Miss(ed) Manners

January 16, 2008

Ask Dave! Vol. 19

Filed under: Advice,Ask Dave — missedmanners @ 2:21 pm

Dear Dave,

I’ll be frank. My birthday is five months away, and I’m wondering how I can actually get my boyfriend to get me a gift I’ll like.

Now I bet you’re wondering why I’m asking this now if my birthday is five months away, and that’s a valid question. You see, the guy is a little bit thick. Sometime in August, I started dropping blatant hints to him that, for Christmas, I wanted a white gold pendant with a little sparkle to it (that means diamonds). I wasn’t looking for him to spend a fortune, the ones I was pointing out were all under $150, but my point is that for months I was pointing out white gold (or silver) pendants that I liked. So Christmas rolled around, and I unwrap a yellow gold birthstone ring. This may not sound like a huge deal, but one would think that after dating me for the better part of the last six years he might realize that I never ever wear rings (this one now sits in the box on my shelf where jewelry goes to die), and I don’t own anything that is yellow gold (I loathe yellow gold). This wasn’t the first time he’s been totally off the mark when giving me a gift (which is why I started hinting
early). I’m wondering if there’s anyway to actually teach him to get me a gift I might actually love, or is he a lost cause and I just need to work on pretending to like what he picks out.

-Not Satisfied in Nova Scotia

Not Satisfied, I am going to answer your letter in two parts. Please read both.

Part #1:

You are what is wrong with male/female relations.

What’s the point of trying to influence someone’s decision on what type of gift they’re going to get you? Suppose he did get you this little white gold bauble, what then? Congratulations, you got something you wanted that required no thoughtfulness or emotion on his part. He’s the robot you’ve always wanted.

Gifts are not about trading material wealth. When you get someone a gift it should communicate a message to that person about how you feel about said person. For example, for Christmas, my little sister got me a silver bracelet engraved with my initials from a craftsman in Senegal. She had to haggle the price in broken Senegal-ese or whatever it is they speak over there. It’s the best gift I’ve gotten in years because of the thought that went into it and the story behind it. When you just grab someone something from Spencer Gifts at the mall no one cares, even if it is a novelty dildo.

Where’s the surprise? Why would you want to know what you’re getting for your birthday? Explain that to me.

Part #2:

Having said all that you’ve piqued my interest. I’ve always said that humans are just as trainable as pets, as long as you look at them that way. If you’re intent on pre-determining your beau’s actions, you need to realize that what you’ve got here is simply an under-trained schnauzer.

Once you accept that reality, you’re going to have a lot more success. Males are notoriously forgetful. They don’t remember birthdays, anniversaries, eye color (funny story, I actually only remembered an ex’s eye color because it was her screen name), dress size, coffee preference, etc. This doesn’t have anything to do with how much or how little they care, it’s just that to them these facts are erroneous to their existence. How would knowing that you hate rings affect his ability to survive? Assuming you’re not looking to gun him down over this transgression, it doesn’t.

So if he’s not remembering details about you why would he remember details about what you want? Gift suggestions rate somewhere between the annual rainfall of Chile and the winner of Miss North Carolina 1948 in their importance to men. What you need to do is make it important.

How do I do that, Dave? You may ask.

How do you house break a dog? I may answer. And I did.

Simple. Reward good behavior and punish undesirable habits.

I’m going to go ahead and assume your boyfriend isn’t a fan of doggy biscuits and that smacking him on the nose with a rolled up newspaper might raise an eyebrow or two. It’s up to you to find out what would qualify as reward and punishment. I could be so obtuse as to mention provision and subsequent denial thereof of sex as an obvious suggestion.

But every guy is different, the key is to tailor not only the rewards but also the level of subtlety. Some guys might pick up on what you’re doing, they may or may not care. Other might need to be let known that they’re being trained. For example tell him you’re going to quiz him on what kinds of jewelry you like, and then reward or punish accordingly.

If he is as dense as you say, then what you need to do is make it clear how important this type of behavior is to you and make it even more clear that there is incentive act in a certain way. People don’t change simply because you want them to, men least of all.

Hope that helps.



  1. Well the letter writer is thinking, because the boyfriend never saw her wear a ring, he should interpret that as meaning she does not like rings. Probably the poor boyfriend was thinking, What can I get her that she does not have? Oh I know, she does not have any rings this ring is pretty it would look pretty on her.

    Guys are so screwed.

    Comment by max — January 17, 2008 @ 9:39 am | Reply

  2. >>>to them these facts are erroneous to their existence.

    Initially, I thought you must have meant to write “extraneous to their existence” but then I realized it would be a waste of limited memory and shallow intelligence therefore it would in fact be erroneous regarding survival/existence.

    Nice bit of verbiage sir.

    Comment by conundrum — January 17, 2008 @ 10:28 am | Reply

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