It Really Is the Thought That Counts

Dear Dategirl,

Up until this Christmas, I really liked my girlfriend. We’re both 23, but she’s in college and I’m a musician who also works at a bar. I knew she wanted a leather coat for Christmas, so I’ve been saving up and bought her exactly the right one. (She hinted strongly, so I didn’t make any mistakes.) But my gifts were so weird, now I’m wondering if she even knows me. I only read science fiction (when I read books), and she bought me a bunch of David Foster Wallace. I know he’s supposed to be great, but I’m not interested. She got me two ties. I haven’t worn a tie since prom. The thing that pissed me off was a gift card for this hipster shaving place. I have a beard, and it’s not going anywhere! I pretended to like everything, but the more I think about it, the angrier I get. She left for her parent’s house this morning, so I won’t see her for a week, but I think I need to break up with her. My sister and roommate say I’m an asshole, because otherwise she’s great.

—Santa Screwed Me

Are you seriously about to dump your otherwise amazing girlfriend because you didn’t like your Christmas presents? Are you 22 or 12? She didn’t even buy you anything particularly egregious, or fuck your best friend. There was no Starbucks card or mystery hickey, just a few nice prezzies that weren’t particularly right for you.

I like to think that you’re in a snit not because you’re an asshole, but because you think these gifts were purchased with the intent to change you in some way. I’ve been there, and that is annoying. Picture you this: a sulky young Dategirl with a bright-blue double mohawk. Under the tree: a floral Laura Ashley dress with a lacy Peter Pan collar.

My mother’s intentions were clear (and ineffective), but you don’t give any indication that your girlfriend’s unhappy with your current state, so I’m betting her motives are innocent. Perhaps she’s a big DFW fan and wants to share something she loves with you. Maybe she thinks you’d look hot in a tie. As for the shaving joint . . . well, I see how you kids wear your beards (so unkempt!), and maybe a trim (if not a complete denuding) would make you look even more dashing. Sounds kind of sweet to me.

Then there’s the truth that some people just aren’t gifted givers. I still remember how mad my mom was when she unwrapped the awkward planter crafted from coconuts that my dad had presented so proudly. But being bad gifters doesn’t make them bad people, just peeps in need of a little direction. For example, that leather coat she was so exacting about? What did you give her for her birthday? Could it have been something along the lines of a latex bra and crotchless panties, when she’s more a cotton-thong and tank-top gal? Maybe instead of breaking up with you, she saw you were just a nice guy in need of gifting guidance, and so offered it this holiday. Next time, take a page from her book and drop hints about that fixie you’ve been eyeing. E