The day was June 19, 1999. The clouds gave way to bright sunshine just as our nuptials were starting. Was it a sign of luck from the heavens or a prayer answered from our wedding coordinator that she no longer had to cram 125 Minnesotans and Hoosiers into a small clubhouse for the wedding ceremony? Only the big guy knows. This week marks eleven years since that fateful day and sets the stage for the annual marital test – the anniversary gift.
Choosing the right anniversary gift can be a painful process for both partners. I liken it to preparing for and taking the state-mandated AIMS basic skills tests in school – the Annual Inventory of Marriage Score. This is a spouse’s chance to shine and demonstrate just how creative and thoughtful they can be. And, let’s face it, everyone wants a great answer along with bragging rights to the big question from all well-wishers, “Happy Anniversary! What did you get?”
Thankfully, a list or study guide of traditional and modern anniversary gifts is readily available to aid the gift-challenged. Steel is the suggested traditional theme to celebrate eleven years of marriage. I mentioned this to my husband and he casually quipped in a Rodney Dangerfield sort of way, “I already have a ball and chain.” Be-steel my heart.
So I began thinking about some possible steel-related gift ideas for my betrothed – but first, I had to rule a few out. For instance, a download of the song, “Hey Nineteen” by Steely Dan. We got married on the 19th day of the month and there happens to be a slight age difference between us. I Googled the lyrics to some of the band’s music in search of the perfect song and discovered their light catchy tunes were all double entendres about sex, drugs and alcohol. I’m not exactly a prude, but afterall, we met on a business lunch while I was working at a Children’s hospital, not in an opium den. Not quite the sentimentality I was hoping for.
We could really use a new set of stainless-steel cutlery. On the upside, we would be chopping with ease and in style. On the down side, that previous ball and chain comment put me in more of an Alaina Bobbit mood than that of a Top Chef.
Turquoise is the suggested Gemstone. Maybe a manly turquoise ring? What am I thinking, I’m not married to Wayne Newton.
So on to sports. The obvious gift would be shiny new golf clubs. I quickly ruled this out with my stay-at-home mom salary. Maybe a Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Minnesota Vikings Superbowl IX DVD? I decided this wasn’t such a great idea after I discovered that the Steelers beat the Vikings. Watching the Purple People Eaters getting stomped by the Steelers would be quite the buzz kill for my diehard Vikings fan.
We are not exactly “romantic getaway” people. We even skipped our honeymoon so we could make a bigger down payment on our first house. To rekindle the romance at home, one website suggested a Kama Sutra bedside steel box. Without losing my PG rating on this post, the suggestion is that the couple follow these ancient Indian Hindu instructions and words of wisdom on how to keep your spouse “happy” in the bedroom. Most notably, a popular singer/activist and his wife are students of this philosophy and are rumored to have experienced blocks of up to twelve hours of this “happiness.” They also have quite a few children between the two of them. Who has that kind of time? I can only imagine the knocks at the bedroom door. “I’m thirsty.” “Timmy’s hitting me.” “I need a ride to soccer practice.” Besides, doesn’t she have magazines to read, Real Housewives shows to watch or an obsession about catching the late news to get tomorrow’s weather report? Oh that’s right, it pretty much rains everyday in the rainforest.
One gift that has some appeal is a stainless-steel iron. Apparently appliances are more acceptable on the modern anniversary list. My husband is the Felix Unger of our relationship, with an innate instinct and willingness to do housework. I know, a gift within itself. He is also best at ironing in our family. One advantage is that he actually knows where we keep the iron. My daughter once called him at work when we couldn’t locate the iron when attempting to adhere her Daisy Scout badges to her smock.
So when the big day rolls around, I’ll make an effort to put on an outfit that doesn’t have a hole in it, dab a little Clorox behind my ears to create the mood for Felix and hope for the best. I’m looking forward to hitting that twelfth year. According to my AIMS study guide, we have pearls and linen/silk to look forward to next year. I’m thinking teeth whitening and new sheets. Who knows? I’ve got a whole year to think about it.
After all the worrying and hand wringing over the years about giving and receiving anniversary gifts, I also discovered that the more comprehensive anniversary gift lists were devised by the American National Retail Jeweler Association in 1937 in a marketing ploy. As Ralphie exclaimed after cracking the Ovaltine secret code in the holiday classic movie, “A Christmas Story,” “A crummy commercial?” “Son-of-a-bitch.”