This year, the guy I’m dating told me not to get him anything for Valentine’s Day, and for the first time I actually accepted the proposal without much disappointment. I love to give gifts, and finding the perfect treasure for someone I care about in a sea of thrift store junk or between Etsy-algorithm mistakes brings me unparalleled joy.
The thrill I get out of gift-giving isn’t even conditional based on what I get in return — I just really like making the people I love happy, and letting them know I’m paying attention. But that isn’t to say I haven’t been left pretty confused (okay, maybe a little hurt) by a few of the presents I’ve received from guys I thought were paying attention to me.
The types of gifts people give say a lot about who they are. Maybe your grandma always gives you something handmade or freshly baked, or your absent father attempts to express some approximation of love with expensive gifts you’ll never use. All my friends and I are totally broke, but we always come through with a small token on special occasions to remind each other we’re close.
In the end, receiving a gift isn’t really about getting something at all, but about what that person has to give — on a level deeper than the material. And in a lot of my past romantic relationships, what my exes had to give was pretty bleak.
Here are the top gifts I’ve gotten from exes that made me say, “It’s the thought that counts?”
My birthday, age 21: A self-help book, and an invitation to do mushrooms in the woods behind his terrible apartment. I declined the shrooms but read the book cover to cover, and spent the next year trying to figure out how to fix myself so our relationship could finally work. Spoiler: the problem wasn’t me.
Christmas, age 20: A purple, black polka dotted hairband with a gold metal bow fixture attached to it, accompanied by the sentiment, “because you always wear hairbands.” I never wear hairbands.
Christmas, age 17: One of the ugliest purses I have ever seen, with a card inside that read, “To Martha from Jim.” Those are his parents' names. He re-gifted his mom’s actual purse.
Valentine’s Day, age 14: A unicorn-themed gift that included a different iteration of the fantastical creature on my desk in each of my six class periods (a stuffed animal, a necklace, a glass sculpture spinning on an LED plate, etc). This gift wasn’t really so awful because of the unicorns (although the theme did perplex me as they’d never come up before), but rather because of the very public display of affection at school. As an insecure high school freshman, I found the attention this gift garnered unprofessional and embarrassing (in retrospect, it was pretty sweet).
My birthday, age 4: A freshly picked radish, covered in dirt, which he told me was a wild strawberry as a prank. I ate it immediately and spent the next hour crying from the sting it left in my mouth, and my heart.
Photos: Les comptoirs mitoyens from Pexels
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Kylie Anderson is an LA based writer & filmmaker, and half of the horror comedy duo Ladies From Hades. She writes about girls, movies, astrology, fear, and the economy. You can read more of her retrospectives on love on Medium, find her defending Geminis on Twitter, and see how cute she is Instagram.