ERIN DONOVAN

I’m losing my grip on giving good gifts

Posted Jan. 30, 2013, at 1:18 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2013, at 5:02 p.m.
Erin Donovan
Erin Donovan

I’m not a good gift giver. It’s a truth I’ve accepted only recently. For the longest time I thought I was quite adept at it given the time I would invest in finding the right token for someone. I did all the requisite preparatory work of a savvy gift giver. I kept my ears tuned to the subtle wishes that escaped someone’s lips. I noticed what caught their fancy when perusing a store. I took stock of what they envied from the pages of a magazine. And I wrote it all down on a piece of paper that I kept tucked inside my wallet. That way, when my computerized calendar issued the first alert a few weeks in advance of the upcoming event, I could set out in calm and orderly pursuit of the item I had recorded.

The problem is that the digital notice never sounded because I had forgotten to program the event altogether.

Rather than being made aware with plenty of time to procure the desired item, I would remember the occasion at the last possible moment in the least desirable of environments, like the grocery store. While puzzling over the kind of dish I was planning to make with an argyle scarf and a candelabra, the realization that I was staring at a wish list instead of my grocery list would send me into a fit of hyperventilation in the produce section. With a vice grip on a gourd, I would look at my phone’s calendar to confirm that the birthday I had vigilantly prepared for was now in progress. Add a few hours if you go by Pacific Standard Time, which I always do, irrespective of the reality that neither I nor the recipient of my gift lives in that time zone. I would find myself barking into my phone at a hapless operator, “You know, the place! That place that constructs busts of historical figures and endangered animals from strawberries and pineapples and chocolate!”

Then I would return home to select a mawkish e-card serving the dual-function of being both a card for a birthday and an apology for the Edible Arrangement I had just sent.

The only person in my life who gets even worse gifts than a fruit-molded orangutan and an e-card is my husband, Greg. The man doesn’t eat fruit, which surely suggests a psychosis, like carrying a copy of “The Catcher In The Rye” in your back pocket.

He didn’t always get terrible gifts. I really blew it out of the water the birthdays we celebrated before getting married. I barely knew him then so it’s not as though my gifts were nuanced with inside jokes and references only we know.

They were bolstered by money.

The one great advantage to having a job beyond health benefits, interesting adult interaction, and a reason to wear a bra, is that I had my own money with which to buy gifts. Now that I work only freelance, my main contribution to our joint account comes in the form of ritualistic chants to the heavens to metaphysically replenish it. Adding to the discomfort of using what is technically his money to buy his gift is this beastly phone app that infringes on my civil shopping liberties by alerting him to each transaction in real time. I’ve barely cleared the threshold of the store when the text missile is in the water: What did you buy from the outlet mall?

This year’s birthday should be the simplest one yet since Greg told me that I needn’t bother getting him a gift since he wants to buy himself a set of golf clubs. Well, slap me on the wrist and call me a rule follower! I, the lucky worm, took that as my chance to wriggle off the hook and relish my good fortune.

Until I spoke to my mother.

She lowered her voice in that foreboding maternal whisper, heavy with the wisdom of 40 years of marital quagmires, and told me that it would be unconscionable to give him nothing for his birthday. When her voice assumed that “you cannot move back home with three children when he throws you out” tone, I grudgingly unfurled the worn piece of paper containing the items Greg had discussed longingly over the last year:

Membership at the golf club, a sailboat, a herd of alpacas, tickets to the Kentucky Derby, and a Christmas tree farm.

I reminded my mother that I would need a government bailout the likes of the one AIG received to purchase any of these items, since these are the sort of items that Warren Buffett buys on a Tuesday. Undeterred, she suggested buying a token to complement the bigger item that he could buy on his own. If I am interpreting this strategy correctly, I should buy him a shovel with which he could hoist the pounds of hypothetical manure left upon his imagined fields by his theoretical herd of alpacas. Or, she interjected, a set of golf gloves to outfit the club membership.

That sounds easy enough. So long as my alert reminds me to do it.

Erin Donovan moved with her family to the midcoast where she constantly is told she says the word “scallops” incorrectly. She performs live and produces Web sketches derived from her popular humor blog “I’m Gonna Kill Him.” Follow her misadventures at imgonnakillhim.bangordailynews.com and on Twitter @gonnakillhim.

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