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!

A College Story (#233)

(Trigger warning for sexual assault.)

My father once told a less than suitably deferential Homecoming date, “Bring her home safe, early, and happy, and you’ll stay in one piece.”

I was mortified. I was also home safe and right on time.

I went to college thousands of miles from home. Continue reading A College Story (#233)

The Boyfriend Thieves (#194)

Being an Amazonian brunette sandwiched between prettier, blonder, more petite sisters sucks. More than one guy ditched me after meeting my sisters.

Take the Boy Next Door. I pined after him for the entirety of seventh grade. He finally asked me to the last dance before school ended. Then Older Sister, who lived with Dad (I lived with our Mom) came for the summer. The Boy Next Door told me we were done, because he was in love with Older Sister. Continue reading The Boyfriend Thieves (#194)

Gossip Gets a Bad Rap (#182)

Back in college, if I found a guy interesting, I asked around until I found someone who knew him well. (This was back before social media enabled anonymous stalking, youngsters. Back then, we had to have actual conversations.) Once I found a reference, they usually enjoyed sharing their expert opinions on my potential love interest.

“Well, if you like D&D, you might have a shot.”

“If you like open relationships, you might have a shot.”

“If you have a yacht, you might have a shot.” Continue reading Gossip Gets a Bad Rap (#182)

An Anti-Valentine for America (#175)

The roses are blackened
The violets are dead
Your liver is poisoned
By sugar and bread.

The news is disheartening
An Orange Cretin is King
Republicans gloat
And won’t do a damned thing. Continue reading An Anti-Valentine for America (#175)

When Your Asian Guy Won’t Fight For You (#157)

This spur-of-the-moment midnight post might not be for everyone. But a fellow Western Woman involved with an Asian Male is heartsick now. Maybe there are a few other women out there running into this same cultural clash.

Maybe I can help. So here I am, riding in on my white horse, with this post about one of the biggest struggles I face with my Chinese-American guy. Not every white woman’s experience will mirror mine, and not every guy with Chinese parents will turn out like Andy. But some of you might see just enough of the same dynamic to find our story helpful.

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In my white, American family, dissent was acceptable. Continue reading When Your Asian Guy Won’t Fight For You (#157)

When Turned Down Turns Ugly (#136)

When "stop" and "no" must be wreathed in roses...
Why do “stop” and “no” have to be wreathed in roses?

When my mother discovered that I had discovered boys, she told me a story about the first time a boy asked her out. He’d called her and asked her to a movie. She’d been so horrified she’d hung up on him. Her much older brother, who had listened in on the conversation, was also horrified – horrified that Mom had been so mean. He’d immediately found her and reamed her out for not considering the boy’s feelings, for being rude, and for not “letting him down gently.” Continue reading When Turned Down Turns Ugly (#136)

Black Valentine (#115)

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About three years before I met Andy, it was A Very Bad Year for Dating. My boyfriends were:

The Cheater

The Emotionally Abusive Dude

Broody, Moody, Emotionally Unavailable Dude

Sometimes, you just have years like that. Continue reading Black Valentine (#115)

One Beastly Dance (#73)

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My Chinese-American husband and I met in the competitive partner dancing world. My boyfriend/ partner at the time (Ethan) didn’t want to compete anymore. He said, “Hey, you should dance with Andy.”

THAT was a tactical error. Continue reading One Beastly Dance (#73)

Don’t Do Dick (#64)

Will the sun finally go down on Dick?
Will the sun finally go down on Dick?

When I read Susan Blumberg-Kason’s Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair with China Gone Wrong, the book took me back to the relationship I had with Dick, the man who introduced me to competitive dancing. If you want to be taken back as well, check out Dick The First and Dick The Second. In short, Dick morphed from charming into controlling as fast as I turned into a decent dancer. Continue reading Don’t Do Dick (#64)