Presence is Better Than Presents

It’s gift giving season again, a time fraught with angst for those of us who find ourselves wandering in the Circle K at midnight on Christmas Eve, wondering if we can just get everyone Jumbo Slim Jims and be done with it.

The trouble is, a gift isn’t simply a gift. It’s a test of how much you know a person’s tastes, secret desires and essential essence, and that’s especially true in romantic relationships.

At least that’s what an ex-boyfriend once told me when I gave him a nose-hair clipper for Christmas.

When he opened his present, his horrified look said it all.

“But you needed it,” I said. (Not just a little bit. But desperately. He had Sumter Forest growing in his nostrils.)

In my defense, it wasn’t a garden variety gadget from Walgreens. It was a deluxe nose-hair clipper from Neiman Marcus with dual-edge, stainless steel blades and it came with its own faux leather carrying case.

In exchange, he’d gotten me a crushed silk kimino, to reflect my exotic side, topaz earrings, to match my eyes, and a book of love poems from Rilke that I casually mentioned I wanted over six months ago.

“Do you see the problem here?” he said.

I did. He was judging me by my gift-giving ability which was admittedly lacking. But, to be fair, men are much more difficult to buy for than women.

Here are some possible options for women: Jewelry, scarfs, lingerie, perfume, flowers, chocolate, purses, shoes, wine, jewelry… oops I already mentioned jewelry, but it bears mentioning twice. What about men? What are you supposed to get them?

Department stores try to be helpful. During the holidays they have a “For the Man in Your Life” display table, and dozens of women are always circling it, like sharks around chum, hoping something will appeal. But the gifts are always lame. Wallets, money clips, pocket knives, mini desktop billiards (Give me a break.) Where do think I got the nose-hair clippers?

Men, I’m curious, what do you really want for Christmas? Never mind. This is a wholesome magazine, but, then again, beyond scenarios involving sexy elves, do you have any suggestions?

I’m married now—ungrateful nose hair guy dumped me—and I used to wring my hands over what to get my husband because he’s a great gift giver, and I wanted to return the favor. Once he paused in a store, and I unsubtly seized the moment saying, “What are you eyeing? Do you want it? I can put it on layaway.”

He said, “I was just looking at that woman’s cute baby.”

Sorry. No can do. That’s one trick I can longer pull off. Not even if I wore the the world’s sexiest elf costume.

In recent years, we’ve implemented a no-gift rule. My husband doesn’t have to spend the six months before Christmas carefully curating the perfect gifts for me, and I’m spared the misery and mediocrity of the “Man in Your Life” gift table or last-minute trips for beef jerky. 

Instead, we go on a trip and give each other the gift of time spent together. That’s the best present ever.

Article appears in the November/December 2017 issue of Augusta Magazine.

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