Greed Between The Lines

I love my boyfriend; however, I feel bad that he never buys me presents. He did when we were dating, and he buys himself extravagant stuff. But he got me nothing for my birthday and only some trinkets for Christmas because I made a stink. When I’ve brought up the gifts issue, he’s implied that I’m materialistic. However, what matters to me is not the cost but that he’s thinking of me. Is my desire for gifts somehow shallow?  

— Coal Digger    

Once again, it’s Christmas. Ooh, ooh, what’s that under the tree?! Once again … it’s the floor.

Many men sneer at the importance their ladies place on getting gifts from them, deeming it a sign of female emotional frailty. What these men aren’t taking into account is that the differences that evolved in male and female psychology correspond to differences in male and female physiology. To put it another way, women are disproportionately into getting gifts from romantic partners for the same reason men (disproportionately) are into watching strippers. (“All the better to pass one’s genes on with, my dear!”)

Because, for a woman, sex can lead to pregnancy (and a hungry kid to drag around), female emotions evolved to act as a sort of alarm system, making a woman feel crappy when there are signs a man’s commitment may be waning. (Wanting to feel better makes her take corrective action — pressing him to put up or get out.) However, a man’s being willing to give gifts suggests a willingness to “invest” more than 2.6 minutes of foreplay and a teaspoon of sperm.

Accordingly, evolutionary behavioral scientist Gad Saad believes that gift-giving evolved as a “distinctly male courtship strategy.” Though women do give gifts to romantic partners, they tend to wait till they’re in a relationship and then do it to “celebrate” being together. Saad’s research finds that men, on the other hand, “are much more likely to be tactical in their reasons for offering a gift to a romantic partner” — like, in the courtship phase, to get a woman into bed. (Of course, if a woman wants to get a man into bed, she doesn’t need to give him a present to unwrap; she just starts unbuttoning her top.)

Explain the science to your boyfriend. You don’t have a character deficiency; you just want him to show his love in the way that works for you. That’s what people who love each other do — even if they, say, believe the gift of their side salad at dinner should be gift enough.

Besides, you aren’t demanding “‘Tiara of the Week!’ or I’m gone!” You’d just like occasional little “thinking of you” prezzies and somewhat bigger ones on Official Girlfriend Holidays (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.). Ultimately, these are not just gifts but messages that making you happy is worth an investment of money and effort — beyond the effort he’s been putting in to get his wallet wired shut just in time for your birthday.


Wussy Galore

My fiancée and I were driving my drunk friend home from a party. He was saying rude things to her, but I knew he was just wasted and didn’t mean them, so I didn’t say anything. I thought my fiancée would also shrug it off, but she was mad and hurt that I didn’t stand up for her. Is it that big a deal? Couldn’t she have stood up for herself?

— Middleman    

Yes, there’s actually more to being an ideal partner to a woman than being able to unhook a bra with your teeth.

A woman today may be perfectly capable of defending herself — with her big mouth or her big pink handgun. However, she has an emotional operating system pushing her to go for men who show an ability and willingness to protect her. This comes out of how, over millions of years of evolution, certain ladies’ children were more likely to survive and pass on their mother’s genes (and the psychology that rides along). Which children? Those whose mothers chose men who’d do more in an attack than, well, effectively crawl under the car seat and wish all the awfulness would stop.

Your fiancée probably still feels resentful and maybe even thinks less of you for how you basically showed all the testosterone-driven fortitude of a geranium. Consider what grandpas everywhere call “having character”: doing the right thing, even when that kinda stinks for you. If, in looking back, you would’ve done things differently, tell your fiancée. Then pledge that going forward, you’ll be that kind of guy — and that protecting the person who means most to you won’t involve pushing your girlfriend toward the grizzly bear so you’ll have more time to make a run for it.


Got a problem? Write to Amy Alkon at 171 Pier Ave., Ste. 280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or email her at AdviceAmy@aol.com.
Alkon’s latest book is “Good Manners for Nice People who Sometimes Say F*ck.” She blogs at advicegoddess.com and podcasts at blogtalkradio.com.

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