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If Dave learns how to tie a bow tie I'm screwed

I'm terrible at gift giving. I'm the guy who once gave his diabetic girlfriend a glucose testing machine for Christmas. I basically gave her the gift of stabbing herself.

I'm the guy who gave his wife a Blu-ray of Snow White for Christmas ... to play on the new Blu-ray player he bought for "the both of them."

I'm the guy who once gave a girlfriend a crystal turtle (because she said she liked turtles) and decided to use a plastic grade school pencil sharpener in the shape of a turtle as the "gift box." Her immediate reaction upon tearing away the wrapping paper—"Ummm ... you gave me a plastic turtle?"

But my friend Dave? He's a master at gift giving. He's a friggin' ninja, a Jedi of the craft. He keeps his eyes open all year for something that will hit just the right note when he gives it. That note is to the tune of punching me in the face.

And this isn't just about giving the perfect gift to this geeky, pop-culture obsessed Wordslinger. I'm easy. No, this dude nails it with gifts for my wife. He's given her stuff that's made her nearly break down in tears out of the sheer "you know me so well!" of it. He sets the bar so high, I have trouble remembering if there's even a bar up there.

How's a guy supposed to compete with that? 

I don't, actually. I keep giving my version of "gifts," which are usually last-minute purchases from or select aisles of Target, and if I happen to hit the right note I count it as a big win. I let the momentum of that carry me through the next few gift giving occasions. I hope that everyone will ignore the fact that I gave my wife pajamas for her birthday, and instead focus on the time I gave her ... wait, I'll think of it ... something good. 

Last night, Dave and his wife Angela came back from New York City. They had tons of photos and stories to share, and because Dave and I are essentially the same when it comes to being amused by the bizarre and he absurd, I laughed my butt off at most of what they shared with us. And then they gave us souvenirs. 


Well played, David. Well played.

Not only did he give me the boss of all polo shirts—purchased from Midtown Comics in New York, with the perfect combination of fine stitching, a comfortable, wicking material, a slimming combination of grey with black side-walls, and (oh yeah) Darth Vader and the symbol of the Empire embroidered on it in exquisite detail(!)—they also picked out this vintage-looking necklace for Kara. It was a sort of broach, hanging from a delicate chain, with one of those ivory-looking silhouettes on the front. And when you opened it there was a watch inside. Beautiful and practical—come on!

Of course, Dave has a big advantage in that Angela is a part of the souvenir selection process. But if it hadn't been a vintage necklace it would have ended up being some other perfectly attuned gift that makes everything I've given my wife look like the kind of thing a fourth grader brings home from art class. "He's so cute. He thinks he's people!"

So I'm not a very good gift giver. My talents lie in other areas. I can tie a bow tie, for instance. I know how to spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious in one try (not a single red wavy line—nailed it). I can tell you exactly what happens when you try to pour hot Crisco back into its cardboard container (I recommend against this). So gifts ... I guess I'll have to look for an app for that or something. Until then, Kara will always have very nice, new pajamas and Blu-rays to cuddle up to on those nights I'm sleeping on the sofa. Usually the night of her birthday. 

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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at


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