Ah, Mother's Day, that one day of the year when we do special things to show Mom how much we appreciate the efforts she makes the other 364 days to keep the house running, the kids clothed, the finances balanced, the horses brushed, the cows milked ...
Sorry, got carried away for a moment there.
The point is that being a mother is hard work. Sure, June Cleaver made it look easy, what with the pressed white apron, the freshly baked pan of cookies and the morsels of pithy maternal wisdom, but she had writers and stagehands. Your mom has, if she's lucky, a maid who comes in twice a week and NEVER remembers to wash the baseboards.
So it's important that you get the right gift for the woman who brought you into this world. You need something that will show her just how much you love her, what you think of her and how much she means to you.
Herewith, five things to avoid giving Mom if you want to get your message across ...
No. 5: Cookbooks
Your mom loves to cook. She's really good at it. You have fond memories of family dinners in your youth where her culinary skills shone forth and you left the table with a full belly and a happy heart. Her little plastic box of recipes, scribbled on index cards and clipped from magazines, is a treasure trove of food wisdom.
So here you come with a cookbook. What exactly does that say to Mom?
Say your mother is a great German cook and you buy her a coffee table-quality Italian cookbook. You're saying, "Mom, your spaetzle stinks. Try making ravioli instead."
Of course your mom won't SAY anything. She'll smile and thank you for your lovely gift. She might even leave the cookbook out on the coffee table and dust it regularly. But she won't use it, and its very presence will reinforce to her that you are the black sheep of the family.
But, unlike our next choice, at least the cookbook doesn't go out in public ...
No. 4: Purses
Is there a more iconic piece of motherly accoutrement than the purse? Mother's purses have a legendary place in childhood lore, being the repository of everything from Band-Aids and tissues to peppermints and Life Savers.
If your mom was anything like ours, her purse resembled something a GI would have had strapped to his back on Omaha Beach. It was huge, with flap pockets, zippered compartments and seemed to have a tucked-away time-space continuum hole that permitted her to store the entire contents of your house inside.
In case you haven't noticed, though, you've moved out of the house. When Mom does carry a purse anymore, it's one of those little things big enough for some makeup and mad money. If you go and buy her a purse like the ones you remember from your childhood, she'll likely end up using it to hold scrapbooking supplies or to sort coupons.
Oh, and speaking of makeup, that brings us to our next bad idea ...
No. 3: Makeovers
Every Mother's Day, every salon in the country starts peddling makeovers. "Show Mom she's still beautiful!" they'll say, or "Help her recapture her youth and show her you love her."
Let's break down the logic here, shall we? If your mom was truly beautiful, would she need a makeover? Do you really want some spike-haired beauty school graduate slathering foundation like spackle over the face that used to look down on you when you were sick and used to light up when you got home from school?
And as for recapturing her youth? Pal, you were no picnic to raise. It's a safe bet that now that you're out of the house she's feeling younger than ever. If you're still living in her basement, this might not apply -- but there's a whole different set of issues to be dealt with there.
And speaking of issues ...
No. 2: Lingerie
This is something that's began in the last few years, and to us it's a sure sign that our society is teetering on the edge of complete collapse. Lingerie. For your MOTHER.
It doesn't matter if it's just a nice silk robe or a demure negligee; you are not supposed to buy that sort of thing for your mother. Does thinking that way make us prudes? Not hardly, and the smart money says most of you agree.
Unless your name is Oedipus, this is quite possibly the worst idea in the history of mother-son relations. It's just creepy.
Here's the woman who raised you, who kissed your boo-boos, signed your report cards, bathed you and taught you how to dress yourself and how to behave in public. Here's you giving her a box from Victoria's Secret.
Here's us, vomiting in the corner.
But even that's not as bad as our last choice ...
No. 1: Home appliances
Your mother spent a significant portion of her life cleaning up after you, ironing your clothes and doing all that other "mom" stuff that you've had to learn to do now that you're on your own.
The last, the VERY last thing she wants on Mother's Day is a gift that reminds her of those halcyon days when she spent an entire afternoon ironing a closet full of shirts that you would wear once and then leave crumpled in a heap on your bedroom floor.
Giving her a new vacuum cleaner, blender, iron or any other domestic accessory may seem like the sort of practical gift she'd be proud of you for buying, but trust us when we say that you couldn't do much worse.
Buy Mom some nice chocolates. Get her a gift certificate for a trip to a spa (sans makeover). Just stay out of the housewares department.