18 May 2012

The worst gift ever

The truly awful and peculiar range of 'gifts' a weekend paper advertised for Mother's Day last week left Susan Erasmus temporarily speechless.


The truly awful and peculiar range of 'gifts' a weekend paper advertised for Mother's Day last week left Susan Erasmus temporarily speechless.

We have all received a horrible gift or two in our lives. The excitement, the anticipation – and then the socialised response: Thank you, it's lovely, I've always wanted one and so forth. (But what on earth is it? Or even worse: Isn't this what I gave you for Christmas last year?)

I particularly remember one or two. My grandmother, who lived in another city and didn't see us often, always sent us jerseys that were way too small for a kid of five, or six, or whatever. One of them I could not even get over my head. Then many years later, a friend gave me a framed picture of a kitty that was twee and kitsch and hideous, but I had to dig it out and display it every time she came to visit. I know I seem ungrateful. I am and I was.

OK. Back to the newspaper ad. There was a large pink heading that said 'Mother's Day Gift Guide'. Shut your eyes for a moment and think of what you'd expect. Flowers, books, nice bath things, jewellery, gift vouchers, candles, handmade soaps – you get the drift. Oh no. This one featured large ads for a cut-price solar panel, a welding machine, industrial plastic packaging, the services of a divorce attorney, shop-soiled fridges, slippers and a Wendy house. I know women have moved with the times, but can't we just be pampered for one day?

I swear this ad is real. I have kept the newspaper in case people don't believe me. I will produce it on demand.

A solar panel. I can just picture it. "Thanks for everything, Mom – here's a solar panel to express my love and gratitude."(Installation is for your own account.) It's so sincere, so heartfelt.

A welding machine. There must be mothers out there who dream of being welders. But I cannot imagine that they are plentiful. Especially since this ad used the word 'macho'. OK. To all the macho moms out there: "Happy Mother's Day. Maybe next year I will get you an angle grinder."

Industrial plastic packaging. We all need packaging. But few people will have much use for hundreds of plastic bags or sealed containers. Maybe 10, but, there is a point where plastic packaging in large quantities cannot really be seen as a gift to warm the cockles of any mother's heart.

The divorce attorney. If I remember correctly, this one also specialises in custody battles, abuse cases and family abductions. Just the thing for Mother's Day, wouldn't you say? Mind you, if anyone gave  a mother 100 plastic bags for Mother's Day, divorce might be a very appropriate response.

Shop-soiled fridges. This ad actually said 'Shop-soiled fridges and service'. I didn't know that one found something such as 'shop-soiled service', but it's on offer as a Mother's Day gift. At the best of times, a shop-soiled item is something you might still consider buying for yourself, but not necessarily give as a gift to someone else.

Sheepskin slippers. This is the one thing on this page that didn't have me reeling.  Sheepskin slippers are great, if somewhat inelegant. It's difficult to look anything but slovenly when it looks as if you have a small sheep on each foot. But with the price of electricity these days, I say bring on the slippers and switch off the heater.

A Wendy house. Ironically this was the one ad that actually gave a nod in mothers' direction, by acknowledging the day in some way. But why would anyone want a Wendy house for a gift on this day? Or a tool shed. Mind you, if your family went down this road, you might be tempted to move into the Wendy house on a permanent basis.

A note to the paper (and I won't be as unprofessional as to tell you that it was The Weekend Argus): maybe next time just ditch the heading if no one wants to advertise on that page. But then I can't wait to see what's on offer for Father's Day. An embroidery course? A special offer for a woman-only gym? Sanitary wear? The anticipation is killing me. 

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, May 2012)


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