Many happy returns: Without doubt, wife's gifts will end up **back at the store

August 29, 1996|By Kevin Cowherd

As every husband knows, nothing produces the same head-pounding, gut-churning stress as buying a birthday present for your wife.

When I was young (and therefore, even more stupid than today), I would buy my wife birthday presents based on such criteria as: what made her happy, what kinds of things did she like, blah, blah, blah.

(I know, I know ... what was I thinking?)

Now the main criterion I use is: Can this item be returned?

Because no matter what I buy her, she's going to return it.

Over the years, she's returned about 10 sweaters I've bought her. She's returned earrings, blazers, boots, perfume, watches and a fire-engine red negligee that she claimed looked like something off a Miss Valvoline calendar.

And maybe it did. You see these negligees in the store, next to the satin bustiers and lace push-up bras and black fishnet stockings and everything, and they look almost, well, understated.

Then your wife is pulling one out of the tissue paper in a gift box and there's a definite get-a-load-of-THESE-socket-wrenches feel to the whole thing.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, necessarily. It's just ... do you want to look like something the boys at Earl's Sunoco stare at as they drop the transmission on a '92 Buick Regal?

The point is, if it's a gift from me, she's going to return it, pronto. I might as well just hand her the gift and the sales receipt at the same time and say: "When you take it back, it's that little jewelry store on the second floor of the mall, next to Eddie Bauer."

It could save her a lot of time.

The thing is, when you watch her open these gifts, you'd never have an inkling they were going right back to the store.

I bought her a pair of earrings last year and when she pulled them out of the box, she said: "Oh, they're beautiful!"

"Yeah? You really like them?" I said. And meanwhile (even though I should know better by now) I was thinking: The long national nightmare is over! I finally bought her something she won't return!

Then a few weeks went by and it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn't seen her wear those "beautiful" earrings.

When I asked her where the earrings were, she waved her hand and said: "I took them back. They were a little too ... busy."

Anyway, as I said, this has been going on for years. I asked her about it once. It was late at night and she was tired and I had a few beers in me -- the perfect chemistry for this sort of discussion.

I didn't want to come on too strong -- you have to ease into these things -- so I said: "You're really starting to bug me, you know that? What's the deal with you returning everything I buy you? What is it, you don't like my taste?"

"I don't return everything you buy me," she said.

"Yes, you do," I said. "You return CDs, jackets, necklaces, rings, dresses, body lotions, I could go on and on."

Man, I was really rolling. I thought we were having a pretty good talk, as these things go, a free and open exchange of views.

Then she brought up the whole Miss Valvoline negligee thing again and I heard myself shouting: "You make cheap and tawdry sound like it's a bad thing!"

And from there the conversation went swiftly downhill.

Next thing I know, she's stomping out of the room and I'm alone watching something on ESPN, a bass-fishing tournament or something.

Part of the problem is that I tend to screw up the sizes of the clothes I buy her.

Sizes mystify me, I won't lie to you. Whenever I'm shopping for my wife and the saleswoman waiting on me says "What size is she?" I freeze like she just asked me the throw-weight of a Titan II missile.

Then I always blurt out the same thing: "She's about your size."

Which is never true, but I say it anyway. I don't care if the woman waiting on me is built along the lines of Wilt Chamberlain, I'd still say: "She's about your size."

One year, I decided to buy my wife this silk blouse and the woman waiting on me was about 4 feet tall and weighed 85 pounds.

"She's about your size," I told the woman. So my wife ended up with a silk blouse that looked like it belonged on the back of a jockey. I think she returned it five minutes after I gave it to her.

This year I'm thinking of getting her some flowers for her birthday. Roses, maybe. The long-stem jobs.

You don't figure she can return flowers. But if there's a way, she'll find it.

Pub Date: 8/29/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.