Tuesday, 20 December 2005

Christmas gift nightmare

I should have known it, it was time for our bi-monthly me-in-tears session.

It startet very innocently (I thought).

Before J's birthday, we discussed several gift options. I am convinced he said he'd quite like a suitcase. And because I was feeling very organised, I bought him a very nice upright Samsonite one instead of asking him what he wants for Christmas, as this is usually only replied to by either an "I don't know" or a "well, just don't get me anything expensive", which isn't very helpful.

Get your own from tripp.co.uk.  They're very handy, honestlyI got a red suitcase, because
a) I think it's a pretty colour
b) my suitcase is black, and it always ends up almost getting mistaken for someone elses in airports.

Obviously I had to give him this before we go to my parent's on Thursday, so that
a) he could pack in it
b) I wouldn't have to haul it all the way to their house myself. Might ruin the surprise a bit.

The suitcase was delivered to my flat and has been sitting in a box on top of my wardrobe for about a month, but because J is supremely unobservant, he hadn't actually noticed it.

Last night I got home before him, and got help from Depressed Flatmate in wrapping it. Wrapping something that large was actually surprisingly challenging. We were both quite excited about the prospect of him getting it and I think I actually broke a sweat during the process.

Just as we were putting the last couple of pieces of cellotape on, he arrived back. Flatmate stalled him while I finished off the wrapping.

As he came in, I decided I might as well give it to him there and then, as my flat is too small to hide something that huge when it's wrapped in conspicuously brightly coloured paper anyway.

He was quite intrigued by the box, which since it was delivered was quite well taped-up.

When he managed to open it (upside down), his first words were: "It's a case. It's red!"

I am not going to repeat exactly what he said next because in my pain I can't actually remember it, but he basically mocked my choice of present IN FRONT OF DEPRESSED FLATMATE! who was so ashamed on his behalf for this supremely insensitive behaviour that she quietly withdrew to her room ahead of the storm she probably could see coming.

Then he said, "I'm sure I'll get used to it."

Then five minutes later, after a little smalltalk about our respective evenings which I was too shell-shocked to object to; "Does it come in any other colour?"

Then ten minutes later, "Maybe I can return it and get some clothes from there instead" (I'd got it from a department store, so this was definitely an option).

This is approximately where I started crying.

I thought he was mean, ungrateful and above all a bit inhumane and subnormal in his response to a present he wasn't expecting and was less than happy with.

Children are normally about eight when they learn that even if Auntie Beth gives them a gruesome sweather that's two sizes too large, they are still expected to appear grateful.

At about the age of 12 they understand that this is to spare Auntie Beth's feelings, as well as to avoid scalding from mum and dad.

That means I'm going out with an emotional 7-year old.

There are several reasons J objected to the gift, and several reasons I was upset (also apart from the above).

He objected mainly because he hates people trying to tell him how to do things (like packing for holidays) in a better way which differs from his. This includes people telling him what luggage to use. Since I have a similar suitcase and we've discussed the topic several times, he felt I think that I was trying to make a point.

On a lesser scale, he doesn't like things that stand out, like a red suitcase apparently would.

The mocking I think was not actually meant to hurt and humiliate me, it's just his dysfunctional reaction to a situation he doesn't know how to handle, and he's just too self-absorbed and unobservant to realise this is an incredibly hurtful thing to do to someone.

I genuinely felt he had torn my heart out and chopped it into little pieces while laughing in the way Jeremy Paxman does on University Challenge when someone gets a question wrong. For fun.

I was upset because he was being mean to me, no less in front of someone else, which is not something I ever want to experience from a boyfriend.

Also, he never likes anything I give him, yet refuses to be helpful in telling me what he wants, which makes me think he might end up as awful and difficult as his mother one day (I didn't say that, even in the heat of the moment that would have been devastating for him to hear). I could list examples but it would take too long.

Mostly, though, I think I was upset for two reasons.
a) I think that if he loved me, he would like the gift just because it was from me
b) If he respected me just a little, he would at least have had the decency to pretend he liked it and break the news of wanting to return it slightly differently.

In other words, it seemed to me that his reaction reflected badly on our relationship.

In hindsight though I see that most of all it reflects badly of his interpersonal skills.

When I explained how I felt he was very upset and supremely apologetic. The first thing he said when we woke this morning after absolutely not enough sleep was the he was sorry.

I told him that if he ever does anything like that again, I'll leave him. Once is forgiveable, twice is stupid from my side. I think he got the point.

I am saying it's all bygones now. It was actually not that much more painful than a lot of other things I've experienced while we've been going out.

And I'm just glad I didn't wait until tonight to give him the gift, as we're planning a romantic evning in (with Depressed Flatmate of course) with a nice dinner and a DVD. At least that can be a patching-up effort now instead of being ruined by his lack of consideration for others.

Of course, he'd decided this morning that he'll actually keep the suitcase.

Hopefully that's a good sign for something.

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  1. I've experienced this quite a few times after buying what I thought at the time was the perfect present. Your comment "In hindsight though I see that most of all it reflects badly of his interpersonal skills" was, I'm sure. spot on, and maybe it's just a little piece of the jigsaw that you're not too keen on but can work your way around in future. For some reason I hate to think that you're upset about it so please just try to forget the whole thing?

  2. In the words of Fish: bygones. But if he doesn't like the dressing gown and Liverpool video he'll receive on Christmas eve, I'll have to rethink this relationship... Arrrgh.

    Thanks for the empathy! Good interpersonal skills, you.

    I'm not that upset anymore, just still somewhat incredulous to the whole episode.

  3. As a guy I can guarantee that men do not change & even more important, no one else can change them. So if you stay with him it's fine, but do not be surpised if he hurts you like that again.

  4. Well it is the thought that counts, his reaction was wrong.

  5. I think your assessment of the situation was right on. I wouldn't cut him any slack, but I also wouldn't read too much into it. What you feel very personally (and rightfully so) is probably not very personal at all to him.

    As a man who has made this mistake several times I know that many times it is not about you at all, it is about the case. To you it's a thoughtful gift that says a lot about your feelings for him and your relationship. To him it's a suitcase.

    We are so stupid. But we will probably never get it.

  6. I think what will also be telling is the gift he gives to you. My ex husband (of many years ago) was/is shit at giving and receiving presents. It took me a while to realise that he was shit at giving and receiving in the more important areas too.

  7. I kind of agree about men and gifts, but it really hasn't been an issue for me before!

    As for J's lack of skills in the receiving-department, look no further than his mother. Not an excuse, but definitely an explanation.


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