“I Hate the Gift He Gave Me”

My husband is deployed in the middle east, and he really wanted to get his daughter (my step-daughter) and me something from that area for Christmas. He asked me what I would like from there, and I told him anything pretty, and that I would like enough saris to be able to make a canopy for our bed. He sent his daughter a beautiful camel bone jewelry box, but he sent me a rhinestone-encrusted scorpion pill box. Scorpions aren’t my thing. I don’t like them; I don’t like bugs in general, and this is just plain ugly. My concern is that if I tell him that I like it, he may continue sending me other things of that nature. Moreover, I may get gifts like this for the rest of our life together, and I would love to avoid that. How do I tell him that it’s not really my thing without crushing him? — A Lovingly Concerned Wife

Well, first of all, I’m sure your husband selected the scorpion pill box as a souvenir because it reflects the culture and style where he’s deployed, and since he won’t always be deployed in the middle east, I really wouldn’t worry about getting similar gifts for the “rest of your life together.” But if you want to subtly send the message that you appreciate the thought but don’t necessarily love the style, I’d say something like, “The pill box is such a unique souvenir — not something I would have thought to pick out for myself, but it’s cool to see a slice of the culture where you are.” And then, to maybe drive home the point a little more, why don’t you ask him again about the saris (assuming he didn’t get them for you for Christmas as you requested). If you especially liked the gift he picked out for his daughter, you could also ask for something similar — maybe a bracelet made of the same material — before he returns home. Anyway, it could be worse. The scorpion could be a brooch that you’d feel obligated to wear. Like, out in public. A pill box, on the other hand, can be stored discreetly in a drawer or the bottom of a purse without the risk of hurting anyone’s feelings.

P.S. I got to see a picture of the scorpion pill box in question. It’s not that bad. He’s actually kind of cute. I say you give him a name and make him your bathroom mascot.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. Good advice Wendy. Just a note to LW, at least he got you something sparkly! When I told my ex I wanted something “pretty” for my birthday he got me a cd. Really?

    1. Wolvie_girl says:

      Ouch! Was the music at least pretty???

      1. Nope. 😉

    2. Well, a CD is at least shiny on one side….

      I have to agree though, that’s pretty bad. (Pun totally intended here.)

  2. Culture Correction! says:

    Um, your husband can’t get you a sari from the Middle East because women don’t wear saris in the Middle East. Saris are worn in South Asia, mainly in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. That’s where you can buy them. Or, more easily, why not drop into an Indian store in your area/region and buy some you pick out yourself?

    1. I was waiting for someone to point that out. You get the Gold Star today.

      1. EscapeHatch says:

        Thanks for pointing this out. Lexington (below) is also correct in that they’r pretty pricey. Better off looking for raw fabrics (which often come embroidered, but not stitched) and a significantly reduced price. Pashminas and the like are also available without quite as much cost.

      2. Culture Correction! says:

        Thanks Wendy! I’m Indian-American and you won’t believe how many times people ask me about my “middle-eastern” culture. Say what?! I couldn’t help myself, I had to point it out.

      3. bitter gay mark says:

        Hah! Somebody else totally stole my thunder. Asking for a Sari from the middle east is kind of like being mad you can’t find a good taco in Canada….

    2. Lexington says:

      Also, they are just as expensive (which is to say VERY) in their countries of origin as they are over here. Unless you’re fairly wealthy (which is unlikely with a soldier’s salary) it’s probably going to cost quite a bit to use them for just decoration.

      1. She should go on Ebay! I bought saris several years ago to drape over my windows for very cheap. They were shipped from India. I was a little worried about child labor and sweat shops though…

      2. EscapeHatch says:

        As a rule, the Indian community doesn’t support child labor or ‘sweat shops’ in the conventional context. Is there an unfair labor practice? Sure. But likely you weren’t feeding into a negative system.

    3. Wolvie_girl says:

      I have to admit, I didn’t know for sure, but when I read that she wanted Saris my first thought was “Hmm, really? Though that was India, maybe I’m wrong”

      Just goes to show your gut reaction usually isn’t too far off, even if you think it’s wrong 😉

  3. Just throwing this out there..I was thinking that the LW might be jealous of the gift her husband got for his daughter, and that she might feel entitled to something prettier since she’s the wife.

    Either way, Wendy is right about it being a souvenir from a particular culture, and I doubt she will be getting presents like that for the rest of her life. Plus, the LW is married to this man, so I assume there have been other gift-giving occasions, and she doesn’t mention any other bad gifts from the past, so I don’t think she needs to worry.

  4. sarolabelle says:

    Honesty is best. He will eventually learn what you like. But it will take some time.

  5. sarolabelle says:

    Is the picture on the feed the picture of the box? If so it is really pretty!

    1. No, it’s just a picture I pulled online.

  6. I found this question kind of silly. Like Wendy said, he won’t always be deployed, so this isn’t going to be an ongoing issue. I doubt he thought that his wife would like the box because there was a scorpion on it; it’s just something that represents the culture there. Not to mention, I feel like if my husband were deployed, I’d be less concerned with what sort of gift he’s sending me and more concerned about his safety and happy that he’s thinking of me.

  7. fast eddie says:

    Take it from a guy that’s been deployed, the offerings are limited and I’m sure he gave it his best shot. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES GRIPE ABOUT IT. I’m sure you have it rough but he’s got 1,000 time worse. Please don’t add to his troubles. If you can’t summon gratitude for the gift, don’t say anything at all. 20 years from now that bug box will be a family treasure and a remembrance of a difficult time. We’ll expect a follow up in 2031.

    1. demoiselle says:

      My husband was working as a civilian in Kabul just after we met, and was strongly advised not to go to markets or walk around unattended. Nevertheless, he got me a nice wool shawl. I was happy to have it, but was so worried for his safety I would have almost preferred not to get a gift at all rather than put himself at risk … and I was somewhat justified, because just weeks after he left there was a big hotel bombing and all the employees where he had been working were put under lockdown. They could do nothing except go to work and come home to their compounds.

      So yeah, the selection may have been very limited. If my DH had been there a few weeks later, he might have had to send a local to pick something for him.

  8. Beckaleigh says:

    Did anyone else find it strange that she’s worried about gifts from her husband when he’s in the Middle East? I’d be happy that he was able to be in contact with me and was able to send gifts at all since he’s probably a little preoccupied with, oh I don’t know, fighting for our freedom!

    1. “your freedom” was never at stake actually. just the oil.

    2. WatersEdge says:

      It’s amazing how even during a deployment, real life worries that should maybe seem trivial still pop up. Life just goes on like that.

      1. demoiselle says:

        It’s a kind of denial, I think. You end up putting your energy on trivial issues rather than face the very real, justified fear.

  9. Hey my boyfriend is currently deployed to the middle east as well. I got him an amazing (and expensive) Christmas present…. he sent me a little handmade wood jewlery box! Dont get me wrong it is cute and sentimental, but seriously I was thinking he would put more time/thought (cash) into a gift. I spent 20x as much on him as he spent on me. I was disappointed. Not because of the actual gift… but to me is symbolized a lack of effort. IDK maybe they just have ne selection of gifts over there? I can deffinately relate to you!!!

    1. also, I must say I do appriciate him serving our country… but we talk for minimum 2 hours a day and we skype. he talks about going to their shopping centers and all these cool places. i just feel like its a normal long distance relationship. he hasnt even had to use his gun in the 10 months he has been there (he has a desk job). So yes I appriciate his service, but also I don know that he is safe and he has plenty of time to pick out gifts for his mother.

  10. I have several strange gifts that my pa sent my ma and his famillily back in the 50’s. Now they are a window on the past and VERY COOL!

    1. AshleyMarie says:

      I have a friend with a similar story – her dad has several weird/offbeat momentos from his military service. They might not be beautiful in the traditional sense, but they have such cool stories behind them.

  11. bitter gay mark says:

    Um, and people say men are shallow… Sheeeesh! Sure, some men may get hung up on looks. But plenty of women absolutely OBSESS over how much something costs… Sad. More than that — pathetic, really. Look, if you set out to measure your love in the sheer monetary value of trinkets you shall receive, you’ve already lost the game, sweetie. Lemme guess. You love Kim Karcashian, Jersey Whore, and Lindsey Blowhan… If MY boyfriend was overseas, I can’t ever imagine being so petty. But then again — that’s me.

    1. fast eddie says:

      I think it’s age related Mark. When I young and broke the cost trade off meant something to me. Now I can afford to spend thousand$ but usually don’t for trinkets. Refrigerators on the other hand…

  12. Agreed on the comments about where a sari is actually from.

    Also, am I the only one who thought that LW came off as shallow, petty, and just plain rude? Did you even stop to consider that he, like many other commenters have posted, didn’t have much of a selection? The way I see it is yes, you told him a general idea of what you wanted, but he probably saw something and thought you would like it. So even if it’s not your personal style, it seems really awful of you to gripe about it not being your dream gift.

    Maybe that’s a little harsh, but just how I see it.

    1. Woman of Words says:

      Yes, I thought the response was rude too… a present is something that another person would like you to have; not necessarily something YOU think you should have. A little graciousness goes a long way!

  13. I’ve been deployed to the middle east several times. On large bases they usually have some shops run by locals or they might have a weekly bazaar. Ask for a nice scarf or shawl like a previous commenter suggested. That’s what I sent home to my female family members for Christmas.

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