While rummaging through some drawers and stored boxes, I came across a number of different knives, mostly pocket-type and folding knives, which have been given to me by various men over the years. It is not the first time I have stopped to wonder why men keep giving me knives. I have concluded that on some level they must see me as “one of the guys” and that is the reason they have continually been gifted to me. Maybe they feel I need protection. Perhaps they think some self-defense is in order. Or maybe that the many rural (and recently urban) areas I have lived in scream out for the availability and handiness of this tool. It could be just a friendly guy-gift gesture. I’m not sure what the reason is, only that it has been an ongoing theme. There once was a drawer full of them, but I have since passed on a few of these knives to other people, pausing to reflect where they came from.
The first one I owned was a little mother-of-pearl-handled single blade pocket knife given to me by my father. It wasn’t a formal gift of any kind and I can’t recall the exact circumstances, but I think I was playing with it and he told me I could keep it. I wish I could find it now – it is probably in one of my treasure boxes somewhere – at least I hope so. I used to always keep it on me, first in a pocket and later in my purse.
Looking back, almost every single boyfriend I have ever had, along with a number of male friends and former housemates, has also given me a knife. Not necessarily a new knife in a box – most of them just said “Here!”, and handed me a knife. To name a few, they have ranged from Swiss Army knives to some neat little polished wooden-handled or deer antler folding types; a three-blade explorer pocket knife; a large hunting knife with a leather-wrapped handle that I wore in a sheath decorated with turquoise, which hung from my belt in my hippie days; another massive leather-wrapped hunting knife gifted from a friend whose uncle owned a sporting goods store; and a very large, very sharp, very scary-looking retractable switch blade given to my by a coworker at the highway department where I once worked, who said I should “keep it for protection”. It had some serious street cred attached it. Not the type of knife (or person) you would want to mess with. I packed that knife on me and felt pretty much like a bad-ass until I didn’t work there anymore, when it was relegated to a drawer. In truth, the only thing I ever used it for was slicing pepperoni while sitting on a curb during lunch break. That particular knife was so dangerous looking that when it turned up again last year, it actually made me feel anxious to keep it and I gave it away.
While out in the woods recently looking for mushrooms, I jumped over a stream and lost the little Swiss Army knife that my Ex-Husband had gifted me in the earliest days of our relationship. Attached to a long piece of knotted leather cord, it had been in my possession for so many decades that I felt sad about losing it. Even though it was just a small old knife, dirty and dull, it was lightweight and useful and had accompanied me on a number of travels through many states, a few countries and a variety of adventures over the years.
But no sooner had I lost that knife when another man – a total stranger, actually – in a random act of kindness handed me his old-style wooden handled Duluth Tactical Lockback knife. He said it had been given to him and he already had a knife, so he was passing it on to me! I came home with my new pay-it-forward knife and was telling the Significant Other about it when he suddenly said, “Oh, you need a knife? Here, take this one” and he opened a cabinet and handed me a Gerber Paraframe knife, which he said he had found somewhere a while ago. I just have to wonder…..
There are superstitions about receiving the gift of a knife. Supposedly if you give a person a knife you run the risk of “severing the friendship”. To counteract that happening, you can tape a penny to the box the knife comes in. The Gift-ee of the knife then pays the Gift-er the penny, therefore making it a transaction instead of a gift and avoiding the “curse” of a severed relationship. However, I have never had a penny attached to my knives, or even a knife that came in a box – and have never lost a friend over the gift of a knife. If anything, during those Andy of Mayberry days of youth, we used to become “blood brothers” by slicing our fingers and pressing them to each other to mingle our blood (which just isn’t done anymore). I had even done that as a romantic gesture with an early boyfriend while dizzy with young love.
To me, there is still a symbolic bonding over being given a knife, kind of like “blood brothers” without the blood. To my recollection, I have never been given a knife by a woman (unless, come to think of it, it was metaphorically a knife in the back….). And, oddly enough, when I have passed them on, I have always passed them on to men, except for the ones I gifted to my daughters when they were younger. I think every woman should have a pocket knife.
I did an internet search about the meaning of men giving women knives but have found nothing of significance and, happily, nothing negative. I did find something about a knife being given as a sign of respect, at least in Finland, which has a nice ring to it. And if I think about the times those knives were given to me, I believe there was some mutual respect and friendship going on.
Recently I ordered another small Swiss Army knife to replace the one I lost, which happened to arrive on my birthday…. sort of an unintentional knife-gift to myself – hopefully, a new start to a new set of stories.