Sebastien celebrated his 36th birthday last Monday. We were in Chicago visiting friends and family for the weekend so I was completely thrown off guard. (You’d think Facebook would know to nudge spouses a few days ahead of time or something.) While I was contemplating what to get him as a gift, I was reminded of what he gave me for my last birthday: nothing.
This year my birthday fell on a Saturday. I went about my normal weekend routine which includes complaining about how I don’t want to exercise, exercising, complaining about being hungry, eating, complaining about being bored and bugging Sebastien until he finds some way to entertain me. As I went about my day I kept expecting Sebastien to pull out a birthday present. If nothing else it would have certainly placated me for a few minutes. But that never happened. In the evening we met friends for dinner at a restaurant. No present appeared here either.
The following evening I was g-chatting with a friend of mine about how strange it was that I did not receive a present. I was fine with not getting anything, but the expectation was already there because I’d received a gift every other year. I at least wanted to understand where he was coming from. So I turned to face Sebastien on the couch and said, “So am I to assume that you’re not getting me anything for my birthday?”
He looked up from his computer. “What? I took you out to dinner the other night.”
“Oh was that my birthday present?”
“No.” he said. He closed his laptop indicating that what he was about to say was so important that not even the computer could hear. “I have never subscribed to the idea of giving people gifts on specific dates,” he said.
I remembered Sebastien saying this to me when we first started dating. I agreed that I hated the obligation, too. Our shared disdain for social norms was probably what brought us together. But the following Christmas and birthday I received gifts, as did he. I explained this inconsistency to him.
“I don’t remember getting you any gifts for your birthday before.”
I laughed. “Are you kidding me? Every year we exchange gifts.”
“Well I gave you two gifts around Christmas time,” he said.
“Well how was I to know that one of those was a birthday gift?” I said. He had no response. I squinted my eyes trying to comprehend the last 5 minutes of my life. “Who are you?” I said. The question was never answered and the matter was dropped. It was too comical to be of any real significance. Until his birthday.
Monday morning we sat down in the hotel restaurant for breakfast. I remembered the $25 gift card that the concierge gave me the day before while I was checking in. He said it could be used in any hotel facility. I pulled it out of my pocket and slid it across the table at Sebastien. Our eyes met and I smiled. “Happy birthday sweetheart,” I said. “Here’s a $25 gift card to help you cover the breakfast bill.”