Next to my stellar memory (which was recently vindicated when I learned that there was indeed a Maudie Wheatley in my sorority), I take great pride in my gift-giving skills. I love giving gifts exponentially more than I like getting gifts. I spend a lot of time thinking about gifts and bringing a unique blend of humor, compassion, luxury and whimsy to the gifts I give to my loved ones. Not every gift from me is a slam dunk– there have been plenty of lame fleece jackets or scented candles. Like writers’ block, I sometimes get gift block, which happens when inspiration fails to strike and I am left standing in the check-out aisles of T.J. Maxx with some bath gel and socks.
I find it torturous that some important people in my life do not want things. For example, my husband never really wants anything. Golf stuff? No, he would rather get that himself. How about a book? No thanks, I don’t like reading. Magazing subscription? No. iPad? No, I bought one for myself. I refuse to phone it in by giving him a gift certificate, so I have had to get creative. Specifically, I have resorted to getting Jeff gifts that he doesn’t know he needs and for which he has not yet tapped into his desire.
Some gems I have given Jeff include a subscription to the Meat of the Month club, which entailed a different exotic meat showing up at our house each month. That was a bit of a fumble for me since I didn’t really think through the fact that I would have to eat that nasty meat myself. That was the winter that found me eating such delicacies as elk stew and ostrich soup, both of which were quite gamey.
Most recently, I took a pair of Sadie’s shoes from Jeff’s office and decided to get them bronzed. I had no idea what a firestorm that would result from that stroke of pure genius. It all started in mid-December when I was sitting at Jeff’s desk looking for a pen and noticed that Sadie’s old Mary Jane sandals were sitting there all little and precious and cute and sort of sweaty. My first thought was that it was kind of gross. Then, I decided I would turn it into a present for Jeff. I googled “bronzing baby shoes,” and found a great place on the west coast where they would turn Sadie’s sweaty castaways into timeless treasures.
Later that week, Sadie and I boxed up her shoes and sent them to the bronzery. I spent a long time trying to explain to Sadie why I was sending her shoes to California. Anyway, weeks passed and I decided I would give them to Jeff for his birthday in March. Unfortunately, I didn’t really stay on top of the shoes’ journey, because one random night in January they arrived along with some other packages from Amazon. Because I wasn’t paying attention, I told Jeff to open all the packages and next thing I know he’s holding the shoes asking me “WTF are these?”
Damn. Foiled. I explained that they were Sadie’s old shoes that I got bronzed for him.
What followed was something akin to radio silence. Jeff’s response was a mixture of amused and perplexed. My response was abject disappointment: I thought it was a great idea and here it arrived and without any ceremony or preparation Jeff opened it. Later that night, Jeff made an off-handed comment that while he knows that he is one of the most difficult people in the world to buy a gift for, he wondered if maybe I bought him gifts that I wanted for myself.
Ooooohhhhhhhhhhh Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. That was NOT the right thing to say. I couldn’t decide how to proceed. I know he was mostly commenting on how hard he is to shop for because he wants for nothing. All I could hear was “so you got yourself some bronze baby shoes and said it was for me.” Let me be clear, World Wide Web, this is NOT what he said. As is often the case in the sacred institution of marriage, I on occasion hear more (or less) than what is said. It was a crushing blow to my self-esteem around the subject of gift giving. Understandably, Jeff was at a loss of how to discuss the topic with me because of my adorable tendencies to over react.
The next day I started to poll my male friends, asking their thoughts on the bronze shoes as a gift. The general tenor of the comments from my male friends was outrage and shock that I would pick such a terrible gift for Jeff. Let me recap some choice quotes:
“If my wife gave me those shoes for my birthday, I would throw them back at her and tell her to ‘F’ off, because clearly the shoes were for herself.” — Bobby A, age 49.
“Oh, I remember when [my wife] wanted to bronze one of the kids’ pairs of shoes. I was so appalled. I thought it was so middle class to get the shoes bronzed. I wanted them just as they were, not all bronzed…and middle class.” Robert S., age 50 something.
Alrighty then. The comment about the “middle class” nature of the gift pretty much deflated my spirits so utterly that I stopped asking. I don’t even really know what that means as an insult, but I know it’s not good. I am still trying to understand what exactly someone is saying when hurling the insult “bourgeouis,” so it’s not likely that I will figure out the nuances of “middle class” any time in the near term.
The problem is that Jeff’s birthday is fast approaching and I got nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Even worse than that, I have perfomance anxiety about gift giving. All I know for now is that exotic meat and shoes made of metal are off the table. It’s highly likely that Jeff will get a vanilla-scented Yankee candle and some Addidas socks if I don’t think of something magical soon.