I’ve known my husband a long time and over the years have heard myself say, pretty much on an annual basis, “but darling, you’ve known it was my birthday for a whole year – ever since the last one.” It’s not that he forgets the day – just that he can’t quite manage to get me a present or a card- though he’s happy to try to resolve the problem on the day itself .
There have been clothes bought while I waited outside on the pavement, “Surpri – ise!” There was a necklace from a market stall next to our restaurant, which I bought between courses after he passed me some euros from his wallet. And once a book on feminist writing – bought from a railway station he was running through on his way home, that was the night when he eventually arrived two hours late for dinner cos he’d nipped to the pub with his mates. I know , it was wrong to rip it in half like that and yes it was years ago darling, sorry to mention it again.
It goes without saying that similar patterns can be repeated on Valentine’s Day or our anniversary, or Mother’s Day. And no honey, expecting a four year old and a seven year old to do their own shopping is not realistic and these days almost certainly illegal.
But of course no-one can keep this up on every special occasion and remain married – and so sometimes it follows that my husband will surprise me. And I’m not referring to the voluminous silk camisole made with Dolly Parton in mind and the “matching” French knickers which would have been tight on a 12 year old. Or the highnecked wool jumper so scratchy it brought me out in a rash, or even the most memorable of Christmas gifts, some plain tea towels chosen, because he just felt we needed some!
Of course mistakes can happen and the piece of jewellery made out of a stone he found on a beach made up for it, it was lovely honestly, and there has have been other thoughtful presents, spaced out evenly over almost two decades. I really am being sincere.
And he looked even more pleased when inside I found another bag – from the manufacturer.
Not being much of a designer shopper I failed to recognised the logo even though he appeared to be mouthing it to help me out me , like a compere trying to aide his favourite team member in a pub quiz.
“Something beginning with M?” I ask, as his face contorts with the effort. He scowls as he points out that he can’t tell me as it is a surprise!
So the next wrapping comes off … and inside is another bag.
No hang on, this is THE bag . This is my present.
Oh no! My husband has bought the only woman in West London with no interest in handbags….a handbag.
“It’s an evening bag,” he explains. “You need somewhere to put your keys and phone and credit cards”
What’s wrong with your jacket pocket? I want to ask.
But it least it is smaller than a day bag and so I hope not too expensive.
“It was very expensive,” he says smiling, smugly.
I squint more closely at the logo – Oh God, Mulberry. Not that I’ve ever bought anything there, but I know that they name their bags after fashion icons like Alexa. Again no idea what she does – but I know she’s a fashion icon, I catch up on these things in the hairdresser once a year. And all of this obviously suggests that my husband is not exaggerating when he says it was very expensive
“It’s lovely darling, thank you” I start, but I can’t contain myself, I just can’t. Honestly, I do try.
“It’s just, you know I don’t really like bags,” I blurt out. “Sorry, I mean it’s really lovely. But it’s just not, well it’s not me”
“But darling,” he reassures me, “it is you, that’s why I chose it.”
“It’s very plain.”
He said that he didn’t mean it like that and you may well think I deserved it anyway for my general ingratitude and you would probably be right.
But the question is what to do now ? Take it back and choose something else, like a mini rucksac with straps so I won’t lose it after a few drinks; keep it wrapped up for my daughter as an extremely pricey in fact “vintage” hand me down or try to find an occasion to use it, hoping that, as it’s so plain, at least it’s less likely to get nicked.