Venus and Mars

Yesterday was my birthday. Not a landmark one, just your average annual affair. I spent most of the day working, waiting to see which of my children would remember to call – not completely true – I have two at home, both of whom thought my birthday was today until my husband clued them in. My elder daughter, who is away at boarding school, is inevitably reliable and called around lunch. My college son had to be reminded several times by his siblings and when he finally did get around to calling couched it with the ubiquitous plea for more money.

My husband is usually good about remembering with a gifting history that includes extreme peaks and valleys. There was the Christmas when absolutely nothing appeared under the tree for me. His response was that he thought let’s cut back meant back to nothing. And then there have been years when his generosity knew no bounds to the point where I wondered if he had a night job as a bank robber. But on the whole, he has excellent taste, particularly in the jewelry department, and gives lovely presents.

So, there I was, on my birthday, working on a post on my laptop in the kitchen, when I am summoned to come find my birthday present. I really had no idea what it might be but was of course hopeful for a small box. I looked around cursorily downstairs and then climbed the steps to my husband’s chants of warmer, warmer… I reached my little office to be greeted by a behemoth of a black leather chair sized for King Kong sitting in front of my desk. My husband beamed with pride as he announced he had just spent 45 minutes assemblying it. His smile faded, however, as he caught my reaction. “You don’t like it” he quipped. Sidestepping the comment, I asked where he got such a beauty. “Costco” he said  proudly. Now I am a huge Costco junkie. I love my weekly trips to the warehouse where I stock up on everything from paper towels and dog bones to gigantic containers of mixed nuts (never ever shop at Costco when you are hungry). I have even found great Ralph Lauren shirts for the boys, cute pyjamas and swim suits for my youngest and that one roll of pretty Christmas ribbon hidden behind the many more garish glittering choices. Furniture, however, is another story – not that I am opposed to finding something there, but the offerings up til now have always been lacking in aesthetics and quality (their fabulous Metro shelving look-a-likes notwithstanding). When I tried to explain that I had a very special office chair on my wish list and that this one didn’t particularly fit in with the grand scheme in my mind’s eye of my someday office redo, he waved around saying “But look at this place”, indicating the pilings of magazines and paperwork that make my office look like it’s a Collier brothers wannabe.

And this is where Venus and Mars part ways to enter their separate orbits. Where he sees uncontrolled strewings of paperwork and desktops that haven’t seen the light of day for months, I can only see my fantasy of duck egg blue walls, an Eames management chair in Spinneybeck Vicenza leather and a shiny new iMac atop my desk. Granted my reality, aside from the decorating, needs a bit of focussed housekeeping but his vision just can’t get beyond the piles of new books awaiting reviews and Elle Decors and Town & Countries to see what a gem my little space could be. (have I told you how I totally relate to the title of the new Mary Randolph Carter book?)

He has also never understood the appeal of my aforementioned Costco metro shelving – whereas he regards it as a receptacle for haphazard organization, I regard it as a great example of industrial chic. This is also why he has never understood my love of open shelving in the kitchen – why would I want everything out accumulating dust when it could all be so neatly stored behind closed doors. So as I sit here in my admittedly cushy chair with lumbar support, looking around my more than somewhat disheveled office, I can understand why my husband felt this was such a major improvement over the metal desk chair I have been using, complaining about how my back feels on the verge of going out. And since my post for tomorrow is done, maybe I’ll use today to clean up a bit in here. Did I mention that while my husband was at Costco he also got me a hot pink cushion lap desk for working on my laptop in bed?


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16 Responses to Venus and Mars

  1. Liz Morten says:

    It might start to grow on you. Happy Birthday.
    Best,
    Liz

  2. Harrison Howard says:

    Your birthday sounds a bit forlorn Stacey, and it may not be much consolation, but it sounds like your husband had the very best of intentions. Probably, the average man, me included, should be given a small handbook on the day of his marriage with a list of things to NEVER do. I’d include on that list any sort of present for one’s wife that is purely utilitarian unless told in advance exactly what is desired….nice jewelry on the other hand is always safe territory, but if there isn’t the money for jewelry, don’t resort to frying pans or garden equipment no matter how desperate.

    • quintessence says:

      Hi Harrison – nice to hear from you. I’m afraid the intended sly humor of my little musing perhaps didn’t come across. My husband most certainly had the very best of intentions. And he has indeed bought me copper pots in the past – which he now admits were more for him than me! I wasn’t realistically expecting jewelry this year but he has hit many home runs in this category before. But so glad to see you have deciphered the unwritten gifting rules which is of course why I entitled this piece Venus and Mars.

  3. pve says:

    I feel that our planets have aligned as we too live the same life when it comes to “gifting” – it is feast or famine depending on the stars! Most of the time I say that “I do not need anything” and then I vascillate between wanting something hand-made versus store-bought. I love the way you wrote this post.
    I could see it forming into a novel….many women could relate to the “guy” gift.
    pve

    • quintessence says:

      pve – thanks – don’t know that I have a novel in me but appreciate the thought. and so glad someone can relate to my ruminations – you never know!

  4. style court says:

    Happy Birthday Stacey!

    I hope your back is feeling relaxed as you work away — working toward the dream office. The subtle humor — and your appreciation — definitely comes through in the post. Sounds like your husband was problem solving (and listening). The aesthetics were just a misfire :)

  5. Liz says:

    Awe, men – they really try with us but sometimes just have no clue – that’s kind of what makes them cute tho!

  6. home before dark says:

    I’m a Libra, and have that yin/yang thing going on. I actually love getting kitchen and garden equipment and those small boxes of gems. This year I got both: a great Shun chef knife to replace my 35 year old Henckels which came to be as a bride and a vintage locket which I adore. The key we have learned: shop together. My husband is absolutely clueless, but loves to please me. As for children—adult children so I ‘ll spot yours a few more years—I have said one gives what ones wishes to get. If they wish to give the gift of inconsideration, I respond in kind. A few years of this kind of “reciprocity” has done wonders!

    • quintessence says:

      home before dark – firstly, happy belated birthday to you. shopping together – what a great idea. I’ll see if I can convince my husband to try it! And am already working on the reciprocal treatment for my straggler! Thanks for your sage advice!

  7. I think he loves you!!! Glad you had a great day–I’m a Costco Addict, too–but not the furniture.

  8. Courtney Cherna says:

    Hi there! I know wives everywhere can relate to your birthday present, from the dramatic hunt to the discovery. It’s always the thought that counts, right? I’ll never forget the special set of snow tires I received one Christmas…Thanks for sharing and happy belated birthday! Courtney

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