Last Wednesday was, hands down, the best day I have ever had in Nebraska. It was my five year anniversary with my lovely wife, Angela, and boy, was it nice.
Especially considering how much of an idiot I was.
See, I’m horrible at Big Days, and I’m fortunate enough to have several of them to make it through a year. My wife and I started dating on September 24th nearly eleven years ago, so the 24th of September is a Big Day. Her birthday, annually, is a Big Day. Valentines’ Day is a Big Day. And the 7th of May, the day in which we forewent tradition and said “I do” at the Justice of the Peace, is a Big Day.
So, you’d think with four chances a year, I’d get at least one of the right. In which case, you’d be wrong. After every Big Day, we have one of “those talks.”
I’ve mentioned in my bio that my wife is a very supportive and patient woman. She puts up with my shenanigans on a daily basis and does all those things that the wives of scatterbrained men have to do, like remind me to eat and change pants after a few days. It would be one thing if I were utterly brilliant at something or the other, but supporting a man that’s hovering within arms’ reach of mediocrity in everything that he does is an entirely different matter.
To my credit, I do a pretty good job on the daily things (after years of “those talks”). I’m supportive, spend lots of quality time with her, and am generally her biggest fan. But I’m horrible at Big Days.
What frustrates her even more is that I’m a trained logistician – I can develop a plan to get both large and small resources from one spot to the next within certain limits like a madman, but I can’t orchestrate the simple movement of two people on a date to save my life. Let alone figuring out the logistics of getting a thoughtful gift from the store to the house before the Big Day.
I had it all figured out this time around (I always do). I had set aside some time Monday night to do nothing but figure out how I was going to blow her mind on an awesome date. Until Monday rolled around, and I got behind and tired, and ended up talking to my parents – and I hadn’t reviewed my daily tasks to see that that time was reserved for Big Day planning. I had the sneaking suspicion all day Tuesday that I forgot to do something the day before, but couldn’t figure out what.
It’s important that I take a minute to explain why it takes a lot of planning. I’m in the unfortunate position of being married to a lady that defies normal gift giving. She doesn’t want flowers, shoes, jewelry, clothes, or candy, and I have had little to no luck at actually getting her something that’s thoughtful that she’ll actually like and use. The best hit, in nearly eleven years, was an UnderArmour warmup suit and assorted underwear (yes, it’s that awesome, ladies and gentlemen). We’ve since filled out her wardrobe with UnderArmour stuff, so that option was out. I lost the list I had made of gift ideas for her, and, anyway, all of the items on the list would’ve taken longer to ship than Monday night, so I would’ve been SOL eitherway.
She feels much the same about dating venues, as well. So, clearly, Mario Kart and Rock Band wouldn’t do, but what else counts? Knowing that it would take some serious mental juice to figure out what to get her and what we would do, I reserved some time to think about it. Oh, were it as easy as buying jewelry, flowers, and taking her to a romantic restaurant!
So, I went ahead and finished all of my other work for Tuesday and was spent. I managed to get everything taken care of so that we could spend the entire day not-working and spending quality time together. When I emerged from the office, Angela let me know that she had a wonderful day planned for us. Panic hit me, as I realized that I hadn’t planned anything – anything – for the next day. She reassured me that it was okay, and I believed her. (Idiot!)
We had a peaceful morning on the Big Day, and she let me know that we needed to be ready for couples’ massage that afternoon. I’d never had a massage before, so it was a nice experience – I probably won’t be doing it again, but it’s still cool to do new things together. But, before it was time to go to the Spa, it dawned on me that I hadn’t filled out the card I got for her. So I spent the last few minutes locked in the office, frantically trying to find the card and then writing in it. (Idiot!)
After I came out, Angela let me know that she had found my “stash” some weeks prior. I had hidden my stash in my office desk, and she had been through my desk looking for notecards that I told her were in there.
Now, folks, my stash is not what you’re thinking. It was a stockpile of cards that I had picked out a few months prior. After I bombed the Big Day in September, I made a note to stock up on cards so that I’d never be running behind on cards again. As a result, I’ve been a card rock star since then – if she were having a bad day, I’d pull out one of the cards, write something thoughtful in it, hide it somewhere sweet, and then she’d find it. Or if I just wanted to show I was thinking about her, I’d write one up and drop it on her unexpectedly.
What made it seem so sweet, apparently, was the fact she thought I was going and getting the cards in response to her bad days or because I was motivated to go get a card as a result of me thinking about her on that day. My romantic credibility, always in jeopardy anyway, dropped considerably when she found the stash.
And that I was running behind filling out a card that I had bought months before made it all the worse. So much for Getting Cards Done. (Idiot!)
The events of the day went along spectacularly (as she had planned) and we had recovered from my stupidity…until dinner. Throughout dinner, she began to pull successively larger surprises out of her purse. It started off with my favorite candy, moved to a iTunes gift card, and ended with tickets to Jack Johnson’s concert in August – all really wonderful, thoughtful gifts. From my side of the table, there came nothing. Nada. Zilch. We hadn’t discussed whether we were getting gifts, so I assumed that we weren’t. (Idiot!)
It was a quiet ride home from the restaurant, and the quietness was made all the more intense because we had driven to Omaha to go to our favorite date restaurant. Sadly, during one of “those talks” the next day, she let me know that the day was awesome and met her every expectation. She expected that I would be an idiot, and, predictably, I was.
The truly wise learn from the mistakes of others. That said, I’ll make a short list for all you men of what TO DO to have a better chance at getting Big Days right:
- Take time to plan the day well in advance
The day before the Big Day does not count as “well in advance.” At one week out, you need to have all the gifts, reservations, and any other important activities planned out. That gives you enough time to get stuff shipped to your buddies’ houses so you can hide it from her.
- Get her something, even if it’s not thoughtful
Effort counts here, fellas. Sure, she may never actually use what you get her, but that you took the time to try is what is important. Avoid items that make her more productive or efficient around the house, and I don’t care if the vacuum cleaner needs replacement – it doesn’t count as a Big Day gift. (Save those for unstated surprises: a new vacuum cleaner should mysteriously, without announcement, appear in the closet. You should not attempt to take credit for it, for that will backfire upon you in ways untold.) If you can get something thoughtful and really cool, great; if you can’t, try like hell but do not show up emptyhanded.
Listing off all of the things you thought about getting but didn’t does not help. Beware statements indicating that she doesn’t want anything or that you don’t have to get anything for her. Better to be a thoughtful idiot who doesn’t listen than an unthoughtful one who listens.
(Sidebar: If Angela is reading this, she’s cringing at the fact that I’ve associated household chores with women. Why can’t the vacuum cleaner be a gift for a man? How dare I continually divide the labor up so that women get the domestic chores! Why is she married to such a patriarchal idiot?!)
- A card is not optional!
That you don’t care much for cards is neither here nor there. Get one, and have it filled out before the Big Day. Filling it out on the Big Day is a NO GO at this station.
- Under no circumstances are you to refer to any of this as something you have to do
Yes, the efforts that you are undertaking may not be fun, but do not, on pain of death, shoe-caused concussion, or food poisoning, refer to it as anything resembling work or something you don’t want to do. Statements such as “I have to plan what we’ll be doing on that day” that sound like “I have to prepare this report for work” should not issue forth from your lips, despite what you’re thinking.
You are enjoying thinking about the time you will spend with your beautiful lady. You are looking forward to spending quality time with your loving wife/partner/lover. You are excited about surprising her with your gifts of love on your Big Day. You are not taking your mother to her colonoscopy.
I love you very much, honey, and I’m sorry for being an idiot.
Photo credit: permanantly scatterbrained
Aaron Wakling says
Good Blog. I will continue reading it in the future. Nice layout too.
Oh Charlie. A great post that made me laugh and cringe and realize I’m the one in my relationship that’s actually pretty crappy with big days. It’s so interesting too – as a relationship grows in time and richness, it gets harder to make the “Big Days” something special, doesn’t it? But kudos to you for continually trying – for learning what Angela does and doesn’t like, what she needs to feel loved and respected and desired, and from things that haven’t worked in the past. I try and do the same with my partner – learn from my mistakes, view things from his perspective, and stay committed to making him feel important and loved.
BTW – Angela sounds awesome. I am so like her – I don’t want or like jewelry or flowers or candy or anything typically feminine. I’m sure it also makes my guy a little nutty when it comes to choosing gifts (but thankfully he knows I just need a good Battlestar Galactica DVD or Margaret Atwood book, and I’m set) 🙂
QuietRebelWriters last blog post..Burnout and Blogging: A Quandary, and A Reader Opportunity
Great post. I was dying reading some of this, just feeling your pain, but also laughing my head off at the same time. You and my husband obviously are of the same breed. I think I’ll forward this onto him.
By the way, it’s not just men who write cards out on the day in a panic, hiding in the bathroom, the cupboard or the garage. I’m a big one for this myself.
And I think your idea of buying a collection of cards to have on call is FANTASTIC. At least you write on them and they don’t stay in the sock drawer. I think it sounds like Angela loves you just the way you are. Lucky you.
Charles Gilkey says
@ Amy (aka QRW): Angela is way cool. In an independent assessment, some guy that was flirting with her said that she was the coolest girl in Nebraska. Her reply: “It’s not that hard to do…”
If there were one thing I can get her to get that giddy smile, it’s be awesome. She’s an avid reader – but she gets her books from the library and thinks it’s wasteful to buy a book that she can get for free. Same with DVDs, since we have Netflix. Time to resurrect the Gift List!
Glad to see you’re back on the interwebs. I was worried there for a bit.
@ Kelly: The problem with having cards on call is when you’re found out. Somehow strategically plotting out things in advance ruins the spontaneity of it. Especially when you get cards to apologize for things you expect will happen. When you can almost prewrite the apology before it happens, you either a) know yourself and your limitations pretty well or b) aren’t trying to amend your own idiotic ways. So the story goes…
I’d love to meet your hubby. Sounds like a cool guy when you speak of him. Send him on over!
Laura Simms says
I love this. Despite your execution, it sounds like you at least know what to do. Sending to my hubby 😉