I was in the card section at Walmart a few days before Valentine’s Day, looking for a card for Laurie. And I must have looked at thirty cards. According to many reliable sources, I am picky. It’s a label I’m willing to embrace if it means I’m the type of guy who wants to pick a card that says just the right thing and doesn't cost nine dollars.
When did greeting cards become so expensive? I wondered. I imagined giving Laurie a five-dollar box of chocolates and writing, “Love You, Sweetie,” in sharpie all over the shrink-wrap. I’d say, “I thought you’d prefer the money spent on sweets.” She’d put her arms around me and kiss me. “You’re the smartest husband in the world,” she’d say. Do I know my wife or what?
So as I’m walking up and down the crowded card section, I notice that I’m surrounded by women. This is a sharp contrast from my shopping experience last year. I got off work late after a closing shift – this was on February 13th. It’s after midnight, and still the card section was full of guys, each of whom had a bouquet of roses and was frantically searching through the sparse card selection. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who waited until the last minute. I saw guys in ties and guys in coveralls. Regardless of class or race, we formed a band of brothers, each of us united by their nightmares haunted by the Ghost of Forgotten Valentine’s Past.
However, this year, I was an entire week early. This, to me, explained all the women in the card section. As I’m looking through the "to her from him" cards, I noticed how so many of cards are apologetic:
“I know I don’t tell you often enough…”
“I don’t know how I got to be so lucky…”
“Sorry this is late…”
“For the woman I don’t deserve…”
“You’re always so patient with me…”
And I couldn’t help but feel a little offended. I mean, are all guys bumbling, forgetful tools? Sure I feel as lucky as the next guy, but I don’t feel the need to apologize for anything. I tell Laurie plenty of times how much I appreciate her.
Then again, there was that incident last week about the chocolates. Laurie had returned home from grocery shopping at Walmart. She walked in the door, came over to me, and kissed me on the cheek. “I got four bottles of shampoo for free,” she told me, waving the receipt at me. I wondered whether I should ask how she did it or what we needed four bottle of shampoo for. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to understand either of her answers.
“Honey,” she sang, “look at the receipt. I spent $120 and saved $80 in coupons. And I saw the box of chocolates I want you get me for Valentine’s Day.”
“Well, if you were already there, then why didn’t you just buy the things yourself?”
A split second before she started crying, I asked myself, “Did you just say that?” It sounded a lot funnier in my mind. And yet I heard the words said in a voice that sounded a lot like mine.
We finished putting the groceries away in silence. Then she retired to our bedroom while I spent the rest of the evening sitting on the couch, half-concentrating on whatever was on TV, and trying to think of a way to justify what I said. But I couldn’t, at least not without feeling like an even bigger tool.
I tried to think of how to make it up to her. She’s so good at showing me how much I mean to her. She tells me she loves with little gifts, and little gestures, and spending all day cleaning the house because she wants me to come home to a nice house. I tell her I love her when I pay the utilities bill. Why can't I be creative like her? And now I couldn’t even buy her the box of chocolates because now they’re tainted. Oh God! I thought. Why am I such a tool!
It was sometime the next day that I found myself at Walmart where I made my way straight to the card section. I weaved in and out of the women perusing the cards they would buy their husbands, along with dainty little treats. I felt their eyes on me and wondered if they thought I was really thoughtful, the kind of guy who always remembers to tell his wife how special she is. And for a moment, I allowed myself the fantasy. That’s right, Ladies. Yes, I’m buying my wife’s Valentine’s card a week early because that’s just the kind of guy I am. Then I tried not to be too noticeable when I started looking through the “I’m sorry” cards.