Let me begin by apologising for going AWOL over the past month. I’ve been busy oscillating between enjoying my offspring on holidays and frantically trying to maintain a will to live, with not much in between. I find their persistent presence tugs at my heart strings and simultaneously saps my creative energy. Perhaps it inspires topics & stories but doesn’t allow uninterrupted time for those juices to stew into anything other than a momentary idea before collapsing onto the couch mindlessly to watch the latest episode of Jane the Virgin or whatever else I’m into at the time.
I hope you all had an enjoyable Christmas. I did. But I also heard horror stories from friends and acquaintances about family friction, great expectations and under-whelmingly average delivery. Not my experience. We had a great day at my in-laws. The sun shone, the food, wine & conversation flowed freely, cousins bonded delightfully, the pool glistened and the air conditioner hummed along. It was all extremely pleasant.
What wasn’t pleasant was present opening time. I enjoy buying gifts for my family. It’s a way that I show that I care and if I am ever late or forget someone’s birthday I am horrified with myself. I have taken over nearly all gift buying in our house. But as there are quite a few nieces and nephews, this year I asked George to buy our nephews presents for his side of the family. Also I am terrible at buying for boys, seriously, I have no clue. He agreed and told me he had it sorted. I trusted him.
Before Christmas he started fretting that the books he’d ordered from the Book Depository a few weeks earlier hadn’t arrived. Mistake number 1. You don’t order books in December that are going to be dispatched from the UK unless you enjoy suspense and the possibility of having to go out on 24 December to buy replacement gifts. Finally they arrived on 23rd – phew! But when I opened them, they seemed quite small and inadequate. I’m not sure what was going on in his mind when he bought them or if he’d accidentally purchased the miniature versions but I wasn’t satisfied. I felt I had no other choice but to go out days before Christmas and buy another item for each boy to supplement the meagre gift my husband had purchased. Crisis averted, I thought.
On Christmas day my oldest nephew opened his gift. The item bought by George was a book about Rafael Nadal, because my nephew is a tennis player. ‘Oh, great, thanks’ he said with a strange expression on his face. Once his mother saw the book she told us that we’d given him that same book for his birthday in September. Of course I had delegated the job of buying his birthday gift to George. She went on to tell us that, at the time of his birthday, he also already had the book in question. So now, my poor nephew had THREE copies of this freakin’ book. How can you not remember buying the SAME EXACT book for someone less than 3 months earlier??!?!?! Embarrassed, I apologised and slipped my nephew a lobster, whilst exclaiming loudly and indignantly in front of my in-laws ‘You’re OFF present duty!’ to George.
I told my mother about it on the phone on our drive home. She joked that maybe George did it on purpose and got exactly the outcome he wanted ie to be off present duty. She reminded me about an episode of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ just before Robert marries Amy. Encouraged by Ray and Frank, Robert deliberately screws up the only job she gives him to do, the invitations, so he won’t be asked to do anything else. It obviously backfires. Take a look:
Self-sabotaging gift-giving George? A new idea. A definite possibility. I was beginning to think about other tasks I had taken over during the years of our marriage. Hanging out the washing (men can’t grasp the concept of shaking first!), all IT related issues, paying household bills. However I’m not sure George would self-sabotage on purpose. He’s too nice. Maybe it’s nothing more than actual incompetence with no malice aforethought? But I did think back to my childhood and wonder if my father, who hates cooking, did this in the kitchen. I recall one evening when Arnie was on dinner duty I was served up a plate with the following items on it: kidney beans, a chicken wing, a cold sausage and several slices of beetroot. Bon appetit Carrie! Needless to say, he wasn’t asked to cook much.
It is possible that a man in your life is self-sabotaging? Is there anything you’ve just taken on simply because he is rubbish at it? But there’s really no proof, so maybe we need to try some self-sabotage of our own. I genuinely can’t mow the lawn because I can’t start the mower with that string-pully thing. But if you’re a lady freak with muscles like Vin Diesel and can actually manage it, pretend you can’t. And you only have to feign confusion between unleaded and diesel once and you’ll never be asked to fuel up the car again. Before you know it, jobs like picking up dog poo and putting bins out will be out of the question as it will be obvious you can’t help but stuff it up.
With some reflection you can learn self-sabotage from the best in the business: the men in your life – husbands, fathers, brothers and uncles. Then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your non-labour. Good luck and may incompetence be with you!