Abstract Academic: My present confusion

My wife’s birthday is coming up, and I don’t know what to get her.

I know, I know. This is a scenario that has been played out in a million sitcom episodes. I’m sure there are at least six episodes of The Brady Bunch that deal with this exact theme (and at least 12 that deal with someone borrowing someone else’s sweater).

But I really am stumped. As a typical dude, I like typical dude gifts: new socks, a shower radio, sports tickets, Pringles, etc. The problem is that my wife, who we’ll call “Jill” here, because that’s her name, is a girl. So, Pringles are decidedly out, as well as most other edible items. And the shower radio, which is unfortunate, because I sort of want a new one.

She’s also practical. When I ask her what she wants for her birthday, she says things like a gift card for groceries, or saucepans, or a husband who isn’t an English major. I’m 95 percent kidding on that last one.

Also, we’re poor student newlyweds, which means that we feel guilty whenever we get anything from each other that isn’t dinner or college textbooks. I would love to get her something expensive, like a diamond necklace, but she’d kill me if I tried. Actually, she’d make me return it, and then kill me.

I can’t really get her hokey stuff, either. You know, things like jewelry boxes and teddy bears. And I could get her a coupon book filled with things like “Good for one free massage!” and “Two nights of quality time!” or “I’ll do the dishes for a week!” But I already do all of those things anyway, because I am so awesome (sometimes, I just write things to check if my wife is actually reading my columns).

Surprises are hard, too, because Jill is a KGB-level investigator. She could be the villain in a Tom Clancy novel. Whatever I buy, she’ll know just by looking at my face. Or, more likely, our online banking records.

One thing she did say that she wanted was a nice, well-made bra. The utilitarian kind, mind you, but a bra nonetheless. I don’t know if you, the reader, are familiar with the types of stores that sell these types of lascivious paraphernalia, but they are difficult for a man like me to enter without feeling like a godless hedonist.

I know full well that the employees of these stores are used to seeing large, awkward men like me walking into these stores, staring straight ahead, cheeks on fire, with a sweaty piece of paper in their hands that states specifically the size, color and name of the item they’re seeking. I’m also sure that the employees enjoy watching us try to sift through their merchandise without actually touching any of it (or looking directly at it, for that matter).

The bra, therefore, is out. Clothes are generally dangerous. Again, insert your sitcom joke here, but you don’t want to insinuate that your wife is too fat/too skinny/cheap/a floozy/elderly. And if you do manage to pick something out for her, you’ve only got about a 30 percent chance of her liking it. But if she’s nice, like my wonderful wife is, she’ll pretend to like it, and maybe even put it on when she leaves for work, but she’ll also have to change in the car so she doesn’t look like a piggy bank/a picnic table/Betty Boop/Betty White/a Chia Pet.

So, I think I’ll just get her something I know she’ll use. Like a shower radio.