I bought my wife the most expensive gift ever - it cost £38 | Steve Canavan
This is not an occasion I enjoy because it comes with a certain pressure to be nice – which doesn’t come naturally to me – and to get things right.
Women are different to men when it comes to gifts.
Men, for instance, will never tell you should they not like a present.
They politely say thank you (while inwardly screaming, ‘good god, how can she still not know me after 14 years of marriage?’).
Then we shove the item in an upstairs drawer, next to be seen a decade or so later when, on cleaning out the drawer, we will chance upon it and think, ‘hey, who got me this terrible neon flashing key ring with a picture of our cat on?’
A good example occurred last Christmas when Mrs Canavan bought me a plank of wood.
I looked at it blankly for several minutes until she said, ‘do you know what it is?’
I ventured, hesitantly, ‘a plank of wood?’
She replied, stung, ‘no, it’s a mug holder for the bath’.
It turned out she had spent upwards of £30 on a plank of wood that you lay across the bath and which had – and this was the only thing preventing it being a plain old plank of wood – a small circle carved in it where you placed a drink.
Despite thinking this the most pointless gift since Carrie bought Boris a comb, I tried to look pleased and gushed, ‘how clever – that's wonderful’.
A few months later, I took it to the recycling tip and hurled it in a skip.
Women, however, make no attempt to conceal their feelings.
If they think a present isn’t good enough, they’ll not hesitate to let you know.
They will say thank you – albeit reluctantly – but you know from their face you’ve come up short.
‘That’s, erm,’ Mrs Canavan will say after unwrapping one of my presents, ‘interesting’.
Then, with the same expression one would have were they sucking a lemon while cleaning a particularly dirty toilet, she’ll enquire if I’ve kept the receipt, before tossing the item to one side in the way you’d fling a mouldy apple into a dustbin.
And birthdays are even trickier these days because – and I had no idea this was a thing prior to becoming a father – Mrs Canavan expects a present from the children as well.
Given the kids are four and two and can’t wipe their own bottoms properly, let alone walk into Tesco and make a purchase, this task obviously falls to me.
In previous years I’ve got her a cheap, token gift from the kids (small box of chocolates, flowers, washing-up brush … that kind of thing) but this year my oldest child Mary – now becoming aware of what birthdays entail – insisted on choosing her own presents for family members.
Back in March on my birthday, for instance, she declared that she knew exactly what she was going to get me.
‘Mummy has ordered it for you. You’re going to love it,’ she told me on repeat for a month.
In fact so often did she tell me, I foolishly got my hopes up and began imagining she might have discovered I liked Bob Dylan and forced Mrs Canavan to book me a ticket to see him play live in New York, perhaps followed by a fortnight’s vacation where I could go on a solo road trip of Central America.
I was, I confess, a touch wide of the mark, as on my birthday Mary proudly presented me with a small plastic blue toy car with a £1.99 sticker on it, then made me play with it for half an hour.
It was kind of cute though, so, in a similar gesture of goodwill, I told Mary last week we needed to get a present for mummy.
I asked her what she wanted to buy, assuming it would be the same kind of cheap tat she’d got me.
She replied, ‘a pretty purse with flowers on’.
This took me aback because I had no idea she had any notion of what a purse is.
I briefly wondered if Mrs Canavan had employed underhand tactics and coached our daughter prior to this conversation.
‘Did mummy tell you to say that?’ I asked.
‘No,’ said Mary looking genuinely confused.
She was either telling the truth or will win an Emmy award for best actress circa 2035.
‘A purse is so boring,’ I said.
‘Why don’t we buy her a dustpan and brush, or a Brillo pad?’
She looked confused and shook her head.
On my phone – with an excited Mary beside me – I googled the words ‘purse with flowers on’.
The first one that came up was quite posh-looking and cost £38.
Mary pointed at it and said, ‘that one.’
‘Hang on,’ I replied, panicked (I’ve never spent 38 quid on a gift for anyone, never mind someone I’m not that keen on – ie, my wife), ‘you don’t choose the first thing you see.
‘Let’s have a look at what else there is.’
We went through lots of different coloured purses, including one that looked perfect, a lurid green, priced £4.99, and available at a website called cheapandcheerful.com.
‘It’s beautiful,’ I cooed to Mary.
‘Mummy would LOVE it.’
I had every confidence Mary would agree because, let’s face it, it's really easy to brainwash kids.
(She still believes black and red Fruit Pastilles are poisonous and you have to give them to daddy).
Yet after looking at it for the briefest of moments, she replied, ‘no, I want the first one.’
I spent 17 more minutes trying to change her mind but she was adamant and even began crying at one point, pleading, ‘daddy, can we just order it?’
And so, despite the fact I received a plastic toy car costing less than a small cappuccino, I ordered, for my wife from Mary, a purse almost 20 times more expensive.
Life is just not fair.