Confessions of a Gay Man Who Gives Terrible Holiday Gifts

Written by | Gay Voices

Stocking Feet Beside Christmas Presents

Photo by Andrew Neel

My husband, Gary, may be the best Christmas gift giver since Santa Claus, and it’s quite possible he genetically inherited this quality from his mother, who is a virtual Mrs. Claus.

One of Gary’s greatest gifts (pardon the pun) is his ability to buy people — be they friends, family members or merely acquaintances — the kind of gift that they not only desire, but that also seems to capture the recipients’ very essence in a deeply personal way. For example, on a recent birthday he gave me a book by Anne Lamott, who is one of my favorite writers; it had been personalized and autographed by the author herself.

“How did you make this happen?” I asked, and I really wanted to know! I’ve met my fair share of authors in my day, but I had no idea how he could have pulled this off.

In response he simply said: “Love.”

It’s this type of extraordinary giving that shines a light on my own gifting abilities, or rather, inabilities. In this department, I am like my late mother, whose gift-giving habits were a bit more, shall we say, eccentric. This is a woman who would buy me a mullet wig or one of those faux mounted bass that sings — just because “the mood struck her” or because she thought it “would make me laugh.” Inside the mouth of the fish would be a supplemental gift — some money or a gift card. But what is one supposed to do with a fish that sings “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”?

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While I try to always buy Gary the things I know he wants, I also usually attempt to add in a few surprises: a T-shirt that blares “I’M SO GAY I CAN’T EVEN THINK STRAIGHT!”, a packet of Just for Men products, or a handmade gift card that reads, “Good for A Romantic Dinner with the Man of Your Dreams!”

Furthermore, when it comes to gifting, I also seem to have inherited recessive from my father the gene that makes certain men not only want to finish shopping as quickly as possible but also buy gifts that are much too literal. For example, I once proposed buying a hair-challenged friend some Propecia for Christmas.

“Are you for real?” Gary asked, his face scrunched in horror.

“What?” I asked. “He said he needs it.”

So it should come as no shock that our friends and family are relieved that Gary tends to be the main gift buyer in our household.

A Fresh Start in the Giving Department

Last Christmas was our first official one in Palm Springs. On the one hand, Gary and I were celebrating the holidays in our new home, which felt sophisticated and adult. On the other hand, I was stuck with the realization that both my parents were gone, which made me feel like an orphan. I felt both called for a fresh new start.

So I decided to go All Out. I bought Gary Burberry and Coach and all the things he desired. He shrieked in glee, but as he unwrapped each and every gift, he shook boxes and upended bags. He searched the tree for hidden envelopes.

“No surprises?” he asked in a heartbroken tone, a look of disappointment on his face.

“Not this year,” I said. “I got you everything you wanted.”

“No stupid T-shirt even? No handmade gift certificate?”

“Nope,” I said.

“You know I love all that stuff, don’t you?” he said.

I was shocked.

“What? Really?”

“Yeah. Those goofy gifts not only make you you but they also show me how much you love me.”

“How?” I asked.

“Because they prove that — in this whole world — you’re the only one who truly gets who I am.”

I blinked back tears as I thought of my Mom and her parade of wacky gifts, and then I smiled.

So this Christmas, Gary will, quite literally, get a mixed bag. There will be some things he really wants, and there will once again be some goofy ones there because that’s how I do it.

The whole experience has been a lesson in why the phrase, “It’s not the gift, but the thought that counts,” is part of our collective vernacular.

It may also explain why I still have that bass my Mom gave me, why I make it sing to me when I miss her most, and why that stupid fish is sporting a mullet. 

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Last modified: March 12, 2019

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