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Dear Breakup Girl,
Okay, un petit dilemma. It being the festive, gift-giving season and all, I
thought you might be able to help with a somewhat topical question: What do you
do about boyfriends who give lame presents?
Let me elaborate:
I love my boyfriend dearly. We have our ups and downs, but on the whole
things are great. We've been together over three years.
Just one itty bitty li'l problem surfaced -- it was my birthday. Now, my
boyfriend used to give utterly lame presents for birthdays and
Christmas, but he's been steadily improving. This year, I got a pair of garnet
earrings for my birthday -- doubly great when he'd sworn never to buy me
jewelry until I agreed to get engaged to him (whole 'nother story).
The problem is that he thinks he was being really thoughtful and sweet and
getting me something great. I already have one pair of garnet earrings -- with
nicer stones, even -- and I never wear those. He just didn't think, I guess.
(He also helped his folks pick out a present for me, which was a dismal book I
have no interest in reading, and really isn't "me" at all.)
Trouble is, he gets all enthusiastic about stuff and thinks "Wow,
that's so great, must buy that for my girl!" without stopping to think
whether or not I need or want it, or would even like it. The garnet earrings
would not have been cheap, either, and it pains me to see him spending
so much money on a present which, let's face it, fails to hit the mark.
And I just don't know what to say when he hugs me as he gives it to me, I
pretend valiantly that the present is great, and he beams proudly "Do I
know my girlfriend or what?!" I hate having to lie to him, and I really
really hate trying to pretend enthusiasm for a present like that, especially
when I'm feeling hurt and disappointed. But I can't exactly turn around and say
"No, you obviously don't because this sucks."
How do I nicely steer him in the direction of more thoughtful presents, or
tactfully let him know that past efforts have failed to hit the mark somewhere
-- or is this a boyfriend quirk I'll just have to put up with, and resign
myself to having lots of expensive stuff that I'll never like or use? I really
don't want to seem greedy or grasping-- I'd be just as happy with a $5 present
that really had thoughtfulness behind it -- but it just sort of hurts to see
him so consistently (and expensively) getting it wrong.
What do I do, BG?
You're gonna lose the readers' sympathy vote unless I
go back and underscore a key distinction. It's not that you're like, "Boo
hoo, garnets are so five minutes ago! I want ruuuuuubies!" It's that in
your world, "good" gifts are the ones that show a particular kind of
practical yet creative premeditation, perhaps even a wardrobe inventory and
other background research. You think that a gift is a wrapped manifestation of
precisely how well someone knows you and how profoundly they think and feel
about you. All of which is fine.
When you're shopping.
But do you remember what I told Carrie? "Some people can carry a
tune, some people can't. Some people can cook, some people can't. Some people
can make that funny shamrock shape with their tongues, some people can't. And
-- you know where this is going -- some people can buy gifts, some people
can't. Buying The Right Gift is a high-pressure situation in which not all of
us display grace." In Carrie's case, there were other ways in which Santa
wasn't coming through for her; his less-than-commanding presents were not an
aberration, but an indication ... that he may not exactly have been God's gift.
I told her to trust her gut, and to trust me on this one: that to find someone
who finds his own way to come through for you, no matter what -- well, you
can't put a price tag on that.
And that, Moogirl, seems to me to be what you've found
in Earring Boy. You said it yourself: "He gets all enthusiastic...he hugs
[you] ... he beams proudly." What that says to Breakup Girl is that the
garnets are not a clueless copout -- nor, more importantly, is trying to buy
you off with baubles, hoping they outsparkle an otherwise dull union. You're
right about this: he is not thinking about what's already in your jewelry box
when he hands over his gold card.
He is thinking, "My girlfriend is a rare gem. I
will buy her two."
Now that's a gift.
So there are only two things you are allowed to say in
response. One is: "THANK YOU!" The other -- if you're still stuck on
this idea that he's "getting it wrong" -- is this: "How about we
try something different next Christmas -- like, instead of giving each other,
like, stuff, we plan and go in on something together: a dinner, a trip, some
other treat?" Just a thought. But whatever you do, Moogirl, you better be
wearing those earrings.
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