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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Is he calling me a 'battle-axe'?" She asked herself

Yesterday our 12 year-old son, Gilad, went on a class trip. 

Knowing from experience that my kids operate their finances on pretty much the same footing as our government (i.e. at a constant deficit), I took him aside before I left for work and quietly asked him if he had pocket money for the trip.

I already knew his answer would be a big fat 'no' since not two weeks ago I'd personally witnessed him squandering six months worth of saved allowance and babysitting money on a basketball jersey... but I had to ask the question.

As expected he shifted his gaze to a far corner of the room and mumbled that he didn't really have any spare money at the moment.

I remember what it was like taking field trips as a kid.  No matter where we went, there was always an opportunity to stop into some sort of gift shop or souvenir stand.  Somehow my parents always seemed to be able to send me off with just enough money to buy something inconsequential... but little enough so as to minimize the damage in case I used bad judgment (as I inevitably did).

Well, I couldn't very well send my own son off on a field trip with nothing in his pocket, so I slipped him the equivalent of about 5 or 6 bucks and told him to try to resist the temptation to buy something, well, useless. 

We both knew that this last instruction was just for show since 'useless' is pretty much the best description for what one finds in the typical gift shop or souvenir stand.

I can't tell you how many times Gilad has come back from a trip to a truly educational destination such as a science museum or religious/historical site... only to proudly show me the fake snot, magic trick or sharks tooth that he somehow decided would be the most suitable memento of the trip.

Anyway, he thanked me, gave me a kiss, pocketed the money and we went our separate ways... me to work and he to meet his class bus for the trip.

About half way through the day my cell phone rang and I was delghted to see that it was Gilad calling.  He was standing in the inevitable gift shop and wanted my advice about something he wanted to buy.   

I was speechless!  This was truly a momentous occasion.  My boy was growing up and showing signs of maturity!!!

Then he dropped the bomb.  He explained that he wanted to buy a necklace for a girl who he has been spending a lot of time with (she goes to another school and was not on this trip). 

Whoa... not so fast there!  I thought they were just friends!  You know, 12 year olds hanging out and eating the occasional slice of pizza together.  Sure he had brought her back a thoughtful mug full of her favorite colored M&Ms when we came back from our trip to the states... but that was the kind of gift one gives a buddy... not a girlfriend, right?

But a necklace was a gift with romantic overtones that even I couldn't fail to notice.

I delicately asked whether he felt she would like receiving a necklace from him.  The question was intended to suss out whether he had even thought this through that far.  I remember having the mother of all crushes on a beautiful girl when I was about his age, only to find out too late that she barely knew I existed.  I wanted to make sure he had really considered this from her side of the transaction.

He assured me that he was sure she would enjoy getting it... he just wanted to know if I would mind him spending all the money I'd given him on the gift.

I told him to go ahead, but not to buy something too over the top just in case he needed to re-frame it as a friendship gift at the last second. 

When I got home from work Gilad took me aside and proudly showed me the necklace he'd picked out.  It was a slim black silk string with a pretty pendant suspended on it.  The pendant was a very feminine robin-egg blue. 

My first impression was very favorable.  I was proud that a 12 year-old boy could pass up the sharks teeth, magic tricks and even fake snot in order to pick out something so tasteful and feminine for a girl he liked.

But then I looked more closely at the pendant.

I'm kicking myself that I didn't take a photo of it, so you'll just have to live with my description here.  This pretty, robin's egg-blue pendant was actually a small double edged battle axe with a bullet in between the two blades.

I did a quick Google search and here is the basic idea... except instead of the pointed shaft between the two blades, a small bullet forms the center axis:


I just looked at it and was truly torn as to whether I should say something. Anything!

At this point I should probably mention that I was never any great shakes in the gift-picking-out department.  Heck, most guys are clueless.  Girls always seemed to know exactly what to buy for any occasion and recipient... it's almost as if they attended some sort of class in gift selection. 

I think the only suitable gift I ever bought a girl when I was a kid was the one year in 7th grade when the de rigueur gift was either a necklace or bracelet made from white 'pukah shells' (did I just date myself?).

Not wanting to make him feel self-conscious, I asked Gilad what the pendant was.  He looked at it closely and said "I think there's a bullet there in the middle".   So I continued, "And what about on either side of the bullet... what is that?"

He took another long look and said, "I'm pretty sure it's an ax or a hatchet".

Now, I've met the intended recipient of this necklace on a few occasions.  She is a pretty girl with sandy blonde hair who exudes wholesomeness and athleticism.  There was definitely not a hint of goth or heavy metal there anywhere... so I was still confused by his choice of pendant.

He shrugged and simply said, "it's just a neat design... I'm sure she'll like it".

I didn't have the heart to tell him that he had just set out upon a lifetime of giving terribly inappropriate and/or ill-conceived gifts to people of the opposite sex.  Not only that, but that he comes by this particular talent quite honestly since his old man has handed over some gift-wrapped bombs in his time. 

In the silence that stretched between us there in the dining-room I could clearly visualize a series of girl's faces flashing by... each with a more horrified/disappointed look than the previous one, as I handed over one stinking dud after another. 

Zahava has actually done fairly well (or so she says), with only about one gift in three being truly cringe-worthy.

I also decided not to share with Gilad the fact that 'battle-axe' is a fairly derogatory epithet reserved for overbearing mothers-in-law such as those found in 'The Honeymooners' and it's cartoon reincarnation; 'The Flintstones'.  I just prayed that his girlfriend (or however they think of themselves) wouldn't catch the reference.

Oy, When did he become a teenager?  I'm not ready for this!  I think I was happier when the worst thing I could imagine was him coming home from a field trip with more fake snot, a magic trick or a pocket full of sharks teeth! 

Posted by David Bogner on November 27, 2007 | Permalink


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Oh dear... are you sure you know all there is to know about the Labrys?

Posted by: a. | Nov 27, 2007 1:30:37 PM

a. ... Oh, is that what it's called? Here, let me do a quick shearch online. BRB

Oh crap! Not only is he really out of his depth, but both his auntie and my blog daughter will be furious with me for not knowing that!

Posted by: treppenwitz | Nov 27, 2007 1:48:59 PM

I never knew how educational your blog could be...or at least the comments are :)

Good luck David...may the force be with you.

Posted by: safranit | Nov 27, 2007 2:11:13 PM

ROFL! I haven't actually laughed out loud reading a blog in a while. Oh, Gilad is definitely in for a rude awakening one day.

Posted by: matlabfreak | Nov 27, 2007 2:12:02 PM

Oh dear. What's that saying, about how it's the thought that counts?

If she's keen on him, then I'm sure she'll love it no matter what.

Posted by: Abbi | Nov 27, 2007 3:43:44 PM

I think the only suitable gift I ever bought a girl when I was a kid was the one year in 7th grade when the de rigueur gift was either a necklace or bracelet made from white 'pukah shells' (did I just date myself?).

Ummmm.... YUP! You DEFINITELY dated yourself.

Zahava has actually done fairly well (or so she says), with only about one gift in three being truly cringe-worthy.

YUP! She DOES say! :-) You don't, by the way, give yourself enough credit (on this subject, at least). Your odds are far better than one-in-three. In 16-plus years I can think of only 3 serious misses and 2 minor ones. And two of them were while we were dating or during the first year of marriage when we didn't know each other that well -- so I'm thinking those don't count so much.

Between anniversaries, Chanukah, and birthdays, not to mention the "Gee!-I-think-my-wife-is-TERRIFIC-and-I-should-bestow-her-with-tangible-appreciation" moments we are talking about an average of 3.5 gift giving opportunities per year. Since we are rapidly approaching our 17th-anniversary-of-the-day-we-met (isn't that cute how I worked another gift-giving opportunity in there?!) that comes to a sum total of 59.5 gifts. That's a 91.5% success rate if you count all 5 "misses." It's a 94.9% rate of success if you remove the "getting-to-know" you gaffes.....

Think about it. 3 misses. And if I weren't such a design diva I probably would have liked them better (insert the "No. It's not you. It's me." speech here)....

As for Gili.... Isn't there a way to halt the growing process for just a few seconds here and there so parents can savor the various stages of their growth? Hmmm....?! Anyone?! Didn't we just take him home from the hospital?


Posted by: zahava | Nov 27, 2007 3:58:57 PM

I didn't have the heart to tell him that he had just set out upon a lifetime of giving terribly inappropriate and/or ill-conceived gifts to people of the opposite sex.

It is a time honored tradition in which you explain why a hammer, barbecue and or new computer is going to be so good for BOTH of you. That is the key. You must always mention BOTH of you with a very earnest look on your face.

Ok, it didn't work for me either, at least not nearly as often as I would have liked.

Posted by: Jack | Nov 27, 2007 4:10:07 PM

HysTERical, David! Gilad is setting himself up to be Ross on "Friends"!!!!

I'm sure the girl will be touched that Gili bought her ANYTHING and the odds of her knowing what it symbolizes are slim.

I, too, can't believe that somehow he's of the age of having a girlfriend. And it's the same one he had in August????!!! WOW, that's like a RELATIONSHIP or something?
I'll shut up now!

Posted by: Val | Nov 27, 2007 4:17:42 PM


No, it is the gift that counts.

The gift is the tangible expression of the thought. A well-chosen gift says, 'I know you; I know what you like; because I gave effort and time to find out. And with that hard-won knowledge, I sought the best my purse could purchase to express my appreciation of you.'

I am sorry, Gilad. What this pendant says is 'Hey, I was at a gift shop on a field trip, and I saw this thing, and I liked it, and you popped into my head, and I thought maybe you would like it too, and I thought that would be neat, so I got it for you. Do you like it?'

The good news is that you are only 12 and this is a passing crush and you will learn from it. The bad news is that you are 12 and this is your first love and rejection seems devastating.

The really bad news is that years later, rejection seems devastating. That's why there is marriage. Not so there's no rejection, but so there's assured forgiveness.

Posted by: antares | Nov 27, 2007 4:51:28 PM

I'm pitching about 1 in 3 good gifts to my wife, so you top me.

Try not to project your own insecurities onto your kids. They'll have enough of their own. Gilad may know more than you think he does.


Posted by: Yehuda Berlinger | Nov 27, 2007 5:07:10 PM

Well, the only thing I got from the boy I had a crush on at the age of 12, was a swift kick in the shins...so I'd say that Gilad has a head start, even with a "battle axe" necklace.

Posted by: cruisin-mom | Nov 27, 2007 6:03:32 PM

Um, if I were 12 and my father blogged about this, I'd die of humiliation.

Do you plan to blog about every step and misstep he ever makes with girls? Will we find out about every one of Ariella's crushes?

It's a little cruel, David.

Posted by: Sarah | Nov 27, 2007 6:31:55 PM

I can't imagine any 12 year old boy having a mature thought like that or any 12 year old girl expecting a mature thought like that to pop into a potential boyfriend's head. I'm sure both would be quite surprised if either was thinking like a 36-year-old Keats wannabe.

As a former 12 year old girl who didn't have many boys thinking of me at random souvenir stores at that age, I can tell you I'd have been thrilled that I was thought of enough to spend money on, even for something that actually has unwanted connotations.

I'm sorry you seem to have suffered much in this arena.

Posted by: Abbi | Nov 27, 2007 8:06:24 PM

As a former 12-year-old girl, I too, have to second Abbi's comment -- it's an awkward age, and the fact that some boy bought her a present (which she will probably think it either a "cool" archeological thing or a "gross" Goth thing)can have one of two results: (a) she's truly friends with him in which case she'll be happy to receive a gift which represents he's thinking of her or (b) she sort of tolerates him and won't know what to do, so in the interest of being "cool" will probably not be very nice. I hope its the former. Tell him NOT to give her the gift in front of her friends--give to her when they're alone. In front of friends, 12-year-old girls are embarassed by what their girlfriends will think, and her reaction will be less of what she might really feel and more what she thinks her peer group wants her to do...

Posted by: aliyah06 | Nov 27, 2007 8:25:19 PM

Its ok. I didn't know either. There I am dating myself now.
And I clearly remember my first necklace gift from a boyfriend. Ack. It was awful. Tho I was a couple years older - old enough to appreciate the thought.

Will you tell us how it all went? Will he tell you?

Posted by: weese | Nov 27, 2007 8:50:53 PM

Reading through the comments I've come to the conclusion that some of the advice is well meaning but may actually cause more harm than good. It's probably better to faux pas at age 12 than at age 15 or 17. At some point we must trust our parenting skills and let the kids make their own mistakes. Sure, some fatherly advice is useful, but only if it is unsolicited. Since Gilad actually asked for your input (you lucky sonofagun), you have every excuse. So, my advice to Gilad is: go for it. The worst case scenario is that she thinks it's a terrible gift and never wants to have anything to do with him forever.

My 8 yr old recently told me that I don't understand her at all. I told her to hold that thought because she's about 5 years to early and I haven't read that chapter yet.

On another subject altogether, I respectfully remind you, David, that you sort of promised me a cup of coffee. Don't know what I'm talking about do you? Well, The Sandman: A sneaky way to get a cup of coffee

Posted by: QuietusLeo | Nov 27, 2007 10:42:47 PM

The above gratuitous is supposed to jog your memory. Even though I previewed the comment, I still forgot that little bit of information.

Posted by: QuietusLeo | Nov 27, 2007 10:45:47 PM

LINK, darn it LINK. The above gratuitous LINK....
I definitely need some sleep before I go on call tomorrow, otherwise all hell will break loose.

Posted by: QuietusLeo | Nov 27, 2007 10:48:23 PM

so my first thought was - how cute, and wow up to girlfriends already....my next thought was - how is this girl gonna feel (if she reads your blog) once she reads about this, or if her friends point it out to her. you know come to think of it, do your kids ever guest blog (like zehava)? i'd love to hear their points of view.

Posted by: mata hari | Nov 28, 2007 1:49:54 AM

I'm definitely with Abbi on this one - it really is the thought that counts, and yes, I would have felt the same way at 12 (especially considering that the trend for boys with crushes was to make fun of me ruthlessly rather than to think of gifts.) And actually, now that I think of it, the ax/bullet thing looks kind of cool... but I'm a weapon-liking weirdo, so perhaps I shouldn't be a standard for gift recipients. : )

Posted by: Irina | Nov 28, 2007 5:54:13 AM

i'm sure your kid is going to love reading about his nascent love life online. i can't wait to read your post about his reaction to this post.

Posted by: Lion of Zion | Nov 28, 2007 8:31:21 AM

I know you're going to say "the kids will be in therapy anyway", but I'm with Sarah and Lion on this one.

And I'm writing as the son of a father who has told dozens of stories about me to thousands of teachers and printed them in his books. Even the embarrassing ones can be OK, with some perspective. But had he ever thought of writing or talking about my "love life" - I think he'd be the one in therapy...

Posted by: Dave (Balashon) | Nov 28, 2007 10:47:00 AM

safranit... I've always maintained that there is far more to be learned from the comments than from anything I might write.

matlabfreak... Hopefully not any day too soon.

Abbi... That's my hope.

zahava... Who knew? :-)

Jack... Yeah, that dog won't hunt over at my place either. :-)

Val... Hopefully without the lesbian wife. :-)

antares... I have to go with Abbi on this one. At that age I think there is a lot more wiggle room.

Yehuda Berlinger... Projecting? Who's projecting???

cruisin-mom... True, but you might be setting the bar a tad low, don't you think? :-)

Sarah... Then I'm sure you would have asked him not to do so after, say, the second or third time it happened. My kids know that they are one of the many subjects of my posts and thus far have not expressed any problem with the arrangement. They both have computers and at least occasionally read my blog. Let's leave it up to them, ok?

aliyah06... I think/hope Gilad has enough sense to separate the lamb from the rest of the flock.

weese... Sheesh, it must have been a real stinker of a gift if it put you off boys altogether! ;-)

QuietusLeo... Yes, I know I owe you both a call and a coffee. Mea culp (cuppa!). Stand by. :-)

mata hari... I think you and Sara need to take a collective deep breath. First of all, I wrote very complimentary things about her. Second of all, no matter how closely one reads this post there is no conclusion to be drawn other than the fact that Gilad likes her very much. What could be bad?

Irina... Yeah, I was wondering how you would come down on this issue after seeing some of the pictures of you playing with your sword. :-)

Lion of Zion... Yikes, another country heard from. Maybe you, Mata Hari and Sarah should start a fund for my kid's therapy. :-)

Dave (Balashon)... Forget my last comment to LOZ, at this point the four of you could play bridge! :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Nov 28, 2007 2:23:14 PM

The fun is just beginning...

Posted by: psychotoddler | Nov 28, 2007 4:40:16 PM

ha! David... you are too funny.
Of course now you realize the fate of this poor adorable gal that Gil is enamored with.

Posted by: weese | Nov 29, 2007 7:37:19 PM

I can just imagine how it's going to be with my son. He is only five and often goes up to the opposite sex, telling them how cute or beautiful they are. Of course, many of them are older - teenagers and grown-ups and they LOVE IT.

Posted by: Jaime | Nov 30, 2007 2:10:17 AM

I have a scary factoid for you. Not knowing what a puka shell necklace looks like (though I recognized it right away when I saw the picture) I did a Google search on "pukah shells" (using your spelling). Your blog was the first result that came up!

Your poor son. At least he's in good company; there are millions of nice Jewish boys out there who have no idea what to buy a girl. As long as he saves the receipt...

Posted by: Shimshonit | Dec 3, 2007 11:59:43 PM

I just dig up this post )and am impressed I remembered it) because today Hadara was gifted the very same battle-axe necklace by Ariella. I'm guessing Gili never gave it to the girl he intended it for, and it was passed to Ari, who passed it to a very happy Hadara (who wasn't even a twinkle in my eye at the time of this post(.

Posted by: Noa | Nov 15, 2014 10:26:42 PM

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