BY HALEY SHERIF
“I left a gift for you on the coffee table, babe.”
I smiled at a recent text my girlfriend, Kate, had sent me. Kate is good at the “just because” gifts, small gestures like flowers, a sweet note or a crystal to add to our ever burgeoning collection. She’s good at being spontaneous. She’s good at making me feel loved and loving me every single day, even on the days when it’s hard to.
Kate is the longest intimate relationship I have had. In the past, I’ve been the giver. I’m always giving things to the person I’m with, more concerned with the physical value than the emotional. But with Kate it’s different. She’s teaching me that giving in a relationship is much more than a price tag can tell.
That day I came home to DIY Love Coupons she had made for me. Each one featured something sweet like “Kate does all the chores” with a small illustration in the corner. The gift made me smile not because she had taken the time to make something for me she knew I would appreciate, but because she had done so without needing any specific reason to.
I think we are all guilty of remembering last minute that we need to get a gift for our special someone to celebrate the big promotion, or a recent graduation, or an anniversary. It’s easy to run to the store, pick something out and hand it to the person, but the art of gift giving isn’t something that happens without thought.
Recently a friend told me she was looking forward to moving out of New York City because she felt like she no longer had time to give thoughtful gifts to those she loved. I can relate. I grew up in New York, in a household where bigger was always better and that the emphasis was never put on emotional value. However, as I’ve grown up I’ve started to appreciate the smaller things. Being in a relationship with someone can be taxing, living with someone more so (especially when you’re a neat freak), but that doesn’t mean we cannot take the time to pause and think about what our partner needs or what might make her smile.
One night I was stressed out because I had to get up early the next day but was too broke to afford coffee (a luxury, but a luxury that I look forward to nonetheless), and Kate came home with instant chai and milk, so I wouldn’t have to worry.
Maybe this Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a stressful, expensive affair. Maybe instead there’s lingering in bed, a loving note, a small, but meaningful gift. On the most stressful, tiring days, maybe you remember that getting outside of your head and doing a small act of kindness for someone else does as much for you as them.
Cheryl Strayed, the author of the popular “Wild,” but also the author of my favorite advice-column turned book, “Tiny Beautiful Things,” writes about love: “It’s the best thing we have to give and the most valuable thing we receive. It’s worthy of all the hullabaloo.” When I look into Kate’s eyes at the end of the longest, hardest, worst day and my heart clenches just a little bit, and she smiles, I always think of this line. And every time Kate does something for me (big or small) I feel the exact same way–that we are crazy to love, but that we are even crazier not to.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Haley Sherif is completing her B.F.A. in creative nonfiction at Emerson College. She is the creative director of Your Magazine. In 2015 she self-published a book titled “All the Pretty Girls.” Follow her @HaleySherif
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