the hostage videos, the barfing owl, and other holiday gift debacles

Earlier this month, I asked you to share the worst and weirdest office holiday gift debacles you’ve seen. Here are eight of my favorites. (Not all are safe for work!)

Also, if you missed the office holiday round-up earlier this week, it’s here, with tales of foraged mushrooms and a rare books department gone wild.

1. The disturbing rummage sale

A long time ago, I worked in a place with a holiday gift exchange of the “randomly draw a name to give a small gift to” kind. Our new boss said she didn’t want to be in the exchange because she was getting everyone something.

On the day of the holiday party, she came in late, with many huge cardboard boxes, and commandeered one of the long tables we needed to set up the potluck. Then she sent everyone out of the meeting room and locked it. At noon, she told us the rules: we’d all draw to go into the room and pick an item off the table. Then, after everyone had had a turn, we’d go again, until all the items were gone. She gave us all supermarket plastic bags to hold our treasures.

Several people went in and came out with stunned expressions and then it was my turn. The table was covered with the oddest selection of used items — hairpieces, costume jewelry with broken clasps or missing stones or other damage, broken toys, opened puzzles, well-read paperbacks, clothes with tears or stains, hairbrushes (with hair in them), combs, barrettes, the free notepads you get left on your doorstep by Realtors, small dusty stuffed toys, on and on. There were hundreds of items. No one wanted any of it. And she expected thanks from each of us each time we exited the meeting room.

People started taking as many items as they could fit in a grocery bag on each trip (emptying it into the dumpster out back immediately after), but it still took hours. And we couldn’t do the gift exchange or eat the potluck food until it was done. We finally ate lunch at 3:30. We sanitized the table with bleach before we set up the food.

Among the last items on the table were a not at all new pair of panties and what I think and hope was a large pestle without a mortar. I don’t know who finally broke down and took them.

2. The varicose veins

My friend went to a holiday work luncheon where everyone had drawn names for small gifts. My friend was in the midst of her first pregnancy at the time. The woman who drew my friend’s name was not someone who worked closely with my friend and they didn’t know each other well. My friend was curious to see what this person would be giving her. She was expecting a small gift card to a coffee shop, or a mug, or some such item. My friend was handed a gift bag. Upon opening the gift bag, she saw several sheets of regular office paper stapled together. She lifted out the paper and read the words, “How to prevent and treat varicose veins.” This person had gone online and printed up an article about the topic saying, “When I was pregnant, I got varicose veins. I wish I’d had this information back then, so I wanted to gift that to you.” That was the entire gift.

3. The unintended message

When I first started college I got an on-campus job so I mainly worked with other students. As an 18-year-old freshman, I was the youngest person there, and most of the other student workers were between 3-5 years older than me. There was a guy Fergus who was one of the older student workers and I remember thinking that he was very cool and I was much less worldly than he was. He had mentioned going camping several times so I also was impressed that he was outdoorsy (I was easily impressed at the time, and clearly pretty sheltered).

We would all attend the same parties and one weekend Fergus was having a birthday party and he invited everyone from work. I was excited to be invited to the party and went to get him a small birthday present. Since I was too young to buy a bottle of wine and didn’t have a lot of money I went to a store that sold novelty shot glasses because that was the only thing I could think of.

I saw a shot glass that said “I Hunt Beaver” with a picture of a beaver on it and since I was so naive and sheltered I took it at face value and thought it was perfect because he was into “the outdoors” and I assumed that meant hunting. This was also during the time that everyone had “vintage” t-shirts that had random expressions. I did NOT know the other lewd and true meaning of the statement.

So I bought that obscene shot glass and gave it to him at the party in front of people. I remember he looked a bit perplexed but I didn’t think anything of it until another coworker told me what it meant and I was so mortified that I really don’t even remember much about that night afterward and I was too embarrassed to explain to him. I think I avoided him at work for a good two months afterward. Shudder.

4. The barfing owl

This wasn’t even supposed to be a White Elephant gift. My coworker gave me a trio of little carved wooden owls in the motif of “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” only… they shipped separately for some reason and the only one that was delivered on time for our gift exchange was the Speak No Evil owl. Without the other two, it just looks like an owl that has clamped its wings over his mouth like it’s about to barf or it’s horrified by something you just said/did. I loved my little barf owl and was almost disappointed when the other two showed up sometime in January.

5. The mistaken gift

At my first job, we had a secret Santa and my friend drew my name. On the day of the event, he accidentally brought his boyfriend’s gift instead of the one for me. We get to the point where folks are opening gifts and he realizes his mistake. He literally tackled me like he was jumping on a grenade to stop me from opening the gift. The gift was a holiday themed butt plug. He explained, apologized, and brought my gift the next day

6. The French bulldog

Gift giver at my organization’s Dirty Santa gave a framed photo of his French bulldog one year.

Another year, a calendar of said bulldog.

And yet another year, a calendar of his feet. Festively posed and accessorized depending on the month.

Note from Alison: It is not clear if the feet were the dog’s or the coworker’s, but I am hoping the dog’s.

7. The instructions for wives

One year the school I taught at gave all female staff members a copy of Created to Be His Helpmeet as our Christmas gift. It is an extreme Christian fundamentalist book about how to be a good wife and includes directions on how to belly dance for your husband and what to do if your husband wants to do illegal things. All female staff – married and single – received this book. My roommate, a fellow teacher, mailed hers to her mother. I shoved my copy under my roommate’s bed, and months later she found it, forgot she had already mailed hers, and sent this copy to her mother as well.

8. The hostage videos

My old boss that told my old coworkers had to each record her an individualized holiday greeting video for her saying how much they appreciate her and then played it on a loop on her computer until the next Christmas. Thankfully I no longer worked there because I would not have been able to do it without swearing or getting snarky.

{ 163 comments… read them below }

  1. Eukomos*

    #1 sounds very much like a hoarder who found a way to rationalize getting rid of some items. Doesn’t sound like fun for anyone else, but they can at least feel good about probably helping someone struggling with hoarding disorder let go of some items and make her house a little safer?

    1. Batgirl*

      I had the same idea about hoarding, but I doubt it would have helped. The boss is still very much in denial about the value of the items and probably just replaced it with more crap as soon as the room was available for it.

    2. Cat Tree*

      I had that idea too. My mom is a very organized hoarder (also a compulsive cleaner so it *sorta* balances out but with a lot of anxiety around it). She never fully got over her empty nest so she still buys and cooks way more food than she needs, because she thinks she’s doing a favor for her grown children who have been cooking for ourselves and our families for 20 years. Every time I visit she gives me a bag of freezer burned food to take home. I know it makes her feel useful to do it, so I just thank her and toss it in the garbage as soon as I get home, along with any junk mail that comes to get house with my name on it which she insists on saving for me.

      Unfortunately, hoarding has a hereditary component so I got it to. But fortunately I recognized it in myself long ago and got treatment for it, which got me to a functional level. One thing that really helps is those junk hauler companies because they will donate what’s useful and trash the rest, so it removes the responsibility from me of having to decide what is worth donating.

      1. LavaLamp*

        Those Junk hauling companies are so nice. I got stuck with a piano as a kid. Grandma didn’t want to pay to move it to the mountains, so I was stuck with a full Hamilton upright piano in my bedroom for years. It was so out of tune it, it had to be restrung. First I looked for local churches who might want an extra piano. Nope. Turns out they get a lot of free pianos. So I ended up having it hauled to the dump.

      2. Ace in the Hole*

        I grew up with hoarder parents who didn’t think they were hoarders because they grew up with even worse hoarders. Fortunately I think I’ve finally broken the cycle… last time I moved house I was able to fit all my stuff in three trips with my pickup truck (including the furniture!!!).

        This was what we’d do for grandma though. If she wanted to give you something, no matter what it was, you’d accept it and thank her and then quietly dispose of it in whatever way was appropriate. The only problem was her memory was sharper than a barber’s razor and she would notice if you didn’t have the gifts around next time she visited, and she’d get very passive-aggressive about it. I remember one shirt in particular she gave me when I was 12… she would still bring it up that she never saw me wearing it by the time I left for college. Even though 1. I wore it plenty, but not to dinner with grandma because it was a t-shirt, and 2. it didn’t fit anymore because I grew during high school… like most people do!

        Since her whole side of the family operated this way I now have a lot of issues around gifts. Gift cards and baked goods are so much less stressful!

    3. CanadianPublicServant*

      Sadly, I actually need a pestle – mine broke, and its hard to find one without a mortar!

    4. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      This made me think of two people I knew at the same time/place, one a neighbor and one a coworker.

      One day the coworker brought me a lot of old used makeup. She really thought I’d want, appreciate, and–gak!–USE it.

      Another time, a neighbor who’d told me about her mental illness diagnosis, gave me a bunch of opened, outdated food she didn’t want. She really thought I’d want, appreciate, and–gak!–USE it.

      Interesting people in my life back then…

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, I was a bit concerned for the boss as I was reading #1. That said, “and what I think and hope was a large pestle without a mortar” was a much-needed laugh for my morning, thanks, OP!

  2. Former Employee*

    #1 & #8: I wonder if these two bosses are related to each other.

    Seriously, how could the boss from the first unfortunate OP possibly think that anyone would want any of that stuff? Could it have been a prank from someone without a clue?

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I’m not sure whether to feel sad or angry at #8 as I can’t tell if it’s coming from a place of narcissism (driven by something) or just an egotistical boss, but I don’t think it has any relation to the mentality of the “hoarder” boss.

  3. Turanga Leela*

    The barfing owl is filling me with holiday spirit. That was exactly the story I needed today. Glad its friends eventually arrived.

      1. Quill*

        Same! Innocent, hilarious mistake that doesn’t involve anyone’s unsanitary junk or any callous and embarrassing questions.

    1. Vicky Austin*

      Also my favorite. I was horrified when I saw the title and thought “I sure hope that no one gave their co-worker a live owl who barfed all over the office!”

  4. Moxie*

    I feel so bad for the person who purchased the “beaver” gift! I had to do an urban dictionary search because I didn’t know either. Ugh. I once unintentionally said a lewd thing in a work setting and was super embarrassed later when I came to understand what it meant. It makes for funny stories later… Much, much later.

    1. LDF*

      My company holds some staff event every year and always has a contest among employees to design the free event shirt. One design won and made it as far as being printed on shirts and distributed to all employees… and then the shirts were quickly “recalled” and replaced with new shirts because the original design was basically a dick joke. In the defense of whoever originally approved it, you’d need to have watched some specific tv show to get the reference, it wasn’t as general as “beaver”, but I majorly side-eye the person who submitted it. They knew.

        1. LDF*

          It was some reference to Silicon Valley – I never watched it but that’s what I was told by employees in the know. Like it was similar to a logo that was in the show and some characters said it was basically a dick. Maybe someone who knows the show better than I can could explain it better! But I talked to the original shirt designer and that’s definitely why they submitted it.

          1. MBK*

            Silicon Valley had one 4-minute scene containing what was essentially an elaborate dick joke. It’s not something I think Alison would want directly linked here, but it’s easy enough to Google. I can’t quite picture what graphic/logo would represent it, though. It’s mostly a situational/dialogue gag.

                1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                  I never watched that show, so I googled “silicon valley pied piper logo” and found pics. I don’t see anything remotely dicklike about it. What am I missing?

                2. LOL*

                  It’s definitely the (first) pied piper logo. They said that the flute the piper was … playing … looks like a dick. Eventually that logo later changed to two Ps and then just the hat.

            1. Edwina*

              I have to say, that show was very uneven, and the innate misogyny of the writers (and some of the act0rs) kept creeping through, but that one scene was absolutely hilarious and exactly what the whole show should have been.

          2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

            There was a signature (in the manner of “signed by Steve Jobs” or something like that) on the product being sold in the show, the proprietor was “Gavin Belson” which was abbreviated to GavinB, and let’s just say they made the right hand side of the B into a key design element ;-)

    2. Tinkerbell*

      I work in education. The art department at my school had a contest to create a poster for Earth day. One student created a lovely poster which read: Save a Tree, E— A Beaver (I will let you fill in the missing letters). The art teacher had no clue about the reference, so it was hung in the hallway. In very short order, a more clued in colleague said to her, “You can’t leave this poster up!” She was bewildered until the meaning was explained. It came down quickly, but it was up long enough for some snickering and giggling by students and teachers alike. That story is still told in the teacher’s lounge and it’s been over 15 years.

      1. Frieda*

        A sorority on the campus where I work for whatever reason has a beaver as their mascot. Years ago some nice undergrad had on a t-shirt with a slogan I can no longer remember but it was along the lines of “Best Beavers!” or “Beaver Power!” and after a few minutes at the same lunch table I finally leaned over and asked as delicately as possible if she … knew the slang reference?

        She replied pretty snottily that it was her SORORITY’S MASCOT, tyvm. I let it go but found it hilarious.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Just think about what Oregon State University sport fans have to deal with :) Their mascot is the beaver.

          1. Quill*

            My high school’s mascot was… also the name of a brand of condoms.

            Fortunately not a very cheap brand or we’d have gotten samples thrown at us more…

        2. Le Sigh*

          One of my hs coaches went to University of South Carolina. The mascot is the Gamecocks and they would wear Gamecocks hats to practice, but with the first half — “game” — omitted. We’d all snicker and they’d tell us to grow up. Which on the one hand, fair, but on the other, we were 15 and you’re the one wearing a hat with slang for penises stamped across it.

      2. Jo*

        When I was finishing high school, autograph books were all the rage… most people wrote one of the ten or so popular rhymes used in the seven books, your close friends wrote a personal message, some just signed their name. Before going to my forty year school reunion last year, I got the book out to reread, as i’ve Done often over the years, and was horrified that I now knew what that phrase means, because it was written in my book…by my history teacher!! And I remember sharing what people had written with friends, even my mum and dad, and no one picked up on it. I was livid, it would certainly be a big disciplinary issue today!

      3. LemonLime*

        One year our 4-H did an anti mosquito campaign, basically telling people to dump out standing water to reduce mosquito populations. One 5th grader’s poster won which showed various items around a backyard that held standing water (a tire swing, bucket, bird bath etc.) with mosquito’s hovering all over the poster. Unfortunately the mosquitos were drawn as one long oval with two small circles at the base as wings. so the poster looked like a lot of small p….. flying around. It was hilarious and innocent and I’d like to believe more people were compelled to read the message about dumping out standing water because they were confused as to what those flying things were…. so a successful campaign!

    3. Cat Tree*

      My friend has a coworker that wears a shirt with a giant eggplant emoji on it, not realizing what it is often used to mean. Apparently it was a free gift from a local company that uses it as their logo, also apparently not knowing what it means. I hope the alternative use is obscure enough that this guy isn’t embarrassing himself constantly, but I’m in my late 30s and know what it means so it can’t be that obscure.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I didn’t know about the peach! I’ve been using it for Georgia since the Nov election! *facepalm*

    4. D3*

      The town of Beaver, UT didn’t know it either. And made a bunch of unintentionally funny merchandise for sale ages ago. And boy did it sell well! They’ve since kind of embraced it and expanded the line, which is odd, considering it’s a small, conservative Mormon town that is pretty much just a stop on the interstate. But go into the gas stations and convenience stores and there’s so. much. Beaver. stuff.

      Knew a guy from there in college and he said that lots of locals were embarrassed by it but it made the town a lot of money.

      1. just a random teacher*

        I once taught in a small logging town. The high school mascot, as is the case for many logging towns, is the Logger. So, logically enough, they decided their middle school’s mascot should be the Topper.

        I felt completely unable to explain to them why city folks might see that word a bit differently if they weren’t familiar with the logging meaning or weren’t given careful context cues. I still have a “Topper” lanyard somewhere in a box. (It either said just Toppers, Go Toppers, or Topper Pride – I no longer remember which. I know there were no trees on it, though.)

        1. Beth Jacobs*

          Oh that’s some pretty obscure slang. I don’t think it’s a common association, probably just your mind. Not even urban dictionary lists a sex-related definition of the stand-alone word (though it knows it if you combine it with genitalia).
          I’m a city person and my associations are: mattress topper and top hat :)
          You can’t ban everything that has ever been used as innuendo, because then you’d have no words in the English language left.

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            Yeah, I’ve never heard that one and still don’t get it. What does it even mean?

            1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

              Never mind , I see you said how to find it at Urban Dictionary. I read too fast the 1st time and thought you said Urban Dictionary didn’t have it at all.

          2. in the air*

            I definitely wouldn’t say it’s obscure. The phrase “topper” itself isn’t used as far as I’m aware, but it’s close enough to the more commonly used label that the sexual connotations are hard to ignore! It was the first place my mind went and I think a lot of people I know would react the same way. (There might be a generational/cultural gap with that phrase though.)

    5. Is it tea time yet?*

      I was living overseas and inadvertently said something lewd to a group of men at an event. Oh, the dangers of learning to speak a new language! One of them, who spoke good English, nervously took me aside and explained what I had said. Poor guy – it’s hard to tell who was more embarrassed – him for having to explain, or me once I understood why all of them had turned purple when I said it….

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Ahhh I have two new-immigrant stories – one of them was something I said!

        So, story one. My second year in the US, a male coworker and I were talking about our preschool-aged sons. His was apparently a holy terror, whereas mine was the quiet researcher type, into Legos and building blocks and actual real electronic parts that he would build “TVs” with. Which I phrased to him as “oh, mine just sits in a corner all day playing with himself” and then wondered why my coworker suddenly had to cut our chat short as he’d just remembered he had somewhere else he needed to be.

        Story two, that I read on an immigrant forum. A guy wrote about how he’d had an extra banana that he wanted to share with his teammates, so he left it on a table in the breakroom. To make it clear that the fruit was there for sharing, he posted a sticky note next to the banana, that said, simply, “EAT ME”. He had no idea of the second meaning.

    6. Chinookwind*

      I hate how the fact that this urban definition became so popular because a respected Canadian history magazine had to rebrand itself because it kept getting blacklisted as porn. Long live “The Beaver.”

    7. Ace in the Hole*

      That sounds so embarassing… and having been in a similar dynamic (youngest by a LOT right out of high school on a team of much more experienced/worldly people), I can definitely imagine myself having made a similar mistake. In fact I HAVE made similar mistakes although I have erased most of them from my memory!

      If it’s any reassurance your youth and naievete tend to work in your favor on stuff like this. People will give you a pass because they realize it was an innocent mistake, and years later you can laugh about it together. The main risk (in terms of professional reputation) is just reinforcing how young you are, but that’s not the end of the world.

      1. Quill*

        It’s always professionally better to be the innocent one, not the one who brought it up knowing what it meant.

    8. yala*

      I’m reminded of some of the commentary for Batman the Animated Series. There’s an episode where Harley, the Joker’s girlfriend, leaves him to go stay with her friend Ivy. When he finds them, the original line was “Well, haven’t you two been busy little beavers.” It actually made it past the censors, even tho it was more one of those things they put in to distract the censors from something else, but at the last minute the writers decided to change it to {bees” anyway.

    9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      That story elicited a loud “OH MY GOD!” from me.

      OP – but did he, though? hunt it, I mean? You say he was much older and “worldly”.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I read it as the dog’s feet, mostly because of the nonchalant (vs squicked out) way it was presented as a natural evolution of the previous year’s calendar and I am 95%+ sure it was the dog’s feet.

      However… my mind did go to picturing the co-worker’s feet (in a generic “male feet” sort of way, not anything NSFW) posed in various costumed and accessorized positions, and I have a vivid imagination so naturally I generated some of these images (again, with generic male feet) in my mind: May Day, etc.

      1. I take tea*

        I definitely read it as the guy’s feet, because it said “his feet” and not “its paws”. My imagination runs wild. Feet in snow. Feet with spring flowers between the toes. Feet joyously paddling in water. Feet stuck in a pumpkin. Feet under a mistletoe…

        Now I really want to make a calender :-D

  5. Talia*

    Patheos had excerpts from Created to Be His Helpmeet at one point. It was… kind of terrifying. The impression I got from it was that wives apparently are not supposed to have free will.

    1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I really want to know what the roommate’s mother thought of getting not one but two copies of this book.

      1. KateM*

        I don’t remember when was the last time I was in danger of chocking on my food, but the sentence where the second copy was sent did it.

      2. Cubicles*

        I didn’t get why the roommate wanted to send it to her mother or anyone. Sounds like a terrible book that I would tear up and toss into the garbage, personally.

        1. Zweisatz*

          I concur. This would not go in my “regifting” bag except if I had an artist friend who would want to make some kind of statement with it.

    2. Batgirl*

      The title alone is kind of a brutal sideswipe at women to be honest. I wasnt expecting it to get much better.

    3. Early anon*

      Did it include what to do if husband wants to do illegal things?
      I wondered if the wife was told to support him or to report him to the pastor and let the pastor explain “illegal.”

      1. Cat Tree*

        It has been years since I cringe-snarked on that book, but IIRC the eye is supposed to obediently go along with the illegal behavior and her selfless act of obedience will inspire the husband to re-examine his behavior and do the right thing. Naturally, if that doesn’t actually work then it’s the wife’s fault for not having a truly obedient heart.

        That whole lifestyle is incredibly toxic.

        1. Reality Check*

          Actually they advised the wife to refuse to go along with the illegal behavior, and turn him in if the crime was serious enough.

      2. EmmaPoet*

        As I understand it, if your husband abuses your children, you are to report him to the police, but then take them to see him in prison and affirm his leadership role.

        Which, yikes.

    4. Feotakahari*

      “Helpmeet” is a peculiar take on the phrase anyway. There’s all kinds of argument over how best to translate it and what it actually says about Eve’s role. Look up “ezer kenegdo” if you’re curious.

      1. Lilyofthefield*

        Ooh, you are the ONLY other person I have ever personally seen that also knows about ezer kenegdo!!! I am THRILLED; this made my day! And I agree with what you posted; helpmeet is a very odd description of what God said about Eve, and the marital relationship He designed!

        1. Roja*

          Ha! I’ll join in making your day–I too know the meaning :) Seriously though, what an awful gift. I’ve only read the series on Love, Joy, and Feminism about it but that book is a whole pile of yikes. Actual, several piles of yikes.

      2. Hannah*

        Also, “helpmeet” is a crazy noun, one that’s basically grounded in confusion over the King James Bible’s original (and, as you point out, possibly not terrific) translation of Eve as “an help meet for” Adam, meaning, a help suitable for Adam. “Meet” is supposed to be an adjective modifying help, not part of the noun itself.

        Word dorkiness is the best dorkiness.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          Interesting! I don’t have a religious background, but as a word nerd I was wondering if the phrase had an origin along those lines. My first guess was some weird corruption of “help mate” though.

    5. Sleepless*

      The author of that book is none other than Debi Pearl, who co-wrote To Train Up A Child along with her husband. I can’t say I’m even surprised. Wow, how I don’t miss evangelical culture.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      This is the kind of book that you read aloud, as a group of friends, after everyone gets properly drunk/high.

      I had a then-online friend send me a booklet for teenagers, that he said had helped him out when he was a teen, that turned out to be a Jehovah Witness booklet printed in the 80s, with chapters on obeying your elders, dating (or lack thereof), two full chapters on how to quit pleasuring yourself, with real-life testimonials and color photos of teenagers in 80s clothes and with 80s hair. It was hilarious! He sent me two copies, so I gifted one to a friend who lived in another state, then who used it to have some healthy belly laughs reading it aloud with her husband and their local friends. I still have one copy somewhere. I cannot part with it, it is too good.

      1. Batgirl*

        I looked up some excerpts and the word “witchcraft” was used disparagingly to describe a woman with power only three quotations in to to my research, so in this culture I would be very, very wary of using a broom to exert power. Then again, as a Wiccan, I’m paranoid.
        My guess is the correct move would be to ask if he needs a getaway driver/someone to take the fall.

    1. KateM*

      I’m wondering whether those illegal things were along the lines of “not the most traditional way for intercourse”.

      1. Leenie*

        Probably not so much that kind of thing. This seems to be coming out the the same philosophy as the book “The Surrendered Wife.” I remember that one said that you shouldn’t tell your husband if he missed the exit or took a wrong turn while he was driving. You were supposed to let him be the man and figure it out for himself. Or something like that – it’s been 20 years since that book was out, so the concept stuck with me, but I may have some specifics wrong. There were some shockingly retrograde gender dynamics that were supposed to be based in religion that gained a lot of popularity from the 90’s through the 00’s. I haven’t read the book in question, but wouldn’t be surprised in the least if it said if your husband is a meth dealer, you should keep your mouth shut about it. Unfortunately I don’t think being a Help Meet or Surrendered Wife is a valid legal defense.

        1. Leenie*

          Just saw that someone above mentioned that if it’s serious enough the book says you’re supposed to turn him in. So that’s nice anyway.

        2. tangerineRose*

          “You were supposed to let him be the man and figure it out for himself.” A *real* man should be able to handle being around a woman who is right and who knows some things he doesn’t.

        3. Mel_05*

          So THAT’S where my sister’s friend got that! She posted about that on Facebook and while I have a fairly conservative Christian background, I was baffled!

    2. EmmaPoet*

      Well, if your husband beats you, it’s your fault and you have to be more godly. There’s one horrifying story of a woman whose husband attempted to murder her along with other physical abuse, but she stayed because God and her husband eventually stopped being a terrible person who needed a jail cell and a therapist because God.

      However, if he molests your kids, you are allowed to call the police! But then you have to take them to see him in prison 3-4 times a year. Because seeing their molester in jail will make them heal, apparently.

      Oy vey.

    3. EmmaPoet*

      According to a review I found, she does say that you don’t have to go along with him if he’s committing illegal acts, though spousal abuse seems to be something you should pray over rather than getting out.

  6. Mellow Yellow*

    I feel so bad for #2! It hits the worst parts of holiday gift exchanges AND of being pregnant- they received unsolicited pregnancy advice as well as a crappy gift that didn’t match what they’d put in to the exchange. I hope someone involved in the exchange took pity and arranged a better gift for them.

    1. Double A*

      I do have to say, my mother has varicose veins and the only piece of pregnancy advice I remember she ever giving was to wear support stockings when pregnant. I did during my first pregnancy and it didn’t get them. I’m about at the point with this pregnancy that I need to start!

      So I think it would have been an okay gift if it had *actually* been support stockings.

    1. Batgirl*

      Those sound like ideal gifts. I have two bosses: one got me Maltesers (I can’t eat them, because wheat intolerance), wine (don’t drink) and chocolate coins (win). The other got me gluten free chocolate snacks (win) a scratch card (alas Not, but nice thought) and a thankyou card (lovely). Stationery is a cracking good idea – I do have a stationery abuse problem though.

    2. Ace in the Hole*

      I’m in government so gifts pretty much have to be small, but we usually get something along the lines of a $5 gift card to a local coffee shop or a fancy cupcake. This year everyone got a travel mug and a little bottle of hand sanitizer. It was perfect – everyone can use those things.

    1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      There had to have been something more going on with that boss. It’s one thing to bring in something used and crappy for a gift exchange. I’ve heard enough stories of people doing that to know it’s not exactly uncommon. But the boxes of stuff and multiple hours ordeal is another level altogether.

    2. Mx*

      I wish each of them could have handed her their resignation letter as a “gift” exchange on that day ! On a crappy old dusty paper.

    3. Ash*

      I wonder what would have happened if someone had just said “no thank you, I don’t want any of these items.” Sometimes it just takes one person stating the obvious for everyone else to feel they are allowed to push back against the crazy.

      1. Ali + Nino*

        Yeah, I think I would have suddenly come down with something – severe and contagious – to get out of this situation. Which probably would have been a panic attack in reaction to the hoarded “goods.”

  7. E-N*

    I would have been delighted by the “barfing” owl as well! I also love french bulldogs (though not so much French bulldog (I hope) feet) and while it would have hit weird I still would have liked to see it.

    I’m so glad LW 5’s friend realized in time AND that they were already friends and so they were able to explain what had happened! I would be curious forever if someone wrestled my secret Santa gift away from me and I never even got to find out what was inside of it.

    1. Feotakahari*

      I really want to see this owl, because I interact with someone whose blog is owl-themed, and I think he’d appreciate it.

  8. Bulldog feet*

    Would the person who submitted #6 PLEASEPLEASE come back and specify whose feet? We need to know!!!

  9. Ash*

    LW7, were you teachers at a religious school? If a public one, it’s not only gross and misogynistic, it’s also literally a violation of the free association clause to distribute literature like this to all of your employees—ESPECIALLY to only one gender, which makes it a civil rights violation!

    1. KateM*

      And it wouldn’t have been really much better if it had been distributed to both genders, with the meaning “if you are male then give this to your (future) spouse to learn by heart”.

      1. Mx*

        That would still be very misogynistic, and assuming the spouse is necessarly the opposite sex, so not “better”.

      2. Genny*

        Oh don’t worry. There’s a companion book for men called “Created to Need a Helpmeet”. It’s equally horrific.

    2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      Yeah, I was majorly horrified by that one. If it was a public school it was beyond gross.

    3. Vicky Austin*

      I was thinking the same thing, “I sure hope it was a Christian school.” Even if it were a Christian school, it still would have been inappropriate on some level but in a public school it is SO out of line.

  10. matcha123*

    #1 sounds like someone who grew up in a well-off home and subscribes to “It’s still usable”. Literally off-loaded her junk on people. Disrespectful.

    1. Reba*

      Yeah, it seems a lot of people have this idea about what’s appropriate to donate/pass along.

      An org in my area that helps people set up their homes has really firm language all over their website like “only donate things you would be proud to give or happy to receive.”

      The mandatory nature of the boss thing just makes it next level odd.

  11. Mx*

    #7 I would have been tempted to escalate that to HR, as such sexism could probably get the school in trouble (at least I hope).

  12. Jennifer*

    Did the boss in #8 make the employees hold up a current newspaper? This is so hilarious to me. Sounds dystopian. Everyone praising their fearless leader.

    1. Early anon*

      #8 is awful but also kind of sad. She sounds like her ego is so fragile that she has to play (forced) praise for herself over and over.

  13. Sana*

    I wish people would stop making up disgusting slang. I had no idea about the beaver thing and beavers are one of my favourite animals. I’m annoyed there is now a weird association with that animal.

    1. mlem*

      This probably doesn’t help you, but that’s not a new slang term. It’s apparently almost a century old. (And I’m pretty sure I was clued in to it back in the 90s.)

      1. Sam.*

        I first heard it in college, circa 2005, but I didn’t realize it had been around so long (since the 1920s, apparently?) Learn something new everyday…

      2. LunaLena*

        I first heard it in a Leisure Suit Larry game in the late 90s, haha. There’s a sexy Easter egg if you click on a stuffed beaver in LSL7: Love for Sail and I didn’t understand why a beaver would trigger something erotic so I looked it up.

      3. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        It’s been around since at least the early 70s, which is when I first became aware of it. (I am old.)

    2. Cat Tree*

      Sexual words will always have euphemisms as long as the correct terms are considered inappropriate to say in public. And every generation had to come up with new slang to fly under their parents’ radar. The use of a cute animal as slang isn’t the bigger social issue in this situation.

      1. Anonny*

        Speaking as an (amateur) smut writer, the ‘correct’ terms often really do not work in sexy settings. Or, at the very least, they get a bit repetative.

    3. Sue Smith*

      I heard this for the first time just before junior high math class in the late ’60s. Two boys were talking and joking in what I thought was code, and I said in exasperation, “Why are you talking about my beaver?!” The teacher walked in and told us to get our minds out of the gutter. I was embarrassed, but still didn’t know why.

    4. Queer Earthling*

      1. As has been said, it’s not new.
      2. I’d argue it’s not that disgusting. Body parts aren’t disgusting, and sex isn’t disgusting.
      3. I mean, it’s not like the association with body parts means that beavers can’t be your favorite animals anymore. Beavers are still beavers, doing the things that they do.

      1. Zona the Great*

        I grew up next to a town called Eaton where the high school mascot were the Beavers. No joke.

        1. Luke G*

          I am so grateful for the knowledge of the “Eaton Beavers,” so in exchange I’ll gift you with the knowledge of our conference that had teams called the Trojans and the Seamen. Every game they played, the local paper had a ball. “Trojans contain Seamen” and “Seamen’s speed dooms Trojans” and so forth…

    5. Beaver Diver*

      A) it’s not new. If you are an adult and hadn’t come across this previously, you are either living under a rock or extremely good at avoiding sexual innuendo and references.
      B) there is nothing disgusting about beavers, of either kind. Referencing a body part is not disgusting.
      C) new slang is constantly being created. That’s part of how language evolves.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        D) you come from a region that doesn’t use that particular slang term at all.

        Not all of us who had never heard that term used this way before are people who put our head in the sand, we just come from different regions that have their own slang terms – some of which it is possible you had never heard.

    6. Edwina*

      It’s not new; goes back to at least when I was a teenager (many decades ago) and probably long before that. “Pussy” also goes back century. If it’s any consolation, these slang terms were all meant affectionately.

    7. Wintermute*

      if anything, modern life has far FEWER euphemisms than eras past. In fact that sentence contains three victorian euphamisms for body parts, yes THREE of them in 11 innocent-looking words.

      (the offending words being “anything”, “Life” and, funnily enough “euphemism” itself)

        1. Vicky Austin*

          She didn’t say that the body part itself is disgusting. She said that it’s disgusting to call it by the slang word “beaver.”

  14. Somebody*

    I need the person who submitted #7 to come back and update us on the mom’s reaction to receiving this book twice? I have to imagine she had a hilarious sense of humor???

      1. KateM*

        Or possibly kindling.
        Or maybe mom was into making altered text art or whatever it is called where you paint out most of words and leave a totally unrelated message. Would be a fun challenge to see how far from the original could you get in the meaning.

    1. Anon for Today*

      Not gonna lie, I’d probably do this too just for the laughs. My mom once sent me an exercise video from the 90’s where you had to exercise your face muscles by doing a series of hilarious gasps and hoots. I wish I kept it.

  15. Anon for Today*

    The last part of the Helpmeet story made me big laff. It’s something I’d do to my mom just to get a rise out of her. Haha!

  16. It's Elementary My Dear*

    #1, PLEASE tell me there is more to that story??? You guys just didn’t go on with your work life like normal after, that, did you?

  17. Tabitha Cat*

    Can we get an update on #2? Was the friend able to avoid varicose veins using the printed instructions?

    1. Double A*

      It’s actually really good advice but rude to just give a print out! Also give some support stockings.

      Also I’m about 18 weeks pregnant and needed the reminder to start wearing my support stockings as the swelling is starting up. And this time I have a toddler to haul around on top of the pregnancy fluids, weight, and loose joints!

    2. OhNoYouDidn't*

      She did not get varicose veins and did not utilize the instructions. And, nobody got her a better gift to make up for it (her supervisor wasn’t the best). Now, however, my friend is the supervisor and she has a great team and we all love her.

  18. Mental Lentil*

    There was a reference to this in the Smoky and the Bandit film from 1977. It was old then. This is not new. It’s just new to you.

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