I admit it: I like bling as much as the next gal. But honestly, how many bracelets or pairs of earrings do you really need? (I know, I know – when it comes to jewelry, it’s rarely a question of need.)
Seriously though, while being gifted with jewelry is nice, I’ve come to appreciate more practical kinds of presents as I’ve gotten older. Lucky for me, I have a husband who excels at this type of gift-giving – a proclivity he revealed early on.
We’d been dating for about four months when my birthday rolled around. It was apparent by this time that we were serious about each other, having uttered the “L” word and all. We’d even begun to dance around the topic of cohabitation since we were spending most nights together at his place or mine.
So on my birthday, Hubs-to-be presented me with three gifts. The first was a lovely watch (pretty, jewelry-like and practical because I didn’t have one). The second was a handcrafted metal wind chime that I’d once admired in a store (thoughtful). And the third was – you ready? – a bathroom scale.
Now, this was twenty years ago. A size four, I was far from overweight – so I didn’t take offense or read any judgment into the gift. But it was a WTF moment, nonetheless. If it’s the thought that counts when gifting, what the eff was he thinking?
So when I uttered a somewhat guarded, “Um, a scale?” he explained that because neither of us had one, and we’d eventually be consolidating households, he thought it would be a practical gift we could both use. His confidence in our future together – along with a boatload of other wonderful qualities – outweighed any qualms I might have had about his gift-giving sensibilities. All I could do was laugh. And two years later, I married him.
In the two decades we’ve been together, he’s more than redeemed himself on the gift-giving front, having presented me with lovely pieces of jewelry, lingerie (again, something we both could “use”) and clothing.
But whether it’s Hubs’ influence or simply shifting priorities as I get older – both, probably – I’m definitely in the practical gift camp these days.
For example, instead of slinky negligee thingies, I’m much happier receiving flannel or fleece pajamas for Christmas. Living in Maine, this is eminently more sensible for lounging around the house on cold winter nights (not so much for heading off menopausal night sweats once in bed, however). But I still like ‘em.
On my birthday, I’m delighted to get new walking shoes in support of my commitment to stay active and healthy. Or new kitchen knives, since I slice and dice a lot preparing salads and vegetables, also in a quest to stay healthy. Or a Bluetooth headset so I can more easily type (and hear) when conducting phone interviews for my job as a medical writer. Or a new wedge pillow to help ease my nighttime acid reflux. Or a new blow-dryer because my old one conked out.
As I get older, however, the best gifts are less about “stuff” – however thoughtful and well intentioned – and more about what’s becoming scarcer: time. Tickets to a play or concert, a weekend away to celebrate a milestone event (or nothing at all), dinner with friends, an impromptu happy hour down by the water to mark the end of a busy week – they’re opportunities for shared experiences and making memories. The really important stuff.
I’m sure there are men and women for whom a sparkly piece of jewelry or sexy lingerie also produces memorable experiences, if you know what I mean. And, sad to say, there are folks who equate how much a gift costs with how much the gift-giver loves them.
But to me, the greatest affirmation that I’m cared about is when someone gives me something with no expectation of getting anything in return – except perhaps the smile on my face – and because the gift makes my life better or easier or simply more fun. What could be more practical than that?
The best gift these days
is appreciation for
what really matters.
What do you think? Has your opinion of what constitutes a “good” gift changed as you’ve gotten older? What’s the most memorable gift you’ve been given?