music

Was I wrong to buy Bill a guitar?

In the interest of not ranting about politics right now, I want to pose the question that serves as today’s post title. Was I wrong to choose a guitar for Bill? I ask, because I think I inspired the following post in Fender Play’s Facebook group.

I have to admit, I kind of get her point…

I was so excited about ordering the new guitars that I posted about it in the Fender group. I got many likes and loves, but few comments. It didn’t occur to me why I didn’t get a lot of comments. I just wanted to share the news in a group where people love posting about their guitars. Folks are encouraged to post about their “new gear”, after all.

But then I saw the above post as I woke up this morning and it occurred to me that I probably gave some people the heebie jeebies when I wrote about “surprising” Bill with a guitar. Some of them might have felt I stepped out of my lane, presuming to make that kind of a purchase. I can see why they’d feel that way… it’s kind of like when someone gifts you with underwear. How do they know your preferences? I sure wouldn’t want a thong as a gift, for instance. By the same token, it’s not generally a good idea to give someone a pet as a gift. I guess some people see guitars as like dogs or cats… there has to be a “fit”. I don’t think guitars are like pets. A guitar doesn’t have feelings and won’t die of abuse or neglect. I’ve seen a lot of people in that group posting pictures of all of their instruments, too. Who’s to say Bill can’t try this one and get something else on his own later? A guitar isn’t like a spouse that can be cheated on.

Actually, my decision to buy the guitar for Bill’s birthday wasn’t a surprise for him. We’ve talked about him trying the guitar. A couple of weeks ago, he asked me if I minded if he tried playing my guitar. I let him hold it and he played a few chords that I showed him. A few days later, he said he wanted to try taking online lessons, too. He’s been listening to me practice every day and I’ve made some notable progress, although I’m not quite ready to post a video. I guess it’s inspired him to give it a go, just as he’s been using Duolingo to brush up on German and Spanish while we wait out the pandemic.

Bill says he only ever tried to play one instrument. It was the violin. His attempt was many years ago, so he really doesn’t even know what he likes in a guitar. He has no experience with it. I didn’t have much myself until last month. The guitar I bought is fine, and I’m sure I’ll still play it once the fancier one gets to me. It’s a classical guitar, while the one I bought this week has a different sound. But it may turn out I like Bill’s new guitar the best… or he’ll prefer the one I’ve been playing. Who knows?

I also know Bill really well… and it did turn out that I picked the one he’d been attracted to. I knew he wanted a basic level model. I knew he’d like it in black. There aren’t a lot of colors available for the basic guitars on Fender, so it wasn’t hard to choose the one he’d pick. If I’d bought him the one I chose for myself, then it might be harder to get the one he’d pick out, since they come in more colors, shapes, and sizes. Either way, the guitar I got for him with a 10% discount cost less than 200 euros, which for us, isn’t a lot of money. There was a time when it would have been, but it’s not at the moment. So I felt okay in making the purchase. If he sticks with guitar and decides to upgrade, I’ll let him choose one for himself.

On a more personal note, I was happy to choose a gift for him that doesn’t have to do with food or alcohol. We’re running out of space for gadgets and God knows we have enough booze in the house. A guitar is something he can enjoy for years, if he takes to playing it. If he doesn’t take to it, at least he’ll have the chance to try it. It’ll be one more life experience for him… and something we might be able to share at some point, if and when we both get to the point that other people would want to listen to us play. I really liked the comment below, posted on that thread, by a man whose wife bought him a guitar…

So the guitar my wife got me was a starter guitar, I’ve played now for 14 years. I would have loved a Gibson / Epiphone les paul, she got me a squire strat with limited edition color.

Although it wouldn’t be my first pick, it was an unbelievably kind gesture showing she supports me getting back into music.

Plus it helps I’m not picky and feel comfortable with most guitars.

And I’m sure if the guitar wasn’t a right fit for me (playing wise) she’s be willing to go with me to exchange it.


Her and my mother-in-law are seeing my excitement with music and my preferences in equipment and they’re learning more about it to help support me and make more informed choices.

I see giving Bill a guitar as akin to opening the door to playing his own music. He usually sits by and watches and listens to me. I know he loves music as much as I do, but he wasn’t blessed with a nice singing voice. He’d be the first to admit that, and I would agree… although I think he could do better if he put his mind to it. But I have told him that I know a number of good musicians who don’t sing. Singing or not singing doesn’t have any bearing on whether or not someone can play music.

Another poster had this to say, which I related to:

My husband bought me my first guitar out of the blue about a year ago and it changed my life.

Yes, after a couple of months I upgraded from a starter guitar to something nicer. But if he hadn’t given me that gift, I wouldn’t be playing today. 

Now, though,…yeah, I’d like to pick out my own.

I knew a woman in college who played piano beautifully. In fact, she was a music major, and I remember being awestruck by how well she played complex classical pieces in recitals. But she was also in my voice studio and her singing was rather cringeworthy. One of my college roommates majored in organ, and I think she might have been the very last organ major at our school. She didn’t sing at all, but boy could she play the organ! My mom also plays organ and piano, but I have rarely heard her sing. I don’t know if it’s because she just doesn’t like to or because she thinks she can’t. No one would ever say she isn’t musically talented, though. Maybe Bill will turn out to be really good at guitar. Or maybe he’ll decide to try something else. We’ll never know if we don’t take the plunge, although maybe it would have been better if we’d gone to the music store in Wiesbaden. But if we did that, we’d have to wear masks, and I don’t wanna.

Anyway, I thought that thread was interesting. It seemed like a lot of people might have felt what I did was borderline offensive. I was glad to see comments like the ones above, though. And this was what I posted myself, since I have a feeling my post might have inspired the thread in the first place:

Ordinarily, I would agree… but I know my husband really well.  😀 In fact, when I showed him the one I bought for him, he said “That is exactly the one I would have picked out for myself!” He’s very easy to please, though. I buy most of his clothes for him, too.  

And, I want to add that he knows better than to pick one out for me, because I am a lot less easy to please. Instead, he takes me on trips or out to dinner.

Speaking of music… I was very pleased to listen to Immediate Family’s new song. Immediate Family is a band made up of some really incredible session players who have always been on the cusp of fame, even though they are every bit as talented as the headliners they back. Check this out!

Seriously… I love these guys! You can see how much they love what they do, too!

I may do a few songs today, since Bill has to go in to work. I like to do music when he’s not around, since I get distracted and self-conscious. But weirdly enough, I don’t mind practicing guitar when he’s home. Hopefully our new gear will get to us by Friday, since Bill is taking me out for my birthday on Saturday.

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musings

Schweinehund!

“Guten Tag! My family and I are looking for sex!”

I remember when I first moved to Armenia in 1995. I made a special point of learning swear words in Armenian. Actually, I think what really happened was that I learned most of them by accident. Swear words in Armenian and even Russian sound a lot like regular words. Therefore, sometimes I’d wind up cursing when I didn’t mean to. For instance, one time I accidentally told my host mom that I would “fuck” a new house next week. Why? Because the verb “to have” is irregular and I failed to conjugate it properly. If you try to form the future tense the usual way, you end up swearing. To make the future tense of the Armenian verb for “to have”, you must revert to the root and add a “k'” to the beginning of the word. Many people who are just learning the language forget to do that and accidentally end up being rude. Fortunately, my host mom wasn’t offended and just gave me a quizzical look.

I knew an American couple in Armenia who were tasting wines. They were told that if the wife drank one wine in particular, she would have boy babies. As is the custom in Armenia, the lady got up, tasted the wine and offered a toast in her most basic Armenian, enthusiastically looking forward to “fucking” boy babies. Incidentally, she later learned how to conjugate “to have” properly and she did eventually have a son after they left the country. Then, some years later, she and her husband divorced.

You’d think I’d want to learn German swear words, given my penchant for cursing. I have tried to pick up some of the language while we’ve been here, although I confess that I haven’t taken an actual class. I know a class would help. I know it would be good for me, help me meet new people, and get a life, but I just don’t want to be bothered with it. Curiously enough, I don’t even really care about learning curse words. I have learned a few of them, but I don’t use them. I’ve found that a lot of people speak English anyway and don’t mind using English curse words to their heart’s content. It’s probably good that I don’t know a lot of German curse words, since I already have a fairly broad command of English ones.

This morning, I ran across an interesting discussion about the old insult, “Schweinehund”. If you’ve ever seen National Lampoon’s European Vacation, you’ve no doubt seen the scene where Clark Griswold and his family go to Germany (although they were actually in a German speaking part of Italy) and knock on the wrong door. The first house they come to, Clark says, “Guten Tag, my family and I are looking for sex.” He meant “Sechs”, which is the German word for six and is pronounced a bit differently than “sex”… more with a “z” sound, like “zechs”.

It’s not “sex”.

The husband of the couple the Griswolds disturb calls him a “Schweinehund”, which translates to “pig dog”. I’ve never heard anyone here call someone a “Schweinehund”, but a discussion on Duolingo indicates that it’s kind of an old fashioned insult, perhaps a nicer way of calling someone an “Arschloch” (asshole). Maybe your granny would call someone a “Schweinehund”, rather than an “Arschloch”.

Someone else wrote that Schweinehund is also useful in another way. If you imagine you have an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, and you give in to the angel’s demands, rather than the devil’s, you have beaten your “innerer Schweinehund”. Say, if you decide to mow the lawn rather than watch another trashy reality show… or you go to the dentist rather than visit a bar. You’re being responsible, rather than irresponsible… not listening to the devil.

I’m sure there are people in my life who wish I would clean up my language. My father used to give me grief about swearing. Actually, he didn’t give me grief so much as a good clock upside the head. I think swearing is better than physical violence, don’t you? But if I’d ever told him that, he’d probably clock me again. He wasn’t big on self-control, except for when it came to foul language. I think it’s because his father used a lot of profanity, and hearing it probably traumatized him. Unfortunately, my grandfather was abusive, particularly to my dad, who was his eldest son. Likewise, I got the brunt of my dad’s issues, since I was his youngest and probably most outspoken daughter.

Maybe it would have served me well to be more genteel, refined, and ladylike. On the other hand, I suspect that would have also made me more boring than I already am. Despite the idea some people have that swearing isn’t “interesting”, I’ve found that many people, in fact, enjoy a good swearing session. They particularly like a creative swearing session. Like my husband says, I come by it honestly… lots of Celtic blood. And if I had adopted more of a refined attitude, I might have attracted one of the dullards in my hometown rather than my exciting and ever-pleasant husband Bill. Bill loves it when I curse, because I often say the things he wants to say but won’t.

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