I quickly pushed the flamingo wine glasses to the back of the cupboard and closed the door, looking furtively around. Phew! The coast was clear. Hopefully my husband, Jason, wouldn't notice when I got them out next summer and I could say "Oh these, I've had them ages!" It was at that point that I started to think I might have a small but very real flamingo obsession.
It started about 6 years ago, coincidentally not long before I met Jason. In my family, if you mention liking something you'd better be committed to liking it because every present you will receive for the next 10 years will be based on that one throwaway comment. I can't remember the first flamingo item I owned, but I think it might have been some party lights after I mentioned liking some that my mum had bought for her friend Jenny (another self-confessed flamingo addict). After that, everything just snowballed, and I quickly became the owner of flamingo clothing, kitchenware, garden items, a dressing gown, slippers, jewellery - even flamingo shower gel and hand soap!
Jason was aware of my growing love of flamingo-themed items, but I don't think he truly realised just how deep it went until he moved in with me and kept finding more items in cupboards. A cry of "Why do you need flamingo measuring cups?!" would break forth from the kitchen, and I'd hide behind my flamingo cushion knowing that there was a matching tray and tea towel in the drawer below. His mum contributed to his despair by buying us flamingo egg cups as a housewarming present.
By this point, it wasn't just my family members who were buying me flamingo-themed presents; my friends had started to tag me in anything about flamingos on social media and send me links to products they'd seen that reminded them of me. I started to wonder, maybe it's not such a good idea to be known as the crazy flamingo lady. But still, the gifts kept coming. And I wasn't blameless in all this, oh no - if there was a choice of design in any item, I would instantly be drawn to the flamingo one, and I couldn't help but do a little keyword "flamingo" search whenever I was doing some online shopping.
You might be wondering, but why the flamingo addiction? What's so special about flamingos anyway? And to tell you the truth, I'm not sure I can even answer that. It's not like I even love the real flamingo bird; it's definitely not the first animal I rush to see at the zoo! If I were to hazard a guess, I would say it could be something to do with the pinkness of a flamingo (especially the flamingo "character" that is always bright pink, even though we all know that real flamingos can often be more of an orange colour). When my sister and I were younger, she always had everything pink and I always had everything turquoise or aqua blue - again, this was another thing our mother latched onto and pretty much everything each of us owned was in that favourite colour we became associated with. So maybe my sudden allegiance to the flamingo in my twenties was a way of rebelling against being assigned to blue rather than pink, I was asserting my right to choose, and I chose pink!
My point is, we shouldn't try to pigeon-hole people into only liking one particular thing. We are all multi-faceted creatures with complex interests, likes and dislikes and I doubt anyone really wants to have every item they own emblazoned with the same object, character, or animal. Yet it's all too easy to do! I'm sure we all have that friend who really likes pigs, or rabbits, or frogs - and so every time we're out shopping and we see something with a pig, a rabbit, or a frog on we think ooh so-and-so would really like that. Now they might indeed love it, but just think - if everyone they know is doing the same then come Christmas morning, they're going to have fifteen pairs of rabbit oven gloves under the tree! Far better to ask them for a wish list, and then if they want rabbit oven gloves, tea towels and garden ornaments (which my friend Kate actually did for her birthday this year) then that's great, but they are getting what they want and not what you're projecting onto them. And they will get fifteen different rabbit-themed presents, not fifteen of the same!
I nearly made this mistake when decorating my son's nursery before he was born - yes, the lovely Jason and I did get married and started a family (after a flamingo themed hen party of course!) I excitedly created my baby shower wish list and noticed I was adding a lot of polar bear and penguin items. I had a vague idea in my head that I wanted some kind of loose arctic animals theme for the nursery, but was already pigeon-holing him into just polar bears and penguins. And he wasn't even born yet! I did still ask for some of those items, however when decorating the nursery, I made sure to choose curtains and wall stickers with a much wider range of animals on them (and not a flamingo in sight!) My son is now one and his favourite nursery animal that he likes to point to and roar at is the lion, so I'm glad he was able to choose for himself.
To any of my family and friends who are reading this, I'm not ungrateful for the flamingo gifts I've received over the last few years - far from it! I just think that maybe the time has come to reduce their influence in my life (and Jason will be pleased to hear this as he has threatened a flamingo ban / cull many a time!) They have served their purpose, and I think I need to focus on appreciating the flamingo things I already own rather than introducing more into my life - that's probably a separate de-cluttering post for another day!
So, I would encourage you all to really think about the next gift you buy for that friend who loves dogs, even though, let's face it, someone having a particular fondness for something does make them easier to buy for. Rather than going for the obvious choice, why not get them something a little more considered or, even better, ask them what's on their wish list! And who knows, you might get them something unexpected that delights them and could even kick-start their next addiction.