THE WORST GIFTS EVER: Toxic Toys, Religious Indoctrination, Toilet Cleaner, and So Much More

One year, in my early teens, my dad’s then-girlfriend gave me a Thighmaster for Christmas.
Publish date:
December 6, 2012
holidays, gifts, family drama

One year, in my early teens, my dad’s then-girlfriend gave me a Thighmaster for Christmas.

Some of you are young, so this will require some explanation. The Thighmaster was an exercise apparatus, specific to the thighs. It’s a does-what-it-says sort of situation. It had two padded loops with a spring hinge between them, and you exercised said thighs by placing the loops on the insides of your knees and squeeeeezing the loops together.

Suzanne Somers did the commercials, which were memorable mostly for their ability to be mildly sexual in a totally creepy way (check out Suzanne’s unbridled ecstasy whilst using the Thighmaster on the couch, WHAT THE HELL):

Also, that’s where Mom Jeans come from, dear children. I don’t know when denim that makes your pelvis look like a block of wood went out of style, but I think we can all just be grateful that it did.

Now, the truth is I was probably pretty obsessed with these commercials -- the full-length infomercial was particularly hilarious. It’s entirely possible I may have sarcastically asked for one as a gift, or that my dad’s girlfriend bought it for me with humorous intent. All I know is that it went over like a lead balloon during the gift exchange.

A THIGHMASTER. What self-conscious teen girl wants to open a THIGHMASTER? I was a little shocked. I feigned enthusiasm. I tried not to take it as a knock against my weight -- said dad's-girlfriend had a long history of making “good natured” fat jokes at me, you know, the kinds of comments that are meant to sound cute and friendly but which actually cut your 13-year-old heart out. Unfortunately, at the time I lacked the self-assurance to tell her to shut the fuck up. So I took my Thighmaster and said thank you.

I don’t think I ever actually used the thing. I remember friends and I doing stupid stuff like trying to stand on it, and other unintended exploits that usually resulted in the Thighmaster flying across the room. The Thighmaster was responsible for more than a few bloody noses.

No other gift has quite compared to that, although I have gotten some other not-particularly-useful presents in the years since -- usually pajamas three sizes too small, or pierced earrings (I don’t have pierced ears, which I know is kinda unusual), or things that fall into the realm of what I call “grandma gifts,” the weird crap old folks will give you because they don’t know what else to get, like an infant-sized hat or a bar of soap from 1960.

I’m not sure what made me remember that Thighmaster, but the recollection did get me wondering about the worst gifts you’ve ever received, and like I always do when I’m not sure what to write about on a given day, I took to Twitter to invite other people to share their stories. Some of my favorites:

— Dana Contreras (@DanaDanger) December 4, 2012

Puka shell necklace. So bad that I utterly, utterly failed to be polite about it. Nearly destroyed a relationship.

— Hanna Brooks Olsen (@mshannabrooks) December 4, 2012

A bathroom scale.

— Kate Jones (@omshantikate) December 4, 2012

My ex-mother-in-law once bought me the exact model of HUGE cooler that Thomas Capano stuffed Anne Marie Fahey's body into. And was like, hey, check it, it's like the murdering-your-girlfriend cooler. I was a little terrified?

— saribotton (@saribotton) December 4, 2012

Color Me Beautiful consultation, circa 1986. They held color swatches under ur chin + told you what "season" you were. That's it. BTW, that shit was like $85 at the time. PS In case you were wondering, I am an "autumn."

— Eva Woods (@edotwoods) December 4, 2012

Not me, but my ex-mother-in-law gave my 2 year old a heavy snowglobe that said CONTENTS TOXIC on the bottom. I showed it to a friend and she told me it was a Black Friday door prize for the 1st 100 guests at Macy's.

— Maddy Myers (@samusclone) December 4, 2012

Ex w/a drinking problem gave me a wine stopper. Yrs after I'd stopped drinking. He just wished I hadn't. 5 yr relationship, UGH.

— Kristin Richman (@kgrichman) December 4, 2012

A (small) bag of pine nuts, some light brown sugar and a free math dept. t-shirt from my MIL.

— Theo Nicole Lorenz (@TheoNicole) December 4, 2012

From my mom: a creepy, dead-eyed stuffed gopher that danced to Kenny Loggins' "I'm All Right." I don't even like Caddy Shack.

— Dana DeRuyck (@dana_WHAT) December 4, 2012

My sister gave me a framed piece of glass w/ a Tom Cruise quote about acting painted on. (Future best white elephant gift ever)

— Pi (@polianarchy) December 4, 2012

A dress three sizes too small, as incentive to lose weight. THANKS MOM.

— Cortnie (@Cortnie) December 4, 2012

Size small pajamas. Then I was told they were motivation to lose weight. Yeaaaah.

— ash (@theashrussell) December 4, 2012

an "aspirational" pair of jeans that were more than six sizes too small

— EP Holcomb (@artwaif) December 4, 2012

Toilet bowl cakes from my friend Christopher, who still cackles hysterically every time it gets brought up. Not that funny!

— Marisa (@GentleMarisa) December 4, 2012

My brother's ex-girlfriend got me a Ped Egg and a washcloth set with my university's logo.

— Doc Holligay (Randi) (@Doc_Holligay) December 4, 2012

a bible and a tract. I'm Jewish

— Kate S (@kateri_t) December 4, 2012

My brother gave me an electric carving knife one year, after running around a xmas-eve panic. I've been vegetarian for 20 years.

— OfficeBoundTraveler (@3wks) December 4, 2012

A baby's plate and cup set from my MIL, when I wasn't pregnant, or even married to her son yet. She was overly optimistic.

When I asked the xoEditors for their worst-gift stories, Julieanne, UNSUPRISINGLY, had the most hilarious of all:

This is LEGEND in my family, incidentally, and the cause of a HUGE fight between my mom and dad.

When I was six, I spent several months leading up to Christmas harassing my freshly divorced parents for a horse, because I figured this was my year. They were both feeling guilty and depressed and I was going to seize this opportunity for a little material extortion. On Christmas morning, I went downstairs at my dad's house, where he was in his robe, sipping coffee and forlornly looking out the big bay window into our back yard.

"I can't believe you missed it," he said. "There was a horse here, but I guess Santa didn't tie it up tightly enough. I guess it ran away." Then he invited me to go outside to look for horse tracks. It was a dark time for my dad.

You’re up, xoJaners. Tell us about your worst gifts ever.