The Fraught Business of Birthday Gifts

It was the first birthday I ever celebrated with a boyfriend. Last week I turned 27, it took my 27 years to cross that one off the “Things-That-Should-Happen-in-Life List”.

My boyfriend didn’t have time to do anything for my birthday. Harry is spending his summer working as the technical director of a summer stock theater outside of NYC. He has taken on more responsibilities than ever imagined in his job description. My birthday happened to fall during a particularly hectic time in his work load. I knew all this, I tried to keep my expectations low, but still a part of me desperately hoped to be surprised. I couldn’t help but wonder, though I hated myself for thinking about it, what would he get me for my birthday?

He took me out for Thai food the night before and assembled the picnic lunch that I had requested for my actual birthday. It was lovely, and I was so glad he could find the time to do it. After dinner, we got ice cream and stood by the water licking our cones and watching the sun set.
Harry turned to me, “Remember those shoes you wanted months ago?”
“Um, no?” was more or less my response.
“The pair of TOMS you talked about really wanting in the spring?”
The memory crawled into my mind, vague and distant, “Oh yeah.” They were a pair from the crochet collection that I liked so much I even mentioned them in a post here.
“I want to get you those shoes for your birthday.”

What was my response? Awe of the fact he remembered shoes I had mentioned months ago? An exclamation of  how incredibly thoughtful and sweet it was that he came up with such a gift idea? No. Without even thinking, I shrugged and the words, “I don’t want those shoes any more,” tumbled from my mouth.

I wanted these shoes so badly back in April. I almost bought them but then talked myself out of it. They were too expensive, I’d likely wear them out quickly, they’d look good with pants but not so great with skirts.

The sad thing is, had he presented me with those very shoes, my reaction would have been the aforementioned amazement that he had remembered these shoes and managed to get the for me. He had decided to talk to me about it to make sure to get the ones I wanted and in my size. Never do this if you are dating a woman. Just get the present. Be weird and check her shoes to get her size. Ask her roommates for help. Get a gift receipt. Do not give her the choice or you will likely end up like my boyfriend did: with no gift to give me on my birthday.

I wanted to not care, I did. Still, it irked me. Harry felt bad too, “I didn’t get you a gift, it’s embarrassing. Please don’t write about this in your blog.”
“I’m sure you’ll come up with something.” I said.
On my birthday he got me flowers, which helped, but I still kept hoping he’d come up with a gift at the last-minute and all would be perfect.

He didn’t.

Four days after my birthday, still nothing. I made some comment to the effect of, “That ship has sailed.”
“No,” he promised, “I am going to get you something for your birthday. Eventually. I will.” He said it with such earnestness that I didn’t dare doubt him.

It’s amazing how much easier it is to believe that someone just doesn’t love you as much as you thought they did, as opposed to the more obvious: someone just isn’t good at getting gifts. Harry is not. He hates gifts, both giving and receiving them. How dare I imagine any kind of love would create an exception to this rule? Curse consumerism and curse only-child-syndrome!

Then six days after my birthday and still no gift, I had a big health scare. Harry was the one who took me to the doctor, who held my hand as I freaked out about what was wrong with me, who brought me Wheat Thins when I didn’t want to eat anything else, who even volunteered to watch Sex and the City with me when all I wanted to do was stay in bed. Suddenly love, support, and tenderness surrounded me in ten-fold. This was, of course, the best birthday gift I could ever have asked for. I’m somewhat ashamed it took a personal crisis of sorts to straighten me out. Yet, I’m glad for it. Now I can honestly say an utterly nauseating cliché: I don’t need gifts because having someone who loves me is gift enough. Gross, but true.

I had a lovely birthday, I feel fine- recovered from my scare (seriously, please don’t worry about me!), and the days are perfect- sunny and warm. Summer at it’s best. The best birthday presents a girl could ask for.

On top of this, there is the fantastic present you all brought me. This blog passed the 1,000 followers mark! It’s a fabulous feeling. Thank you so much to all you readers.

If you have anything you’d like me to write about, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail newyorkcliche@yahoo.com!

About New York Cliche

NYC lifestyle blog by Mary Lane. Events, adventures, epic mistakes, dating, life, humor. A 20-something trying to make it (and make out) in the city of dreams.

11 thoughts on “The Fraught Business of Birthday Gifts

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  2. Isn’t it annoying the way you can tell your head that someone is amazing and the gift/other gesture isn’t important, but somehow you’re still a little disappointed? I’m glad you managed to come past it! And glad you’re feeling well!!

    1. Oh, thank you so much for knowing how I felt! You couldn’t have said it better. It is SO annoying. I wrote this entry, published it, and then worried I came off as a spoiled, ungrateful, brat. Worried I was alone in such silly disappointment. So thanks for relating 🙂

  3. Happy belated birthday! And your boyfriend sounds like a really great guy. The fact that he was there for you when you needed him shows much he loves you. And I’m glad to hear that you recovered from your health scare.
    I don’t like shopping for gifts either. I often just give people gift cards, because then they can pick out what they want. And I like getting gift cards too.

    1. Thanks so much NW! Yes, this all had the benefit of me being thankful for a pretty shitty health scare. Things like that really put everything in to perspective. I do like shopping for gifts, part of why I care. It is so funny the divide of people who do and people who don’t! Gift cards do make things easy.

  4. Happy belated birthday! I also hope you’re feeling better. 🙂 Sounds like Harry is a pretty great guy– being a bad gift-giver is a small flaw in terms of flaws. 😀

    1. You are so right, it is a damn insignificant flaw. Only took me a health freak-out to put that in proper light, but I’m glad for it! I am feeling much better, thanks, and also for the birthday wishes!!

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