I just have to get one more saga off my chest for the sake of moving on from my little 3-month relationship with Dave from Brighton, AKA Mr. Rabbit. See my previous post for more on the Rabbit thing.
OK, before I start, I’ve heard all the stories on TV and from women I’ve met about how crap men are at buying gifts, how they can’t help it, it’s hard wired, etc. Crap. It’s not hard wired- for one thing I do know women (and men) who get good gifts from their male partners, and for another, it’s all about empathy and putting yourself in another’s shoes- if you think men can’t do that you are effectively calling them psychopaths. It’s about making an effort to show someone you care about that you know them and love them. It is the thought that counts… but that means there has to be thought.
And I’m not talking here about the minor fuckups we all make
when gift buying, I’m talking about a serious lack of consideration for another
human being. And before any of you tell me that Dave must be autistic (e.g.
Syndrome), I can tell you he’s not- I do have a friend who acknowledges
himself that he may be Aspie, and he managed to get an appropriate gift for his
girlfriend for Christmas- not the most romantic of gifts but it showed clear
understanding of his partner’s interests and values, and a degree of effort in
the obtaining thereof.
I do have to admit in Mr. Rabbit’s defence, however, that he made clear well before Christmas that he was terrified of buying me bad gifts, and could I tell him what I wanted. My first response was “What? You want me to do the emotional labour of thinking about your gifts, and gifts for everyone else I’m buying for, and do YOUR emotional labour too?” It should be noted that at this time I was also spending an inordinate amount of time trying to sort out contraception because Mr. Rabbit, in true bunny fashion, refused to learn to wear a condom- an outrageous thing in this day and age for a man of nearly 40.
I did relent a bit as Christmas approached though, and gave him clear guidelines on what NOT to buy for a woman, i.e.:
1. No sexy lingerie
2. No kitchen stuff
3. No football team merchandise (unless she’s an avid fan and it’s merchandise for her team).
I asked him if he could see the common link between the three. He couldn’t. I told him “Because they are all about YOU! Sexy lingerie to turn you on in bed, kitchen stuff to cook for you, and, well, need I go on?”
I also dropped some massive hints: mentioned specifically: Johnny Cash Live at San Quentin DVD; a watch; a purse; forget the kitchen rule in my case because I am desperately short of kitchen stuff, so: a set of kitchen knives; a set of bowls. I reassured him that I didn’t mean an expensive watch or purse- I even showed him some at the great shop Kozi when he was up in Glasgow- anything funky, glittery, colourful, unusually shaped; such can often be had for around £10.
Now, in spite of the tales of woe described in my last post, we were in fact getting on really well in the month leading up to Christmas- he’d visited Glasgow and we’d had a fantastic time- I was really starting to fall for this guy. So, I bought him some nice presents: a portable 7.5in. DVD player for him to use when travelling up to see me (got it cheap at dabs – check out their used stock and clearance section for bargains); a fluffy dressing gown from his football team’s website; a book he’d expressed an interest in reading; some chocolate body paint for us to play with; a box of really special chocolates.
I got: a plastic cat keychain; two rubber duckies to play with in the bath (I guess); one of those little wooden cats with the long tail that you put your rings on at night (I already have one, which he has seen by my bed); some Aveda body wash; and the final and appalling indignity: a Joss Stone CD. Don’t start with me on that one- I know Dave only likes techno, and so probably thinks there is some connection between commercial, soul-less white soul sung by a 16-year-old pretending to have life experience (I don’t even particularly like GOOD soul music) and the kind of music I like. But he knows how ignorant he is in this area (as I would be trying to buy music for him), and his flatmate has the same taste as me so he could’ve asked him.
Well, I was pretty sympathetic at first (how awful to see your girlfriend covering up her disappointment at her gifts), but was clear that I hoped he’d kept the receipt for the CD. He said he had and that we could go shopping to HMV and exchange it and if I got something more expensive he’d pay the difference. Can’t say fairer than that, I thought. So we went out, and starting at the far end of town, went into every electronics shop there was while he shopped for a stereo amp for himself- generally looking in the £250-£300 range. We got to the bit of Brighton known as “The Lanes” which is where there is an intense conglomeration of very funky and wonderful shops… but he whizzed through these with me trailing behind, having palpitations at all the great shops I was missing. He said I should stop him if I wanted to go into one, but he was usually ahead of me, and anyway, I wanted to go in them all. When I did try to stop, he acted so impatient it wasn’t much fun. We finally got to HMV and I was feeling rather low and cold from traipsing round while he shopped only for himself. He gave me the receipt for the CD- so I saw that it had been incredibly cheap, while the Little Britain DVD he’d bought for the couple he and Mrs. R had gone to Budapest with (who he hardly knew) was £16.99 (and a great gift to boot). I assumed this was another rushed visit so went straight in and bought the first CD I found– Brighton is a small place really so their HMV is pretty small- I got the Rosanne Cash album with her duet with her father of “September When It Comes” on it. It was £6 more than the Joss Stone CD- something which would have been blindingly obvious to him when I showed him what I’d chosen, but he let me go up and pay the extra myself.
When I came back he was still shopping, and came over to me with a great find: my favourite film by my favourite filmmakers (Miller’s Crossing by the Coen Brothers) on DVD with special extras, on sale for £9.99! My face must’ve really lit up- the perfect gift for me! Then it sunk in that he was buying it for himself. I swallowed my disappointment and asked where he’d got it, saying I wanted one too.
He said: “It’s the last one.”
Let me just pause here for breath.
As he went to buy it I felt tears welling up (we’d already
had the big Mrs. Rabbit fight, followed by the meeting with Geordie Elaine
where she’d patronised me and lectured me, so I was already in a fragile state)
and went outside to get it together- not quickly enough because he came out and
demanded to know why I was tearful.
So, after we had all that out when we got home, he said we could go back to The Lanes on the 2nd Jan. and shop there properly and that I could get a nice extra Christmas gift there.
In between we had a romantic New Year dinner and a good time
clubbing together on the eve of 2005 and lots of good sex. I was happy again.
We went out on the 2nd and again looked for stereo amps for him. He slowed down a bit in The Lanes this time and I got to go into a few shops- there was a comics shop where I found the first 4 issues of the new Love and Rockets, and showed them to him. Nothing. Bought them myself. Went over to a rack he was looking at and found the graphic novel In the Shadow of No Towers, Art Spiegelman’s lauded depiction of September 11th. I picked it up and made a big show of ooh-ing and aah-ing. “So this is the kind of thing you like then?” said he. “Yes” said I.
As we headed home, he asked what I wanted to do now. Knowing
his flatmate would be around at his place, making it awkward in his tiny flat
to relax or have sex, I suggested we go to a movie. It was as though I hadn’t
spoken- he said “Let’s get a DVD” and off we went to Blockbuster. When we got
back his flatmate had his mother round for dinner, and they watched a DVD in
the lounge, while we waited in the bedroom for our turn.
I didn’t dump him. Ever optimistic. But, all I’ve heard from him since is a complaint that it cost him £35 to speak to me from Budapest while he was away with Mrs. Rabbit for Christmas. He still owes me £80 for the contraceptives I was forced to buy because he won’t use a condom, plus I’ll be paying my own mobile phone charges for those calls.
So, it looks like it’s over, and I can suck it up- all the money I’ve spent, the days of work I’ve missed out of stress and chasing contraception, the effort I put into Christmas shopping, the hours I’ve spent helping him with his computer, the tears I’ve shed at his hurtful comments and inability to listen to me, etc., etc.
I’m sure some of you will be seeing his side after reading all this (as I do- I feel for him), but the fact is, I want so much more than he was willing to give me. And I don’t mean gifts. I mean time, effort, understanding, communication. I want an equal relationship as a primary partner, and to me that means equal give and take, equal consideration, not my partner sitting back and lapping everything up as though it’s his God-given right to be waited on and served and treated to things and considered and helped and listened to, while I do everything, including all the emotional labour.
I’m back online at Guardian Soulmates. This is just the sort of shit that happens when you are looking for a partner. I could’ve done better too. I know that. I just wanted to get it off my chest. And I'm certainly not joining the harem of ex-girlfriends; after writing all this I've realised that they seem to both be eternally trying to get Dave to make up for his continual neglect of them.
Enough already. There are plenty of people on this planet right now really suffering. I'm fine.