"How can I make my husband feel truly loved and appreciated? I buy him beer occasionally, but this seems like a paltry gesture.
Anouchka: Hi, BallardChick,
This is hard to answer without knowing your husband. But I can see it's also hard to answer if you DO know him. How can one person show another that they genuinely love them and aren't just hanging around for want of something better to do?
While I was growing up, in the '70s and '80s, my mother was a tabloid journalist who wrote about love and sex. I remember, as a child, reading endless articles about how to spice up long-term relationships. The general idea was that you had to inject an element of strangeness. You had to do something you wouldn't normally do. That seems to be very good advice, but it all falls down when these deviations from the norm become prescribed in themselves. The articles would always give a list of suggestions: buy see-through undies, have sex in an aeroplane, dress up as a nurse, etc. Fine, but aren't all those things a bit rote? If you actually try putting them into practice you risk feeling like an idiot. Or worse, it may come across as confirmation that something's seriously wrong; if you have to go in for some artificial, off-the-peg enactment of excitingness then mightn't you just be saying that you're bored? Or that you're afraid your partner is?
The last time I saw my mother she told me a joke that would suggest she was well onto the problem.
Three women get together for a drink. One has a new boyfriend, one is having an affair with a married man, and one has been living with the same guy for fifteen years. They talk about what they can do to give their partners a nice surprise. They agree that it would be a good idea to greet them at the door wearing only lace underwear and a black mask.
The next night the first woman sticks the mask and pants on, goes to the door, whereupon her new boyfriend leaps on her, barely remembering to close the front door before he ravishes her in the hallway. The second woman does the same and her married lover scoops her up in his arms and carries her to the bedroom where they make passionate love all night. The third woman goes to the door, trussed up in lace, butterflies in her stomach, ready to greet her long-term partner. He kisses her on the cheek and walks off towards the TV calling out behind him, 'Hey, Batman, what's for dinner?'
Basically, putting on a dumb, "sexy" outfit like every other dumb "sexy" outfit isn't enough to shake him out of his usual pattern of behaviour.
I'd always question surprises that involve staging oneself as an exciting object. We had a reality TV programme over here about a glamour model and her pop star husband. (Katie and Peter — I think it went to America, but no one much liked it.) In one episode Katie planned a Christmas present for Peter that consisted of herself dressed up as a red lacy Santa being pulled up the garden path on a reindeer-driven sleigh. All Peter wanted to do when he got home that evening was relax on the sofa, and he couldn't understand why his wife kept calling him on the mobile and telling him he had to go and stand out in the freezing cold porch. It must have been a let-down for her to be greeted by a shivering, non-plussed husband. But who was her present for? Was it for him? Or was she just being narcissistic? Was she actually giving him something, or just demanding that he show, on TV, that he found her terribly, terribly attractive?
The advantage of the occasional, paltry beer is that your husband probably actually wants and likes it. And it's a simple gesture for him to accept; he can just drink the beer. This makes it much better and more generous than a champagne picnic at the beach, for which you have specially purchased silk stockings and open-crotch knickers, and at which you expect him to perform otherwise you will feel disappointed.
I'm guessing from your pen name that you like J.G Ballard, are therefore interested in oddness, and would have no trouble coming up with something authentically surprising. And I'm sure you wouldn't arrange an erotic car crash because that's already been done