I want to play a game. It’s a scavenger hunt.
First, I want you to find me something to do with paper. But it has to be something special to me. To us. And I can’t already have it.
Next, I want you to find me something to do with cotton. Once again, it has to be meaningful. I’ll give you a whole year to find it.
We will do this every year, each year with a bizarre new requirement.
This scavenger hunt is, of course, ludicrous. No one would willing agree to be part of this strange game.
Except people do enter into this voluntarily. This is how anniversary gifts work.
Each year has a theme. The first two listed above, paper and cotton, are accurate. But they go on. Third is leather, fourth is fruit/flowers, fifth is wood, sixth is candy/iron, and I’m just going to stop there because come on. Candy/iron? That’s not a category of anniversary gift; that’s a rejected My Little Pony name.
This would be easy if you just had to find anything in that category. But it goes beyond that. It’s an anniversary gift, so it has to be something that impresses your significant other.
Each year, you have to find a special, meaningful, one-of-a-kind gift in a category ripped from the delirious mutterings of mental patients, where the recipient’s reaction is one of surprise, love, and awe.
And people say Valentine’s Day is contrived! This is a worse conspiracy, but I can’t figure out who benefits. Etsy?
Of course, your significant other has to participate also. Since it’s a gift, you can’t talk to each other openly about your ideas.
The two of you are thus in a competition to find the most deranged item you can think of that can reasonably be called a gift, or loosely affiliated with the category.
My second anniversary is breathing down my neck, and that cotton gift is staring me in the face. It’s getting physically uncomfortable. The easy answer is to say I can get my wife a nice dress or something, but oh, haha, no way am I taking a chance on getting the size wrong–being off in either direction is an insult.
It’s a yearly obstacle to a happy relationship. It makes the anniversary less of a celebration than a relief that it’s over.
But maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s what strengthens the relationship. Both of you have been laboring separately in an impossible task. And you make it through. Together.
You have a silent agreement to never hold the ridiculous gift against each other.
You have not triumphed, but you have survived. And sometimes, that’s all we can do in this world.