Christmas, as we all know, is the litmus test of a fledgling relationship. Do you remember the agony of gift exchanges during your dating days? Would his gift be something neutral and noncommittal, something sentimental, or perhaps of real value? And what if the gift you gave wasn’t comparable to the one you received? Would that mean he liked you more than you thought, that he was presumptuous, or merely that he had poor gift judgment? The entire transaction would then need to be deconstructed by your crew of girlfriends.
My best friend from college faced the gift exchange dilemma with a guy she had been dating for a couple of months. She liked him well enough, and although it wasn’t a red hot romance, she didn’t want to get caught unprepared. Her Christmas situation was always compounded by her birthday, which is December 23rd. She’s always faced the double dillema of having her birthday forgotten altogether or getting the “combo gift” intended to serve for birthday and Christmas (she will tell you this never works to her favor). No wonder she needed a contingency plan.
The Christmas of George she bought and wrapped two gifts for him, one moderate and safe, the other more expensive, and let him offer his gift to her first. It was a good thing, as she realized the moderate gift she had for him was more than adequate. She pulled the first gift from under the tree and he never knew the difference. She was able to return the second gift and reduce her George investment. They broke up that spring when George transferred schools, to the everlasting relief of her parents, who took a dim view of his prospects as an art major.
It’s ironic that, for all the calculating behind gift exchanges as a single, the posturing eventually disappears once you’re a married couple with kids. Christmas gifts between spouses tend to become homeowner transactions anyway. How many BirminghamMoms are getting an appliance for Christmas – and are thrilled about it? Maybe you are “counting” a necessary purchase or repair as a gift out of practical necessity. And you know, it’s fine.
It’s nice to be able to drop the gift games. When you’ve gotten to this point, it’s okay to know what you’re getting and even better to know the value of what you already have.
P.S. To my above mentioned friend: I wrote “Happy Birthday” on your Christmas card, so can it count for both?