======= ======= ====== ====== ====== ===== ==== ====== ====== ===== ==== ======= ======= ====== ====== ====== ===== ==== ====== ====== ===== ====
Last week, my girlfriend turned twenty *mumbles second digit indistinctly.* Being the dutiful boyfriend that I am, we spent a lovely weekend together, did a winery tour with her friends, and I took her to a very nice birthday dinner. If I do say so myself, I hit a solid triple when it comes to being a birthday boyfriend. The only reason that the third base coach didn’t wave me on home was because of the gift. I massively fucked up on the gift.
“How hard is it to buy your girlfriend a gift, you idiot?” You might scoff.
Well, gather around friends, because I shall tell you my tale of not only how I botched my gift-buying, but how it ruined (what is left of) my soul.
Part 1: What To Buy Her
Luckily, my girlfriend is not one of those purposefully vague girls who wants me to “figure out something nice” to get her. When I carefully explained to her that I am a moron when it comes to buying gifts, and want to get her something she’ll actually want, she was happy to provide several examples of what she would consider to be “acceptable” gifts.
After narrowing the field down to items in a reasonable price range (sorry, buying $300 shoes violates my religious beliefs), I had found my quarry: a very nice-looking Tory Burch bag. If you don’t know who or what Tory Burch is, congratulations on being a guy who has never been in a long-term relationship.
Part 2: How To Get It
Easy enough, I think to myself. Tory Burch is not only sold in several department stores, they also have two standalone stores in driving distance of me. Getting this bag will be a piece of cake!
Of course, my first natural inclination is to order the bag online for delivery to my house, to present to my lovely at her birthday dinner. Unfortunately, I am a lazy asshole who waits until the week before to buy the bag for her. I can get expedited shipping for an additional $20, but between my miserly ways and the fact that the expedited shipping will arrive five days later following a holiday weekend, I decide I’m better off not risking showing up at her birthday dinner empty-handed. Instead, I’ll do something that all men find abhorrent: I’ll go to the brick-and-mortar store and buy her the gift in person.
Part 3: The Quest For The Bag
It’s a mild inconvenience, spending my Saturday morning driving to the store to buy my girlfriend her gift instead of snuggling with her waiting for my hangover to fade away. But, these are the prices one must pay in order to be a creative, sneaky, and loving partner. She might be annoyed at me now, but she’ll be so happy once she realizes that it was all a ruse to buy her a wonderful gift.
Outside the Tory Burch store, I realize I will be the only male to have darkened this establishment’s doorsteps without a female companion in ages. The salespeople will accost me, assuming (correctly) that a male entering unaccompanied is more lost than the survivors of Oceanic 815. So I do my preparation, I queue up the exact bag that I am here to purchase on my phone to show the helpful clerks and enter, trying to cover my face as I do so like a celebrity being lead out of jail.
“Can I help you?” the cute, young saleswoman asks me almost immediately as I enter. The vultures are circling already.
My throat tightens. I hold up my phone and croak, “I’m looking for this bag.”
“Just one second, sir,” she replies before tapping on the screen of her tablet. The fact that she addressed me, a man not quite on the wrong side of thirty, as “sir” doesn’t even register. I’m just desperate to get this over with.
“I’m sorry, sir, we don’t appear to have to have that bag in stock.”
I was half-relieved, in the knowledge that I wouldn’t have to spend another moment in this black hole of time and manhood, and half-horrified, realizing that this endeavor would stretch on for several more hours, or possibly even days. Without another moment’s thought, I thanked the girl for her help and exited like I was trying to beat the traffic out of a WNBA preseason game.
It was only later I would realize that I made a fatal mistake.
Part 4: The Quest Continues
Fast forward another two days. The other Tory Burch store is far away, and I spent most of the rest of my weekend drinking with my girlfriend. This delays my second trip, but I’m going out near the second store for another errand. Plenty of time to swing by, grab the bag, and be on my merry way with a whole day to spar.
The second Tory Burch store was, unfortunately, located in a mall. I don’t know what it is about malls, but to me, they are the most depressing places on the planet. Nothing but high school burnouts working at kiosks and middle-aged housewives browsing mindlessly to get away from their kids. No store that is in the mall is ever a store I am actively looking to shop at, and department stores just reek of desperation as salespeople try to make you forget momentarily that the internet is a thing.
After consulting the directory and navigating up several floors on staircases so disguised and convoluted they were surely designed by M.C. Escher, I reach the store. It’s neatly tucked away in the back corner by one of those storefronts that’s looking for a new company to take over. It will probably be looking for another two years before they just make it another goddamn Lids.
I enter same plan as before and sigh, relieved at the fact that this place is empty. The woman in the front is kind enough as I show her a photo of the bag.
“Oh no,” she said with a frown. “We don’t carry that bag in this location. Didn’t they tell you that at the other store?”
In my hurry, I neglected to ask the clerk to check that the bag was at this other location. I’m now without a gift, a day before her big day, with an evening full of plans, a day of work in front of me the next day. I leave the mall reeking of fear and Auntie Anne’s pretzels.
Part 5: Panic Moves
I am screwed. I have nothing. I spent the last night and all of the next workday racking my brain trying to come up with some acceptable form of a present. Nothing works. Even some typical standby like flowers seems inadequate. She’s expecting the bag. After I made such a deal about wanting to make her happy, and she told me what to get her, I still screwed the pooch. I had one job to do.
Now, it’s almost quitting time. I’m meeting my beloved in a few hours. I can’t show up empty-handed, I know. But no present will fix the damage. Instead, I think, I’ll get her a card.
That’s right, a card inscribed within a beautiful message of my love and devotion, as well as my promise to bring her the present she wanted. I’m a creative, literary dude. With enough schmaltz, BS, and sap, I can buy myself more time here.
So I go down to CVS, I find the most romantic card, and I write my little ass off. Hold nothing back, really do some shit that would make my AP English teacher blush. When I’m done, I seal the envelope, write her name across it, and stick it on my desk, right before me, so I’m sure not to forget it.
Part 6: Tonight We Dine In Hell
I meet her at the very swanky restaurant I made dinner reservations for us at months ago (see, I’m not a total scrub here). As soon as I sit down at the bar for pre-dinner drinks, I see her angling to see where I’m hiding her present. Already, I’m more deflated than the footballs they use in Foxboro. She excuses herself for a moment to take another call from family and friends wishing her a happy birthday, as I pray that the message I wrote her will soothe her disappointment and — no. No.
Remember how I just said I put the card right on my desk, right in front of me, so I’m sure not to forget it? Guess where the card is? Yep. I forgot the gift I got to make up for the fact that I couldn’t get her a gift. The only person on the planet more qualified to talk about irony at that moment is Alanis Morisette.
Editor’s/My Girlfriend’s Note: At the time of publishing, she has still not received her birthday card. It is a week later.
I somehow make it through dinner brushing off her questions about her present. The food is divine, I keep the wine flowing hoping that she’ll forget, and the bill is pricey. I can’t complain though. I’ll surely be paying in an even worse way soon.
Part 7: The Confession
All through dessert and the Uber ride home. I’m trying to figure out how to cushion this blow. I come up with diddly squat. As soon as we arrive back at Jennie’s place, I know that there is nothing I can do to stall further. I must come clean. I recount my horrific journey thus far.
To the surprise of no one except me, because it’s been established at this point that she is actually a saint and I’m an idiot, she pulled me in and hugged me. “Aw, babe, I’m sorry. Don’t worry about it.”
I wish she would have yelled at me, berated me like I deserved. Then I wouldn’t have felt this shitty and guilty. And in that guilt, I said something out of desperation: “How about you can buy it online and I’ll pay for it?”
Part 8: Another Setback
A few minutes of browsing on my computer, and she had a realization “I don’t think they have that bag online.”
Shit. Desperate to salvage this in some way, I blurted out, “Okay, well, just find yourself something else that you like and I’ll buy it for you.”
Her eyes lit up, like a dog that was let loose in a butcher’s shop. She snatched the laptop from my hands and began her hunt through the Tory Burch website. I’d never seen my girlfriend in shopping mode before, but her eyes were wide and full of hunger like Gollum coveting the one Ring of Power.
It was at that moment I realized that I did not specify that she should buy something in a similar price range. So I quickly reversed course.
“I think the bag I was going to get you was like $200 so keep it in that ballpark?”
She sat there, saying nothing, staring at me. With those big, brown anime eyes. I blinked first.
“I mean, you can spend a little more since it is your birthday.”
She squealed, hugged me, and immediately went back to work without another word. A realization suddenly dawned on me, since I didn’t specify what “a little more” actually meant and she was looking at very expensive shoes.
Part 9: The Final Battle
I threw on the Stanley Cup to distract myself. She started browsing in the first period. She did not make her selection until the end of the second: a pair of shoes that cost more than I ever spent on anyone. Probably more than I spent on everyone in my family the last Christmas put together.
I put my foot down. Call me cheap if you want, but I refused to spend that much money on any article of clothing that wasn’t bulletproof. Especially when my girlfriend seemingly has a trillion pairs of shoes already.
Clever as ever, she didn’t whine or yell. She pouted sadly and accepted her fate and my limitations, hoping I would once again crack. When I didn’t she switched her tactics again.
“Well, I would have been okay if you had bought me the big bag buuuuuuuut since you forgot…”
She is good. This girl should run seminars in manipulation. Yet, I could not relent. I’d dug myself in too deep. I tried to compromise.
“Just keep it reasonable, babe.”
After more searching, spanning the rest of the game, she finally sighed and closed the laptop. “Never mind, I can’t find anything I like.”
But I was determined to not let her down on her birthday. I took back the computer.
“Let’s look again. I’m sure we can find something you like..”
She perked up, snuggled next to me, and we went to work trying to find where I could get the bag that she wanted. It took exactly four clicks before I nearly had an aneurysm.
“Oh, there’s the bag that I wanted. I guess they do sell it online. It looked different in the other picture.”
That’s right, all this conflict, hours of searching, the back and forth negotiations, the battle of wills, could have been avoided if my girlfriend had clicked the “next” tab one more time. I ended up buying her the exact bag that I would have bought in the store with her and paid the extra $20 for expedited shipping that I had tried to avoid paying in the first place by going on my great expedition to two stores. It would have actually been easier to time travel back a week and order the bag online as I had originally planned to do, and cost the same.
Also, I found the card I wrote her wedged in a side pocket of my laptop bag the next day at work. Just end me. .