Judgment Day

I knew it was over the Christmas he gave me a set of steak knives and I gave him a suitcase. —Anonymous editor friend One of my favorite things in the world is finding just the right gift for everyone on my Christmas list. My Special Naked Friend's wardrobe has gotten a little threadbare lately, and so I figured clothing was the way to go. Wasn't I elated when I found the perfect shirt on the J. Crew Web site. It's red and green plaid—and I knew it would look great on him. Unfortunately, I also knew he would hate it with every fiber of his being. Moral dilemma—do I purchase the cute shirt in the hopes that I'll be able to browbeat him into wearing it, or do I put my own enthusiasm aside and instead get him the accordion he's been coveting, even though I know the resulting cacophony will bug the shit out of me? I thought back to my first birthday spent with him. The birthday he bought himself a $500 pair of sunglasses (in his slight defense, they were prescription) and then only had enough money left over to buy me a cake. Or the next one, when he ran out the morning of, and came home with a truly thoughtless collection of crap from the store closest to our house. Just thinking back on those days got me riled. That shirt sure would teach him a lesson.... Ah, yes, it's that most wonderful time of the year—a million and one opportunities to give the perfectly awful passive-aggressive Christmas gift. My mom was the queen of the P/A prezzie. During my blue-haired Mohawk days, she'd give me floral Laura Ashley dresses with sickeningly sweet lace collars. When I announced I was an atheist, there was a Nativity scene candelabra waiting for me under the tree. The P/A giver doesn't necessarily have bad intentions—my mom sincerely wanted to save my soul and for people to stop staring at me in the grocery store. She's not the only one who goes for the double-duty gift. Offended by an office mate's stanky aroma, Jonathan and his co-workers chipped in and bought their particularly odiferous co-worker a set of bath soaps. Jeannette's well-meaning friend got her a stop-smoking book while Jeannette was in the midst of a horrible breakup. Jeannette didn't quit smoking, but she sure did end up feeling even worse about herself. Even with the best of intentions, a warm cup of disapproval can give you a chill. Hands down the worst is when someone you're involved with gives you the "message" present. My friend Felicity's boyfriend of three years gave her "a teapot and an oven mitt—about as sterile a gift as one can give. That was the same Christmas he bought me the little "how-to" guide to sex. Nice. Instead of "wasting" money on an entire floral arrangement, my friend Claire's then-B.F. brought her "a couple of sticks of baby's breath." If you fellas are unfamiliar with this flower, they're the tiny white blossoms florists stick in between real flowers to fill out a bouquet. Claire's man went the extra mile by leaving the 99-cent price sticker intact. As my finger hovered above the "buy" button, I had second, third, and fourth thoughts about the shirt. I recalled the wheelbarrows full of grief I've given him over these two relatively minor transgressions and how far he's come in the gift-giving department. How that one year that we both agreed that instead of giving each other gifts, we'd just donate all our money to charity, he surprised me by donating and getting me the iPod I really wanted. I started to feel like a jerk. Was I turning into my mother? I can't believe I wavered. I closed the browser window and started pricing accordions. And earplugs. Dating dilemmas? Write Dategirl at dategirl@seattleweekly.com or c/o Seattle Weekly, 1008 Western Ave., Ste. 300, Seattle, WA 98104.

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