Sunday, 3 October 2010

From lemon squeezer to Peter Rabbit.

Judge not, that ye be not judged. Last night i had the most bizarre dream. I am actually embarrassed to tell you any details. All I can say is I was NOT participating in any activities. It was like watching a very weird movie. In short, the events took place in what I can only describe as an erotic circus. I wonder if those even exist. Because, if not, we could be talking huge business potential here.

I have been talking to my Russian friend about her English in-laws. I love that subject. It never fails to amuse and entertain me. It feels good to discuss in-laws, because it always makes you appreciate yours more. Because, however strange I might find something my mother in law does, she cannot compare, in my wildest dreams, with these guys.

Besides some other bizarre habits, one of the best aspects of their behaviour is their choice of presents.

A long time ago, when my friend was freshly married to their son, and settled in London, she received her first birthday gift from the in-laws. She unwrapped the parcel to find a special lemon squeezing device. A very practical item for any household.

I wondered if they, perhaps, thought that someone from a country like Azerbaijan would find a lemon-squeezing tool miraculous. Like natives would find a lighter. Wow! Fire from a little stick comes out it does! Lemon gets squeezed by pressing two metal pieces together!

The next year things got more interesting. She received an A4 size collage of the in-laws hiking trip to the mountains. Their photos. Their diary. Their collage.

Why, why, why would anyone send their memoirs to someone as a birthday gift? Unless you are Madonna and you know that it will sell for a reasonable amount of cash, why create more recycling material?

But wait a minute! We are not done yet.

Last year, my friend had another gift from them. It was Beatrix Potter children’s stories. Part I.
At this point, my friend might have lost her manners a little. After years of bizarre gifts, she decided to point out that she was into a somewhat different genre of books in her ripe age of the late thirties. 'Well', the in-laws said 'We felt it was something of a British classic. Every home should own a copy, in our opinion' they said.

The hint she gave them last year bounced back like a tennis ball; and this year, on her birthday, she received....yes. The rest of the Beatrice Potter’s classic collection. Part II.

If you ask me, I say that was a slap in her face. An open invitation to a bare knuckle fight. You get a slap like that and it is your choice, you either swallow it and feel like a total CHMO; or you tell them where to stick their English classics, and then you are just a horrible, ungrateful daughter in law with no manners or respect for the English culture.  She chose the latter.

Sometimes, with people like that, hints don’t work. Manners get ignored. Polite requests get stepped over. You ask them not to do something and they do it anyway. It happens often with in-laws. They have their own reasons and their own agendas; and we can only try to understand. Most importantly, we must try to remember that one day, we will be in their place. One day my little girl with marry someone who will probably think I am weird. Oh, he most definitely will. So, I am just trying to accept my in-laws with all their good and bad habits, and be thankful they accept me with mine. And be hopeful that my daughter’s future family accepts me, too. But I must make a note to never send them my memoirs for their birthdays. However tempted I might be.


  1. How long has been your friend married? Meaning: how long do her in-laws know her?
    As usual, I loved your ironic style.
    PD: are you feeling better? I really hope so.

  2. Gifts are a tricky thing. It's almost unfair to expect others to know you well enough to pick something that you'll love. Even with your own husband, let alone his parents who live x hundreds of miles away (one would hope anyway). My mother-in-law for instance, ignores us for years and years and then for no reason at all sends me a track suit(!) or a top, always in a size XL or L. (I wear size M on a bad day.) My husband's explanation is that "she thinks of you as a tall person", which I am, so I guess that makes it ok :):)

  3. "Gifts are a tricky thing. It's almost unfair to expect others to know you well enough to pick something that you'll love."

    Having received many, many, many awful presents throughout the years, I agree. I think the best strategy is to aspire to give a decent gift that just about anyone would like, rather than a great gift. I am always glad when someone gives me a box of chocolates, a gift card, baked goods, or exotic soap. Heck, even flowers or a bottle of wine are good, and I don't like flowers or wine. What am I going to say, "Sorry I already have a bottle of wine?"

  4. @Nata and Mark: Come on, there are bad or unfortunate gifts, gifts you might not have wanted...that is all OK and totally understandable. A lemon squeezer and personal diary of a trip to mountains are NOT. Full stop! No?

    @Gabriela: Quite a few years now. :)

  5. Ha-ha,it was,to be honest,lemon's SEGMENT squeezer!

  6. I don't think we should try to find explanation in cross-cultural differences, or cross-generation differences, or in any other metaphysical category. The bottom line is that there are a lot of tightwads out there.

    Cheap people will find any excuse not to spend money on gifts (like the need to educate non-Brits on English children's classics - that's just brilliant!). I once saw a couple bring a set of folding chairs as a wedding present.

    Looks like your friend didn't properly vet her fiancé's family. I wonder what they gave on the wedding day, matching "his and hers" slippers?

  7. @Riyad: I know, totally. It reminded me of this good Turkish saying ( I was told it was Turkish anyway)
    It is not your fault when your parents are poor. But it IS your fault if your husband's parents are. :)))

    In this case not poor but tight. But hey...despite the reputation not all Russian brides look for rich husbands. Perhaps, she did not even think about that when she fell in love.

  8. "Come on, there are bad or unfortunate gifts, gifts you might not have wanted...that is all OK and totally understandable. A lemon squeezer and personal diary of a trip to mountains are NOT. Full stop! No?"

    I think it very much depends on who you are and your relationship to the gift giver. If you like reading memoirs or things about mountains a diary of a trip to the mountains mightr be OK. And a lemon squeezer is dumb, but arguably has some use. It's the second Beatrice Potter book that was really bad. These people completely bulldozed over the recipient's attempt to assert any sort of self.

    About two years ago, a relative of mine was writing a story about World War II, and asked if I'd look at it. I did, but quickly returned it with the comment that it isn't my area of interest and therefore I was unable to offer any sort of comment on it. This is the kind of moment a person ought to remember, because it was somewhat awkward. A few months ago, I received a World War II memoir from this same relative, purchased through "What? You don't like World War II? Ridiculous! You are who I say you are! Here, have anothor book." To show my appreciation, I haven't thrown it away. Yet.

  9. :)) I can't believe they gave her rest of the Beatrice Potter’s :))) ON HER BIRTHDAY!!! they could give it any other time of the year... but to spoil the Birthday spirit in such disrespectful manner... Honestly I think they just do not respect her.