Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy buying gifts.
I think it’s a fun creative exercise of sorts, and a test of how well I know someone or what they’d like.
And I think I’m good at it — usually — or at least I’m told I give great gifts.
For example, I was supposed to go fishing a couple weeks ago with a friend of mine for his birthday. The trip didn’t work out, so I bought him fish of a different variety, the Swedish kind.
And I also have no problem buying a bottle of wine or something when I go over to someone’s new house or apartment, or spending extra if I find a gift I particularly like, even if I know it won’t be reciprocated.
Similarly, and please don’t get me wrong on this point especially, I am happy for all my friends’ marriages, births, and other special occasions.
That said, while I was wandering around the mall again yesterday in search of yet another birthday present for one of my friends’ children, it reminded me of that classic Sex and the City episode, “A Woman’s Right to Shoes.”
The episode begins with Carrie doing some registration shopping. First to a kitchenware store, then to a baby store, then to another store and another. And then she has a disastrous time at a baby shower.
And Carrie’s frustrated by all this because no one ever buys anything for her, and in the case of the woman whose shower it was, Carrie estimates that she’s spent more than $2,300 on this woman’s engagements, weddings, babies, and other occasions alone.
“If you got married or had a child, she’d spend the same on you!” Charlotte tells Carrie.
“And if I don’t get married or have a child, I get bubkes?” Carrie asks back. “Think about it. If you are single, after graduation there isn’t one occasion where people celebrate you … Hallmark doesn’t make a ‘congratulations, you didn’t marry the wrong guy’ card. And where’s the flatware for going on vacation alone?”
“We have birthdays,” Charlotte replies.
“We all have birthdays,” says Carrie. “That’s a wash.”
So yesterday, just like I’ve had after buying gifts for other friends for their engagements, weddings, etc., I had what I guess some people would call a Carrie Bradshaw moment where I briefly had this thought of, “When am I going to get mine?”
Yesterday I was buying a gift for the son of some good friends, so I didn’t mind it. But I can’t even begin to think about how much I’ve spent on gifts for other people, like those who got married and then did the whole couple thing, retreating into their domesticity, spending time only with other couples, and forgetting their single friend Marty almost as a way of closing the door on their own singlehood.
Or the people who invited me to weddings that I had no intention of going to, and yet I still bought them a gift because that’s the right thing to do and all.
I actually have one friend who I haven’t seen since the day of her wedding, a year and a half ago.
It’s not like I can’t afford the gifts, and I certainly don’t begrudge my friends their happiness, but still … When it’s finally my turn (and considering I’m 31, I sure as hell hope it’s soon), how many of these people will return the favor?
Yes, I write this rant only half-seriously, but I think Carrie was onto something in that episode when she registered for a wedding to herself, just so she could have this woman reciprocate and buy her something she wanted.
Maybe for one of my upcoming birthdays (i.e.: this year or next), if my social status doesn’t change, I’ll register somehow.
Can I register at Best Buy, for example? Let’s see … I’d like a new iPod, a plasma TV, surround sound system, a digital video camera … you get the idea.
Is that so wrong?