Last year, my fiancée's family gave me a rice cooker. I'm Chinese-Canadian. They're Caucasian. This year, she warned me they're giving me a Jackie Chan DVD box set. They’re well-meaning, but I’m kind of embarrassed and a little offended. My fiancée thinks I should just get over it. Should I say something? I really don't want one of those mushroom hats next year.
I hear you. Me, I’m of Scandinavian descent, and I suppose I wouldn’t like it if my in-laws kept giving me sauna certificates, meatballs and easy-to-assemble furniture.
Hmm, might not be that bad, actually.
At any rate, I think you need to consider their intentions. If you think the gifts are making some sort of malicious point, that’s one thing. If you really wanted to send them a message, you could give them tit-for-tat counter-presents.
So, for example, if they’re Scots, you could give your future father-in-law a kilt, Braveheart and a gift certificate for bagpipe lessons.
If they’re WASPs, maybe a golf-ball washer, Ordinary People and a bread maker with some white flour.
If they’re French, maybe those special little tongs for removing escargots from their shells, a Truffaut box set and a beret.
You get the picture. And they’d probably get the message.
But if they’re well-meaning, as you say, I wouldn’t get your knickers too twisted.
I think your fiancée is right (get used to that feeling), and even if she weren’t you should probably just do as she says anyway (get used to that one too), i.e. get over it.
Look at it this way: Of all the indignities man has visited upon man in the name of ethnic differences, probably getting a rice cooker and a Jackie Chan box set is far from the top of the list.
I’d love a Jackie Chan box set! Especially if it was a real completist collection that included All in the Family, Chan’s “comedic adult film” (in which he has a nude sex scene); Drunken Master, an all-time classic; and Shanghai Noon, a big guilty-pleasure movie for me because of his great chemistry with Owen Wilson.
And I would be thrilled to get a rice cooker for Christmas. (Note to procrastinating friends and relatives: That thudding sound you hear is me dropping hints all over town.)
But that’s me and not you. Maybe you hate rice and prefer Scorsese.
And maybe that’s what’s really irking you: The gifts suggest they haven’t bothered to get to know the real you/haven’t thought too much about you/don’t care one way or another.
But, brother, we all get those type of gifts around this time of year. I’ve gotten gifts that make me think, “Man, you look in my direction but you don’t really see me, do you? To you, I’m just a vaguely human-shaped blob on your couch.”
And right now, with marriage on the horizon, is not the time to stir things up with your future in-laws – or with your fiancée, who might be upset if you confront her parents over this. (Though I would hope she would privately admit to understanding where you’re coming from.)
So if I were you, I’d just suck it up, thank everyone for whatever they’ve seen fit to give you, have some eggnog, and try to be as charming as possible.
After all, that – sucking it up and being gracious – is what the holidays are about, isn’t it?
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