You didn’t, did you?” “Yup,” I replied. “Oh dear. You’re a young fellow. I’ve been married for nearly 40 years. Let me share this with you. Men should never, ever buy clothes for women!”
only I’d consulted this cabbie
birthday instead of the day after!
It’s not easy finding the perfect present
for your missus and, I’ll admit, most years
I end up at a record store buying CDs or
Nikki really likes music so they’re
usually appreciated but I’m always left with
this nagging feeling that I’m being boring,
sticking to a shop in which I’m comfortable,
rather than getting something that’s truly
special. So this year I decided to buy Nikki
Having sauntered past a few shops,
nonchalantly glancing in, trying not to seem
too keen, my eye was suddenly taken by a
window mannequin donning a sensational
little black number. It was a reasonably short
dress, with shoulder straps but no sleeves
and very little fabric on the sides.
If I had to pin it down, I’d probably call
it 20-something racewear. Is there such a
thing? (Can you tell that I’ve never hosted
a fashion parade or written for a style
After 10 minutes standing outside this
boutique, I gathered my courage, walked
in, confidently selected Nikki’s size and
presented said dress at the counter. And this
is where I should have picked up the hints.
“Who are you buying for?” I was asked.
“My wife,” I proudly declared.
“Really?” she asked. “How old is she?”
Now, rather than asking myself “what
does this young shop assistant know that
I don’t?” or “why does she need to know
Nikki’s age?” I pushed on, “39,” I said. A
further disapproving look. Another clue
For a split second, I must have
questioned whether Nikki would indeed
wear this revealing LBD – see, now I’m
getting into the lingo! – for I asked “would
she wear a shirt under it?” Seriously? How
hopeless am I?
The answer: “No, sir, you wouldn’t wear
anything underneath it.” And then the
killer: “Look, if she wants to bring it back,
that’s no problem. Just keep the receipt.”
So I paid for the dress and strode out
of the shop just a little bit excited about
my achievement! A quick glance over my
shoulder at the mannequin, a moment
to imagine Nikki looking sensational,
showing off a little bit of skin, and I headed
home to wrap and hide the present.
Next morning at the ABC, several hours
before giving Nikki her present, I sketched
the dress for my colleagues and asked their
opinion. Was I having niggling doubts?
Everyone appeared very supportive and
said it was great that I had bought clothes,
not more CDs, but there was also quite a
bit of eye-rolling and comments like “you
men are all the same!” My radio producer Anne told me the
story of another hapless husband who
once bought his wife underwear for
Christmas. It turned out the bra was too
busty and the bottoms way too small! Still,
this woman took it as a great compliment
(before returning them to the shop!)
Later that day, my chest puffed out, I
presented Nikki with her birthday present.
She slowly pulled the dress out of its
wrapping and declared: “How old do you
think I am? 12? I would never wear this!”
When I came to tell the story to the
married-40-years taxi driver, he wasn’t at all
surprised. He had one more piece of advice
for me: “Whatever you do, let her take it
back. On her own. Don’t go with her”!
Thankfully, a caller to the ABC’s “Cereal
Box” voicemail, Daphne of Tivoli, saved
the day. After I told the story on radio,
Daphne called to say, “your wife doesn’t
need birthday presents because she’s
got the greatest gift that God could ever
have given – you! Believe you-me, I hear
it in your voice, the love that you have for
her and she has for you. No present can
When Nikki heard the call, she emailed
me: “That’s beautiful. I have tears – some
of laughter – but that is so sweet!” Phew.
Back in the good books. For now.