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The Gifts That Don't Keep On Giving

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Hello my (male) friends,

Quick holiday gifting PSA. I’m about to impart wisdom on you that will be a relationship saver. Probably. Honestly, I haven’t done a deep dive into my blog demographics, so perhaps it is lacking in male readers. Perhaps this PSA will actually just be printed out in households around the world and gently slid beneath bathroom doors when you have no choice but to read the latest material. Yes, I did say around the world. I have done a shallow dive into my blog demographics. Happy Holidays, United Kingdom, I see you.

Ladies, I do apologize if any of the following breaks girl code. For example, I will be talking about pedicures. I will do my best to refrain from sharing the actual bliss that is a pedicure or the joy that envelops a salon when its population is entirely female. I would never divulge those details lest any men are led to think perhaps I should try this out…take your talons somewhere else, fellas. We don’t want your crusty heels in our rose water and we certainly don’t want our hot stones touching your Yeti legs.

As we near another holiday season, I would like to formally declare a halt on all activity gifts. Or coupon gifts. Also IOU or TBD gifts. Basically, any gift that does not involve an actual item neatly wrapped and handed over to your lovely lass. I’m sorry to come down so hard in the time of supply chain issues when, at last, those gifts-to-arrive later may actually hold some validity. Keep your redemption promises to yourselves. We know the drill and it does not include actual redemption.

Some personal history. Did I say personal? This history could be repeated by females across America at any given time. Some worldwide history: I know that if I sat down at tonight’s dinner table and announced my desire to claim all of the claimable gifts that I’ve received over the last decade, I would see three pairs of panicked and terrified eyes staring back at me. I would likely smell a sizzle as each of my family member’s brain began to fry in a desperate attempt to remember, well, what the hell I was talking about. Each would likely assume that I was referring to the person on their left as the gift-granter-but-not-given guilty party.

Eventually, I would break out the specifics, probably on a spreadsheet. I would map out the two dozen pending coffee dates. I would menu hop through multiple Lunch on Me! offers. I would lay down endless crumpled crayon written cards for window washing, floor mopping, or freshly cooked breakfasts in bed (just kidding, my husband would never allow that) breakfasts. I would highlight the hours owed to me at that elusive foot scrubbing lounge. There would be artistic renderings depicting free hugs, free kisses, and free handholds that evaporated along with those tiny, sweet tots who weren’t grossed out by physical contact. It doesn’t seem fair really, lawd knows I held a lot of gross hands when they belonged to people under four feet. Can’t a nine-foot teen give me at least a fist pump?

To be completely fair, I’m more lenient with my mulligans when it comes to the younger set. As a mother, you quickly learn that all moments typical of gifts for mom will end with a cornucopia of varied, last minute purchases. At first, you wonder why someone thought you wanted a pink fuzzy steering wheel wrap. You will try to recall ever mentioning how much you’d love a pair of Bob Ross Chia Pets. One day, the puzzle will come together as you see such items grouped together in the Forget Anything? section of your local Target. Yes, you’ll think, they did forget something. They forgot that I, too, am part of the holiday season. It is always a surprise that you have a birthday. It is always a shock to learn that, while buying Christmas presents for your husband, kids, your parents, your in-laws, all cousins on both sides of the family, the mailman, the Amazon driver, and sixteen teachers…that you did not cover the purchasing of your own. The younger set? They do have a pass, to a point. As both of my children approach twenty, I am slightly amazed that neither are really, truly sure what date my birthday actually falls on. I take comfort in knowing that they have finally nailed down the month.

My husband? I flip back and forth on giving him a pass. There have been times when I have given him a pass and then rescinded that pass with the tears of a woman who has presents that have not presented. I know the typical familial makeup often assigns the least amount of responsible adulting to the husband. I’m not even saying that pejoratively. The reality is, we wives and mothers really just do all the things better. We are familiar with the concept of a calendar and are not too proud to drive out of the garage with a dozen Post It notes stuck to the dashboard sending us on a retail scavenger hunt. We are not magic. We just have developed an ability to organize our lives by organizing our families’ lives. Have I ever suggested to my husband or children that they, too, access their calendar on occasion? Sure. Perhaps because the demand came while screaming at the top of my frustrated lungs, they thought it would fizzle once my face turned back to a normal color.

I currently have two unfulfilled trips in my luggage.

I have actually suggested that we take those trips out of the unused gifts bucket so that I could stop wondering when they were happening. I blame myself just a bit because I have had some winning birthday presents for my husband in the last decade. One involved a surprise trip to the Air Force Museum which was completely planned and kept secret until he stole a glance at the Delta Gate Marque on our changeover in Atlanta. Another was the You Get Everything package to see Counting Crows that included a guitar and a seat so close to the stage that he could see up the lead singer’s nostrils. The ability to pull these wins off brings me a huge sense of accomplishment. My husband’s elation brings me a huge sense of joy. But they also bring me a wiggle in my stomach as I know that, in the immediate days following, my husband will brainstorm present equality. I also know that if something sticks in his idea bank, it will likely see the light of day only once - at the time of presentation.

That probably sounds harsh. I don’t mind putting it on paper because my husband and I have talked about it. He knows that I am right. He feels terrible that I am right. I don’t want to be right. Future gifts for the ladies are like coupons for angst. We don’t want a 3x5 with a note saying “Housekeeping! Paid for by me!” Well, we do, yes. But what we really want is for you to have it set up and scheduled and paid for and include a date when we should leave the house in order to let Molly Maids come in. Otherwise, it is just another to-do. I want housekeeping, yes. What I don’t want is to make arranging it my new project. Have a pedicure on us! Okay, now all I have to do is figure out when I’m not driving the taxi, prepping dinner, or working. Then when I have all that worked out and have shiny happy toes, I will get to slide my own card through the reader. Could we not even get an actual gift card? Better yet, tell me exactly which two hours have been cleared for my departure from our homestead.

I currently have two unfulfilled trips in my luggage.

One was for the 2020 US Open. In fairness, it was cancelled. When I learned that the 2021 US Open would be happening, I started coming up with possibilities on how my husband would sweep me off to New York City. Would he suggest packing a suitcase for a surprise getaway? Would we start a drive that pointed unexpectedly north with hidden bags in the trunk? Would I be blindfolded? As the event neared, I vacillated between JUST ASK HIM and NO! HE’LL REMEMBER! He did not remember. When I did ask, finally he A) was embarrassed and B) explained that he didn’t know it was happening and C) thought I would make the arrangements since I’m the one who knows tennis things. D) So, the gift was really just an ask for me to plan my own getaway? E) Excellent.

The second trip is to swim with the manatees in Florida. You can just repeat all of the above, but replace “tennis” with “sea cows.” I did provide the details on the migration patterns of these gentle giants. I became less enthusiastic when I learned that the kids wanted to come with us on our weekend getaway. I did provide an enthusiastic meltdown on a random day when I needed a card to play to explain my moodiness. In fairness, it was right in that migration season and I had started to suspect, again, that there would be no surprise trips to the airport. Full disclosure, this trip is now on the books. We have a date, and I am nervously assuming my beloved is working on a plan. I am excited. I will also ask, after fulfillment, that this be the last of the placeholder gifts. I don’t say that to be ugly, I say that because having such gifts knocking around my head all the time makes me ugly.

If only I could erase these placeholder gifts from my mind as quickly and easily as the givers erase them from theirs. Everyday juggling and exhaustion are enough to keep this girl's cranky side at the ready. There is no need to add on a pretend list of help around the house for me to tap into when I'm having a moment. I don’t want to own a rolodex of remember-when-you-said-we-would presents. But, my fellow fellows, we women really are like elephants. Once you place the potential of a minute of respite into our hands, we will hold onto hope until it is fulfilled. Think long and hard before you write that certificate for a free car wash. Really. Pray on it.

Do you really want to turn your life into a series of unexpected moments dedicated to exasperated reminders that you still owe me a girls night out?

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