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  • Kristan Higgins

A battle of marital will

Updated: Apr 30, 2022


My birthday was in May. I gave McIrish the words a man most hates to hear: “Just surprise me.”

He immediately got that constipated, martyred saint look he perfected at birth. The Oh, please, God, not that, this is a set-up, why, God, why? look.

See, I wanted him to put a little THOUGHT into the gift. We’ve been married for more than two decades. One would think the man knew me well enough to buy me something I liked. This, of course, is a Herculean request to my sainted husband. He hates buying gifts. He’d prefer if I stood in a store and just pointed: Get me that, that and this.


Princess Daughter accepts her father’s flaws and offered to go with him. She (like her wonderful mother) excels at buying gifts. She even told him what store to go to: “Just drive down to Guilford and get her a pair of pajamas. Come on. Get in the car. I’ll come with you. Daddy. Really. Her birthday is tomorrow. Move it.”

But no, for some reason, McIrish was paralyzed. Or stubborn. Have I mentioned he’s Irish? The thrifty sort of Irish (except when it comes to power tools and tractors, and then only the best will do, but don’t get me started on that particular subject).


So back in May, he floundered for a while, ignoring my subtle hints for tickets to see U2 or Coldplay, a puppy, pony or calf and/or new pajamas. Then, on my birthday, he presented me with a certificate. We would go kayaking on a river when the weather was warmer, followed by a lovely brunch at a cute restaurant.

Excellent, right? Very different and fun. I thanked him very effusively and told him he was a good husband.

Except we never went.

Cue the ominous music.


So now, six months later, I’ve been reminding him that I never got a birthday present. That here it was, months and months later, and my present had gone the way of the velociraptor. However, being a wonderful wife, I would still accept a gift. A pair of earrings, for example. I even told him what kind. Tiny gold hoops, very unremarkable, a staple of jewelry. But this is a man who views one trip to the mall akin to seven years of hard labor in Siberia.

How about a pair of pajamas? No? I’d settle for socks at this point. When we were in the Finger Lakes this past weekend, I stood in front of a jewelry case (very inexpensive stuff, mind you) and pointedly stared. Mentioned the word “birthday.” McIrish chose that moment to channel a rock.

It’s not really about the gift. It’s a battle of marital will.

I’ve assigned my daughter to the cause. Will let you know how it goes. : )


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