I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
I always dread birthdays. Not because I fear arbitrary milestones or the number of times the planet has made it’s way around the sun but because I know I will inevitably get into an argument with whomever I am dating at the time. It has been a time-honored tradition since, well, since any woman would agree to be seen holding hands with me in public.
When people say that the holidays are stressful, no one debates the claim because it’s reasonable to expect. The coordination of that many different personalities in one setting coupled with the expectation of giving and getting gifts all adds up and provides a breeding ground for potential hostility. But on birthdays, all of that seems that much more concentrated. All of the coordination, expectation, and stress – all laser-focused on one person. And god forbid that person is even the slightest bit selfish, you might as well start to multiply the stress factor.
I was once dating this wonderful woman whom I convinced to sleep with me regularly and whom even agreed to willingly refer to herself as my girlfriend. This seemingly arduous task went on for years and as a thank you, I wanted to do nice things for her when that random day popped up every year. So before we headed to the dinner I had planned, I mentioned that we would be taking a bit of a detour. I drove and we chatted and we ended up in front of store. I told her that we had to go in because I wasn’t sure what size she was but I wanted to buy her the coat she expressed she absolutely had to have but couldn’t afford. I saved for months on my meager video store manager earnings and I was so excited to buy this coat for her… but she refused to go into the store because she said that it was too much money and that she wouldn’t allow me to spend “that kind” of money on her when my bills were already late. Thinking back on her compassionate nature, it all makes sense. But when she dismissed my efforts, it made me angry. Resentful. As if she was refusing to recognize all the extra hours I put in at my job and the amount of things I had to sell just to make this coat a reality. I knew that at the core of her refusal was good intentions but I couldn’t help my angry tone. We got into an argument right there in that parking lot and we never went in. We drove away in silence that was only broken with the sound of her sniffing and me grinding my teeth.
We all like to believe that we are capable of true altruism. That we are generous and giving without taking anything away from the act. But I never believed that nonsense because we all derive a slight high from knowing we made someone’s day a little brighter. Whether that is by donating to an animal shelter or giving a homeless man a dollar or buying a stranger a coffee. Even in the smallest sense it becomes about us because we feel like we did something to make a person’s life a little nicer. And that is cool. Don’t ever stop. But what I learned is that giving gifts is just as much about the giving as it is the receiving.
Now, I like making the people I date happy. To this very day, I still can’t believe that any woman would have the patience to voluntarily be in my presence on a daily basis but somehow I manage to find the charitable women with poor taste and for that I am eternally grateful. And I want to show them just how thankful I truly am. And sometimes that means I buy them candy. Or that I make them lunch to take to work. Or that I surprise them with pizza when they come home from work. Or that try to buy them a coat. I don’t do it out of obligation or expectation, I do it because I care about their happiness and I want them to know that I think about them while they are away from me. And few things make me happier than seeing that smile and knowing that I was responsible. A real smile, not for the pizza – but for the intention.
Honestly, I don’t give a shit about a coat or a banana and a sandwich. I care that they know that I care. And that is the most crucial aspect about this. The size of the ring and the dollar amount should be irrelevant – but the time, effort, and attention to detail should be what matters. Because flowers die, bananas turn brown, and coats go out of style. They are things. Things that don’t matter whatsoever. Trinkets we carry for brief moments along the way on our journey. But the things we take with us – the things we truly keep for the long haul are the feelings people give us and what we instill in others. Because selfish and greedy feelings are heavy and feeling like our love matters and makes a difference can make us fly.
If you are impressed and jealous of the diamonds and the dinners and the cars other people are getting, you are focusing on all the wrong “things”, because none of that surface and shallow bullshit truly matters to your happiness. The brief elation you feel will soon subside and you will go back to your normal life – only with a heavier rock attached to your finger, deemed valuable by the Debeers corporation and the handful of superficial people on your Facebook.
What does matter is the person’s intentions behind that gift. Is that person giving that gift to make up for always being away from you? For cheating? For not knowing how to show appreciation? For not understanding the importance of communication? For never learning how to effectively make you feel loved?
Or is the gift simply a reminder that they think of you when you’re not around. That the most important asset they can leave you with is a loving sense of security. That they love you for the person you have fought to become and not for what you can do for them? Because feeling empowered knowing your love makes a difference can, and will, make your journey worth it.