Gift Giving – Your Style Or Mine?


I was walking along the sand.  The waves rhythmically washed my toes; the sun nipped at the horizon.  I stopped to chat with the fishermen. It was early morning.  I had pen and paper in hand, jotting ideas about gender differences around gifts:  men like lists; women hate them – they want to be surprised.  But, I wondered, was I making too much of this gender difference stuff.


A voice called, “Are you a reporter?”


Sitting in a row of stripped beach chairs were two couples, perhaps in their 40s, the men on the ends with the women in the middle.  I walked toward them.  The man continued, “I thought maybe you were doing a story on the fishing here.”


“No, I’m not a reporter.  Actually, I was just thinking about whether men and women have different ideas about giving gifts.”


The woman sitting next to him laughed.  “This is funny.  Today’s my birthday and this morning, this hunk of a man here asked me if he could have a few days extension.”


The hunk of a man looked proud at his description. “I never know what to get her.  I ask her for a list, but she won’t give me one.”


She was vehement.  “I hate that. I want to be surprised.”


The hunk eagerly continued.  “I go to the store, buy her something; it isn’t what she wants, so she returns it and gets something else.  She could save me the time and trouble by just telling me what she wants. We go through this twice a year – on her birthday and at Christmas.”


The other woman joined in with a smile. “My husband used to want a list too, but he is finally learning how important it is to me to be surprised. The way I see it, if he chooses the gift himself, it means he knows me, knows what I like; he’s thinking about me.  After all these years, he better know what I like.”  Even with the smile, there was a bite to her words.


Her husband looked sheepish.  “I’d still prefer a list of what you want; it would make it easier.”  He turned to me, “When we were first married, I tried giving her a list of things I wanted for Christmas, and she handed it back to me.”


The hunk agreed. “I know what I want, so it makes sense to tell her.  Otherwise, she’ll get me what she wants.  Women!  They’re impossible.”


The sun was now above the horizon, the sand sparkled. Everyone was laughing.


The birthday woman chuckled.  “I laugh now, but it used to get me angry; we have to go through this every year.” 


The two men leaned forward to grin at each other. The two women, sitting in the middle, shrugged. “That’s men for you.”


I wrote furiously, trying to get down what they’d said. When I left, taking my toes back to the water, their laughter faded behind me.  The last words I heard over the rush of the waves were, “So, when do I get my birthday present?”

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