Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Great Gulf

I have a friend who shall remain nameless and all details changed to protect his marriage, which was recently careening toward certain disaster. He and I were out with some friends. His wife was elsewhere. And he tells us that the wife’s 50th birthday is coming up. So we inquire as to what festivities are planned. And he tells us none.

Stunned silence. Then: none? She doesn’t want, he claims. She told him. No fuss. No surprise party. No big deal. So he took her at her word and when some guy friends offered up baseball tickets for that night, he accepted.

This marriage has managed to last nearly thirty years. There are children. And this is not a dumb man. He is successful at what he does and quite smart and charming. But clearly as dumb shoe lace. How could he believe her?

When a woman says don’t do anything for my fiftieth birthday that means make a big fuss. Is this not clear to every person on the planet by now?

We corrected him. We helped him out. We told him he would have to make a big deal for the big birthday. He was adament about not having a party, but agreed to plan a trip. He refused to give up the baseball tickets the night of the actual birthday, although I assured him he would suffer for this.

I walked around for two days afterwards, amazed at the gulf that exists between men and women. How could he not know that you have to celebrate a woman’s birthday? How could he not know that 50 is going to be a killer for her and therefore an ocassion for pulling out all the stops? After all those years of marriage?

I asked some other men. They said they would never fall it into the “don’t do anything for my birthday” trap. They’ve figured that one out. Though they’ve gotten got out on others. One guy said when his baby was born one of his friends told him he had to buy his wife a mother’s day present. He couldn’t believe it. She isn’t his mother. But it turned out that she did expect him to buy flowers, cards, presents and dinner on behalf of the baby in honour of mothers day.

But what’s the big deal for women about birthdays, mothers day, valentines, anniversaries? Why is it so important to us that the men in our lives mark these days with surprises, jewels and exaltations of love?

Are we so insecure that we need the reassurance? For sure.

There are times too when I feel like I spend a lot of energy making my family feel special. Buying them gifts. Thinking of ways to make them happy. Buying their clothes, cleaning their rooms, picking out their favourite foods. They are always on my mind and I am always looking for ways to take care of them and improve their lives. I figure a few days a year, they can go out of their way to return the favour – to show me they value the mothering and wifering I put out there. (Of course maybe they don’t).

Then why does it get couched in, “I don’t want a party, don’t make a fuss”? I don’t know. Maybe because in the moment, I don’t. I don’t really need anything – jewelry or gifts, I have everything.

Besides you can’t really tell someone you want them to make a party or give you a present. That would be acting like you deserve it and an important womanly trait is self-effacingness and the ability to sit here in the dark.

I want you to think of it yourself and be motivated to do it because you love me. Out of your generousity of spirit. Not beause I told you you had to or hinted. (although on the day of when I’m getting progressively more crabby because I may have to bake my own cake or because no one knows how I take my coffee when they bring me breakfast in bed, I would settle for them following directions to the letter.)

So I talked about all this with Richie who asked me if he had to do something big for my coming birthday and I said no. And I really mean it. I don’t need anything. I don’t want anything. No fuss. Seriously. I mean it.

Will you please go explain to him what I mean?


At 1:16 PM, Blogger James Golick said...

When a woman says don’t do anything for my fiftieth birthday that means make a big fuss. Is this not clear to every person on the planet by now?

And I really mean it. I don’t need anything. I don’t want anything. No fuss. Seriously. I mean it.


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