I’m printing this blog with permission from my husband, who kindly gave me the go ahead with one small caveat, “Please don’t make me look like too big of an a**hole.”
Yesterday, I turned 39. Those of you with December birthdays know that it’s not an ideal time of year to be born and that it’s also useless to complain about it. I did, though, make it clear to my husband early on in our dating that I love birthdays, especially mine, and that I would very much enjoy being treated like royalty on my special day, or at least equal to anyone whose birthday fell in a more opportune month.
For those of you who don’t know him, my husband is fantastic. I’m not just saying this to fulfill my verbal contract made before publishing this post. He is hard working, hilarious, handsome, strong, diplomatic, charitable, and open-minded. There is no doubt that he adores me.
Um, but yesterday morning, we woke early to have a family birthday celebration before everyone rushed off to work, school, and boot camp. I started with gifts from the kids, which were very thoughtful and sentimental. Perfect! Then, my husband handed me a very enticing oversized gift bag containing my one and only gift from him: a pair of grey sweatpants. I didn’t know how to react but I landed on gracious and thanked him. “Wow, these look really cozy. Thanks!”
I should also mention, because he would want me to, that these aren’t sweatpants from Walmart. (But they weren’t lululemon, either.) I’d say they fell somewhere in between. Just to help you get a visual.
All day long I was distracted by the sweatpants. I don’t need high cost gifts to be happy. One year, when we were very young and had no money, my husband bought me a blow dryer and two bottles of nail polish for Valentine’s Day. A hair dyer actually was a big expense for us but better than that, he noticed mine was not working well and he bought me colors of polish I did not already own. I still count that Valentine’s gift as one of the best I’ve ever received.
Since there was no clear sentimental or thoughtful reasoning behind the sweatpants, I wondered deep down in the pit of my insecurity if they were a subtle clue as to how he really felt about me. I told no one about the sweats except my dear, sweet friend from Boston who immediately suggested it was a decoy gift and that something better would be coming. I was pretty sure nothing better was coming. Finally, at 10 pm I had to say something. “I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I’m a little sad that you just bought me sweatpants for my birthday.” I expected him to say something defensive like “you had sweatpants on your list!” (I did, but I also had jewelry and a Fondue set) or “our culture is too commercial and I wanted to bring back gratitude for the smaller things”. Neither of those statements sound like something he would say, but until yesterday I didn’t think gifting sweats was something he would do, either. Instead, he looked mortified.
“I know!” he said. “I was totally unprepared!” Apparently he had planned on shopping during his lunch for some other gifts but when I suggested we do gifts first thing he was caught with only the sweats. When I asked him why he didn’t tell me he wasn’t ready, he looked crushed. “Either way I blew it. I was either going to be ready for your birthday with a terrible gift, or have to admit I wasn’t going shopping until the very last minute.”
For me, knowing my husband didn’t think sweatpants were a complete gift was good enough. It was a relief to find out at least he planned more, even if the execution was off. We’re already laughing about it. And, on the upside, I feel pretty sure it’s going to be a great Christmas for me this year (wink wink). Whereas, if my birthday were in June, he wouldn’t have an immediate opportunity to make things better. I guess my December birthday has it perks after all.
Michelle is the founder of the website Michelle in the Middle providing relief to parents as they help their kids navigate the tricky middle school social scene. Hang out with her on her site anytime and here every Sunday.
Also, Michelle offers “Group Therapy: Parents Helping Parents” a weekly feature where parents can get and give much needed advice. Read about it here.
This could totally happen to me! I was just reading your blog to my hubby and his response was “well I always have to shop last minute b/c you would see the purchase on our bank statement.” Oooh, he’s too good on his feet like that helping a brother out!
Here’s to a F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S Christmas gift and HAPPY (belated) BIRTHDAY to you, Smarty girl!
Thanks Jen! You’re husband is so right…the bank statements are a total catch-22!
Ugh, I meant your, not you’re.
As an avid reader, I was surprised by this article and how it seems to depart from the typical Smarty attitude. I did not see much humor in this article and I had a hard time understanding the point of it. There are plenty of times where I have failed as a wife and times where my husband has let me down. However, I don’t think it is appropriate to publicly share them, unless (and still with great hesitation) there is some deeper lesson behind them. I do understand that you hold no grudge and that you and your husband can laugh about this for years to come. It just seems to me that the article is a little of bit of “husband-bashing” (which can make us women look so ugly when we do it!) and not as Smarty as many of the articles that are encouraging, uplifting, or humorous at nobody’s expense.
Lindsay – I’m so sorry you got that from the article. It really wasn’t meant to bash my awesome husband, more to be a totally honest response to a bummer of a situation. While the lesson may not have been overt, it was about perspective and that despite my insecurity (and his lack of planning), we could laugh about the incident, which is what we love about our marriage. This article wasn’t at my husband’s expense. It was with his support. Another reason I adore him.
Michelle, I also have an AWESOME hubby but sometimes the gifts have raised an eyebrow! He laughs and says he can’t get it right every time (and when he does, it is pretty great!) It always ends up being a good laugh and story between us. I don’t think you (or I) are husband bashing at all, just sharing a funny story that the both of you can laugh about! Never lose your sense of humor!
Dear “Another Jen”,
You totally made my day. Thank you for leaving a comment and brightening my mood! When I write, I try to be honest and not present myself or my family as perfect. Hiding the stuff people can relate to would feel false. I’m so glad you could relate to what I wrote. I hope you and your awesome husband have a terrific holiday weekend and a happy new year!