Thursday, December 8, 2011

Guest Post with Author Margaret Ethridge

Ah, the holidays are upon us. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and also the most hectic. Amidst all the tinsel and sparkling glasses of holiday cheer, there’s a darker side to the days that stretch from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  Buried beneath yards of foil wrapping, tons of tissue paper, and miles of curling ribbon is the season’s deepest darkest secret: passive-aggressive gift giving.

You all know what I’m talking about. There are times when the gift so carefully selected isn’t what the recipient truly wants or needs, but what the giver wants the giftee to want or need.

Now, I’m not saying one indulges in passive-aggressive gifting with malicious or nefarious intent. Not at all. I once had a friend who had a knack for buying things she wanted for me. It made no difference whether I was interested in that genre of book or the actor in that DVD. If she liked it, she wanted me to like it too. I understand the sentiment, even if I don’t agree with the methods.

My parents were masters of giving a gift that would keep giving in one way or another. When I was a teenager, the family manse was in need of a new iron. What did young Margaret unwrap on Christmas morning? You guessed it. Now, I will say in their defense, it was a really nice iron—fifteen or twenty heat settings and the option of either steam or spray. Just what every teenager dreams of owning. Merry Christmas indeed!

There’s no relationship more ripe for a few rounds of P-A gifting than marriage. I suppose the whole concept of a joint checking account lends an air of justification to the practice. It could simply be familiarity that prompts a spouse to purchase a gift that will earn them nothing but contempt.

In my book, Contentment, Tracy Sullivan is feeling stifled by her life, the life she thinks her husband, Sean, has dictated on his own terms. Throughout their romance and marriage, the holidays and the gifts Sean and Tracy exchange are often indicators of the state of their relationship. Poor Sean...The battery-operated nose hair trimmers Tracy stuffed in his stocking the Christmas before their marriage imploded were probably a good (or bad) hint of what was to come. Thank goodness he finally wised up. Who knew a webcam can do so much for a guy?

Don’t answer that.

I hope you receive just the right gift this holiday season. Remember, it’s the thought that counts, and if you can’t imagine what they were thinking...perhaps they’re in need of a nice iron.

Just a suggestion.

Contentment by Margaret Ethridge
An After Happily Ever Story

Tracy Sullivan seems to have it all, a handsome, devoted husband, three beautiful children, a steady career, and the perfect suburban home; but she isn’t happy.

The petty resentments that have built over fifteen years of marriage surface when Tracy tells her husband, Sean, that she is no longer interested in sex, and their marriage threatens to implode.
For the sake of their children, Tracy and Sean agree to lead separate lives under the same roof.

With the help of a healthy dose of adult-rated fiction and some gentle prodding from a good friend, Tracy begins to rediscover who she is, what she wants, and the reasons she fell for Sean once upon a time.

After two years of soul-searching, Tracy is finally ready to embrace her happily ever after having learned that while happiness may be fleeting, contentment can last a lifetime.


The nose hair trimmers might have been the last straw. She’d seen the battery operated gadget hanging from the hook in the drugstore, and told herself they would be a gag gift for his Christmas stocking. She stuffed the package into his stocking on Christmas Eve, knowing exactly how much use the little wand would actually get. No one ever tells you about those things.

She married a man who was young, and hard, and beautiful. Tracy never anticipated the rainforest of black hair laying in wait in his nostrils. No one mentioned the toenails littering the bathroom floor, poised for the opportunity to tear her feet to shreds. No one spoke of the day he called her at work and asked her to pick up some Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia because he was more backed up than the Land’s End catalog department at Christmastime.

Tracy snorted and flipped through the multitude of channels their cable provider so graciously provided for an arm and two legs. An infomercial caught her eye, and she tried to put the thought of those thousands of tiny black hairs coating her vanity and sink out of her head. She switched channels and found herself staring at yet another Viagra commercial.

She had pledged to grow old with Sean, but she didn’t think things would go downhill so fast. Yes, he was still trim and muscular from day after day of manual labor, but there were other things—things that crept up unseen—things which defy explanation. She was prepared for him to start wearing those little wool driving hats when he’s in his seventies. She hoped by then he’d be too blind to spot the way her boobs might sometimes get tucked into her waistband. She just didn’t expect her forty year old husband to start sprouting enough ear hair to make a Papillion jealous.


  1. Man an iron? That sucks! I really hate getting gifts that other people think I should like. Thankfully I solved that problem by ensuring all my gift buying people get a list from me. Not to say I get everything on the list but hell there is no excuse then.


  2. You are Iron Woman! :D I don't think I've ever given someone a gift that I wanted for myself, but it's possible I've re-gifted before. I won't go into that.

    I've read Contentment twice now and loved every minute of it! You're a fantastic writer, Iron Woman! Can't wait to see what you hit us with next!