Luckily, my lovely wife’s birthday is on the anniversary of Armistice
Day of WWI, November 11. She won’t allow me to tell you which
anniversary, but I can say it was well past the day itself, November
11, 1917. I never forget the date - I mean of her birthday, not the
war. Women don’t care about wars, but they positively adore
birthdays. My wife expects me to know the cat’s birthday.
OK, so sometimes in very early November it hits me - hey, the wife’s
birthday - a present. Wives love presents like little girls like
birthday cakes. There are three steps involved in this holy process:
1) You MUST remember the day, 2) You must make a decision on the
present, and 3) You must locate and procure the present. No. 2, for
me, is the most challenging step.
Now some advice for you newcomers to the marital condition. First of
all, if you’re Jewish, the situation is simplified by the fact that
Jewish wives love to eat. So, in addition to jewelry, clothing,
handkerchiefs, and scarfs (I was once on a ten-year scarf binge -
more later on this lucky and ingenuous streak) there are edibles.
Food becomes an attractive choice. No, not a chuck roast or a nice
roasting hen. They hate that - it implies kitchen time, but maybe an
already cooked box of candy. It adds a whole new dimension to your
choices. I’ll never forget my wife’s delight on our 35th anniversary
when I bought her six - not one - but six smoked whitefish - a
favorite to Jewish palates.) All she had to do was artistically lay
them out on the platter in the shape of a Jewish star. And my
Christian friends were ecstatic when I shared my secret with them and
pointed out they only needed two whitefish for a cross. “What’s a
whitefish?” was their first response. I had to explain that two
herring or swordfish or tilapia or even catfish would work, too.
But food is only one category of candidates. There’s jewelry - much
easier to load in the trunk than a lamp for the living room. That’s
what she guessed - a lamp - since I gave her a clue that it would
illuminate her life. Bad guess; so would a flashlight, a 60-watt bulb
for the hall closet, or a book of matches. In past years, I’ve gifted
her with each of these. The positive side of jewelry is that it
always fits (a major issue that I’ll deal with later). But it’s
terribly expensive. A selection from the food category - like a
chicken, on sale - might run 5-6 bucks. But one of those phony rings
harking back to the royal wedding costs $14.95. And everybody knows
it’s a knock off, but the chicken is as real as roast beef.
The “fit” problem has been with us ever since the first caveman -
trying to solve the “fit” problem - speared a rabbit instead of a bear
for a skin to wrap around his cave lady. But she was pleased that her
mate saw her as a petite companion, which shows they’re easy to
please. Legend has it that then and there she originated that
lifesaver: “It’s the thought that counts”. I love that expression.
It covers a multitude of sins (even though the great-hearted
originator eventually perished from hypothermia). I often solve the
“fit” problem with a sweater. Any size sweater fits any size woman,
really. But I usually buy a triple small. Too tight? Impossible to
a man’s taste and everybody knows women wear sweaters to please men.
More advice to the novice male gift giver. You must realize that for
some silly reason women are neurotically infatuated with the
promptness of the gift. Believe it or not, if your anniversary is
June 4, for some reason the gift must be on June 4. Researchers at
the Harvard Laboratory for Gift Research have discovered that 98% of
all women would prefer a No. 2 pencil on their precise anniversary
date than a fur stole two days later. And too early costs you points,
too, since it shows your vagueness as to the holy date itself. I
used to use the early bird approach. “Here’s a lovely box of candy,
my dear,” which I’d present on New Year’s Day since I knew sometime
this year the anniversary of our marriage would roll around.
But here’s some advice to help you cope with this feminine weakness:
1) Just to show off - find some exotic date and please your wife. For
example, “Lovely, here’s a golden-colored bracelet in honor of the
anniversary of your sister’s third divorce.” Gifts for sister’s
events/dates score big.
2) Upon being confronted by an irate wife since it’s THAT day and you
are empty handed: “Ducky, don’t think I forgot today’s significance.
I ordered your gift from France, but I just received word that the
ship smashed on the Great Barrier Reef (or the plane crashed or the
train derailed or the warehouse burned down. Take your choice.) This
technique gives you the correct date and weeks of breathing space.
3) If you’re really weak at remembering the date, write it down in a
little, black book. Trouble is, people who forget dates also lose
little, black books.
So, the best scheme is to confess all Tell the wife to remind you of
the date a week early and tell you what she’d like.
The humor of Ted, the Scribbler on the Roof, appears in newspapers around the U.S., on National Public Radio in Huntsville, Alabama and numerous web sites.