A few nights ago, in advance of the “holiday” around the corner, I asked my husband what he wanted for Father’s Day. Without skipping a beat, he told me about the CD he wanted. I sat in awe and surprise. I didn’t even have paper and pen nearby to note the name of the Chinese classical guitarist he had discovered via his morning commute and was entirely unprepared for a quick, honest answer. And, in his answer came a really valuable gift for me.
Invariably, when Mother’s Day, my birthday, Christmas, or anniversary rolls around, my husband asks, “What do you want for (said occasion) ?” to which I usually reply, “Nothing, I can’t think of anything I need.” Secretly, I keep a list of things I want and still, I say “Nothing.” I’m not sure why. I don’t want to appear greedy? There’s another bill due? Maybe, but in all honestly, I want him to know me so well he doesn’t need to ask. I want romance. I want the soap opera, fairy tale, romance novel element of surprise.
Big mistake. Big.
In the absence of honesty one birthday, I received a small, self-defense, switch-blade styled knife, which I did happen to love for the sentiment he wanted to keep me safe while working in the wild jungle of San Francisco, but certainly didn’t swoon me. Am I alone in the receipt of annual Christmas socks? (Though lacking romance, are thoughtful because my feet are always cold.) And while many of you may be jealous over the (last-minute) Mother’s Day card that accompanied nothing (because I said I wanted nothing!), try not to covet.
Certainly, I’m not the only one who’s received a gift that raised an eyebrow, caused the slamming of a door, or perhaps yielded muffled tears in the darkness of the night. Anyone? Anyone?
Many years ago, while bemoaning my husband’s latest expression of love, I remember my mom telling me that I shouldn’t expect, or rather I should stop expecting, my husband to be a mind reader. It wasn’t fair to him or to our marriage. In fact, she explained, it was a set-up and any disappointment I felt when the “special day” arrived was not his fault but entirely my own if I hadn’t been honest.
She had first-hand experience and had learned from the error of her ways.
She and my father had one of those storybook romances of 50 years. He always shopped carefully to find the perfect “something special” and was always spot-on with the gifts he offered. Well, almost always. Looking back, I can recall some of my mom’s expressions I had clearly misread at the time. Far from loving every gift but masterfully veiled by her love for him, I now know there were gifts that made her privately question WTF was he thinking! Those, she confessed to me, usually came when she said she wanted “Nothing” for (fill in the blank) holiday.
Together, my husband and I have celebrated more than half my birthdays and Christmases, close to 3 decades of anniversaries, and 2 decades worth of Mother’s Days. And, despite my mother’s wisdom, in the last 28 years, I can probably count on two hands the times I’ve boldly said, “I want ________ for _________.” To my fault and my fault alone, however, I can’t count the times I’ve felt secretly disappointed when he missed the obscure gift mark, despite his best mind-reading efforts. In all fairness to him, there have been several times he knocked it out of the park and surprised me to tears with his loving thoughtfulness: a bouquet of wildflowers he picked while on a hike, a necklace he noticed caught my eye in a jewelry store window, a leather-bound journal with a supply of extra fat pens because the thin pens are too hard on my finger joints. He may not be suave like a soap opera character, but I know he loves me deeply, and he deserves honesty, always.
I’ve thought a lot about his bold and quick response to my Father’s Day inquiry. He clearly thought about what he wanted; there was no hesitation nor tool, new wallet, or other “practical” gift suggestion for me. I was both impressed and grateful for his specific request. It certainly makes my job easier because I’m confident that’s what he wants; there’s no hidden agenda or secret wish list.
Guys are like that. They’re straight forward. Sometimes to a fault, but that’s for another post. They don’t make you guess about what they’re thinking or what they want for any occasion. They tell you. You buy it. They’re happy. Win-win. End of story.
Except it’s not the end. The end of this story is the next time my husband asks what I want, I will be honest and tell him, whether it’s where I want to go for dinner or the new purse I saw at the mall. Because, my husband is no more a mind reader than I am, and when you’ve shared 3 decades together you should be able to eat the entire dessert, by yourself, in front of him, and say honestly what you want for your birthday.
How about you…do you say what you want, or do you make him/her guess?