A Very Merry Unbirthday to YouWe all hear about the big bones of contention in marriages—money, how to raise the children, and how to spend the holidays. But I think there’s another biggee that people just don’t talk about—birthdays.
As one of four children, I looked forward to my birthday. I got my parents’ undivided attention, my favorite dinner (except for that one time my mom made me my sister’s favorite dinner of pot roast and [shudder] green peas), and my favorite cake (devil’s food with chocolate frosting). To make it even better, there were presents. Notice the plural. My husband, who was an only child, has an entirely different take on birthdays. He doesn’t like a big fuss. He says it stems from his mom making too big a deal of his birthday and any other event in his life. He refused to come out of his room for his fifth birthday party. And he was embarrassed by the abundance of toys his mom would shower upon him, sometimes for no reason at all.
He doesn’t like presents. Let me amend that one. He likes presents that he picks out for himself. When he turned 40, he gave himself what I like to call his mid-life crisis present—motorcycle riding lessons at the local Harley Davidson shop and a safety helmet. I was very supportive much to my family and friends’ consternation. Why, you ask? Because he should enjoy his life, because I am not his warden, because the insurance policy was paid up, and because riding lessons are a hell of a lot better than some other things he could have acquired during his mid-life crisis, like a long-legged blonde.
This is the e-mail he sent me this morning: “It looks like CVS Pharmacy should carry the lotion. NOTE: This is just an FYI and not a veiled attempt to get you to buy another bottle of lotion for my birthday. However, you should interpret this FYI to mean that it was cold this morning, and I need some new gloves. You should not interpret the mentioning of gloves to mean that you need to buy me gloves for my birthday or Easter. I will buy gloves next year. P.S. None of this has anything to do with a new color TV.” We have a TV from his college days that is dying a slow death in the kitchen. The squashed picture is now three inches in width, but he doesn’t want a new one until this one dies.
His birthday is tomorrow. We won’t celebrate it until Friday evening because he has a friend coming in and this friend will be going out to dinner with us. So, good wife that I am, I’m postponing his low key hoopla. But he’s having one. I’m making him his favorite ice cream pie, and I’m buying him one gift. Not any of the above listed. That’s a good compromise, I think. What he still doesn’t understand after fifteen years of marriage is that it is a joy to give someone you love a birthday present. A present says I know you, I get who you are, and I am so glad to have you in my life that I want to celebrate the day you were born. In about fifteen more years, I think he may finally understand!