Life in the bad gift dog house

Love charms us so; it makes us think we are stronger than we really are, when all the while it renders us vulnerable to pain of which we would know nothing were it not for the depth of our love. We think that love conquers all – hah! It is the Trojan horse of sorrow.

— Barbara Cawthorne Crafton

Because I am a middle-aged American of the male persuasion, I know virtually nothing about love or romance. Or to be more precise, all the things I thought I knew about love and romance are wrong. Two news tidbits I came across recently pretty much make my point:

First, noted sex researcher Alfred Kinsey reported that cheese crumbs spread in front of a pair of copulating rats may distract the female, but not the male.

Second, a Chicago study has shown that men’s colognes actually reduce physical arousal in women.

In these two fell swoops, everything that I believed and held sacred about love and sex and romance and women has been proven to be wrong.

Trying to better understand women and love and romance and the appropriate expression of that love has been very much on my mind this week, and not just because my 27th wedding anniversary happens to fall on Friday and I have been shopping for a suitable anniversary gift for the woman who is my wife. I’ve known Wendy for some 35 years, and you’d think I’d have figured out by now how to pick out the perfect anniversary gift for her. If you thought that, you’d be wrong.

In past years, my anniversary gifts have frequently fallen short of the mark. There was the Floss Dispenser Fiasco of 1982, the Bath Towel Brouhaha of 1989 and the Cookbook Conflagration of 2000. Yes, I’ve learned from my mistakes. For example, I now know for certain that there is no anniversary for which a cook book, a dish towel, a weed whacker, or a Hale’s Ales T-shirt is an appropriate gift. I’ve also learned to pick up on subtle hints about what might constitute an acceptable gift. Recognizing that a hint has been dropped and correctly interpreting just what that hint means are two different things, of course, something you’d know if you mistook a comment about the beautiful beaches of Acapulco for a desire to celebrate an anniversary at a Mexican restaurant in Poulsbo.

After 27 years of marriage and the raising of two children, it’s not surprising that two people who deeply love each other may, at times, have to work at keeping the romance in their relationship alive. Sometimes you have to be creative, and try to spice up your love life a little. For example, the other day I suggested that Wendy and I switch positions that night. She agreed, and so we did; Wendy laid on the couch with the remote control and I did the dishes. I can’t speak for her, of course, but it was good for me.

This year I think I have finally picked out a suitable anniversary gift, one I think may get me out of the Bad Gift Dog House, if not into the Husband’s Hall of Fame. I can’t say much about it yet, but let me assure you that it has no application in the kitchen or the garden (at least, it has no lawful use in either venue), does not involve anything from the Hand Cream, Bath Soap or Scented Candles Families of Fine Gifts, and does not entitle the recipient to a 2-for-1 special at any local eatery. In other words, it’s not like any of the anniversary gifts I’ve given Wendy in the recent past.

I’ll let you know how the gift goes over. In the meantime, I just wish there was some more public way I could let Wendy know how much I love her, and to thank her for sticking with me all these years. Especially the year of the Cheese Grater Incident. Oh well, I guess she’ll just have to settle for a nice card.

Islander Tom Tyner is an attorney

for the Trust for Public Land. He is author

of “Skeletons From Our Closet,”

a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.

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