Don’t Tell PETA

I know the old saying, “never look a gift horse in the mouth” is a clever way of telling someone to just accept a gift graciously and ask no questions. But, what do you do with a gift that, while not as deadly as a wooden horse filled with Trojan soldiers, turns out to be just as inconvenient? Let me tell you about the fur coat I inherited from my friend, Sharon.

Sharon and I have been friends since we met while working at a radio station in 1981. To say that I was not Sharon’s biggest fan when I met her would be an understatement. Of course since our last business manager got caught with his hand in the till and resigned to pursue “seasonal work” (translation: rented a Good Humor truck) everyone else welcomed Sharon enthusiastically. You see, up until the time Sharon joined the station I had been the only female in residence and I was pretty happy in that position. Even though I tried my best to alienate her, Sharon eventually won me over and we became great friends. Why she would want to befriend someone who on a daily basis asked her personal questions about her age, her dark roots, her weight, if she slept with the general manager to get her job, and did she wear underwear (she never had panty lines!) is beyond me. But since she fended off each one of my attacks with grace, indifference and a turned-up nose, I figured it was easier to be on her side than against it.

Being on Sharon’s side, however, didn’t mean that we were alike. Sure, we both had attitudes and knew how to cut someone down with a snarky remark and a raised eyebrow, but that’s where the similarities ended. Sharon was about ten years older than me, a widow with a young son and she was the daughter of a Baptist minister. And while I rolled into the station every morning in my skin-tight jeans and t-shirts, Sharon wore what one co-worker once described as “Barbie clothes.” She liked big hair, bright prints, teal suits with matching shoes and the occasional fringed jacket and boots. She teetered on spiked heels and as far as her jewelry went, well, if two bracelets were nice seven were better. And while I was walking around with a safety pin in my ear and going to rock concerts with disc jockeys, Sharon had a bevy of old men at her disposal that frequently took her out for expensive dinners or to the theater. In other words, if Sharon was Barbie I was her flat-chested, freckled-faced, loose sister, Skipper.

As the years went by, Sharon and I both left the radio station and eventually she got married and moved down south. One day Sharon called me and said that since she was now living in a warm climate and I was still up north she would like to bequeath to me her silver fox fur coat. I protested immediately reminding her that I am an animal lover, a member of every animal rights organization and I also thought fur would make me look fat. Although once I mentioned the free fur coat to my friends I was met with a barrage of reasons why I should accept it:

The fox is already dead and I didn’t kill it
Fur is the best thing to keep you warm in the winter
Most people will think it’s fake anyway and not bother to throw raw meat on me
They could borrow it
Needless to say, the following week a big box of fur arrived at my door. I anxiously pulled it out of its protective case and my first thought was, “Wow, that’s a lot of fur.” The guilt rose up from my toes and down to my fingertips as I caressed the soft silver coat. I kept telling myself, “It’s dead. It’s dead. It’s dead.” However, once I laid it on the ground and saw the striped sleeves and the padded shoulders, I amended my original thought and concluded that it was definitely dead and had obviously died sometime in the early 80s. Apparently Joan Collins didn’t need it anymore. To add insult to injury the coat wasn’t a perfect fit. The sleeves reached down to my knees, it dragged on the floor and my friends who were so eager to borrow it could have climbed inside and worn it with me. I knew it had been a few years since I’d seen Sharon but I was pretty sure she was under seven feet tall and weighed less than 300 pounds.

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Of course I never wore the coat, although I can’t say the same for my friends. The coat has become the number one requested Halloween costume when someone wants to go out dressed as a pimp or the abominable snowman. It is a staple at every party we have. My friend, Milton, likes to wear it while he sings along with Rock Band on Wii. We still can’t decide if it’s his voice or the coat we’re more offended by. The kids use it as a furry tent and I have caught the cats sniffing it and wondering which one of them threw up the giant hairball. Until I can figure out what to do with it, it will remain in the protective cover, hanging in my basement and brought out only upon request. Maybe I can sell it. Do you think Joan Collins uses eBay?

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