Of course you know the original phrase means “don’t be an ungrateful prick by questioning a gift someone has just given you”. Do you know where the phrase comes from? In the old days when horses were as common as cars if someone gave you a horse as a gift you could tell how old it was by looking at it’s teeth. It was considered rude to verify the age of the horse because, well, a gift is a gift and not to be questioned, right?
At least, that’s my latest insight. I was tidying up a closet when I noticed some unused item that was given to us recently and it made me think of all the things people have given me over the years that I’ve accepted even though I didn’t want or need them. And that made me wonder about that stupid, ancient phrase and whether or not there was much truth to it. There seems to be a number of cases where a gift is really more than a gift, and not in a good way.
1. It’s more work than it’s worth. If someone gave you an old horse today, or any horse really, it would cost you so much time and money to care for the damn thing it would make your life miserable. Unless you enjoyed horse meat then it might be worth it. (The vegetarians are convulsing right now). Often a gift that appeared to be a blessing becomes a curse under these circumstances.
2. The gift comes with strings. These are my least favourite kinds of presents but sometimes you don’t realize there are stings attached because you can’t see them until it’s too late. These strings can show up as a supposed obligation to repay the giver in kind or by bestowing the giver with your undying love and affection. Gifts with strings are a common marketing technique and a lot of bloggers use them which is why I don’t. Usually you have to give away your e-mail address to receive some “free” materials which is then added to their mailing list. I’m so tired of giving out my e-mail address I’ve just stopped caring about free stuff. As I’ve mentioned before, I have too much stuff anyway.
3. The giver is offloading their problem to you. Thankfully I don’t know too many people who would do something like this intentionally but it does happen and is usually the work of a shyster. I sometimes do this to my husband when my son has a dirty diaper but since I change the vast majority of them I think it’s only fair. “Here, you want to spend time with your son? Change his bum.”
4. Thoughtful givers will not be offended. The main reason we take what we are given with a smile is to ensure we don’t offend the giver. But if the giver is a crook or has ill intentions why should I be worried about hurting their feelings? Also, if someone is giving with strings attached or is otherwise emotionally attached to the transaction then their upset is not my problem. If someone is giving me a gift because they really care about me then they won’t mind if I take a quick peek inside the horse’s mouth because they know their gift is genuine.