The Gift of the Rage-I


Nobody’s perfect, which means every married person has flaws.  But what you hope for as a married couple is that your shortcomings will be complemented by one of your partner’s strengths and vis versa, so that you can balance each other out and be stronger as a whole than you are separately.

Sometimes that happens.  Sometimes, you end up with the gift giving misadventures of the HitchDieds.

Collin is notoriously terrible at receiving gifts: he shuts down and squares off into an awkward automoton attempting to reproduce the human gestures associated with gratitude.  I blame his extremely enthusiastic mother and sister, for whom every present is an opportunity to squeak, cheer, hyperbolate, wave victory arms, and hug.  Growing up with a twin sister who acted like the war had just ended every time she got a piece on Chanukah gelt would give anyone a  complex, right?

The best example I can give of Collin’s horrific gift-receiving habits is from our second Christmas together.  I bought him a big fluffy robe, the warmest I could find, because we keep our house very cold.  He had acted jealous of my big fluffy robe (which was also a Christmas gift, thanks Ab!).  It was something that he needed, wanted, and it’s a classic gift.  How could this go wrong?

Well, Collin opened up his gift and once he figured out what it was (probably because I said, “It’s a robe!”) he turned to me and said, “Oh.  I can see why you would buy this for me.”

“But?” I asked.  I was sure that he had just bought himself a robe or that this was made out of a fiber he was allergic to or something.

“But nothing.  Thanks cuun.  It’s nice.”

“Then what’s with the subjunctive tense!?”

“The subjunctawhaa? You know I hate words.”

“Well I hate giving you presents.”

And there’s our real problem.  I have never been a great gift-giver.  I’ve never had that ability to zero in on that perfectly thoughtful thing, that fun-yet-useful gadget that you didn’t know you always needed, that sentimental and delightful reminder of a shared memory.  S0 instead of giving Collin mediocre presents that he will receive with awkward non-enthusiasm, I’ve taken to giving him a list of things I could give him, with him getting to choose.

The problem is? He never chooses.  So now Collin teases me that I get him an “IOU” for every holiday.

I would be perfectly happy to become one of those couples that don’t buy each other presents, especially with our forthcoming move to South Africa requiring a bit of a stuff purge.  But Collin just won’t stop getting me awesome presents, making me feel even more inadequate.  As much as Collin is terrible at getting presents, he’s great at giving them.

He’s pretty terrible at keeping his presents a secret, though.  And I love surprises. Sigh.  But if we have to be incompatible in some way, I guess it is fine that it is regarding gifts, because at least we’ll be distracted by the special occasions.

How do you and your partner fit on the gift giving/receiving enthusiasm scale, and how do you make your differences work?


  1. Brian is also very bad at receiving gifts, but he doesn’t even have an awesome excuse (explanation) like you’ve made for Colin. He does the same “what’s this? … oh! …thanks!”

    I used to hate buying people things from their Christmas list, or things I knew they specifically wanted, because I wanted to find them “that fun gadget you never knew you needed” BUT I’ve learned people are genuinely excited to get the gift they asked for. If I stick to the list (or take note when I hear him say he wants something in, say, october) he’s a bit better at gratitude.

  2. Joe’s family doesn’t celebrate Christmas the same way mine does. As you know, my fam is MONDO RELIGIOUSO, so Christmas has always been magical and wondrous and enchanted. A lot of it was about being with family and The Jesus (when we were under their roof), but let’s face it — a lot of that was also about PRESENTS. My point is, in our house, it has always been your typical rack-your-brain-figuring-out-what-to-give-people kind of Christmas. You gotta put some THOUGHT into that shit, yo.

    Joe’s family pretty much exchanges gift cards. I’m not saying this matter-of-factly to be critical. I’m saying it matter-of-factly because, well, it’s a matter of fact. The one year that I spent Christmas there with him, they literally traded gift cards.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I love myself a gift card. I often ask for them! But giving and receiving gift cards alone could never satisfy my love of surprises (no matter how big or small). Or suspense. Or anticipation. Or delight.

    So let’s just say Joe was never “primed” for gift-giving the same way I was growing up. Does that mean I was spoiled? Perhaps (read: YES). Does that mean I feel torn every year between the feeling that my husband should WANT to buy me gifts and the guilt over that being a disgustingly first world, materialistic notion? Hells yeah.

    So, we compromise. I fill up an Amazon Wish List and he shops from there. Kinda takes the element of surprise out of it, but it’s better than the surprise of finding out your own hubby got you zilch for Christmas, which actually happened one year. I was hurt, but I really can’t blame him because we come from such different backgrounds. In other words, I’m materialistic and spoiled. He’s not.

    He’s also better with his money. Coincidence? I think not.

    • I make a wish list for my parents. I fill it throughout the year (also, do you know you can add non-Amazon things to your wish list? Like Etsy items? It will change your life). I pretty much add anything I see that I want, that I am not going to immediately buy for myself. That way, what’s actually under the tree is still somewhat of a surprise, but it’s always something I have wanted at some point. I know I’m not getting everything on the list, but I know I won’t be getting, say, a Precious Moments figuine.

  3. When I was a kid, Christmas was a HUGE DEAL. I was the only child and only grandchild; you can imagine my spoilage. COLLIN’s family, on the other hand, do not make a big deal out of presents, but they love togetherness. A few years I sent huge presents with his brother and never even heard back from any of them about whether they liked them, much less received a thank-you note. Collin and I are digging ourselves out of our house-rehabbing mess, so we don’t usually have enough money to do presents. The first Christmas was romantic and full of gifts that three-month relationships bring. The SECOND Christmas he gave me a fryer. I was FURIOUS in the style of Annie and the blender from Father of the Bride, but then exclaimed later, “…And I can make fried MUSHROOMS too!” So that was a win, I guess. This year we have not said anything about presents, but I have bought him the MOST AWESOMEST PRESENT EVAR and my friend gave me a great plan to surprise him with it. Like your Collin, however, I am TERRIBLE about keeping them a secret, so I am almost bursting with it. Gah.

    AAAAAAAAND please forgive the novel.

  4. We’re actually about the same. Same varying level of gift-giving ability, same enthusiasm level that operates on a sliding scale according to how well we like the gift in question. Sometimes we’re really good and thoughtful (once he got me a graphics tablet! I had no idea he knew I even wanted one!) and sometimes we miss the mark entirely (once he got me a plastic deer that poops chocolate!). Neither of us hides disappointment well. I can always tell when he’s unsure about something I gave him, and I HATE that feeling. But then again, sometimes he just needs to ease into it. One year when I was broke and we hadn’t yet moved in together I painted him two 8×8 paintings, and when he unwrapped him you could HEAR his brain slowly transmitting a message of W-H-U-U-U-U-U-U-T to his body. He ended up loving them, but the first 20 minutes of confusion nearly killed me.

    Wow, and to think I’d never even thought about how lucky I was to have someone who matches me on gifts. Thanks, Robin!

  5. Umm, I am the one that loves giving gifts and I don’t even need an excuse for it. I just stumble on things and think of people and it happens to me all year long. I love making boxes, wrapping packages, and surprising people
    The boy on the contrary has a hard time finding gifts for people.
    So…. for now we are not giving each other gifts for Christmas or at least not making a huge fuss out of it most of it because of the consumerist media around it, but we do get each other things every now and then, and on birthdays we do it as well, but we are trying to be conscious and just keep it simple.

  6. Tony is about the worst gift-giver In The World, and I’m a terrible gift-receiver because I effing hate surprises, which always seem like they’re meant more to boost the ego of the giver than for the enjoyment of the receiver.

    As a result, we vet gifts before we purchase them. “So, have you seen the new Kindle Fire? What do you think about it? Is it something you would really like?”

    “If you were to get a digital frame, what kind would you like?”

    Nobody is particularly surprised, but we both feel appreciated (after all, he was concerned enough about getting me what I wanted that he consulted with me before spending our money) and are happy when the gift arrives. It wouldn’t work for someone who wants their spouse to be all mind-readery and intuitive, but I don’t find that spouses are particularly adept at mind-reading anyway, so I like the direct approach. Also, it saves money on unnecessary wrapping papers. :D And we don’t fight about gifts or get our feelings hurt.

  7. Her partner teases her nice little asshole with his finger, but unfortunately a good ass reaming isn

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