This “discussion” comes up pretty regularly in our home. Every birthday, wedding, and gift-giving holiday we revisit this topic, although typically at Easter it starts with “why do we even have to buy Easter presents? Seriously? Who does that?”
I DO, Dear Husband, I DO.
Regardless, this is how it goes:
Husband: What do they want?
Me: I don’t know
Husband: Well, what did they put on their list/ registry?
Me: I don’t know… and I don’t care… and I refuse to look other than to get ideas related to taste or style.
Husband: ….. deep sigh….
Me: (his sigh implies it’s still my turn to talk) It’s not a gift if you tell me to buy it for you.
Husband: …. silence….. (which implies he’s still wants me to talk)
Me: I mean, seriously—what’s the point of saying “go buy this for me”? How is that me giving you a gift?
Husband, with a valiant attempt at his form of logic: well, if they don’t like it, it’s just a waste of our money.
And then he typically ducks out before I start throwing things at him. Things that were gifted to me out of love, not off of a registry, that he thinks were a waste of your money…. Just to be clear.
His argument was even used once to justify why we didn’t receive a thank you note for a wedding gift. My husband stated (with no evidence from Ann Landers or Dear Abby to back this up) “if you don’t buy a gift off their registry, they don’t have to write you a thank you note”. I won’t even go there. He is so very, very wrong on that one. (as were those who didn’t write a thank you note, eh hem.)
Simply put, my husband and I approach gift giving from two different directions. And when I say different, I mean completely opposite. And when I say completely opposite, I am implying that my way is right, and his way is wrong. (Never say I’m not honest about my faults.)
He believes you buy people things they want you to buy them so that your money is not wasted and they are guaranteed pleasure. I believe in giving gifts of love that demonstrate what you mean to me. Gifts that come from the soul. Gifts that show I put thought into our relationship, your interests, what will give you warmth and happiness. I mean, those italics alone show which way is better.
But this year I started to think about, really, where do these different ways of looking at gifts come from? What leads us to how we view buying presents for others?
A long while ago, early in my marriage, my parents recommended I read the book “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. Now, you may or may not be able to tell, but self-help and counseling-type books annoy me. I refuse to believe they can tell me anything I don’t already know, but this book had some valid points. We interact with people in the way in which we like to be interacted. We touch people when touch is important to us. We spend quality time with people when we value quality time. We gift when gifts are important to us. So maybe the same thing applies to *how* we gift.
Maybe we gift in the manner that demonstrates how we want to be gifted. People such as my husband only want that for which they’ve specifically asked. They know what they want (or think they know) and they think they won’t appreciate anything other than that specific gift. (Of course, I think they are close-minded and wrong, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s the same fallacy, in my mind, that causes people to not like food they’ve never tasted. They get so looped into “it must be bad, or else I would have tried it” that they truly believe it is bad and they do not like it.) When it comes to gifts, they want others to trust that they know what is best for themselves. There needs and desires are very specific. They want them to be met, and they want to meet the specific needs and desires of others.
People like myself want others to *know* them. I want to you to intuitively determine what it is that will make me most happy and what will demonstrate your love for and knowledge of me and my inner thoughts and dreams. I would also like you to read my mind. Okay, okay. I get it. It’s practical versus romantic. Yes, I hear myself saying it even as I type (although I refuse to say male versus female, since I know people of both genders who violate those stereotypes). But this does explain why my son says very specifically:
“I want a computer and an axe, and if you aren’t going to get me either of these two things, please don’t get me anything at all, as it will just be a waste of your money. I will say thank you, but then I will put it away and never look at it again- and I will be sad.” And he's been known to do that when I've thought that perhaps Christmas would be a good time to introduce him to a potentially new interest such as calligraphy.
My daughters, on the other hand, give me lists of perhaps 214 items, each one with a description similar to this:
“I would like pink fuzzy pajama pants, but you could also get me purple fuzzy ones—or I’d like blue or green or yellow, or pretty much any color that’s not black or brown… unless they are polka-dotted, then it would be okay. And they don’t have to be fuzzy, just comfy; and not really pajama pants—I want to wear them to school, so really any pants—or any comfy clothes at all, because really I just want some new comfy clothes—or really pretty ones- that’s fine too, even if they aren’t comfy.”
And they are thrilled when I buy them stilts instead.
My husband sums it up a little differently: “People who refuse to buy off lists are really just know-it-alls who think they know better than you what you want and what is right for you.”
You may be able to see why my husband might feel that way.
I tend to have a rather poor rebuttal: “People who only buy off lists lack imagination”.
But in truth, I think there may be some truth in all of this-- I don’t want to buy off a list because I want to demonstrate my love for you in a way that can’t be demonstrated simply by purchasing your shopping list for you. And when you buy me a gift, I want to know that you know and love me. My husband honestly believes that there is no point in wasting money on something you may not like—because he wants you to be happy. And because he loves you, he doesn't want you to waste your money on something he's not going to absolutely love.
Really, it all comes down to love, doesn’t it?
I want to show my love and care for you by putting love and thought into my choice of a gift for you. My husband wants to show his love and care for you by purchasing something that he knows will make you happy. And I guess when it all comes down to love, we are both right.
So, Happy Christmas, Birthday, Wedding, Holiday. I hope you like what I got you. My husband knows you’ll like your gift from him.