The Incident of the Inappropriate Gifts

I was working on some ideas for a blog article about Malaysian parents. One of the funniest and possibly most humiliating memories I’ve ever had came flooding back to me. Fortunately, enough time has passed that sharing this story with you does not cause me to curl my toes and cringe.

At that time I was dating S (who remained a good friend till today) and as relationships went, our parents met each other at some point and were on friendly terms. It was Christmas break and I was about to travel with S to Penang to spend Christmas with his family. As was customary in most Malaysian families, you MUST bring SOMETHING when you visit another family. On top of that, as it was Christmas, my mother felt the need to get gifts for S’s parents.

When my mum told me she was getting gifts, I reacted by telling her “please, don’t”. Now before you jump the gun and think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, let me give you some background. My mother, like a lot of Malaysian parents love recycling gifts. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, let me explain. You get a gift from person A but you have neither interest nor use for the gift so you decide to keep it and give it person B. This is all fine in theory if you are able to ensure that the gift would be something person B likes. A simplistic example: if I received a toaster for my housewarming, but I don’t need it because I already have one, I keep it and gift it to my friend who wants a toaster. However, it’s notoriously difficult to find a good match for recycled gifts, not to mention the possible faux pas that could ensue if person B found out that his/her gift was recycled!

Added to this mix of complexity was my mother’s inability to understand what is APPROPRIATE as a gift. My mother is a simple person whose language of love is Gifts – and she is well-meaning. However, she confuses the price paid for the gift for the value the receiver would get from the gift i.e. it doesn’t necessarily follow that a gift worth £500 is necessarily a BETTER gift that one that’s worth £50.

As the story goes, I told my mother not to trouble herself but she insisted on getting gifts. I offered to help her pick the gifts out but she told me she already had the gifts in mind. When I pressed her as I was curious (afraid!) she merely snapped at me and told me that the gifts will be fabulous and wrapped and I should stop asking questions. Not wanting to bring up all other unsuccessful gifting instances, I complied.

The day came and my mum passed me the gifts, just as I was about to get into the car to drive to Penang. I casually asked her what the two wrapped gifts were and she told me. I went slack jawed and stared at her speechless. When I finally found my voice, I told her that I was not bringing those gifts for S’s parents because they were highly inappropriate. My mother lost her temper, shouted at me (it’s a common occurence) and said that she would call S’s parents to MAKE SURE that the gifts were received. At that time there was no reasoning with her so once again, I complied.

I told S about WHAT the gifts were in the car and he laughed so hard that I thought he was going to have a concussion. When he managed to stop laughing to discuss the situation at hand we convinced ourselves that his parents would not be offended. Christmas day came and I stammered as I explained to S’s parents how my mum insisted on getting them gifts and although they are not the most appropriate, she means well and I hope that they understand. I then ran out of the room to hide my face in embarassment whilst they opened their gifts.

What the Mum Got: Silky and lacey maroon panties. Inappropriate level 10/10. Embarassment level 100/10.

What the Dad Got: Candles. Not just any candles but LEOPARD PRINT candles. Inappropriate level 8/10. Embarassment level 8/10.

I can still hear the peals of laughter that followed. S’s dad asked if my mum thought S needed a baby brother or sister – sexy underwear and candles to set the mood! J, S’s sister, laughed so hard she almost had a nose bleed. Years later, we still laugh about This Incident and I still turn red with embarassment.

You’d think that my mum would have realised that The Incident was highly inappropriate but no, she’s still blissfully ignorant till today! Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Have you had similar experiences? Please share by leaving a comment below!



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