My Funny Valentine

When your lover lacks the gift-giving gene

There’s less than a week left now before Valentine’s Day, which means lovers all over the Delaware Valley are running around frantically, trying to decide which tokens of affection to buy with their average $158.71 (if male) or $75.79 (if female). Guess the recession really is over: The unisex average of $116.21 is up 11 percent over 2010. Me, I’m done my shopping. I bought my husband Doug a card. It set me back all of $2.99. I know what he’ll be getting me, too—a card. That’s pretty much how we celebrate birthdays and our anniversary, too. It’s not that we’re cheap. It’s a conscious decision I made.

I’ve written before about what a terrible, terrible shopper Doug is. He’s a wonderful, kindhearted man, but when it comes to deciding whether he should buy me a hand-painted silk scarf or, say, a model train set, chances are the train will win out.

I no longer take this personally.

In the early days of our relationship, I’d get huffy and offended if he got me something awful, or something that was just, like, from Mars, like the power strip. (It was a nice power strip.) But as the years wore on, I noticed all this did was paralyze him. Not wanting to get the wrong gift, he’d put off shopping for so long that getting the wrong gift became inevitable. (Hello, poured-concrete bunny!) His genuine wish to do the right thing was crippled by his utter inability to notice the kinds of jewelry I wear or the objects that inhabit the house we share. I hated the internal debates I’d wind up having regarding my unwanted gifts: Should I return them and hurt his feelings, or use them and offend my aesthetic sense? What should have been happy occasions became sources of dread for us both.

So I gave Doug the greatest gift I could: I took the whole gift-giving thing off his plate. I told him, with complete sincerity, that just a card would do. It took a while for him to believe I meant it, but by now, after 30 years, he does. On every special occasion, we exchange cards. I make sure I don’t get my nose out of joint when other women are being showered with champagne and flowers on Valentine’s Day. If I want champagne, I buy myself some.

And every once in a while, out of the blue, he’ll send flowers. He’s funny that way.