Hubs and I were sitting at a local winery with a group of friends, when I overheard one of the men comment that he needed to buy his wife a birthday present and he was stressed out because he had no idea what to get her. I didn’t hear Hubs’ response, so I asked him about it on the drive home.
“What did you tell him?”
“I told him I couldn’t help him. I never know what to get you either.”
“How can you not know??? We’ve been married for 14 years.”
“Women are so picky,” he grumbled, “and we’ll undoubtedly screw it up and get you the wrong thing, the wrong size or the wrong color. Or you have something just like it already. Or your sister does, and you two can’t own the same outfit. Or it’s ‘too young,’ whatever that means. Or it looks like your mother. Or somehow we’ve insulted you. For what, we don’t have a clue, but we need to apologize and buy you a make-up gift. We could use a little help here.”
It’s not so hard, gentlemen. Your gift just needs to show her that you’ve been listening to her. That you know her. That you see her as more than an extension of you or the mother of your children. To help you out, here’s a list of what NOT to buy her:
1. A vacuum cleaner or any other item meant to clean the house. Too reminiscent of 1954, when women lived for new ways to keep the home sparkling for Hubby, the kids, and the two shedding Huskies.
2. Two tickets to an event you want to see. If you have to repeatedly assure her, “Trust me, you’ll love it!” trust me, she won’t.
3. Clothing in colors, prints, or style you’ve never seen her wear. Clothing items in styles she’s never worn before will be interpreted as “Try this. It’s better than what you usually wear.”
4. Anything that suggests she needs to lose weight. A bathroom scale that measures body fat. A Tread Climber that “burns twice as many calories as walking.” Or God forbid, a Jenny Craig membership, to “show your support” of her current weight-loss efforts. We do not see these items as being supportive. We see them as you agreeing that we’re fat.
5. Cookbooks, coffee table books, or information books in general. Anything you might buy for a friend’s housewarming is impersonal, at best. She might like the book, but she won’t like that she got it from you.
6. Personal grooming items. This includes razors, hair removal products for the nose or chin, bikini waxing kits, dark spot fading creams, and any spa products designed to reduce cellulite or eye bags. We prefer to believe you don’t know we use these products, and if you ever see us doing so, you promise to never speak of it. Ever.
7. Workout DVDs. Regardless of your intent, we hear “Look, honey! Carve out a spare hour a day like these women, and maybe you can look like that!” A voluptuous friend of mine received P90X from her hubby for her birthday. She locked herself in the bathroom and cried for the rest of the day. It was a long time before he saw his wife naked again, and he still refers to it as “the day he shot his own foot off.” Quick study, that guy.
8. Makeup or fragrance from any store that ends in the word “Mart.” Even worse, makeup or fragrance kits in any store that ends in the word “Mart.”
9. Gift cards. These are created for people you don’t know well. If you’re married to her, you’re disqualified from shopping in this category.
10. Anything commonly known as a “gag gift.” Gifts should never be an opportunity to make fun of her, especially in public. A tool set because she can’t work a hammer. A cookbook if she can’t cook. “I was just teasing” is not going to save you. Now you’re just the douche who ruined his wife’s special day.
11. Equipment for activities she doesn’t do. These include golf clubs, skis, or bowling balls, because you love these activities, when she’s never expressed a desire to do them. It’s great that you want to introduce her to an activity you enjoy, but, simply put, her gift shouldn’t be about you.
In our early years together, Hubs wanted to buy a new DVD player. Money was tight, and I didn’t think we needed one. We debated the issue for weeks. The following Valentine’s day, he brought home a beautiful bouquet of flowers, tied with a big red ribbon to a DVD player. At the time, he thought it was hilarious. Today he calls it the “Unfortunate Anti-Romance Gift.”
A few years later, we were shopping for a second car. Our budget was $10,000 or less for something used. We looked for quite some time. On my birthday, he pulled into the driveway in a pale yellow, 1974 Mercedes 450SL.
He smiled proudly and explained, “I know the 450SL is your favorite car, ever. It’s also a 1974, which is the year we graduated from high school together. And it’s the same color as your hair.” It was the trifecta of gifts. Thoughtful, meaningful, and personal.
He was delighted (we had to buy a car anyway), and he found one he knew I’d love, within budget. He called it a “two-fer.”
I called it perfect.