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Thursday, April 13, 2017 12:22 am

Greed between the lines

PHOTO COURTESY AMY ALKON
Amy Alkon
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 this another way, women – disproportionately – are 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” (beyond 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 what he’s been putting in to run out and get his wallet wired shut just in time for your birthday.

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