Let me first say that Mrs. Brown is magnificent.
I am very lucky.
Dolphins have swimming with her on their bucket list.
It is no surprise to the casual observer that she agreed to marry me prior to her laser eye surgery. And when we announced our engagement, my brother said he was “not so much gaining a sister as losing a chimp.”
But my god she’s hard to buy birthday presents for.
So for anyone who finds themselves in the same wobbly and indecisive boat, let me show you how I am Getting Better At… buying birthday presents.
The first hurdle is the “List vs Surprise” decision.
Go for what she has asked for and it’s unlikely to be massively unwelcome, but it won’t fill her with surprise and excitement. If I go off-piste and choose a gift myself, I am saying that I feel I know what she likes better than she does, which will always end badly.
Imagine we went to a restaurant and I just ordered her what I reckon she’d like best. I might be right. But if I’m wrong, I’d be in trouble. And I’d know exactly what was likely to be served up for the next course.
Then there’s the issue of thinking I’m buying something for her, but accidentally buying her stuff for me.
Two tickets for a show or a weekend away? I’m kind of expecting to be invited as the plus one. “A weekend away? How lovely! I’ll bring Martin from work!” would not be ideal.
Chocolates? I’m sort of hoping to be offered alternate choices.
Lingerie? Not literally for me, obviously: that would be horrific. But she seldom buys uncomfortable and impractical clothes when shopping for herself.
On a side note, I once thought my mother in law had arranged for my father in law the surprisingly modern gift of a weekend away with Katie Derham. Turns out I’d misheard and it was two nights in a B&B in County Durham.
Now, let me introduce you to Brown’s Rule of the Jewellery Crescendo. Listen carefully. This may be important. It is the rule whereby no item of jewellery ever bought is allowed to be less good than the previous purchase. It demonstrates commitment, generosity and a gradual increase in life status.
“That looks nice!” holiday presents from gift shops in Fuerteventura are exempt and can be used as a partial reset.
Brown’s Rule therefore postulates that extreme caution must be used to ensure each item is just a tiny bit better than the last. Go too big too early and you’ll regret it. Buy a diamond the size of a tennis ball once, and your only way of going up is to win the lottery or break into the Tower of London.
And don’t get me started on flowers. Basically the Lynx Africa deodorant and shower gel set for women. The ultimate in generic presents for non-specific women, but without the potential to re-gift next work Secret Santa. “Here’s one for Gloria – a two-month-old bunch of sunflowers!”
And wrapping! I almost forgot wrapping!
The point of wrapping is to enhance the surprise by prolonging the gap between the present presentation and the presence of the present. Obviously.
This could just as easily be achieved by clever misdirection (hand over the gift while suddenly looking out the window exclaiming “Is that a piglet/ burglar/ Gary Barlow in the garden?”) or delaying tactics (“Your present is in the boot of my car and I cannot be bothered to go out and get it. Here are the keys.” Which I think is a little more romantic.)
And if I order online, the nice man from Amazon will wrap it for me in a nice cardboard box with a pull-here tab. I don’t see why I should have to double wrap the box, or even worse open the present myself (thus ruining the surprise) and re-wrap in patterned paper. (Note – though a suitable size and more environmentally friendly, the appointments pages from the Sunday Times won’t do).
It’s like having a cushion on an armchair. A soft fluffy thing to protect me from the ravages of another soft fluffy thing.
Like Schrodinger’s Cat – while wrapped in pretty paper it’s exciting because it could be a good present or a rubbish present, and so is sort of both yet neither.
Once opened it is just rubbish.
Like the year when, ironically, I did actually buy her a dead, radioactive, hypothetical cat.
So what have we learned? Something surprising that she has asked for, specifically for her, nicer than last year’s present and immaculately wrapped.
3 thoughts on “… Birthday Presents”
Especially like the thought of a weekend with Katie Dereham
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I love the Katie Derham misunderstanding!
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