Wrapping it up on December 14, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
Oh my GOSH. Your letter from Moogirl made me SOOO mad. You know — the girlie whose boyfriend was getting her lame presents? Listen — let me tell you why, and maybe you can give me some advice about the situation, yah?
I’ve been with my boyfriend for two years, and we’ve lived together for one of those years (actually a little more than that now). Anyfoo, we’re very happy. I love him, he loves me, we get along wonderfully, blah blah blah.
The problem is – he has let my birthday pass by twice with little or no fanfare.. and absolutely NO GIFT! The first time, he asked me a few times what I wanted for my birthday, and I hinted towards a few things, and made oh-so obvious hints when we went anywhere together like “OOOH! Look at that Sweater Set! I hope someone buys that for me for my birthday!” or “Wow! Look at that necklace.. my dad got one just like that for my mom’s birthday one year, she loved it, it was so pretty, I remember wishing I’d have a guy who would do something like THAT for me someday.. you know, with a necklace like THAT.. you know, THAT one.” I’m not kidding, BG, I was that obvious (That is obvious, right?).
So, he has this problem where he’s really worried that he won’t get me the right present. But the big secret is (and it’s not that big of a secret because I’m always telling him) that I don’t CARE about the present so much as I care about the pretty wrapping paper and the “Oooh I’m a little princess who gets presents from her prince” feeling. So, he kept saying that we should go down to the mall and I could pick out whatever I want. Which to me sounded so depressing I just wanted to die. Which I told him (well it sounded more like “NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!”). And then my birthday rolled around, and there was nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zip. No flowers (one picked from the front yard woulda been fine), No dinner plans (McDonald’s woulda been fine if he’d gotten the manager to sing my birthday song to me), No gift (wouldn’t have minded socks if the package had a pretty bow on it). We drove around for about an hour until we found a Japanese restaurant, and then we went to the mall and I picked out a sweater. And I swear I felt like crying the whole way home, my feelings were so hurt. I thanked him for the dinner and the sweater, but I didn’t try too hard to pretend like I’d had a good time. Was that bad?
Cut to next year. This is THE BIG ONE… I turned 21. As you can well tell, I had discussed the birthday fiasco with many of my friends. And the general consensus was “If he doesn’t do anything grand and dandy for this year, he’s in BIG TROUBLE.” Well… nothin’. I have an open mike at a coffeehouse that I host, and at the crack of midnight the whole coffeehouse sang happy birthday to me and he walked in (he works from 3 PM to Midnight at a printing company) and the whole crowd took me out for a drink, and that was about it. He was there, and he doesn’t really like drinking, so he acted miserable the whole time, and when I got home (tipsy, I admit) he seemed almost put off by the fact that I would have the NERVE to drink so much– on my 21st! Hello! I never drink, and I haven’t really since (we’re talking a beer here and there after work). He’s a little sensitive to drinking since his best friend is an alcoholic, but I was hoping he’d have a little bit more enthusiasm for the milestone in the life of the woman whom he loves so much. Don’t worry BG, I told him that too.
I have a confession to make, BG, I’ve spent my whole life wishing for a party. I’ve never had one. And every year as it nears my birthday, and I make hints like “HEY! Friends! Relations! GIMME A PARTY!” (okay, my hints are not so subtle), I hope that someone heeded and decided to throw me a surprise party… which is probably why I’m always so dressed up for the two or three days before and after my birthday. I tried to get the ball rolling with him and some friends for a birthday party because I was NOT going to plan it, but it just never happened. Then — to add insult to injury, my boyfriend dragged me to a birthday party for his friend from work whose birthday was the day after mine, so I was celebrating some other dudes day on MY BIRTHDAY WEEKEND! My 21st!! Oh, BG, I’m getting hurt feelings just thinking about it.
So anyhow, this may sound a little silly, maybe even a little immature-ish, like a little girl who didn’t get Baby Alive for Christmas one year (also me), but this was very painful for me. I was really looking forward to a birthday I could really have fun on, and my 21st, for as long as I could remember, had always seemed like the one people COULDN’T ignore. So, on the car ride home, I tried (I swear to gosh I really tried) but I just couldn’t hold it in and had a real emotional episode right there, and my boyfriend and I had a nice little talk, in which he apologized, and he felt rotten, and I felt rotten, and then he asked what I wanted for my birthday, and I told him there were these lovely PJs at a store by our place, and he went and bought them, plus a necklace for good measure, which was very sweet — but HE DIDN’T WRAP THEM! And it was like a week after my birthday, and it only happened after I literally broke down and sobbed!
This is the thing, BG, he’s just not a planner. At all. I’m sure this is obvious. And he fouls up and then he feels bad. And I feel bad that he feels bad, but it hurts my feelings!
I want my boyfriend to do for me what Moogirl’s boyfriend does for her. I want him to go to the mall, all BY HIMSELF, pick out a little present ALL BY HIMSELF, have it wrapped all pretty, and then hand it over to me with that giddy “you’re going to love it” look. I don’t CARE if it’s a pair of ugly earrings or a stuffed moose in a can. I just want the moment! Y’know? Am I totally insane? BTW, I swear to gosh I gave him the whole above paragraph verbatim, but I’m sure you knew that already.
Shall I just resign myself to a life of disappointing birthdays? I don’t wanna!
— Princess Present
You do need to get over the Baby Alive thing. Didn’t she, like, eat and wet? Eeeuw. While we’re on the subject, one of Baby Breakup Girl’s holiday must-haves was, I recall, Bless You, Baby Tender Love. When you laid her down and pushed her soft pink stomach really hard, like all the way down into her back, she’d say a soft pink “achoo!” That was it. Yes, I quickly bored. If they’d used the same mechanism, called her Baby Heimlich, and had unchewed gumdrops or bits of brisket shoot out of her esophagus…now that would have held my attention.
But I digress. Whatever the origin, you have a thing about having stuff done for you, and he has a thing about [not] doing stuff. And what you two are now playing with is Baby Vicious Cycle. I am not saying you don’t deserve nice things or that your complaints are completely out of line, but the fact of the matter is: the more you pressure, the more he fumbles. And the more he fumbles, the more you pressure. Achoo!
This is not working. Same goes for the folks who aren’t taking the hint. If you’re already dressed for the party, what’s the point of planning a surprise? You think you’re making things easier for everyone, but I think you’re making them harder.
So about the boyfriend. You all know what I am about to ask: HE MAY BE BAD AT PLANNING, BUT IS HE GOOD TO YOU ? Is it indeed possible and accurate to separate the two? Is this business with shopping and stuff a relationship-threatening symptom, or just an annoying personality trait?
It it’s the latter, I’m not saying “resign,” I’m just saying “refocus.” When it comes to this particular kind of attention from your guy — ask yourself the question that all shoppers should: do I really need it? And Why? What do I have already that works just fine? Maybe you guys do need to have a Big Talk. About Stuff, not stuff. But check your list first, Princess. I just want to make sure that you’re not dressing Boyfriend Alive in your unmet needs from Christmas past.