Belfast Telegraph

'Tis the season for yet another gift-wrapped fashion crime

By Mike Gilson

I'll never forget the maroon shirt and exact-same-colour singlet. How could you? It would have left an indelible scar on anyone, let alone a 17-year-old boy.

In truth, I should have seen it coming. It had happened every Christmas. The warning signs were there. When you get to your late teens most of us just want money at Christmas so we can spend it on augmenting our own good taste.

But there are some mothers who insist on knowing what's best when it comes to presents at yuletide. Mine is one of them.

The terrible kimono-style dressing gown the year before, which made me look like a juvenile Leslie Phillips, was a sign, the equivalent of how all the jungle animals go silent just before the tsunami arrives.

So there I was, with some trepidation, unwrapping the latest Christmas crime. And so came into my life the maroon shirt and singlet. The singlet designed to pointlessly camouflage itself against the shirt.

Larry Olivier could not have pulled off "delighted" having gazed upon the horror that unfolded. I looked like someone who had just tasted a yoghurt three months past its sell-by date.

Bear in mind I was a Smiths fan. I wanted vintage shirts and torn jeans. Hair gel to keep the quiff in place. I didn't want to look like Little Lord Fauntle- roy.

Sir Stephen Hawking could not have worked out what was going through my mum's mind when she bought it. But worse was to come.

Most Boxing Days it was tradition to spend in the pub with mates (trying to get served) and then go on to watch our team Gillingham play. I knew what was coming in the morning. Why don't you wear your new shirt and singlet, came the inevitable motherly query?

And, dear reader, to avoid a full-scale family meltdown by admitting I'd rather go naked, I did.

The scene in the pub when I walked in is still seared on my retinas. The world stopped turning for a second as my friends, stupefied by the incredible opportunity they had been given for hours of ridicule, could not believe their luck.

We'll be talking about this moment for the next 30 years, let's savour it, they were thinking. And they still are.

And so I wait this year for the latest indignity to be visited upon me. For you see she has continued to misread my tastes and interests to a degree which suggests she's taking part in a terrible hybrid of Secret Santa and Blind Man's Bluff.

Who can forget the Jumper Bobble Remover (makes sweaters look like brand new!), or even last year's Chilli-Flavoured Shots presentation box (because whenever I see her that's all I'm ever doing, downing the shots).

I know what you're thinking. Ungrateful swine. You may be right, so here's what I'm going to do.

The first one who sends in their letter of complaint on behalf of misunderstood mothers everywhere will win first prize of this year's present free of charge. Still wrapped.

  • Mike Gilson is Editor of the Belfast Telegraph

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