I pit my wife for being an inept gift-giver.

Okay, I have to vent a little about this, and god knows I’m not going to say word one to her about it - there’s no point.

Don’t think I’m just still disappointed about my Christmas gifts two weeks later - it’s more than that. It’s systemic.

I mean, I was a bit disappointed, although I did my level best not to show it.

My “main” gifts from her were gift cards. After I told her quite plainly what I thought about giving gift cards to family members with whom you’d actually be with on Christmas morning: When I told her I still had to find something for my brother-in-law, a week before the day, she suggested a gift card, and I told her that for me the ritual of gift giving was about taking the time to show your family & friends that you know them a little, and a gift card says “You’re not important enough to me to bother shopping for.”

Anyway, she gave me a gift card for a book store, which is okay - I used it to buy one of Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter novels. I would rather have unwrapped the book, though - I’d told her several times that I was interested in reading them. Or hell, something else - my bookshelf is right there, she can make some inferences about my tastes.

She also gave me a gift card for the game store. This, I’m less thrilled with - partly
because it’s for an amount that’s exactly half the value of the card she knew I gave to my assistant at work, but mainly because it’s approximately half the value of a game. She gave me a geek subsidy.

Anyway, she said she took my comments about gift cards to heart, and so went out to pick out something more personal.

She bought me a facial moisturizing kit. As she has frequently pointed out, I have oily skin; my skin does not in any way cry out to be moisturized. The moisturizing products are also perfumed, and she knows I don’t like scented products. But, I’m obliged to use it (she keeps nagging me to,) and so I have spent a certain amount of time annoyed by my own stinking face - and developed some minor acne. Joy.

She also bought me a bathrobe. She bought me a bathrobe that resembles the bathrobe I already had in every way, except that the new bathrobe is absurdly, ridiculously too large for me. If I stand with my arms at my sides, the sleeves extend a full eight inches past the tips of my fingers. (Yes, the arms are actually a foot too long.) The hem drags on the floor, and the pockets are placed like kneepads. …and I have to wear it. “You can have it altered,” she says. In the meantime, I have to wear it because she’s hurt if I don’t. So right now, I’ve got the sleeves pushed up onto my shoulders, so that I can drink my coffee and type. If I don’t push them all the way up onto my shoulders, the fall back down any time I try to do anything, (like brush my teeth or make coffee,) and I frequently end up with a foot of extra material there that is draggy and soggy. Oh, and the hem gets wet on the floor after a shower if I’m not careful, too. Awesome. After I pay to have it altered, it will be… more or less as good as my old robe, only with pockets on my knees.
She complains that I’m “picky” and “hard to shop for” when it comes to clothes, I don’t think I’m picky or hard to shop for at all - in fact I’ve told her what I like, and it should be obvious from looking at the clothes that I wear. Really, the only thing that I pay attention to when buying a shirt is wear the breast pocket - as long as it is placed high enough (or absent) a “small” shirt can generally be altered to fit me.

It’s true that I don’t often wear clothes that she’s given me, but then I am usually completely baffled by her choices. I’m nearly forty, and my wardrobe is made up of dress shirts & pants, plus jeans & solid tees. (I have one graphic tee, a fading Scanner Darkly crew shirt that is a treasured gift from a Doper.) The clothes she picks out for me are suited for someone I don’t know: somebody who can’t make up their mind whether they are a trailer park Rock & Roll warrior, or a wannabee gang-banger hippity-hoppy cheeseball, and definitely someone with gender issues.

Silver latex print screaming skulls, with “DEATH CHEATER” in elaborate cursive script. Black longsleeve, collarless “rock shirts,” with raised text of party slogans all over it, as if Dr. Bonner was a metal-head. Pink & grey with a print of a 80s style graphic of a long-legged woman posing with an electric guitar, declaring me to be a “GLAM DIVA!!” This sort of thing - you know - totally me. Oh, yeah, I never wore the scarf she bought for me. The one she bought for me at the plus-sized ladieswear store-- tassled, with pink and burgundy accents, and long enough to hang down past my knees. I’m picky about clothes.

God knows I tried to make it easy for her. “Gee,” I said, “I really need some new jeans. I’d like to get down to American Eagle sometime, they have great jeans.” "“Gosh, I really need new pants for the office.” “It’s time for new socks!” What could be easier?

This wouldn’t bother me at all – if she didn’t need constant assurances that I’m happy with her gifts. Still. “Just ‘happy?’ Not more than that?”


That sucks, and I never seem to get my husband the right gift, either. I try really hard, but I’m pretty much done making the effort. One time, I bought him a radiator for his car, but it was wrong. One time I bought him blah, blah, and it was wrong. This year, I bought him NASCAR laps, and he returned them because it was too frivolous (no it wasn’t…YES IT WAS…no it wasn’t).

While in general I think that spouses should give gifts from the heart instead of just picking something from each other’s wishlists, this sounds like a situation that is screaming for a wishlist. Go to Amazon or TheThingsIWant.com or wherever and put up an online wishlist. Tell her where it is. Say, “I am making it easy for you this year! Just go to the wishlist.” A few months before Christmas, tell her that you love her, but that Christmas morning at your house is to be a gift-card-free zone. Hopefully she will get the message.

As for the bathrobe, keep throwing it in the dirty laundry hamper, on the grounds that the arm is coffee-soiled or whatnot. Then forget to launder it. The answer to “Why aren’t you wearing the new robe I got you?” is, “It’s in the laundry.”

I am going to say one thing in her defense, regarding the clothes buying. I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that when she says you are hard to shop for, she means that you have a very limited range of things that you like to wear, and therefore her choices are 1) get you something totally boring and obvious that you are just going to buy for yourself anyway as soon as your old pants/shirt wear out, or 2) try to be creative and get you something “fun.” MrWhatsit is tough to buy clothes for, for the same reason; he already has everything he needs, and if something wears out he’ll just replace it. (I deal with this by getting him gifts of things other than clothes, though.)

Awww mate, that really sucks. I think MsWhatsit’s idea is right though - you’re going to have to go the wishlist route.

It seems a bit weird that she doesn’t acknowledge the dressing gown sizing issue though - could it not have been returned for a smaller size at the store?

The Pedant is not in a position to advise others about giving gifts. I myself am horrible to buy for, for a simple reason: I buy anything I want, immediately, and I am very picky about what I buy. I don’t want much, but I want that exact item. It’s annoying to have someone else try to pick out a gift for me. Their odds of getting it right are trivial.

I agree gift cards are lame. Make it cash if you don’t want to pick something out.

But I do have a tiny piece of advice. Your wife is completely incompetent at giving gifts. She won’t get better. Let it go.

Perhaps one of your personal love languages is receiving gifts. Hers is not. Laugh it off. http://www.fivelovelanguages.com/learn.html

I have a hard time shopping for my partner too and the wish list route works for us. He already buys whatever clothes he wants or needs and they’re pretty much all the same, and his hobbies all include specialized tools, equipment or parts that he needs to pick out himself. Having him tell me exactly what to buy defeats the purpose of a gift because all it means is that he’s holding off buying it for himself to make it easier for me, and half the fun is in being surprised anyway. Now he puts an assortment of things on wish lists for me, gives me the email addresses of his DIY online buddies that can help me pick out specialized toys that he’d like, and tells the clerks at the tool store what he wants if I show up. This way I have lots of choices and can surprise him with something he’ll be happy with.

I totally agree with the wish list idea! Spiny Norman and I have lists; some items are specific, others are general. For instance, I love getting pajamas, so this year I happened to find 3 pair of light flannel pajama pants in a discount bin, but there were no tops with them. So I gave him the bottoms and asked him to pick out some tops to go with them. And he picked the CUTEST tops ever! LOVE HIM!

For more specific things, I either email him a link to a web page with the item, or print the page and give it to him For instance, this year I got this, because I asked for that one specifically, not just any old neck massager.

I would suggest giving her a list of specifics as well as generalities, for example tell her you’d like a skin care kit for OILY skin, but let her pick which particular one. That way she gets to feel like there’s still some of her own personal choice in the gifts she gives you, but they’re more likely to conform to your tastes.

Good luck!

FWIW, I agree about gift cards/certificates: I always feel a little hurt when a non-stranger/client/business associate gives me a gift certificate. It’s just so generic an and thoughtless. I don’t even like telling people what I want; to do so makes it seem like an errand, not a gift.

Gift cards can be okay under certain circumstances. My husband’s colleagues gave him gift cards to Best Buy (they’re all a bunch of computer geeks, so they know there’s always something there every one of them will like). He still had some from the previous year, combined them, and bought me a tomtom with them! Gift cards do not always suck. :smiley:

To the defense of the giftcard-givers, my wife is extremely hard to buy for. After 24 years, I still am afraid to buy her anything. I think last year’s gifts are in the box in the closet, as a matter of fact. She just is very picky & not open at all about what she likes. It makes Christmas & birthday (& Mother’s Day) impossible for me. She does get gift cards at times. Other times she will send me an email with a description of exactly what she wants. It is the only way I feel safe from the look of disappointment I have so often seen in her eyes.

I got a good laugh from your OP. Thanks you and thanks to your wife!

I think that the main time when gift cards are OK between spouses is when they are for a store where the recipient would not normally shop because it is too expensive or indulgent. For example, I love it when my husband gives me a gift certificate for the spa.

I agree that a wish list is the way to go in this situation, though. It may help if you just continuously put stuff on the list all year as you see things that you might like, but that you’re not going to buy for yourself. Then if she gets you something for Christmas that you had liked in March but then forgotten about, it’s closer to being a surprise.

I don’t understand why anyone would want or want to give a gift card. They’re not even discounts! Give me a $20 bill any day over a $20 gift card! I can spend that on anything I want; I’m not locked in to where you think I might want to shop. If giving someone plain cash sounds heartless, then actually buy something instead of making them go out and buy it, but only from one store! :mad:

Venting over.

Vox Imperatoris

I agree with most respondents here - give her a wishlist of exactly what you’re interested in, and if she still won’t buy appropriate gifts and is otherwise a good wife, I think you’ll have to chalk this one up to “everyone has their flaws” (hers is being tone-deaf in the gift department) and go shopping for yourself after Christmas.

As for wearing a too-big robe and getting acne from an inappropriate gift, I think we’ve crossed a line here. You aren’t required to actually reduce your quality of life because of someone else’s gift. Have you expressed your gratitude and explained to her exactly why these gifts are not right for you? I can’t imagine forcing my husband to mess up his face!

Am I the only one wishing that Larry Mudd would break out a sewing kit and start combining several lame gifts into one absolutely bitchin’ gift?

I’m thinking maybe a DEATH DIVA bathrobe with burgundy-accented nipple tassels.

I love gift cards. Especially Ebay
I can get what the hell I want.

I dont care who gives them to me.

It took a couple (okay 10) years, but I figured out how to fix this problem: I pick out my gifts and hand the list to my husband because nothing says murder at Christmas like opening a size 3 dress whilst wearing a size 10 dress.

So, Dear, thanks for the Sims 2 expacs and those Cutco knives (in addition to the brakes on my car!).

I read the OP a loud to him. He says: give a list and include the name and location of the store where it can be found. If that doesn’t work, just buy it yourself and give it to her to wrap for you.

(and, just lop off the extra material on the robe, it’s not like anyone but she will see you in it)

Maybe this is why I’m still single but . . .

For Chrissakes, are her feelings so delicate that she cannot even cope with the fact that she gave you something that doesn’t fit? Nevermind issues of taste or originality, the bathrobe does not fit. “You can get it altered?” Who the fuck alters a bathrobe? And even if you can (or will), from where springs the obligation to wear it in the meantime, when IT DOESN’T FIT?

I also think you could possibly have a conversation in which you point out that her clothing choices for you consist of things you have never ever worn in your entire life, but that’s a bit harder since I suspect she’s trying to make you a bit more trendy and metro, which is some small excuse for disregarding your taste to some extent. I mean, if your wardrobe makes Mr. Rogers’ wardrobe look cutting edge, maybe she’s trying to nudge (wrench?) you out of what she sees as a rut.

But expecting you to wear stuff that doesn’t even fit is ridiculous.

See, how is this superior to money? You don’t even necessarily have to spend money if you don’t want to.

Vox Imperatoris

She reads as passive-aggressive to me, like it’s a deliberate plan for emotional manipulation. JMO YMMV.