I like to pride myself on some Casanova qualities, but did I ever fail and flop this Christmas! Amanda and I agreed not to exchange gifts this year. I know, cliche. Every couple says this and then gives gifts anyway.
Well, I thought this year we were taking the truce seriously. I mean, this is my wife, and she and I both knew that we had spent WAY too much money in December between plane tickets to Colorado and Indiana. We weren't low on money, we were out. Given all the time we spend together, which is basically every hour that we're not working, I was quite sure that Amanda hadn't snuck away to get me a gift for Christmas. We also packed together for Indiana, so I was totally sure that we weren't exchanging gifts there. The coast seemed clear.
Wrong. The day before we left, we received a package in the mail and, unlike many of the boxes we received with gifts for giving, this one wasn't from Eddie Bauer. Amanda couldn't last an hour before she admitted that the box contained my Christmas present and she wanted me to open it. Inside was the Gregory Z65 Pack that I had registered for in our wedding gift registry. (Seriously, a good backpacking backpack is a much more practical wedding gift than mixing bowls or egg beaters.)
I was torn. I loved the backpack, and much like women have "inspiration jeans," I needed this backpack to inspire me to save in 2011 for a next Europe trip. I ended up keeping the backpack with some guilt that I didn't have a reciprocal gift, but everything seemed OK. I had, after all, purchased those very romantic plane tickets that printed from our very romantic HP printer.
Fast forward to Christmas in Indiana.
We exchanged gifts with family in the evening and were relaxing on the couch watching our niece and nephew play their new Wii. Amanda leaned over to me and whispered, "I wish I had a little something to open today."
"What?" I replied. "I thought we said we weren't exchanging gifts, and you cheated getting me that backpack."
"Well, just something small to open would have been nice."
In my younger years, when I had more time and was moreover less jaded by responsibility, I probably would have been thoughtful enough to at least make a card or coupon book and think ahead about avoiding this scenario. But I hadn't. I had screwed up my first married Christmas. My own frugality had failed me.
Future generations, take note: "We're not exchanging gifts" means "We're ALWAYS exchanging gifts."
Amanda and I hadn't really discussed the chivalry fail since Christmas, but I knew I had some work to do this week. I confided in my team of women at the office who agreed that it was appropriate to purchase a make-up gift. One of them said her long-distance boyfriend had not gotten her anything for Christmas either. To retaliate, she sent him a card with an IOU enclosed that was addressed back to her. Brutal!
So I picked up Amanda the Victoria Secret Heavenly lotion and perfume that she's always had an eye on as well as some top shelf balsamic vinegar. That last gift may sound weird, but my wife covets top-shelf balsamic like it's top-shelf liquor. She loved the gifts and we drowned a loaf of French bread in olive oil and that balsamic vinegar last night.
We're not exactly even and we're no richer, but she's happy and I no longer have my tail between my legs. In married life, that's a win.