Published in The Ferndale Record, February 9, 2011
The February I was expecting my fourth child, I knew what I wanted for Valentine’s Day. Those decorative boxes of candy are a deliciously evil indulgence, and I always thought instead of eating the goodies inside, I might as well attach them directly to my hips and thighs. But, that year I was pregnant and decided since my weight was only going up before it would come down again, why not?
I explained the object of my desire to an understanding husband in explicit detail: It should be an enormous pink or red heart-shaped box of assorted chocolates, with a festive bow on top. It would be all mine, and a symbol that my mate knew how to get me a gift I really wanted. It felt oddly powerful.
His gift giving was on target and I can still taste those gooey little hunks of whatever-they-were doused in varying chocolate.
I know, I know. It’s not as romantic as having your loved one read your mind and inherently KNOW what you’d like for a special day. But here’s the deal: It works.
If you prefer to be surprised but are feverishly counting on a particular gift, prepare to be disappointed. Significant others usually mean well, but don’t often nail it without a giant hint—like a piece of paper with all pertinent details such as color, precise location of the desired item, size, and the fact that it’s on hold in your name at Macy’s.
In fact, send your loved one an Email with a link to the specific item and a kind note saying how bitter you’ll be if you end up with a Dust Buster instead. Boom. There it is.
You still might not get what you’d like. But at least you’re not depending on someone remembering your not-so-casual mention, a few weeks or months ago, of that thing you really want in that store by that place off some exit.
Here’s something I’ve tried. Buy it yourself.
The year after my divorce was final I decided to go to the beach alone for Christmas. In hindsight this was something I probably won’t do again any time soon, but it felt right at the time. On top of which, I intended to make it a holiday I could enjoy.
So, in the days before I left town I did a little shopping. I bought a pair of those retro, cat-eye reading glasses with little jewels in the top corners and asked the clerk to gift-wrap them. I had a couple of other little things to open, and I laid them all on a table in my hotel room.
When I tore open the box with the glasses, I was thrilled—it was a giddy moment. I could give myself the perfect gift without relying on anyone else. Oh, the control!
Another time I sent myself flowers for an accomplishment that would mean little to anyone else. I went to the florist, picked out what I wanted, wrote myself a lovely card, and asked for them to be delivered at 3:00 p.m. that day. I discovered that when someone’s standing on your porch with flowers for you, it doesn’t matter who sent them. It was my little secret, and I felt giggly surprise. I read the card with the kinds words, and tucked it away in one of those places with things I’ll keep forever.
Nobody wants to receive something you don’t want. But since others extend their own brands of kindness, you will. That’s why it never hurts to take care of the job yourself.
Heartless? Nah. Just satisfyingly practical.