The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Maggie’s Birthday

Back from our holiday abroad and I suddenly realised I only had 4 days until Maggie’s birthday. In fact, by the time we’d flaked out, sorted through letters and phone calls, visited Maggie’s parents and got our acts together, I had one day to focus my attention on presents.

“Any idea what you might like for your birthday, my love?”

“Oh, you know, nice wee things…”

Arrgh! No! I don’t know! My stomach lurched, my heart started pounding and I was engulfed in a wave of panic.

Maggie has an aesthetic understanding way beyond my own. I tend to come from a school of practicality that says if it fits, wear it. Maggie, however, is an artist and understands things such as beauty, form, colours, shape, texture and je ne sais quoi. This finds its way into the clothes she wears, the ornaments she buys, the garden, the decorations and it’s great: I get to enjoy beautiful surroundings without any effort. Left to me everything would be bland, boring and cheap.

But because it’s so effortless to Maggie, she is constantly surprised by my lack of comprehension at what she does and doesn’t like. Oh, how I would love to buy her just the right thing, to be able to see something and know, without doubt, that Maggie would like it. Every now and then I’ll find something in a shop that has, what I think, are sort of the right colours or texture and so I’ll call her over to look at it, and after a quick glance she’ll look at me quizzically, wondering why on earth anyone would think she’d be interested in that.

Over the years I’ve learned some basic rules like, if it’s practical, or for the house, then it will not do as a gift, but that’s pretty limited.

“‘Nice wee things,’ you wouldn’t care to be a bit more specific would you?” I asked, desperately hoping for some kind of clue to unravel the mystery of Maggie’s taste.

“Oh, you know, some nice earrings…” Yeah, right. The last set of earrings I got her have never been taken out of the box and I think were donated to the school bring-and-buy-sale.

“…or some nice smellies – aromatherapy oils or body lotions…” That’s a dangerous a thing to say to a man who can’t tell the difference between Coco Chanel and underarm deodorant.

“…or you could get me a book – see what they’ve got at Ottakars.” Oh god, not literature. My understanding of what she enjoys in a book is even worse.

“Stop right there,” I say, “just scribble down a list of CDs or DVDs you’d like and I’ll see what ones I can find.” I knew it wasn’t ideal, but it was better than either getting it totally wrong, again, or adopting an even worse approach.

I once knew a guy who, when it came to buying presents for his wife, would go into a clothes shop and grab anything off the rail, wrap it up and give it to her, with the receipt inside so she could take it back and exchange it. He’d long given up trying to guess what she’d like and said that anything he bought would be wrong anyway so at least this way she would end up with something she wanted, eventually. While I was horrified by this way of doing things, part of me understood his frustration.

However, to try and make up for my lack of originality, I spent a few hours playing around in Photoshop to adjust the cover of Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall”, pasting Maggie’s head onto Diane Keaton’s body. And if it wasn’t the most romantic birthday present I’ve ever bought her, at least she laughed appreciatively.

20 comments

Kate said...

Oh you sounds just like Mr Blogs LOL The poor man never knows what to buy me either. He does try, bless him, but often gets it wrong. I tend to be quite specific now, I don't get a surprise but it's best in the long run.

BTW a few years ago he made me a birthday card which featured cartoon versions of what was then the current Liverpool team and their manager. I rather liked that, and still have it.

SafeTinspector said...

Heather always thinks I don't appreciate the gifts she buys me because they aren't often quite what I wanted or needed.

I am always careful to be genuinely appreciative, but after awhile she'll notice I didn't use the thingy or read the book or play the game and then she knows. Knows I didn't really want that thing.

I've tried telling her that all I want is a nice dinner and maybe some sweet lovin' (we're on the 6th year of marriage "once to twice a month" plan, unfortunately).

Ah, well.

I wish we celebrated things by just celebrating.

Nikki said...

Hubby and I don't buy each other gifts anymore.

We peck each other on the cheek, give a nice "happy Birthday" and leave it at that.

This is not because we want to, it's because that's all we can afford. LOL

The best gift he ever got me was a few years back, he bought me a card with "Coupons" I could redeem as I saw fit.

One for sleeping in, one for him cooking, one for him doing the laundry that day, one for a foot massage...you get the idea.

I've doled them out regularly over the years, kept the best selfishly for the last.

I only have a couple of them left.

The best gift ever.

Stella said...

Yep I get specific, saves disappointment and a smack in the jaw!

Nikki, your hubby's idea sounds great and very romantic and caring, how bout that Kim?

Andraste said...

This is why everyone should have an Amazon.com wish list.

34quinn said...

awwwwww funny
.....we are like nikki and her hubby ...we generally do not purchase gifts for eachother unless we decide to buy something needed for house etc and then call it a birthday or anniversary gift.

however, I would like to add, that "men" ( not all men just most) tend not to listen too well. as I have told my hubby a zillion times over the years if he is ever in one of those moods to buy me flowers ( which I would rather he not spend money on....) but if he feels compelled then please buy carnations for me...not only are they cheaper they last a zillion times longer so I can enjoy them more. finally after only saying it a zillion times over the course of 19 years of marriage this year he finally showed up once with carnations!!!!!!
They were lovely , they lasted over 2 weeks and it was a wonderful thought on his behalf but mostly I appreciated finally not just being heard but actually listened to.!!!!

Kim Ayres said...

Kate - Every now and then I get it right, but there are a lot more misses that hits

SafeTinspector - with a new child about I wouldn't hold out for much sweet lovin' for about... oh... 18 years or so.

Nikki & Stella - I've had coupons from my stepdaughter before, and it was really heart warming. Unfortunately I forgot to cash them in before she left home.

Andraste - I'm in complete agreement. Unfortunately my wife rarely uses the Internet

Quinn - I have no problems buying flowers for Maggie, but heaven help me if I decided to buy her something for the house as a birthday gift.

St Jude said...

His Lordship is fantastic at buying presents, he knows me so well.. ok so the lists I leave lying around in the lead up might help a bit.

Gentleman-hobbs said...

Just tried the supload link. Thanks when I pluck up the initiative I think I will try to ad that dimension to my blog!

Kim Ayres said...

Jude - you always struck me as the practical type

Gentleman-Hobbs - glad to be of assistance and welcome to my ramblings.

Attila The Mom said...

LOL! I got Mr. Attila trained early on.

The florist has a list of flowers/colors I like so every arrangement is perfect!

...and Hubby has a list. That way I won't know what he will choose so that it will still be a (wink wink) surprise! ;-)

SheBah said...

Kim - any lotion or potion by Jo Malone, never fails to please any woman! The wrapping is almost enough on it's own!

Kim Ayres said...

Atilla - another pragamtist!

Shebah - you see that's the kind of thing I mean - I've never heard of Jo Malone and wouldn't know where to find it

Severin Bloodclot said...

What's all the fuss about present buying?
Just give her an envelope with a few bucks inside and slip her a length.
Works every time!
Well... once... she left me... for a priest...

fatmammycat said...

Flowers, perfume? A photo of the kids in a nice frame? Soft leather gloves for the coming winter months. A broach? I rather like broaches myself but it might not be everyones cup of tea.

Kim Ayres said...

Severin' - yes... clearly you are not a married man.

Fatmammycat - Flowers I buy her at other times, perfume is a mystery to me and broaches occupy the same category as earrings.

Soft leather gloves though... then again, she'd probably think I bought them more for my benefit...

TC said...

This is exactly what I am talking about! LOL. I think that some women just need to understand that sometimes the man that loves them dearly may have no idea what object they will love the best or may forget that while they love them everyday today is special and you need to show me more.

Great Post!

Kim Ayres said...

Thanks TC

Mark Williams said...

Choosing presents is a minfield. I now have an arrangement with my wife where she and I go into a shop, she chooses something and I pay.

However, one year, for our wedding anniversary, I surprised her with (wait for it) a kettle. She seemed delighted, or at least successfully feigned delight. I sold it to her as a symbol of our domestic bliss and was absolutely sincere about this which is how I think I won her over.

Kim Ayres said...

Welcome to my ramblings Mark!

I would have ended up sleeping in the shed if I'd tried a kettle as a present - unless it was an old Victorian one that she'd been able to use as a plant pot in the garden.

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