So, you have seen the grimace of discontent when you have given your wife whatever well-intentioned travesty you last purchased, and you think, What did I do wrong this time? I thought she really would like this shirt that is probably her size from a store conveniently near my workplace/book that it seems like women would like from the pink cover/gift certificate for a spa 45 minutes from our house when she is a SAHM without childcare who doesn't like spas. Women, jeez. Carefully adhering to the following guide can allow you to finally decipher the mindset of the arbitrary and irrational female to whom you are married. I promise.
1. If she really wanted it, she would have mentioned wanting it, at some point ever. So, if it's something you never ever heard her mention, just don't buy it. So, that means a no on the T-shirt with a humorous saying or the weird-looking vase.
2. If she has mentioned wanting it, but it can be used for you and/or the kids too, it is not a gift, it is a household purchase. Example: microwave, Dyson, lingerie, nursing bra.
3. If it's from the kids, it is not from you. Stop giving her stuff they brought home from preschool with a card that you sign, too. If it has paint handprints on it, it's not your gift to her.
4. If it is suggested by your mother, proceed with caution. Ask yourself if your mother is one of the top ten (thousand) people your wife would call if she needed advice. If not, thank your mom for her suggestion and ignore it completely.
5. If it is suggested by anyone without children, proceed with caution as well. Example: concert tickets for your wife who is anxious leaving the new baby for even an hour, a night at the comedy club for your wife who hasn't been up past 10 p.m. in three years, jewelry for your wife who clips coupons so you can send little Madison to Montessori.
6. If it is a piece of clothing, you will have to do some detective work. This may be difficult but I know you're up to the challenge. OK, first you must figure out where in the house your wife keeps her clothes. Then, you must pull out a garment you recall seeing her wear in the past year and check for a label. Write down what you learn (label and size). Then, proceed to a store which you know -- for a fact -- your wife actually frequents, also in the past year. Match the number you have written down to a number on a garment that is displayed on a mannequin or hanging on a rack. Purchase.
7. Do not fall prey to the following self-sabotaging thought process: "Hey, she said she wanted XYZ. But I'd be pretty boring and predictable if I just got XYZ, wouldn't I? So, to be super creative and fun, I will get something similar to XYZ, but not XYZ." When husbands do this, usually the wife who wanted this:
... gets something like this:
8. If it's supposed to be a subtle way to get her to do something you want her to do, it's not a present, it's a passive-aggressive maneuver. Examples include: gym membership, elliptical machine, oral sex manual, therapy session, bikini wax appointment, Swingers.com account.
9. If it's about sex, it's not a present. Just trust me on this.
10. If you would like it, proceed with caution. Are you sure she would like tickets to the game? Really sure? Hint: about 10 percent of women would like this and if your wife is one of them, she would have suggested it as a gift option at some point in the past decade. Same with the immense TV.
So what SHOULD you do?
Here is the super-secret formula that works every time. It even comes with an acronym, PATCH, as in, you will no longer have to patch things up after a gift-giving occasion if you follow this simple plan:
P: Get something PERSONAL that relates to her unique tastes, interests and preferences.
A: If she is the direct sort, get something she has ASKED for.
T: You want to make sure your present is THOUGHTFUL. Spend at least as much time as you do on your fantasy football draft to come up with the idea for the present. Yes, I am serious.
C: It comes with a CARD in which you add some handwritten sentences about your feelings about her. Yes, really. That's why the left side of the card is blank.
H: If you have no idea what the hell to do, get HELP from someone she loves and trusts, e.g. a best friend.
Following these tips will almost definitely make your next special occasion more memorable and less divorce-inducing for all involved. Then you can point your wife to my upcoming post on Gifts Your Husband Really Wants and you'll be all set. (Spoiler: Here's where you can put sex back into the equation.)