Don’t ever trust a woman who says,”You don’t have to get me anything.”
February 26, 2003
I woke up on the morning of Friday, Feb. 14, as I do every morning. I laid around in bed for a while, trying to get up and get ready for work. My wife was leaving the house before I even made it out of bed. She kissed me and said, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
How do these holidays sneak up on me, every year? I know they’re coming. I see all the paper hearts and the cardboard cupids at the grocery store, but my brain never registers it and says get with the program, beat the mad rush for a Valentine’s Day gift.
One year, when my wife and I were more destitute than we are now, she told me weeks before her birthday that she wanted absolutely nothing, that it would be irresponsible of us to buy something we couldn’t afford. I agreed with her and put her birthday gift out off my mind.
Wrong answer. On her birthday, I remember this question being repeated to me very loudly and in several different ways, each time with a different word emphasized, “You didn’t even get me a card?” I had been foolish enough to believe that nothing really meant nothing.
I’m older now and certainly not any wiser, but I’ve learned a couple things along the way. One is to never trust a woman when she says she doesn’t need or want a gift. Her lips might be saying, “I don’t want anything,” but that’s not what she’s thinking. You’re being framed, set up, tested. The whole you-don’t-have-to-get-me-anything routine is a lie, a farce, a trap just waiting to be sprung on you, to prove that you are an insensitive boob. When it comes to gifts, do exactly the opposite of whatever she says, and you might be safe. But it’s certainly no guarantee.
There’s also the predicament of getting the wrong gift. I learned this lesson at a very young age. On my mother’s birthday, my stepfather and all of the kids gathered around my mother as she opened her gifts. My stepfather’s was the last one. Inside the cardboard box wrapped in tissue paper were three different exercise outfits and a gift certificate to a local gym. “What’s this?” my mother asked. My stepfather was grinning from ear to ear. “It’s for exercising. You’ve been talking about how you wanted to start exercising.”
Once again, wrong answer. One moment my stepfather was a proud, grinning man, a man who had listened to his woman’s needs and desires, a man who had even had enough forethought to buy her not just any old gift, but an inspired gift to help her better herself. “What are you saying? Are you saying I’m fat?” my mother yelled. My stepfather looked confused and defeated. His careful and meticulous planning had backfired on him. It all had gone so horribly wrong, nothing like he had imagined. I made a mental note to myself – it’s not the thought that counts, but her thoughts that count.
Buying clothes for a woman is a dangerous business anyway, and I would suggest steering clear of it at all cost. You may think that the blouse you are buying her is the one she said she really likes, but you’re probably buying one that fits her wrong or is made of the wrong material or, God forbid, is the wrong shade of red. If you are brave enough to go down that road and buy her clothing, make sure that you buy the smallest possible size, regardless of her build. Don’t even think about buying the medium. And whatever you do, hold on to that receipt.
This Valentine’s Day, I had to think fast. I ended up at Albertsons, where I bought my wife some flowers. Sure, it’s not the classiest thing to do, but I was in a tight jam. There wasn’t a florist in town who could deliver a dozen roses at that moment. Smarter men, or their secretaries, had beaten me to the punch.
So when it comes to giving gifts, I find that the preemptive strike usually works best. Sure, her heart might not be set on a bouquet of flowers from Albertsons, but it can avert a potentially dangerous situation. It can certainly divert her attention away from the slob you really are and, if you’re lucky, keep you in her good graces until the next required gift-giving occasion.
It’s a lot like doing your taxes. You can wait until the last minute to pay the piper, but you’re still going to have to do it eventually. Start early. If you wait until the last minute, you’re just going to end up waiting in line at Albertsons with me and the other boneheads.