Andy’s Guide to Gift-Giving (and Marriage) #245

Once upon a time, my future husband gave me thoughtful, expensive presents. On one of our early dates, we rode an elephant together (before we knew better, sorry, wildlife defenders everywhere). Elephants had been my favorite animal as a child, in part because “elephants never forget.” Not being forgotten is the childhood fantasy of every middle child in an enormous family who has been left at school, ballet, or the Trailways bus station.

Andy didn’t forget why I loved elephants or our date. Andy got me a gold and emerald elephant pendant for Christmas that year.

Andy learned I liked old-fashioned, unique jewelry. He found an Edwardian ring design and worked with a jeweler to have it modified and cast in platinum for an engagement ring. 

I said yes. Eventually

When we got married, he gave me a wrought iron bistro set for our tiny little patio, along with a promise of breakfasts on the patio every weekend.

The table is rusting, but Andy still makes fantastic breakfasts of eggs benedict, pancakes, Dutch babies, or apple crepes on Saturdays and Sundays.

After we got dogs and got a mortgage, gifts got more practical. He gave me special visors for walking dogs  and sunglasses.

Once (SPOILER ALERT) Baby D was born and life got more stressful, Andy slacked off.

Our first Christmas without my family, Andy blew it. Andy’s stocking and Baby D’s stocking were filled with their favorite goodies.

Mine was empty.

Forgotten. The recovering middle child’s worst nightmare. 

I felt like I took it well. I didn’t throw anything. I didn’t cry until I was alone walking the dogs. Later, when Baby D was asleep, I expressed my sorrow to my husband. I was upset, but I got over it.

Andy had a different perspective. He called it “The Worst Christmas Ever,” and told a friend, “You know how long that woman can throw cutting comments into conversation? Months. I’d say, ‘Hey, honey, can you give me a list of what spring flowers you want for your garden?’ and she’s say, ‘What was that? You want me to give you something? Are we giving each other things again? I thought that stopped last Christmas?’” Andy shuddered and added, “I am never doing that again.”

My friends offered strategies on the apparently common “husband sucks at gifts” dilemma.

JM told me that starting in October, she would casually leave catalogs on her husband’s desk with post-its next to desirable items: “So pretty!” “I bet this would be even better in GOLD.”

A Most Practical Mom Friend told me she buys herself presents from her husband. She even wraps them and put them under the tree, addressed to “The Best Wife Ever.” She says, “It’s easier that way. I get what I want and I don’t have to return anything.”

Some friends opt to skip personal gifts in order to afford a joint purchase like a new refrigerator or car.

Others don’t do gifts at all, either to save money because times are tough, or so they can give better gifts to their children.

I understand a mutual, no gift policy. But gifts don’t have to be expensive. The stocking stuffers my siblings and I give are usually candies and Chapsticks. Thoughtful gifts are a way of reminding a person that you listen to them, know them, or understand the winter weather calls for purse Chapstick and car Chapstick.

When I’m getting gifts for Andy, I might drive to multiple stores while trying to find his favorite Lake Champlain peanut butter and chocolate truffles. I might scheme and lie about why he has to babysit a friend’s kid to get him out of the house so I can get an estimate on a home/yard repair that he wants, but doesn’t want to spend the money on. Then I arrange the work and put the estimate or contract in a wrapped box under the tree.

I feel like he should do the same for me. Like he used to. 

Too often, women–-especially Moms—take care of everyone else’s needs. We put our own wants and needs last. We’re exhausted. It’s easy to excuse a husband when he whines, “I didn’t know what to get you and I’m so busy.” We let the man out of doing all the research and emotional labor that we do for them.

Until we find our husbands playing videogames on the couch on Sunday afternoon after we’ve either braved the mall or spent hours ordering online gifts for mutual friends AND HIS FAMLY.

After the Worst Christmas Ever, my husband learned that an empty Christmas stocking is unacceptable in our household and there would be no sex for months hell to pay. 

If we weren’t visiting my family, I told Andy it was his responsibility to fill my stocking and put some gifts under the tree for me. He would also help our child buy me a gift. Because every boy needs a male role model to show him how to give back to the women in their lives, rather than just taking. (I am sure I put it exactly like that and was very mature and did not shout, “I am not the goddamned Giving Tree, okay?! He should never take me for granted and neither should you!”)

This year, we stayed in Los Angeles for the holidays. I found lovely Lush bath bombs in my stocking and some excellent chocolate, so I forgave Andy for forgetting Chapstick. 

There were also presents for me under the tree: pastry bags, gardening gloves, and a new desk chair. 

The pastry bags were silicone, less likely to break and easier to wash than plastic bags. An excellent gift that went straight into my baking cabinet.

I tried on the gloves and immediately rhapsodized, “They go all the way up my arm, to protect me from roses! They fit my long fingers, but they aren’t too big in the hands like other gloves! And they are so thick! Where did you get them?”

“I found a company that makes gloves specifically for women and I estimated your finger length compared to mine,” Andy explained, very pleased with the gloves and my reaction. 

Then he put together my new chair, which he had expertly hidden for weeks under a tarp and potting soil in his greenhouse. The chair was very comfy. Andy told me he’d tested multiple chairs to find one that was cushiony and had a seat suitable for long legs. 

“How did you do it?” I marveled. “How did you figure out the perfect gifts? It’s so hard to find gloves that fit, and my old chair’s pneumatic height adjustment wouldn’t stay where I put it, and my old pastry bags were a real problem with filling eclairs. But I never asked you for any of those things as gifts.”

Andy said, “I made a mental note every time you swore at something this year.”

And there you have Andy’s (& Autumn’s!) guide to gift-giving and marriage. 

Women, don’t be afraid to use profanity at those things that truly piss you off.

And men? When your wife swears, take note.

Especially if it’s at you.

My new chair and gloves!

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

17 thoughts on “Andy’s Guide to Gift-Giving (and Marriage) #245”

  1. Wow! This is like clicker training for a dog. I’ve become like Andy at this stage but back in the day, I would put presents to myself that I loved and did not allow myself to use prior to Christmas. It worked. The anticipation was enough. This past Christmas I got a store gift card and a Starbucks card along with a full body massage. I was in heaven. I like the concept of swearing except I’m not sure my husband would notice.

  2. Happy New Year 2019!
    The best gift I received was flight tickets. My husband travel extensively for work and accumulated flight miles which he happily transferred to me. Unlike me, he’s not a huge fan of travelling due to flying odd hours and having to adjust to different time zones. Too bad I wasn’t born with the right skin color, pedigree or gender to serve in the foreign ministry. Although my father had enough to send me abroad, he made me work hard for scholarships as all his inheritance are meant for male siblings only. Ironically, spoiled male sibling committed suicide hence his inheritance goes to me eventually. Free flight miles are my guilty pleasures to remind me I’m loved.

    1. Oh, the gift of travel! That’s a good gift. Especially if you go first class.

      We all had to work for scholarships, too. But that’s because there was no inheritance.

      I am sorry about your brother, spoiled or not. Was it accumulated familial pressure or mental illness or both? Or unknown cause?

      The foreign service missed out.

      1. I’m grateful even if I got free miles for economy class 🙂 It’s a shame that some people are way too busy to check and let their mileage burn instead of making others very happy. As for my late brother, he got tired of spending away family fortune through gambling. There is a saying, spoiling a son is like sending him to an early death. If my brother made the effort, my father would have sold arms and legs or even organs to send him to the best schools. Too bad! Life is imperfect! Maybe it is karma caused by my father’s neglect towards the needs of his daughters plus lack of good deeds towards those in need. My grandma had a long life with good children and husband because she was helpful to those in need and did charity.

        1. “Spoiling a son is sending him to an early death.” Wow. I can think of so many ways in which I’ve seen that play out, both in actual physical death and the death of the soul.

          I am going to use that saying on my own kid from now on.

  3. I have the opposite problem with C. I am kind of thrifty and he is a splurger. If I mention something that I’ve seen on a store, or something that I might need, he buys it for me. I got a Surface Pro for Christmas and I don’t even really need it yet (I was thinking about getting one in the summer before I go to Spain to be able to work from there). I felt genuinely bad when I saw my gift because I got him smaller presents… Next year we will have a spending limit.

    1. We’ve done limits, too. Usually for Valentine’s Day, which is a manufactured holiday anyway. And for my birthday one year– when I was away helping a sister with a new baby–I told him I just wanted to pretend I wasn’t having a birthday that year. I actually meant it, but he got me an “unbirthday” cake anyway. Probably because he thought it was a test or something.

  4. Lol Andy sure came around and sure upped his gift gifting game. The gloves are very impressive. They look like man’s gloves but okay, they are meant for womens 😀 To be honest, I am okay with a partner sitting around and if that equates to them not getting in the way of me doing what I want to do. As for gifts, I’m not ever one to ask for gifts and really don’t mind if I get someone a gift and they don’t…so long as they think about me and be there for me every single other day of the year 😀

    1. I think gifts are a way of feeling appreciated. If you feel appreciated and seen and loved every day by your partner, then, yes, gifts would be superfluous. But when you are both busy with the daily grind of work, kids, dogs, household chores, etc., it’s also a way of remembering/ reconnecting with your spouse.

  5. Wow Andy is awesome, I should have my husband read this blog post lol. The swearing bit–brilliant! He’s so perceptive!

    I used to have really lofty expectations for men giving presents, but I was continually disappointed and now my bar is set really low. My girlfriends also complain about lackluster presents from their boyfriend/husband, and I think our commiseration makes us feel better, haha.

    And good job on teaching Baby D to give presents to important women in his life. SO IMPORTANT. I wonder why women are always stressing out about thoughtful gifts, but guys usually don’t give a crap? I guess it’s from social conditioning and always seeing the mother buy everyone stuff? Hmhmhm.

    1. I suspect there’s a slight biological/ evolutionary edge that goes to women when it comes to putting others first. I mean, if you aren’t wired to do that as a mother, your offspring won’t survive to pass on your genes. (One of the reasons why Ayn Rand’s glorification of selfishness is a ludicrous model for an effective, lasting society.) But society has stuck women in that box and glorified that aspect of womanhood while also glorifying some toxic ideals of masculinity. It’s somehow manly for men to be inconsiderate, privileged, clueless, brutes while we pick up after them and provide unconditional support and love. They get plenty of chances to screw up, because, you know, boys will be boys. Well, fuck that.

    2. I’ll be the first to say you need your girlfriends to bitch to when the partner in your life screws up. But hopefully, along with commiserating, you get some strategies for making him aware of your feelings and changing any destructive dynamic as well.

      Or perhaps a friend to bring you chocolate and tissues when you finally kick an unworthy male’s useless ass to the curb. 🙂

      1. Not that I’m telling you to kick your husband to the curb! Sometimes, they are just clueless and need a roadmap. And every couple has to figure out strategies that work for their situation and baggage. For some folks, gifts just aren’t a big deal, either because presents were less important culturally or because they aren’t forgotten middle children.

        But too often, I think women don’t demand better treatment, resentments build up, and next thing you know the husband is whining to the marriage counselor, “Yeah, I know she always got me a present, but she said it was fine if I didn’t get her one.”

  6. Haha thanks for the advice, Autumn! Oh yeah, I try to give “constructive criticism” to my husband when it comes to gift-giving, because I think he tries his best to give presents… but in his household they just didn’t grow up with this culture, so I think he’s had a rough time getting the hang of it (last year I gave my mother-in-law her first birthday present… EVER). Compared to my ex’s, my husband actually gives pretty awesome (and practical) presents.

    My best friend H had so many funny bad-husband-gift-stories this year, it was great. She told her husband she wanted these expensive leggings for her birthday ($40 per leg), and when she opened the present she found TWO LEFT LEGS! And there was no return policy, haha!

    And yes, I do agree that women are wired to be considerate due to the baby thing. Makes total sense. Still, I wish they didn’t make romantic comedies with men who are more romantic than women–or at the very least, make it mandatory for men to watch those romantic comedies so they know what women expect, lol. And your Ayn Rand comment..!!

    Anyway this comment is way too long! But like your previous post said… girlfriends. They help us survive the bad presents.

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