Your anniversary is coming up. Maybe it’s a big one, like 10 years, or maybe it’s a custom-made anniversary, like celebrating the first time you said those three magic words: I love you. Maybe you’re already married, or maybe your relationship hasn’t gotten to that point yet; perhaps, like many young people these days, you’ve both decided marriage just isn’t for you. Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: Your significant other is most assuredly expecting you will get them something special, something unique, something only you could have purchased.
Think of the best gifts you’ve ever gotten. Some are from your parents, perhaps on an especially memorable Christmas, or maybe they are from siblings, or even friends. What makes a gift, thegift. Looking back, I have received so many special gifts, and so many more that ended up in the back of my closet like some unwanted ugly sweater. What differentiates them?
Well, for starters, the thought behind a gift counts for a lot. Take this example – It was my birthday, I had just had an amazing lunch with my best friend. She picked me up from school in her ratty old pick up, blindfolded me, and brought me to our favorite spot on the bluffs – a grassy, quiet knoll where we often went to talk, to sing, just to be with each other. She had prepared a picnic, with champagne and orange juice for mimosas, my favorite cheeses, and some cured meats (even though she was strictly vegetarian). All afternoon we talked, we laughed. She slowly unfolded her gifts for me that year – a beautiful scarf she had made, some crystals and stones to decorate my altar, and one of my favorite albums on vinyl. I was blissed out at the end of the day and walked back home with such a lightness in my step, I thought I might fly right off the sidewalk.
My boyfriend had also prepared something that year. When I got home, he had it all unboxed and ready to go – a new Nintendo video game system. I was shocked. I had been talking about getting one once I had saved up enough money, and there it was, already in my living room. With a few games, to boot. But what was this feeling I had? Ingratitude? No, that wasn’t it, I know he had spent a lot of money and had gotten me something I had really wanted.
I searched and searched, all the while with a surprised smile stretched across my face. I was happy, that’s for sure. But what else did I feel? In retrospect, I think it was disappointment. It’s not that I hadn’t wanted the gift, I truly did. I just didn’t want it from him.
Maybe it was just bad timing. I had just had an amazing afternoon with someone I loved deeply, like a sister. She had given me gifts, yes, but more so, she had given me gifts only she could have thought of. It wasn’t there sum in price, nor was it that they were all hand made. It was the thought behind them, the effort, the days and days I know it must have taken her to plan and plot out our picnic – getting time off work, finishing the scarf, tracking down that hard to find old vinyl for me. In comparison, my boyfriend had just ordered something off Amazon and the deed was done.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful. In truth, we spent so many happy ours in front of our TV playing those video games. It was a good gift, it just wasn’t the rightgift. It wasn’t the gift I needed from him.
So, what isthe right gift? This has been a question that we have categorically tried to systemized since the Ancient Roman times. We’ve all heard of the golden anniversary, right? But few know the origin story of this phrase. When an ancient roman husband had been married to his wife for 25 years, she would receive from him a crown of silver, hence the term silver anniversary, and a crown of gold if they made it to 50 years together. Ah, if only things were that simple now.
Commercialization of this ancient tradition has brought us a table of go-to gift buying guides. First year paper, second year cotton, third year, leather, and so on. While this probably thrilled the lazy 1950’s husband, it’s a tradition best left in that dark place where we keep other older, antiquated traditions, like our copies of Emily Post’s etiquette guide and numbering our birthday candles based on our realage (a tradition my mother banned after her 35th birthday).
We can’t just open a book and be told what is the perfect gift. Life isn’t that simple, and relationships certainly aren’t. So what should you do for your significant other’s next present? Here’s the best advice I can give you – think about them. It’s that easy. Draw a bath if you have to, take your dogs for a long walk, sit by the window like some poet and fill your head with everything that is your better half. I promise you in an hour or so you’ll know exactly what you need to do.
It may not turn out to be the most expensive gift, or the most flashy, or the priciest bottle of wine you could find, but if it’s something that reminds you of your loved one, it’s the right gift. We don’t all have time to plan a picnic, or the money to hide a diamond ring in a glass of champagne, but in the end, that’s not what matters.
I asked my grandmother what her favorite gift her husband (of over 50 years) had ever gotten her, and it took her a second to reply. “He picked up a puppy from the side of the road one day.” I was surprised…surely after all those years she would have had some elaborate, incredibly thought out gift purchased on one of their many travels to Europe. But no, it was a stray dog, given to a woman who at the time was trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant. It was, in a sense, exactly what she needed; what she wanted, and it told her that her husband saw her completely and truly for who she was.
Good luck to all of you out there racking your brains for that perfect something. Just remember, you already have the answer, and no best gift list or holiday buying guide will get you any closer to that moment when you see your partner’s eyes light up as they rip off the wrapping. Happy hunting lovers!