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changing houses

December 20, 2017

Some years ago, I unexpectedly received a “gift” from someone I’m no longer in contact with: a little ceramic house, around 3-4 inches tall. I didn’t want to keep it, but I felt conflicted about what to do with it. I shut it up in a bin, stuck it in our storage unit; it stayed there a few years. At some point, I allowed it to migrate into a bin in our apartment, where it coexists with letters from people I’m no longer in contact with.

I think I’ve had it for 8 or 10 years. When I looked at it recently, I believe that was only the 3rd time I’ve ever seen it. It wasn’t as fearsome, or as ugly, as I remembered. But it went back in the bin all the same.


3 years ago, I received 2 house figures from someone else. Much bigger in scale, and attached to each other.

I was initially pleased, but living with a structure that large, I began to feel… surveilled. I stuck the figures in a back closet. I don’t know what to do about them, and no matter what I decide, I feel like I’m already in the wrong.

I need to figure out what’s going on here.


I wish conversations with people (who are not Spouse, and not psychologists) were more satisfying, and, more to the point, I wish I could have a conversation with someone about this issue where the other person would actually say something helpful, rather than clueless, condescending, or worse.

Since that’s not possible, I must write.


There is someone in my extended family whom I receive gifts from on an irregular basis. This person has given me earrings made from peacock feathers 3 separate times.

I got my ears pierced at 15, and happily wore funky earrings for many years. Until my earlobes developed an allergy to something, and regretfully, I allowed my piercings to close up. That was 20 years ago.

3 times, I’ve had to write thank you notes to this person explaining, yet again, that while the earrings are lovely, I can’t wear them.

It doesn’t seem impossibly hard to remember that I don’t have pierced ears. And yet, somehow, I guess even that little tidbit is too much work. And/or, remembering it about me is too much bother.


I have different preferences for things. My taste is not like other people in my family.

For me, “it’s the thought that counts” is ridiculous, gibberish. If you’re going to give me a “gift”, and it sucks, then please just don’t give it to me.

When I was still part of my nuclear family, I kept trying to get the adult kids to stop exchanging Christmas gifts for exactly this reason.


I don’t like gifts that don’t take into consideration what my preferences are.

If, every time I think about a gift you gave me, I clench my teeth, get a sick stomachache, and/or fight not to cry… Is that really the reaction you were going for?

(And if it is, maybe you’re an asshole.)


I believe I have 2 main problems with the 2 connected houses: scale; and that they are permanently joined.

I do have several figurines, made from various materials. A small smiling clay pig Spouse gave me when we were dating. A small carved wooden bear from the Smokies. A small glazed-clay baby tapir that I bought from someone I followed on Twitter. Each of them is about 1 inch tall. They fit nicely in my hand, where I can examine them closely, but mostly they sit on my desk or shelves.

They can’t loom over me. They can’t crowd my space. They are not aggressive. We coexist peacefully.

Figurines a foot tall, 2 feet tall… I don’t think there are any circumstances under which I would pick out something that size.

And then there’s being permanently affixed. That means I cannot handle the figures individually. I hate that. And there is no one that I am so fond of that I would want to be permanently adjacent to them physically. It’s just gross, and wrong.

And it, inevitably, dredges up comparisons to my mother thinking I am her appendage, rather than a separate person.


It doesn’t matter that I like houses, both as figurines and as real things in the world. I would never, in a million years, have picked out this particular item for myself.

And, given how the 1st house came to me, I can’t be 100% sure that my mother wasn’t also involved in this gift, in some fashion.

Hence, that creepy feeling of surveillance.

So this particular item is triggering for 3 separate reasons.


And yet I still feel guilty and ashamed that I don’t want to keep it. That I don’t like it.


This year, for the 1st time, I’ve bought myself gifts for Yule. I know that I will like them because I picked them out, according to my tastes and preferences. I’m looking forward to opening them! Using them! Being delighted by them!

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