The holidays are fast approaching and, like many of you, I’m looking forward to waking up on Christmas morning and rushing downstairs with a giddy feeling of dread. This is because our family holiday traditions involve disembodied body parts.
I realize that unless you have bizarre, illegal, and unsavory habits, or you’re Billy Bob Thornton, this may seem strange.
It began a few years back when my wife, Teres, on her way to get groceries, made the mistake of asking me if I wanted anything. I replied with the sort of playful, arrested puberty type of response that makes wives and girlfriends roll their eyes and reconsider the benefits of living alone, possibly with a nonverbal pet. She nodded and left as I went back to work chuckling, unaware of what I had wrought.
Hours later she returned and presented me with my request, sort of: a pair of artificial breast prostheses designed to help women who have had mastectomies even out their appearance. Teres was barely restraining her giggles and seemed inordinately pleased with herself. The fact that the breasts didn’t even remotely match in size or color only heightened the effect.
Be careful what you ask for, gentlemen, especially when your wife approaches shopping like an extreme sport.
I placed my new breasts on my desk to serve as paperweights, juggling utensils, highly effective conversation starters, and constant reminders that I married a silly person. (To be fair, so did she.)
The tradition had begun. That Christmas I unwrapped the large, ungainly present that had been taking up half the under-tree real estate to find she had gifted me with a torso. A mannequin torso, that is, that she had painstakingly painted to be lifelike and alluring in a creepy, body-snatching sort of way. This truncated beauty was also wearing a painfully tacky, pumpkin-colored nightie that bore a powerful resemblance to the painfully tacky, pumpkin-colored nightie I had inflicted upon her with great hilarity the previous year. There’s nothing like retaliation as a driving force behind gift-giving.
It was after she gave me a porcelain hand on my birthday — pale, white, reaching — that I finally realized her goal: Teres was making me a woman, piece by piece, the way Dr. Frankenstein might have done if he had been forced to use layaway.
Ultimately the reason for this is simple: I’m hard to buy for. Not because my tastes are complicated, but because generally anything I’d want I’ve already bought for myself. What do you buy for the man who’s already bought everything? Something he’d never buy for himself. Like, say, a prosthetic foot.
Birthdays, Father’s Day, anniversaries, the fractional body count rose. I received eyeballs, a squishy brain, a mannequin head that entirely failed to match the torso, and even an entire stuffed leg complete with stuffed high heel shoe at the end. Little by little our house began to resemble the nip/tuck “Factory Seconds!” storeroom.
Everything found a use. The hand is in our flower bed by the front door, poking up at a slight angle to wave at passersby and disconcert delivery people. The torso is on the piano bench in the living room with different outfits to match events and seasons. The head had been precariously attached to it but has since fallen on hard times due to constant cat attacks and is now missing in action. The leg became a popular item to steal and hide in new and unusual places and it’s an unparalleled weapon during pillow fights.
And all of the items, alone and together, help our decor accomplish its intended goal: keeping our guests unsettled. I find it’s good to keep your visitors on edge and visibly jumpy; it keeps them from peeking into your cabinets and seeing things they’d rather not find, like lips.
I’m honestly not sure what will happen when she succeeds in getting enough parts for a complete person, although it will probably involve her sewing machine, lightning, maniacal laughter, and Igor handing over makeup utensils.
All of my presents to her, of course, have been perfectly normal, thoughtful, and romantic, tacky nighties aside. Don’t believe anything she tells you. You’re going to trust someone who gives body parts?