Monday, March 10, 2014

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Why I Suck at Special Occasions (Part II)


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As Mel sat down, I sat at the other end of the table, opened up my arms and smiled. My face was rich with satisfaction. I felt confident that this was probably the sweetest thing anyone had ever done in the history of sweetness.
Sweet Talkin' Ken with Beard 
Mel didn’t say much the whole time. She just nibbled at the corner of her waffle and kept looking at me like I’d ruined her life.
Like I was the devil.
And I remember being really frustrated. I thought I’d done this sweet thing.
 “What do you think?” I said.
Mel exhaled, “I’d rather be asleep.”
“Seriously?” I said. “I thought I was being sweet, here.”
“You are. You are,” she said in a lackluster, sleepy voice. “I’m just really tired and I wanted to sleep in on my birthday.”
“How about I show you your cake?” I said.
“Cake?” She said.
“Yeah. I got you a cake. It’s an ice cream cake from.” I made a drum roll sound with my mouth, “Baskin Robbins! We could have some right now.”
“Are you kidding me? I don’t want cake at 7AM,” she said. She drew her head back in revulsion. “And I don’t even like ice cream cake. It hurts my teeth. I thought you knew that.”
And when she said, “I thought you knew that,” it felt like she was saying, “I thought you knew me.”
And in fact, I thought I did know her. We’d been married for over a year. I thought I had a good grasp on what Mel liked and disliked. I knew that she liked cake, and I knew that she liked ice cream from Baskin Robbins, so why wouldn’t she like both of them together? But than again, I’d never seen her eat ice cream cake before. It was then that I started to realize that maybe, just maybe, this whole special occasion thing was more complicated that I’d originally thought.
I got angry.
“Fine,” I said. “How about you open your gifts. Then you can go back to bed.”
I placed the humidifier on her lap. Then I smiled, but it was more of a forced smile. A pitiful smile. One that was half frustration, half pleading for some sort of recognition.
She opened it and then gazed at it for a long time, not speaking. It was a green (her favorite color) and shaped like a cute frog.
“I thought I gave you a list?” she said.
“Yeah. You did. And this was on the top of the list. I assumed it was really important. I mean, it seemed like a strange birthday gift, but it was at the top of the list YOU gave me, so I assumed you really wanted it.”

She looked confused. Then she said, “Oh… that’s right. I did put this on the list, but I didn’t really want it. What I really wanted was the ring. I just listed a humidifier kind of as a…” she thought about it for a moment, “I don’t know… an extra gift. Something cheap that was extra. I didn’t think you’d actually get it as a real gift.”
“What…” I said. “What the hell are you talking about? I thought everything on the list was a real gift.” This was the strangest thing I’d ever heard in my life. I had no idea that there was such a thing as “extra gifts.” There were gifts, and then there were no gifts. I suppose there were crappy unexpected gifts, like when my mother got me socks for Christmas, but I didn’t ask for socks. I didn’t give her a list with socks on it thinking that she would know that it was extra.
Mel shook her head. “No,” she said, her face was scrunched up. It seemed to say, Where the hell did you get that idea? “A ring is a real gift,” she said. “A humidifier is just something silly. You know, like socks at Christmas.”
I could feel an argument coming on, so I tried to change the subject. We didn’t even make it to the gift card to the day spa, which thinking back probably would’ve turned the tide.
I asked if she liked the flowers, and she asked where they came from. I told her they were from Albertsons, and she asked why I didn’t go to a florist.
“What’s wrong with flower from Albertsons?” I asked.
“They’re not real flowers,” She said. “They’re grocery store flowers. There kind of crappy.”
It was then that we started arguing.
I told her that I thought the list was hierarchical, the most important gifts at the top. I told her that she needed to be happy that I got her anything. I told her she was being picky and raunchy and I didn’t have to put up with it.  She mentioned that she assumed that I would have the good sense to look at the list and tell what she really wanted.
“Is it really that hard to put a little thought into a gift?” she said.
 “Your list and your standards are bullshit,” I said. “I’m done. I’m never surprising you again.”
I was too angry to stick around, so I got in my pickup and went for a drive. As I drove around town, I recall feeling really wronged by the list. Like this was all part of some stupid plan, concocted by Mel, to make me look stupid. And in that moment, I really questioned our marriage. I really thought about what I was in it for. 

 

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley
 

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