Whenever I begin browsing the ‘Gifts For Moms’ section in late May, I’m struck by how different other mothers seem to be from my mother.
Who are these demure souls wielding garden gnomes and keepsake boxes while raising America’s youth? Not my mom, a PhD-wielding uber-realist whose concept of ‘care package’ consists of the large, unmarked boxes of birth control she would regularly mail to my college dorm. My mother despises waste (she’s still working on bottles of Bath & Body Works Juniper Breeze Body Lotion I gave her for Mother’s Day 2005) and only wears jewelry bearing authentic cultural significance. The woman’s idea of a figurine is an animal skull.
Advertisement mothers beam over casserole dishes; my mother beams over discounted European flights and neatly typed to-do lists. Ad moms gaze at their husbands with long-suffering adoration; my mother gazes at the cats with long-suffering adoration. In lieu of family photographs, a painting of a Haitian voodoo goddess (who bears a striking resemblance to Medusa) hangs above my gentle mother’s denim-clad bed.
Clearly, my mother is on the extreme side of any spectrum, but these glass-figurine collecting advertisement mothers seem absent from most of my friends’ lives. Their mothers actually sound like raging lunatics, but I imagine that's just my friends being dramatic.
What I do know is the cliché, uninspired 'Mother's' gifts highlighted by every major retailer appeal solely to one aesthetic--an aesthetic of bland kitsch and unremarkable thought that is at best hilarious, at mediocre hideous, and at absolute worst nauseating. You know this already, which is why you've been giving your mother a book, or (*shudder*) an Ann Taylor Loft gift card, every year since college.
Buying presents is one of my all time #1 favorite activities/strengths. It’s a great way to remind people that deep down you're a sweet girl, really, regardless of the terrible comments you make when you’ve had one too many vodka sodas.
If you live within driving distance of your mother, congratulations! You are likely not a native Floridian, and can skip into Trader Joe's and buy a tasteful orchid for like $12.99.
Why should anyone pay $69.99 for what essentially boils down to a gingham and sorrow wrapped turd? A turd that always turns out to be SIGNIFICANTLY smaller than in the picture? Down with corporate flowers. Down with the man. Down with being penalized for leaving home with expensive shipping rates. Down with spending more than absolutely necessary on others.
Here is how to order flower delivery at local rates from a long distance:
1. Know your mother’s address
2. Search for flower shops near your mother’s address
3. Research, select, and place your order over the phone.
That’s it. Maybe that seems super basic to people born before 1989 (HI) but for the initial 22 years of my life I nursed a sincere-ish phobia of communicating with strangers via telephone. While I’d happily punch credit card information into any website with a rose gold accessory, the notion of paying over phone seemed foreign. I would have listlessly browsed from site to site, ignoring any without images, until feeling exasperated enough to overpay.
Now I’ve found that talking to people about their products is often just as helpful, if not more helpful, than reading descriptions on the internet. Small, local businesses are incredibly important and often far more likely to provide excellent customer service than their bigger, badder competitors. Images are often far more misleading than an open conversation about your budget and price range, and salespeople are often more than happy to go above and beyond for a customer they KNOW is going to spend money; no matter how nominal that amount of money might seem.
Not feeling flowers? No problem. I spend several days scrolling through online shopping experiences to select inexpensive, useful, and attractive gifts that you can totally take credit for. I’ve narrowed them down to two basic categories because there is a word limit: Rational and Bizarro.
1. Cartier Inspired Love Bracelet
Even the surliest of mamas will surely be charmed by a semi-irremovable bracelet that symbolizes an unyielding bond of love/codependency.
2. I Didn't Get Addicted To Drugs Card
If you did get addicted to drugs, you can order an 'I Didn't Get Pregnant' or 'I Didn't Drop Out Of College' card instead.
3. WeHo Cuff
An elegant cuff but longer and badder. Buy one for your mother, then buy one for yourself.
4. Longchamp Tote
Comes in dozens of colors so you can select soul-crushing grey for a WASP mama or sassy eggplant for the aging artiste.
5. Glass Poppy Dangle Earrings
Inexpensive, elegant, and come in a wide range of color variations. I ordered these for my mom and was incredibly pleased with the customer service I received. When I mentioned these would be a gift, the store owner emailed me my receipt, wrapped the earrings, and included a card at no additional charge. Small businesses = better service.
1. Salt Lake Cuff
Can you tell I’m into cuffs? They are cool yet timeless yet universally appealing. Cuffs are timeless…Like mothers (AWWW).
2. Cash Money Beach Towel
My mother is so frugal (which has served her well with perfect credit and a house and car she flat out owns) that she will make use of anything. ANYTHING. This used to be embarrassing, but now that I’m older and wiser I’ve turned her stinginess into a wonderful game.
Give your cheap mother something insane yet clever, and watch her interact with the world at large. Put a middle aged woman on the beach with a $100 bill towel and the world will smile upon us all.
3. Needlepoint Cat Pillow
Guaranteed to be a conversation starter, and available in almost unlimited supply on Etsy. Get weird.
4. Mail Organizer/Mason Jar Holder
Make it really special by sending flowers to go in the mason jar and a Mother’s Day card to sit in the organizer.
5. I Like Cats Tee
Keep it simple keep it clever keep it cat.
These are the 5 worst presents to give this Mother’s Day.
1. Pandora bracelet
Charm bracelets are for elementary schoolers and depressed Midwestern housewives. Pandora bracelets are not cute, not cheap, not elegant, not interesting, and not original. Buy the woman a real bracelet, a bracelet that does not have a tiny suitcase dangling next to a tiny foot print.
2. Gift Card
Gift cards say: I stopped at CVS on the way over, and I am too self involved to ask you what you want this year.
Unless it’s racks on racks.
4. Handmade Coupons
‘One free hug’ and ‘one floor sweeping’ will never be redeemed and you both know it. If you really want to do something for your mother, DO IT. SWEEP THAT KITCHEN. Don’t talk about it. Be about it.
Not a real gift bitches. Not a gift.
A final note on giving: when in doubt, focus on the sensory. Giving an experience, such as dinner or some wretched Groupon white water rafting voyage, is thoughtful but hard to predict. Different people experience things differently, and there’s a special circle in hell called ‘Pretending to enjoy doing something you love for a loved one who thought you would love the thing you’re doing’.
Practical presents, such as a magazine subscription or toilet paper, will be appreciated but probably will not touch any sort of emotional core. When thinking about a possible present, first think about the Giftee’s senses. Do they respond strong to visual stimulus, such as bright colors or patters? Sounds? Touch? Watch them for a minute or two. Think about what they comment or appreciate most. Then pinpoint your search to items that trigger their strongest sense.
I know it sounds kind of creepy when I type it out, but thinking about sensory (or even emotional) experiences has led to me being a better gift giver and maybe even person. Give it a try.
What will you be giving to your Mother come May 12th? What do you want for Mother’s day? What’s the best Mother's Day gift you’ve ever received? Or the worst? Set me straight (ha) in the comments.