Dear Guru: The Gift of Stolen Moments


Welcome to a new semi-regular feature here in the sludge mines. I’m calling it “Dear Guru.” This is where you get to ask me, the self-proclaimed Guru of Negativity, advice questions and I respond by insulting you and/or your intelligence. Why would anyone sign up for this kind of treatment? Perhaps that should be your first question. The questions are flooding in so get on yours quickly if you want some attention. I imagine this column will repeat about every five years or so depending on how many questions are received. Now on to our first victims. -Ed.

Hey, hey, guru. I want to marry you.

Fool! That wasn’t phrased in the form of a question!

A prawn is like five or six shrimp!

A prawn is like five or six shrimp!

Dear Guru,

I have a dilemma I hope you can help me with. I have a best friend of 40+ years. This friend gives me gifts for birthdays and holidays. I know for a fact that this friend has shoplifted these gifts as this friend confessed to me several years ago. I do not feel right accepting these gifts. Even with her shortcomings she is very dear to me and I don’t want to hurt her. What should I do?

Fanny from Fort Fear

Dear Fanny,

What’s it like to live in Fear? I hear the weather there is quite lovely.

You are wise to come to me with your question as I am highly regarded as a paragon in the world of morality, philosophy and ethics.

It sounds like your friend is a very giving person, albeit with other people’s stuff. Some people say when it comes to gifts, “It’s the thought that counts.” But if your friend is giving you stolen goods as gifts then what is the thought?

“I couldn’t fence these items for high value so, what the hell, I’ll gift them to you.”

shoplifterThat doesn’t sound like a very nice thought.

Your letter tantalizingly withholds key details. Does your friend steal from people or corporations? Are we talking about an occasional Baby Ruth candy bar or grand theft auto of a BMW ’74 2002 Touring of the sort that makes Paul Walker want to put the pedal to the metal?

Because maybe it depends. Despite what Les Miserables has to say, I can see honor when one is trapped in an unfair system and steals a piece of bread to feed one’s family. On the other hand, if one is purloining iPads to toss around as gifts that doesn’t have quite the same spirit of social justice.

If life, liberty and limb is on the line then I guess you gotta do what you gotta do. I suspect this is not the case. If not, my advice would be find a way to politely decline all gifts from this friend. I see no need to get high and mighty and make a federal case about it unless you no longer want the friend in your life.

Assuming the shoplifting is not a case of life and death, and if you care about your friend, you’ll want to put a firm stop to the flow of tainted merch immediately. Think about it like this: How would you feel if your friend got caught and you knew you had accepted something that had been stolen? Worse, what if you friend, under pressure from the PoPo, spilled the beans. “I only stole iPads because Fanny liked having a new one every three months.” That wouldn’t do at all.

I can’t help but wonder why you’d be accepting gifts from a friend in the first place. That’s not a part of my relationships with friends. For one thing it creates a very awkward feeling of reciprocity which I do not like to reciprocate. Awkward! I find it is best to avoid such things.

Thanks, though, for your excellent question. You have stolen my heart. I’m sending out this long distance musical dedication to Fort Fear. Luckily that’s only mere inches from my digs, The Pit of Despair.

3 responses

  1. RL Stevenson said “A friend is a gift you give yourself.” — but if your friend shoplifts all their gifts, have they then stolen themselves?


    1. Yikes, you go deep! Perhaps shoplifting is the store’s way of saying I’m a good friend and the shoplifter is just the messenger?

      Of course gift giving is fraught with danger. It is so easy to take offense. I remember the time Homer gave Marge a bowling ball already engraved with the name “Homer.”

      “I thought you wouldn’t want it,” he said.

      If it’s the thought that counts then some gifts speak volumes. Uncle Bob ran a used DVD store. 365 days a year he was up to his ass in used DVDs. What did he always give as gifts? Used DVDs. Considering the source that’s about as un-thoughtful as it gets.

      Some gifts almost seemed designed to rip out your throat out alpha dog style. “Here’s a gift card to that place you hate.”

      Or how about a thoughtful gift of a TV only it’s refurbished and, to add insult to injury, it’s been opened and already played with. Fingerprints on the screen and the remote control is sticky. What a perfect way to say, “You’re simply not worth a full price gift.” Don’t get me started on that one! (This is a classic boss tale.)

      Here’s a fruitcake I’m re-gifting and I only took one bite. If that doesn’t say what I really think about you then nothing will.

      I was taught to appreciate the gift and say thank you even when I wanted to rip out the bowels of the giver. I reserve the right to fully embrace the thought (or lack thereof) that went into the gift.


      1. One of my favorite lines from the Stephen R Donaldson Thomas Covenant series (Covenant was also a pretty good Guru of Negativity!) — was: The acceptance of the gift honors the giver.

        I’ve gotten into the habit that if I can’t think of a good gift for a person — one that reminds me of them or something I think they might like — I don’t give anything. This has made my giving of birthday gifts to siblings and friends very sporadic and had caused the “am I supposed to reciprocate?” conundrum.


Bringeth forth thy pith and vinegar

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