A Tale of Two AirPods: Gift Giving Between Partners
I recently bought my wife a new pair of AirPods. She had been complaining that her previous pair no longer held a charge, and so I decided that a gift was in order.
Now, it should be said that I hold some strong opinions on how gifts should be given, principal of which is that they should be surprising and over-the-top, even when they're given "just because". So, in addition to the AirPods, I ordered her an Apple Watch, and employed some light deception in the form of dropped hints over the course of the week to make it appear that I had actually ordered something for myself. Like a magician, I hit all the marks with precision, tracking the FedEx delivery van and setting up a decoy box, all to attain that glorious moment of open mouthed shock... but to my disappointment, it didn't come, or, more accurately, it didn't come right away.
My wife is not good at receiving gifts. Earlier in our relationship, I read this as a lack of appreciation, but after a decade of conversations, sometimes heated, on the topic, I now understand it to be something different. She loves the gifts, and uses them every day. She just doesn't love the spectacle. It makes her feel self-conscious. And in the moment, she worries about if the items were too expensive. She thinks about if the noise cancellation will give her a headache, or if she'll have an allergic reaction to the materials the watch is made out of. For these reasons, her appreciation for my gifts usually comes with a bit of a delay.
Now, if you're thinking that my need to turn every little gift into a theatrical event is probably a thinly veiled effort to feed my ego, well then, as Scott Galloway likes to say, trust your instincts. If we're being honest about it, we can admit that most gift giving is accompanied by some element of selfishness. This is normal. We accept this, in the same way that we accept celebrities posting screenshots of donations made to worthy causes on their Instagram's. It's still a net positive gesture. A gift benefits the receiver and the giver. Or at least that's always what I thought.
When my wife was complaining about her AirPods not holding a charge, I was surprised, since mine seem to hold their battery forever. In fact, I couldn't even remember the last time I'd charged them. I racked my brain to think of a time in the last year when I had even seen them plugged in, but no such memory could be recalled. It's not something I had consciously thought about or noticed until that moment. They're just always on my desk, and always at 100% power.
My wife charges my AirPods when I'm not looking, she's never brought it up, and she's never let them die once.
Gifts can take a lot of different forms. I'm still going to try to surprise her with big gestures. And she's still going to do countless little things for me that make my day better. (She also gets me lovely "proper" gifts, and even manages to surprise me once in a while.) We're going to keep looking for ways to express our love and gratitude... but even more importantly, we're going to keep seeing what we appreciate in each other's chosen manner of giving gifts.