Friday, January 20, 2006

The Gift That Counts

I got an iPod for Christmas. It was a gift from my husband. I haven’t taken it out of the box yet.

In light of the fact that I quit my job last June and have yet to replace it with another one, this was the first year Dave and I had capped our spending limit on each other’s gifts.

I hunted for bargains but still aimed for quality and quantity. I purchased:

  • Shirt from Banana Republic. Back when I was employed, we had finally reached the ultimate rung on the Old Navy, Gap, Banana ladder. I feel guilty for dragging us back down to lesser brands.

  • Shirt and cords from the Gap. Dave persists in buying wide wale cords that make him look like a 40-year-old high school teacher. Which he is, but you don’t have to broadcast it. So I bought him skinny wale.

  • Crown Royal whiskey. He loves to drink Manhattans and had restocked with inferior Seagram’s 7.

  • South Park, Season 5 on DVD. Respect my authority! Dave already owns Seasons 3 & 4. This will be my coup de grace.

  • Shaving lotion from Lush. The closer he got to 40, the more obsessed he became with “exfoliating.”

  • “Teacher Man” by Frank McCourt

  • Gift cards to Blockbuster. He rents movies (that I won’t let him see in the theater) to watch while he works out on our elliptical trainer. Recent picks include “Alexander” and “The Great Raid.” Enough said.

  • Assorted fancy coffees. Put him on the endangered species list. Dave does not go to Starbucks. He brews his own java, at home, in a coffeepot, and drinks it out of a mug.

Nine gifts, all of which I knew he would enjoy. I measured this against my anticipated haul, the mound of which eventually swelled to six. Three of them I guessed to be annual gimmes: pajamas, slippers and a toothbrush. The toothbrush started out as a joke until Dave realized I seriously wouldn’t swap mine out unless he intervened.

We waited until dark for our gift exchange, the better to soak up the glow from the Christmas tree. I led off with the gift cards and coffee, hit the meat of the order with the clothes and whiskey, and mentally reserved South Park for my closer. His lineup:

Gift #1. Toothbrush. Thanks.

Gift #2. Pajamas cotton top and bottoms from the Gap. Thanks.

Gift #3. Slippers, again from the Gap (I see neither of us feels we’ve fallen on Old Navy times yet). Alrighty, we made it through that threesome, now I was ready for the big guns.

I opened Gift #4. Skin lotion. He explained how he had bought it at Anthropologie, my all-time favorite clothing boutique. If you are going to shop at Anthropologie, do not walk out with hand lotion. And if you do walk out with hand lotion, don’t break my heart by telling me you were even there. I felt like one of those t-shirts: My husband went to Anthropologie and all I got was this stinking bottle of hand lotion. I began to get a little testy.

I know Christmas is supposed to be all about the thought that counts, giving not receiving. Blah, blah, blah. And I do get all warm and fuzzy buying things for my guy and then watching him morph into a six-year-old boy as he unwraps his presents. But with my disposable cash dwindling, I was counting on Dave to come through with things I now think twice (or three times) before buying myself. Like skirts.

I opened Gift #5. The soundtrack to “Garden State.” Granted I had put this on my Wish List. And he had gone to a number of stores to find it. And had taken the time to cleverly trick wrap it amongst a number of CDs we already own. I didn’t care. This was my next-to-last present. I looked at the two small packages still sitting under the tree. One was South Park. I didn’t even want to think what was left for me. I compared our loot—he had hit pay dirt and I had hit dirt. How much, exactly, do pajamas set a person back these days?

True confession: When I was a kid, I piled my presents atop each other on the floor next to my dresser. I’d mark their summit on the wood with a piece of Scotch tape (don’t tell my Dad), and write the date with a ballpoint pen. The tale of the tape would indicate whether this had been a good year or a bad one.

Dave knows this story. Christmas 2005 was not stacking up well. I was pissed.

I practically threw the package of DVDs at him and curled up on the floor in a fetal position. “Is something wrong?” he asked. Was he kidding?

He handed me my final gift. I couldn’t have been less interested and barely mustered the energy to peel off the paper and ribbon.

It was an iPod. And not the little one. I’m talking 30GB, 7,500 songs.

I started to cry.

“I know I overspent but you’ve always gone overboard on me in the past and I know you’d never buy one for yourself….”

I’m such a beeyotch.

I got an iPod for Christmas. It’s still in the box. I’m not worthy.


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