We left off last Monday (see Ruminations On Some Gifts, Part I) with Gary and the gloves he gave me at Christmas, and my dismay at having received something so cold from him. We were at the L word, and he’s giving me something as impersonal as gloves, though very elegant ones.
When he decided to purchase gloves for me, I imagine Gary spent a fair amount of time evaluating the merits of each pair and selecting the finest ones. But when I received them, I suspected that effort was put into presenting himself in the right light, not pleasing me. (There is no picture of these gloves because I lost them the first time I wore them the winter after he broke up with me. Oops.)
In case you are wondering, my main gift to him was a knitted throw, which years later I saw was still in use. Lovely and somewhat impersonal, but was I going to expose myself to a guy who gave me gloves?
I felt something similar after he gave me the mother of all great gifts for my 40th birthday. He planned my birthday with my likes and desires at the fore. The celebration started with dinner at one of the finest restaurants in Boston, moved on to a night at one of Boston’s best hotels, and ended with what his research told him was the best brunch in town, since he knew breakfast was my favorite meal. (I’m actually quite happy with an omelet and some rye toast at a diner, but I would agree that the bunch at Meritage is superlative.) You would think all of this would have been enough (and, really, it would have been). But on cue, a bellboy delivered a large box to our hotel room. I couldn’t imagine what it was, and even when I opened it, it took me a minute to understand what I was seeing.
In the box was a painting, one I had admired and almost bought in an antique store in Savannah, where he and I had spent a weekend months earlier. He had taken a business card from the store, saying he was mulling over a piece for himself, but later called and had the painting sent up for my birthday.
It was the best birthday ever. No one had ever done anything like that for me: wined and dined me, and gone to such lengths to please me. I had never felt so loved. Really. Ever.
But he broke up with me just two months later, saying he didn’t love me (and realized he never had…ouch!). As I came to understand that was true, my view of that birthday began to change. I’m sure he did care for me and wanted to please me, but I also think—and sensed during the festivities—that to a certain extent he wanted to earn a good grade.
Still, I liked the painting, so I managed to banish any thoughts of motivation when I hung it in my living room. It was still a great gift, no doubt.
My least favorite gift ever was from my then-husband for our 10-year anniversary. We had discussed what to get each other; I wanted an anniversary band or a new setting for my diamond, and he wanted a new band. We shopped for something for me and hadn’t yet found anything quite right (it may surprise you to know that I am picky), but we ordered a handsome band for him (which he got a whole year’s use out of).
Several days before our anniversary—and I prefer to give and receive gifts on the occasion—he came home and said, “I got you an anniversary present. I know it’s not what you wanted, but it’s something I want you to have. Here.” He handed me a box, which contained a short string of pearls.
Not only was it not what I wanted, not only was it wrong for me in every way—too short a strand for someone my age, and anyhow, I’m not a pearl person—the way it was given said everything about what was wrong with our marriage. It wasn’t about what I wanted, or who I was; it was about what he wanted me to have and who he wanted me to be. It sits in a drawer, now, losing its luster.
(Actually, I suddenly remember what may be an even worse gift from him. It was an art fountain he gave me for my birthday, on the advice of the woman he left me for. She knew I liked it because he forced us to spend the day together—we went to a museum, where I admired the fountain—to show that she was just a pal. The fact that I was able to return it on my debit card even though he bought it on his charge card neutralized it a bit though.)
Oddly, my favorite gift was one from Bob: Glad Press ‘N Seal. He’d bought it for me because of how I marveled at it at his house, oohed and ah-ed when he described how he wrapped a hamburger in it and cooked it in the microwave.
I liked the Press ‘N Seal both because it is a miracle product, and because it showed Bob was paying attention. That is the best gift a man can give, the only one that doesn’t tarnish over time.