I’ve been reading all the recent gift giving dilemmas that have featured on EHell with growing amusement and thought I’d submit this.
The problem for my brother and me is the complete opposite of the angsty gift givers wondering what to do about picky people. We’ve been desperately trying to stop our mother giving us gifts for years. We’ve tried so hard to be grateful for the things she’s given us but she just manages to get it spectacularly wrong on almost every occasion. Apparently I’m hard to buy for but, frankly, I’ve given up even bothering to ask for things I want as I know I’ll just be completely ignored and still get something totally inappropriate. Here are a few of my favourites-
My 15th birthday – what would you give a teenager in the mid 1990s? A gift voucher for clothes or music? Make up? Books? A computer game? No. Obviously the ‘in’ thing is a cast iron fondue set. That year my friends got sneakers, clothes, money and large birthday parties.
My 30th birthday – I’d had a really bad year. I was going through a tough divorce and really needed cheering up. Mum was living 400 miles away and had just come into a little bit of money which she intended to use for a once in a lifetime holiday. She asked me and my brother to go but as the travel time coincided with my busiest period of work, I simply couldn’t do it. Either side of that month, the same month as my birthday, would have been fine.
I pressed her to tell me when she was travelling as I wanted to make birthday plans myself. No travel date. I push her again, as she may be on the holiday during my birthday and I need to know so I can make plans to do something nice with the family or make alternative arrangements. Still no travel date. Then I discover, a couple of weeks before my birthday that she will be in town for my birthday but is working, so we could squeeze a birthday thing for me around our work schedules. Still no commitment to doing anything.
It gets to a few days before my birthday, and therefore too late for me to arrange a party or get my internationally scattered friends together. In the end, I find myself having a quick family birthday picnic (made by me) during her hour long lunch break. A week later she jets off for an incredible holiday with my brother. I guess I got my wish that year, if only it hadn’t been when I was at such a low point and if only she’d given me a little more warning about her plans so I could decide to include her or not. Even a birthday card would have softened the blow.
My 31st birthday – I’d had hay fever for 20 years at this point. Every potted plant I’ve ever owned has died. EVERY SINGLE ONE. My mother decides that what I need for my birthday are three house plants. I was so surprised that I couldn’t even fake a positive reaction. The next day I mention this to my brother. He decides to tell her that the gift wasn’t appreciated. Very generously, she decides to buy me a second gift – the book I’d been reading that week and discussing with her. I now have two copies of “Her Fearful Symmetry” sitting side by side on my bookshelf at home. It does make me smile every time I walk past – which is a massive win in terms of gifting!
First Christmas with the New Man- So I meet a lovely new guy, he’s super picky about food. Mum unexpectedly decides to give him a Christmas gift. She’s visited his second floor inner city apartment and knows that food gifts are not a good idea. The New Man hates mushrooms, really can’t stand them. Mum is made aware of this. Obviously, my mother decides that the only thing to buy for a picky eater living in a garden-less home is a mushroom log. Yes, a piece of wood sewn with mushroom fungi so you can grow and harvest your own. We couldn’t even re-gift, or return ( where do you buy such a thing?!) we just had to give it straight back to her in the hope she could put it in her own garden.
The Wedding – New Man turns into New Husband. Although we have a gift registry, we’ve asked no one for anything, just for them to be there and payed for the wedding ourselves. My ex-husband and his new wife will be in attendance. My mum had missed their wedding but had written a piece of music as a gift for them. It turns out that she has also written one for us. At last, a lovely gift! The kicker? She has asked the band to play BOTH pieces of music. Yes, at my wedding to someone else, she had the band play a piece of music for my ex-husband. She couldn’t understand why my husband and I were so deeply offended at her ‘great’ idea to kill two birds with one stone.
So this Christmas, my husband and I have told everyone we’re only doing gifts for children. My mother has agreed that we are NOT doing adult gifts. It has been made explicitly clear that we don’t want gifts from anyone, nor are we giving them. If someone feels moved to offer to give us a gift, we will ask them to make a donation to a charity of their choice instead. It hasn’t stopped my mother accidentally letting slip that she’s planning on getting us a gift….
I can’t understand why she didn’t bother the year she had some money and I desperately needed some TLC, yet is desperate to give us something we really, really don’t want now? Oh well, I guess that’ll be my New Year’s submission .
Happy Holidays! 1216-13