad vibes around. I swear, I could feel it pulsing with Grumpy Guy’s grumpy energy. Anyway,  I realized it would be happy there, a robe from Grumpy Guy at the grumpy old guy store, just in time for holiday gift-giving. The next day, I deactivated and recycled the cell-phone he had given me to remain in constant contact at the time. I can’t tell you how much lighter I feel now.  Ecstatic, even. Free!

 Sounds cold, huh? Unfeeling? Uncaring? Narcissistic. I’m not, really I’m not. Much.

 Right around this time of year I especially long for my late Grandma Rose, who’d always send me $5 in an envelope for any vaguely holiday occasion — especially ChanSolKwanMas– whether I needed it or not. I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful that was–  unexpected money in the mail from her was our version of that popular old TV show, “The Millionaire.”

 I miss her. I really do.

 Once, when I was five,  I was riding my bicycle on the sidewalk along Sunset Avenue in Asbury Park, and a man kind of collided his van with my bike as he pulled into a driveway without looking. Of course I was fine,  except for a bumped knee, but he gave me $5 anyway.  Fortunately that did not launch my career slipping on banana peels for cash.

 Somehow I managed to survive relatively unscathed and here I am, an adult and all that entails, yet still thrilled to receive money in the mail, like paychecks or IRS refunds. Presents? They’re another story

 My first and only ex-husband so far didn’t believe in gifting during our marriage, although he’s definitely improved over the years of our subsequent friendship. Years later, an alluring but penniless boyfriend would buy me the best, I tell you, the absolute bestest presents… with money he pilfered from my purse!  Now, of course, he’s rich, remarried for the umpteenth time and living in a wealthy California suburb, buying his wife condos in Colorado. Oh, well.

 Be that as it may, once again it’s the season to give presents.  Which reminds me,  would anyone out there be interested in a precious-looking Tiffany-style stained-glass candle-holder from the Old Boyfriend Collection? Perfect for the, um, holidays? Cough, cough, cough. So,  dear ones, near and far,   no presents, please. If you feel  the need, kindly pick a charity in my name, instead.  No  dilemmas, no angst. Me, I’m downsizing. Like my spiritual advisor “Sforza Destino,” not his real name, I aspire someday to live in one room. A cat, a computer, a few books, some simple clothes, a plant or two. 

 Dig it: Gimme-Gimme has become Gimme-a-Break. Is that so wrong?

© Copyright 2008 ML Polak/All Rights Reserved. DO NOT reproduce or disseminate in ANY form via any medium under penalty of beheading. Yes, you can link to me. But that’s it. Contact author for syndication rates and tell your local newspaper editor they need to run this column before actual newspapers go extinct like the dodo, the auk, the bison, and real men.


ML Polak — it’s not a pen-name, it’s a real person! — is an award-winning Philadelphia-based journalist, screenwriter, essayist, novelist, editor, spoken-word artist, performance poet, workshop leader, lecturer, cat-and-dog companion, Reiki channel, and occasional radio personality. With architect Benjamin Nia, she completed a short documentary film about the threatened demolition of a historic neighborhood, “MY HOMETOWN: Preservation or Development?” on DVD. She is the author of several books including the collection of literary profiles, “The Writer as Celebrity: Intimate Interviews,” and her latest volume of poetry, “The Bologna Sandwich and Other Poems of LOVE and Indigestion.” Her books can be ordered by contacting her directly via email: Langwidge(at)aol.com       


One comment

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