DEAR READERS: Recently I called upon you to send in your "worst ever" gift stories in response to a letter about a Christmas gift gone wrong.
After reading and enjoying hundreds of e-mails and letters, I'm devoting a column to sharing some of the best of the worst gifts.
My favorite worst-gift stories involve gifts that are clueless, oddball or faintly dangerous — and, of course, anything involving andirons, toilet seats or (in one case) a "feminine care" product from a mother-in-law for Christmas.
I have been so inspired by these stories that I've set up a special page on Twitter to share all of them. Check out twitter.com/santahatesme to see what not to do this holiday season or to contribute your own tale of good intentions gone awry.
DEAR AMY: Hands down the worst Christmas gift came from my husband of 28 years:
He gave me an expensive diamond heart necklace accompanied by a tearful admission of his years of affairs and intent to divorce.
— No Gifts Please in L.A.
DEAR AMY: When our three girls were very young, I received a large plastic garbage can wrapped in newspaper!
It did have a large red bow.
The girls thought it was the best thing ever, because it was so large.
Every year since the whole family laughs about that "gift."
DEAR AMY: During the 1980s, while I was working and having kids, my mother gave me a Thighmaster — evidently she thought she was doing me a favor.
— Appalled in Arkansas
DEAR AMY: My worst gift came from a boyfriend who was Portuguese. We had been together for more than a year, and he knew (or so I thought) about my severe allergy to kiwis.
He went to Portugal and came back with two Christmas gifts for me. They were a "gold" cross (I'm Jewish) and a box of chocolate covered kiwis.
I guess he wanted to convert me before I died from eating the fruit.
— Still Here
DEAR AMY: More than 30 years later, my sister-in-law Linda still remembers the worst gift she ever got as a child. She and her sister were asked what they wanted for Christmas. Her sister asked for a TV, but Linda asked to be surprised.
On Christmas morning, her sister got the TV. My sister-in-law got a pair of used wooden hand-shaped bookends.
DEAR AMY: I once received a pump-action 20-gauge shotgun from my ex-husband as a gift.
I couldn't even reach the handle to pump it because he got it to fit his arm length.
Needless to say he got the gun after we split. It was his all along anyway.
— Hunter's ex-wife
DEAR AMY: On Christmas Eve in 1972, my darling fiance (now husband) presented me with a letter written on white notebook paper letting me know his gift was to be a set of four re-tread tires for my '69 Chevy Malibu.
I was speechless. I still am — maybe that's why our marriage lasted!
— Gifted Wife
DEAR AMY: True story — one year my sister received a vacuum cleaner and a push-up bra as gifts from her husband. Now he's her ex.
DEAR AMY: One year my father complained to my mother that he wasn't involved in purchasing gifts for us kids at Christmas.
My mother gave him full responsibility.
That year, my 13th Christmas (1984), I received three cans of Aqua Net hair spray held together with duct tape.
That was the last time my father was allowed to shop for the kids at Christmas time.
DEAR AMY: When I was 24 and dating, my boyfriend gave me a boa constrictor for Christmas.
I named her "Amy" and she was with me for two years before becoming too large to handle. It would have been a great gift for a herpetologist, but a bit dicey for an auditor!
DEAR AMY: Last year, in front of my large extended family, I opened a gift from my grandma.
It was a black, sexy negligee. Her used one.
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