A friend in college told me, “Never knit your boyfriend a sweater.” I’ve never forgotten this advice, even though I don’t know how to knit and in college, I didn’t have a boyfriend.
Because when I asked her why I shouldn’t knit my boyfriend a sweater, she had a powerful explanation. She said, “You’ll go to all this trouble to knit him a sweater, then he won’t appreciate how much work you did, and you’ll get so annoyed, you’ll break up with him.”
I took a few pointers from this trenchant piece of advice.
First, I shouldn’t make an extravagant gesture in order to elicit an extravagant response. I may very well not get that response.
Second, I shouldn’t set traps for people. Don’t knit a sweater for a guy whom I think wouldn’t appreciate it. If my birthday is important to me, I should remind the people in my life that it’s coming up; don’t give them the opportunity to disappoint me. I remembered this when Jamie and I once had a big anniversary party. I was planning to give a thoughtful, well-crafted toast, and I started to get angry with him, in advance, because he was just going to make up a toast on the spur of the moment (which, by the way, is exactly what he would do). So I told him, “This is important to me. You need to prepare something in advance. Or I’m going to be very upset.” I let him know.
Third, if I do something because I want to do it for my own reasons, other people’s responses don’t matter as much. They still matter, but they don’t matter as much. If I knit a sweater because I enjoy knitting, I won’t be annoyed when the recipient doesn’t respond as I hoped.
Finally, just because something seems like a thoughtful gesture to me doesn’t necessarily mean it will seem thoughtful to someone else. I might think that nothing could be more delightful than a hand-knit sweater, and my boyfriend is thinking, “Why hasn’t she noticed that I never wear sweaters?”
It’s advice that I’ve never literally followed, but I’ve remembered it many times: Never knit your boyfriend a sweater.