Gift-giving and holidays were huge in my family. Life wasn’t necessarily great the rest of the year, but looking forward to holidays and birthdays got us through.
In Andy’s Chinese-American childhood? There was no emphasis on holidays or gifts. If he was lucky, there was lucky money in a red envelope when he was young. When he was older, if he was lucky, his mom might tell him to stop at Foodland and pick up a random cake for his own birthday.
Andy did a great job with gifts when we were first together. But after Baby D arrived, he slacked off. He forgot about items such as stocking stuffers, which was no big deal when we were with my family, where stuffing stockings is a competitive sport and I got plenty of items from my dad’s current wife or various siblings. But our first Christmas at home alone?
I got nothing. Which was unfathomable to me, the person who spent hours picking out Andy’s favorite candies and bottles of bourbon (big and small).
Andy rallied after that, but he has never spent anywhere near the time I do picking out gifts. Occasionally, though, he hit the jackpot. Like the time he found out how much I love Advent Calendars and got me the ultimate adult one from Vosages. Every year after that, he faithfully ordered a refill and restocked my calendar with high class chocolates.
Probably because Vosages sent him a yearly reminder.
For our last anniversary, I got Andy Whistle Pig bourbon, plus a second bottle for 5 cents, because Bevmo was having a sale. (Andy loves getting a bargain. He’s not truly happy with a gift unless I outline the great deal I got after he opens it. This is an absolute anathema to pretentious white people, but I’ve learned to roll with it.)
Unfortunately, when I was wrapping the bottles, I realized they were WHISKEY, not bourbon! I went back to the store had to argue with an employee about exchanging the unwanted whiskey.
Huffy Bevmo Employee: “Well, you should have known better. Whistle Pig doesn’t make a bourbon.”
Me, whipping out my phone and hitting the Google app: “Yes, they do.”
“I have never seen one!”
Me, holding up phone: “Now you have!”
Huffy Bevmo Employee: “Well, still, you shouldn’t have—”
Me, interrupting: “Trusted that Bevmo would only put BOURBON in the one locked BOURBON case?”
I was allowed to make an exchange. (Note: Most other Bevmo employees have always been helpful and not pissy while being flat out wrong about liquor. I got the Dunning-Kruger special that day.) Still, I prided myself, a non-drinker, on knowing more about bourbon than a liquor store employee—even though the only reason I know anything about bourbon is because it’s one of Andy’s favorite things. When gift-giving is important to you, you learn as much as you can about what the recipient likes so you can get them a good gift. And you take it back the minute you realize it’s NOT a good gift.
Many of you are probably insisting, “It’s the thought that counts.”
That’s a lie told by shitty gift-givers to absolve them of guilt.
Gift-giving is all in the execution.
Take Andy’s anniversary gift to me: a package from an international chocolatier. I was pretty excited…until I opened it and found nothing but solid dark chocolate. I’m a milk chocolate fan, unless the dark chocolate surrounds nuts or caramel (or both).
Andy: “You don’t like it?!”
Me, sobbing dramatically: “Solid dark chocolate? 70-80% cacao? We’ve been married for more than a decade and it’s like you don’t even KNOW me!”
Andy: “But I thought it was a milk chocolate arrangement!”
Turns out Andy didn’t actually take the time to read through the product description (although he swears it was a bait and switch, like Bevmo and the bourbon). He immediately ordered some Ghana chocolates and apple cider caramels from Lake Champlain Chocolates and insisted they were my real gift.
Last week, the yearly advent calendar refill arrived.
Or so I thought.
When I opened the box, I discovered an entirely new “Chocolate Calendar for Advent” from Vosages. One I’d seen advertised on social media and adored, but quickly swiped away from, because I already had one.
The second Andy and Baby D arrived home, I dragged them straight to the calendar. “Look, look! It’s awesome! When I press this button, it lights up! When I press this button, it plays the ‘The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ from The Nutcracker! And then you open it and there are lights inside and bigger chocolates than previous years and did you know it comes with its own charging cable?!”
Andy, looking somewhat dazed, said, “I did not know that. Wow. It has its own charging cable?!”
“But…you bought it. How did you not know?”
“I couldn’t get refills for your old calendar so I bought the new one. But I didn’t…”
“Read the actual product description? Yet again?
“So you didn’t actually intend to get me the amazing advent calendar I’ve been coveting?”
Luckily for Andy, Baby D, whose scowl had been deepening during this discussion, burst out with, “Where’s MY advent calendar?!”
“Dad got you a big Lindt one at Costco weeks ago.”
Andy said, “I’ll go get it!” and fled.
He didn’t need to worry. Andy might barely average a “C” grade in Intent.
But I only grade on Execution: