Monday, 30 March 2009

The Christmas Present

The band and I played again at the pub on Sunday night. This time I did three songs instead of two, so I feel good that progress was made! The guitarist shamelessly introduced us as an ‘up and coming Sydney band’, and I got a free soda water and lemon afterwards, so it must be true! It’s only a matter of time before people start giving me free drugs.

The Man came last night as well, and was official photographer. I have been spending loads of time with him lately, after our bumpy two or three weeks recently. I think I am slowly coming back from nervous breakdown territory – I am calmer at work today too, so it’s all good. I really had an awful few weeks recently. A few times I found myself wishing I could just stop breathing and quietly die. Melodramatic, I know. It was like suddenly being sixteen again! Talk about shock to the system! But I am back to being me again, with my uneventful but satisfying life. All I ask is a resident male to cook for. Is that too much?

Having said that, maybe my standards are higher than I think. Other Man (you know I’m talking about him) is in Phuket at the moment being a complete sleaze. I still get a bit panicky when I think of how he might have given me AIDS or something almost as bad. No, I still haven’t had myself tested for STDs. I’m too scared. It’s not a health issue, because I feel fine and undiseased, and until I decide to have sex with someone else, it’s not a moral issue either. (Unless I get raped, but I think rapists can take their chances). But I was thinking about it again this weekend, because a friend of mine has two HIV positive guys in his (admittedly enormous) circle of friends. I can’t imagine how frightening an HIV + diagnosis would be. I don’t know how this friend of mine manages to be so generous with his sexual activity. It’s weird how people know STDs are out there, but it doesn’t put them off indiscriminately sleeping around. You’d think his two HIV POSITIVE FRIENDS would be a wake-up call. Does he think he’s immune for some reason? Does he think straight people have never caught AIDS before?

Anyway, in honour of my continuing fear that I might have diseased sexual organs, I’m going to round up today’s post with one of the greatest hits of Other Man and my late relationship! Cue drum roll and trumpet fanfare…this story is called:

The Christmas Present

I was feeling sort of weird about the whole obligatory gift giving thing around November/December/January – we both had birthdays, and of course there was Christmas. I was stressed enough with getting everyone else presents that I was supposed to, let alone worrying about feeling awkward about getting something for somebody I’d only just started going out with. The Man has always said how he gave up on extravagant Christmas spending long ago, and he’d hate someone to go through stress on his behalf, and end up spending a load of money on something he didn’t want anyway. So I said to Other Man, how about we don’t worry about presents for each other? Reasoning that men aren’t into it anyway, and think it’s a chore they have to do to please women, so surely he’d be relieved. I would have been so happy if I could have written off that worry – I was having a hard time, organising a trip to Melbourne and gifts, sending stuff to my family, moving house, and a lot of emotional stress. The last thing I wanted was the worry of what to get a guy I had just started dating, and worrying about the protocols of how much to spend.

And I really don’t think he was at all interested in the gift exchange thing, but he refused to let it go, because he has this idea that you HAVE to buy presents for your girlfriend because it’s the DONE THING, and God forbid we should break the rules. So we agreed we’d get something for each other in January, when the stress of Christmas was all over. Every time he mentioned it, I’d say, “Really, I’m not bothered. I don’t want anything.” And then, not to be too difficult and a pain, I’d end up saying he could get me some orange blossom water. Kind of ridiculously cheap, but I wanted it for cosmetics making, and couldn’t for the life of me find anything. I thought, if he really wanted to get me something I wanted, orange blossom water would show thought rather than extravagant spending, and would be very useful. On another occasion, I also suggested a sugar thermometer – again, something I really wanted, and not expensive. The last thing I wanted was for him to think I was greedy for expensive gifts, in case he hadn’t already got the message when I tried to talk him out of any gifts at all. I don’t know why. Guess I have low self-esteem somewhere deep inside and need to be thought of as low maintenance.

This story has foreshadowing…turns out I should not have mentioned Chanel! Big mistake!

So, it turns out my groundwork was pointless. Apparently, men don’t buy girlfriends orange blossom water and sugar thermometers, according to ‘Men’s Health’ or whatever Other Man’s relationship Bible is. Even if girlfriends want orange blossom water and sugar thermometers. Apparently, men buy their girlfriends perfume. He brought up the subject of presents yet again, and said he’d decided to get me some perfume. My heart sank because even though I didn’t completely despise him (yet) I’d begun to notice his sense of taste might be described as ‘crass’ by the unkinder observer. Perfume is a very personal thing and there’s no way I’m going to wear some foul stinky stuff, to appease anyone. So I told him I only wear Chanel, which is true. I thought of immediately saying something along the lines of “But it’s so expensive, please don’t buy me that” but I find the money talk a bit vulgar, and anyway, I’d gone on and on enough about how we maybe shouldn’t bother with presents, I didn’t want anything, just get me something really small and token, etc, so I thought any more would be going overboard and start to be embarrassing. And possibly sound like I was protesting too much, and was really testing him. So I left the perfume issue at that, and reiterated that I’d love some orange blossom water or a sugar thermometer. Seriously. Orange blossom water or a sugar thermometer. Have you got that, readers? Have I not said it enough times?

One day in January the end of the working day rolled round, and Other Man asked me if I’d walk with him to his car. On the way, he told me he’d been to the shopping centre that lunchtime and got me something. He told me he’d gone to the perfume counter at Myer’s, and the perfume was so expensive, he thought it was too much. Well he’d thought about getting it for me, but it would have set a precedent, wouldn’t it? Then I’d expect something like that every time. Something really expensive. He could afford it of course, but he felt it would be too much. So he got me something cheaper – hope I didn’t mind. He went on and on like this for a while, meanwhile, me thinking “Wow, how crass – he could have just ignored the perfume thing. I mean, it’s not like I’ve been pressuring him for it! But I’m sure he doesn’t mean to be tactless. It’s just his way. But I really hope he shuts up about it now.” He asked me if I’d like him to go home and wrap what it was that he had bought me, or should I just go to the car with him and he’d give it to me now? It’s kind of hard to be graceful when somebody has just gone to great lengths to tell you you’re not worth something, but I tried, and smiled and told him no, he didn’t need to wrap it and I’d come down to the car.

We got to the lifts to the car park. And still he went on about it. “I don’t want to set a precedent,” he kept saying. (Which is interesting, because if we were still together for next Christmas, and the Christmas after, in that case I’d be a long-term girlfriend, and men who by their own boasting ‘earn a shitload of money’ generally don’t mind buying expensive perfumes for long partners, at least you’d think.) With every repetition I felt more and more humiliated, as if I was being slapped down for being a grasping, greedy bitch. Funny when I’d pushed to not have a present at all, then asked for something cheap, and kept telling him a thought would count and all that. Clearly, grasping for expensive gifts is Something Girlfriends Do (from his relationship Bible at again?), and no matter that the whole time we’d been together, I’d told him I didn’t want to go to expensive restaurants (true), paid at least half the time whenever we went anywhere, never complained about boring evenings, given him little things to show him I was thinking about him (ie baking samples from whenever I baked) – none of this mattered.

By the way, this was in the same week that he had told me he’d won several hundred dollars in a sports bet, and had sent some of it to Thai Hooker to help her out with her child. He had plenty of spending money and wasn’t averse to giving it to women, just not to me. I had hoped, by being low maintenance, I’d never have to find out how little he was willing to spend on me. Oh vain hope!

As he blathered on, I wondered why he hadn’t just written me a cheque for whatever he was prepared to spend, since money was so obviously an issue here. I’ve never before received a present that was so blatantly about exchange of wealth. I kept thinking "Please stop saying it. I don't want to start shouting at you and make myself look even worse. Just let me keep it together and save face until I can be alone."

In case you’re wondering, it turned out he had bought me a very nice cookery book. He told me he thought that was much more suitable, not costing too much or too little. I don’t know how much it actually cost because he didn’t give me the receipt. (You've got to hand it to him – he has class!) I took it home – not wrapped, of course – and thought I’d never use it. Just looking at it made me feel sick and humiliated. I thought I’d give it to charity as soon as we broke up.

Nearly three months on, I haven’t given it away, and I do use it. It’s a bloody good book, and useful for something. Unlike some men I know.

So there you are, a story that shows that I am perhaps over-sensitive, and Other Man is both tight-fisted and has no tact or social skills at all! And there are plenty more stories where that came from!


gena said...

And here I was half expecting the gift to be a bottle of really, really cheap perfume... *L* That was really unexpected. I wonder what he meant by giving you a cook book though?

Sprite said...

Nothing too mysterious. I like to bake and he likes to eat!