Wednesday, March 15, 2006

you can't out-give a giver

today's my mother's birthday, which is always a source of stress. because i'm pretty sure my mom is in the top ten of the world's best giftgivers. a) because she's always thinking of everyone else but herself and b) because her mind is like a bear trap with jagged teeth that will sever your leg before it will let go (which is dangerous if you ever want to bring up the past in an argument).

she's gotten me gifts i forgot that i wanted, items so perfectly suited to my needs that it's as though there's truth to that threat she made when i was in junior high that no matter how far i go or what i do she can always see me and will always find out. (and she always did somehow! but with age, i've realized it was poor deception skills on my part, not omniscience on hers, that did me in.)

the curse of being a great giftgiver is that you're rarely rewarded by your recipients. so every year i go out of my way to take notes on what she may want or need or even think about wanting or needing, just to try and make her day. and i fail more often than not. because great giftgivers are often horrible present-accepters, usually saying nonsense like, 'this looks expensive. why did you spend so much? save your money!' or 'this is pretty good, but i'm probably not going to use it' about the run-of-the-mill perfume/sweater/jewelry gift or combination thereof. so all that stuff is out. the real winners have been long letters i've written when i had no money and last year when me and my dad secretly flew my brother home and he rang the doorbell about ten minutes after she'd gotten off the phone with him telling her he was at his university's library. silly woman. that library thing was a dead giveaway.

there's no way i could top that. especially when she was like, 'remember when your brother came home last year? that was the best present i've ever received.' yeah. not gonna happen this year, lady. but i did have a pretty solid idea. and this time, i decided everybody was on their own as far as mom is concerned. none of this can-i-give-you-money-and-put-my-name-on-it bs. which was cool with my brother, who has always been pretty good about putting a card in the mail or sending flowers. but with my dad, things were a little trickier.

'hi daddy, what's up?'

'uh, nothing much. but i am in the carson pirie scott for the last two hours looking for a dress for your mother. i can't find anything good!'

'a dress? dad, she's not really into dresses, you know.'

'yes she is. i remember way back she always wore dresses.'

'uh, i think the important words in that sentence are 'way' and 'back' dad.'

'ugh! this is so annoying! i think i'm just going to get her some perfume. hmph!'

'no! we just got her some for christmas; how much perfume does she need? why don't you ask somebody in the store?'

'they're not helpful!' they're just sitting there behind the cash registers and they say 'the dresses are across that aisle.' they don't help you!'

'okay. how about some work clothes? she doesn't have enough work clothes. she needs some nice dress socks to go with her new brown shoes... no, how about a nice sweater?'

'cadiz. i just WASTED two hours and i had to come out of that store to call you because there's no reception in there! now i have to go back in?!'

'daddy, take a deep breath. it'll be okay. just go in there and get a sweater. but remember, she doesn't like turtlenecks.'

'okay, then what kind of necks? v-necks? round? i dont' know anything about ladies' clothing!'

'any one of those is okay. just no turtlenecks; she says they choke her. and not anything too thick-- she gets hot at her office.'

'buttons? is buttons in the front okay?'

'yes. that's good.'

'what colors?'

'oh god, daddy! just pick something nice!'

'she's not going to like it. she always says, 'that's too big,' or 'i don't like that style,' or 'i already have that color. this is why i don't do this. gifts are not my department.'

'see? this is what i have to do every holiday. but you know what? you're getting her something with love. just get a receipt and if she doesn't like it, she can exchange it for something else.'

'yeah! then i don't have to come back to this place! okay, i'm going back in.'

'good luck.'

i'm praying that she likes the burgundy buttonup sweater it took him another two hours to decide on.


Guyana-Gyal said...

hehe in some ways I think your mum is related to mine :-D

How about music, does she like music?

Jon said...

Isn’t it amazing after XX amount of years of marriage, the husband still doesn’t know what to get the wife? I see it in my dad too and I fear it will be me one day… cripes!

Ale said...

cadiz- how about ASKING her what she wants-- but ofcourse you'll have to position your case in a way a great giftgiver will understand-- try this approach...

mom- you know what would be the best gift you can give me now? what would make me super happy!!???

(now you have her attention)

i really want to give you something special for your birthday! giving you something that you want would make ME SUPER HAPPPY!!!! so mom what would you like......

(she'll be hesitant-- but keep reminding her that its really a GIFT FOR YOU if she helps you get her something she will like)

honestly - greatgiftgivers annoy the crap out of me-- like my mom tooo!!!!

Ale said...

jon dont think that way! ...have you heard of self fullfiling prophesy??

Lia said...

I wish I knew a great gift giver like that. I know a lot of people who try really hard, but not a lot of people who succeed. I try very hard, and at least some of the time people like what I get. I always go for funny if I don't know what they want.

Your mom sounds really special; she deserves something really special. I wish I could help you pick something, but I don't know her well enough. Happy birthday to her, though.

For people like your mom, who are thoughtful and caring, it really IS the thought that counts. Keep that in mind and don't stress out too much.

Jon said...

Don’t even get me started on self fulfilling prophesies… The fact of the matter is, Mom’s are just the best gift givers, second only to maybe Grandmothers… but that’s a debate for another time and it’s heavily semantic… My point is, I try very hard, but sometimes you just don’t know what someone wants, or you think of the perfect gift, then for whatever reason you can’t get it, and then everything else just seems pathetic compared to it… I just wonder if my Dad used to be ok at this sort of thing, but then age and frustration got the better of him and he gave up. Have a gander at our back yard and you’ll know what I’m talking about…

Popeye said...

Yeah, my Mom, too. But the shakes it up with strange impulse buys that refer back to somethuing I was in to when I was like, oh, 8. Last Christmas, I got an R2D2 figurine from her. Yeah.

omar said...

I've celebrated 9 of my wife's birthdays with her, and on only one of those did I have a clear idea of what I was going to get her. Buying gifts for good gift givers is a challenge I'm just going to have to accept.

Good luck. And happy birthday, mom.

cadiz12 said...

my father seemed to think that burgundy = neon coral. (i'm not kidding) it's a nice sweater, but i could tell she wouldnt' have chosen it for herself. nevertheless, she wore it to work and withstood all the taunting about the bejeweled 'old lady' buttons. that woman is a saint. my poor father. but at least he tried. maybe now he'll have more respect for what i do every holiday.

gg, i think all the best mothers go through some kind of bootcamp together. that's why they seem so similar sometimes.

BELIEVE ME, ale, i've tried! the answer is always, oh beta (term of endearment), i don't need anything. save your money; i just need you to be good/study hard/spend time with me -- depending on the age of the person asking. i'm telling you, she's a pro.

you're right, lia. she mentioned she wanted something and i remembered and got it. that's pretty much all i can do.

jon, you have to lower your expectations of yourself. i'm willing to bet that whatever you think might be 'pathetic' would still be a million times better than nothing at all because it wasn't the *perfect* gift. what have you guys got out in that backyard, anway, besides trees?

did you at least have the C3Po, popeye?

it IS a challenge, omar. and one i seem to burdened with pursuing every year. i know, it's nuts.

Ale said...

sudda gotten her "Juicy Couture" velure sweat suit! ...with "sweet cheeks" written over the ..well..sweet cheeks! than what her coworkers would have said! aaaha

Modern Viking said...

Can't go wrong with a gift certificate, especially if she likes shopping...

Katie said...

I"m usually a good gift giver, but I've been having issues with it lately, and have begun to take the easy method of gift cards. ::bows head in shame:: But yeah, I say, just ask her.

Anonymous said...

You are either born a good gift giver, or not. I was not and this has called for certain ... adjustments. Anyway, for the record, a man of ideas does not worry about the state of his backyard. Only his neighbors, who are trapped in their quiet lives of desperation...

Farah said...

I'm lucky my mum's a sucky giftgiver. The all-time low was a how to study book when I turned 14. But she means well i'm sure.
Anyway, totally cliched but yes, it relly is the thought that counts.