A Christmas Story: Gift-Givers and Giftees

We all know the story of the woman expecting a diamond necklace who gets the Swiffer for Christmas. Or the woodworker, the mani-pedi.

What do you do when you get a gift you really . . .don't want?

Oh, I've been there.

Granted, my husband is Jewish and Christmas has come hard to him. But what do you do when you don't get what you want, from somebody you love but who should know better?

Experts conducting an experiment found that women who got an undesirable gift shrugged it off, while men who got a bad one weren't quite so easy-going. They say it's easier for women to wreck a new relationship with a bad gift. As if.

Larry hasn't always been a, well, great gift-giver. When we first started dating I got a diamond heart one Christmas, a solid gold bracelet another and even one-carat diamond earrings the Christmas I was pregnant with our son ( my idea).

What is the effect of bad gifts given within established relationships? Arthur C. Brooks at The New York Times quotes writer Thomas à Kempis, “A wise lover values not so much the gift of the lover as the love of the giver.” In other words, it’s the thought that counts.

According to psychologists, the thought does indeed count — but only up to a point, Brooks writes, even though many people recalling a bad gift positively evaluate the thought behind it.

As the years have gone on, and especially after our son was born, there were years when no gift was given. Busy with the demands of an infant, then toddler, I didn't pay too much attention. But when Phillip was about five or six, he noticed that I hadn't gotten any gifts that year. So he made me a little cone out of paper that had a drawing on it. I treasure it, to this day.

It's been one of the hardest things to accept about our relationship that Christmas – and birthdays – are just another day to my husband.

I guess it all comes back to the fact that my parents made a big deal out of Christmas. And Larry's family never bought gifts for each other – checks were handed out and that was it. So probably it's no surprise that he doesn't see much significance in holidays and other important events.

But I know where my need for an expensive gift comes from. In my family, that was the only way we showed love.

I've gotten better at the less-than-inspired gifts over the years. There was the Christmas he gave me a pin. Then there was the gift he lost (at the time, I was pregnant, and went bananas). It turned out to be a beautiful diamond-flecked platinum band, which reminded me of infinity, and has to this day been the most special gift ever to me, as I lost the pregnancy.

At least he remembers, jewelry.

Now I pick out my own gift. I do miss the unwrapping of the present and (hold your breath), the surprise inside. But look at it this way. At least I know I'm not getting a Swiffer.
May Santa be good to you all!

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