Before you get into the story, let me preface it by saying that it does not end well.
It's not a tragic ending, now. Nor is it even a particularly interesting one. Sad to say, it's just another one of those times where nobody gets eaten by a mountain lion.
The plan seemed solid: I’d go to the mall to purchase an anniversary gift for my wife (a disaster every year). While shopping, I’d listen to a motivational mix of cutting-edge rap music in my headphones. I’d select the perfect gift. I’d take it home. I’d hand it to her. I’d tell her to open it. And then I’d watch the surprise on her face as she realized that for the first time in 1,000 years, I did not screw up the gift-giving process.
The theory behind the plan seemed sound: I am a horrible gift-getter, sure. But the inertia of the mix would buoy me to such heights that I’d succeed on competitive spirit alone. I mean, Michael Phelps said Lil Wayne helped him win eight gold medals in 2008; surely 2 Chainz and Future could help me buy something for my wife that, at the very least, would make her respond with something other than the What The Fuck Is Wrong With You face.
Alas, ‘twas dust.
In hindsight, it's clear that the unraveling that took place was inevitable. Despite my most earnest urgings, there was simply no way for it to happen any other way than the way it did. And that's probably, like, at least 80 percent attributable to a dildo.
Oh, man. That dildo. It's my phallic atlas stone. That was the first real gifting disaster. And it was totally by accident. (I mean, duh, the disaster part was by accident, not the dildo acquisition. Nobody's that's not in a porno has ever accidentally purchased a dildo.) See, I went to this sex store —
Wait, another quick aside: Know this: Going to a sex store when you aren't drunk and when you aren't with a bunch of guys you went to college with is a totally bizarre experience. Because you have your wherewithal, and because you are not egged on by Neanderthals, your ego exerts itself, which ends in you trying to examine everything in an anthropological manner.
Excuse me, garcon. This rubber vagina seems especially unique. Please tell me more about it, it tries to calculate.
But it's just about impossible to operate normally around a bunch of rubber vaginas for too long, bro. And eventually the cognitive dissonance vibrates your protons until everything is all jumbled up. And that's when it starts to feel like everyone in there is trying to figure out a polite way to ask you to let them watch you masturbate. And that's when it's time to get the fuck out.
But again, I went to the sex store and purchased a dildo as an anniversary gift. It was a glittery, pink dildo; real respectable-like. I thought my then-girlfriend (now my wife) would find it adventurous and maybe even a little cute (girls love glitter, I hear). And in private, she might have. But through the Devil's work, she ended up opening it in front of other humans, and that shit was not Nate Dogg smooth.
That physically happened in 2002, but it's metaphorically happened just about every gift-giving holiday since then. Failure is not a static reality, mind you; occasionally, I will accident my way into something that does not make me look like a moron. But success is less common than I'd like. I've been rattled. Gift-giving has become a byzantine complexity. I'm LeBron in the fourth. I want no part of the process anymore. All I want to do is wear headbands and pass the ball to Mario Chalmers.
The highlight reel from the last three years:
Christmas 2009: I managed to buy my wife an exact outfit that she already owned (strike one), except I picked the shirt in a size was too small (strike two) and the skirt in a size that was too big (strike fuck you). I might as well have given her a box of dead baby ducks.
Birthday 2010: I attempted to cook her dinner using meat that had been in the freezer for longer than I'd realized. It turned into a stirring game of Did I Just Give Us Food Poisoning? I did not, but the potentiality of having food poisoning is only slightly less uncomfortable than actually having it. I mean, have you ever just sat there in a room with someone silently trying to figure out if you're about to shit yourself?
Valentine's Day 2011: I attempted to sneak an ultra-romantic playlist onto her iPod. I still maintain that this was a good idea. The selection was irrefutable. It had Sade's "Sweetest Taboo," which has helped convince a disproportionate number of beautiful women to have sex with unattractive men; Shai's "If I Ever Fall In Love" because it's Shai's "If I Ever Fall In Love"; Ginuwine's "So Anxious" because that song/video combination was so effective I briefly entertained the idea of buying a shiny, knee-length black leather jacket like Ginuwine's; Jon B's "They Don't Know" because he's the coolest non-black R&B singer of all time; Robin Thicke's "Lost Without You" because he flirted with the possibility of becoming the coolest non-black R&B singer of all time, but could never get the facial hair right (as creepy as possible, being the general rule); and Keith Sweat's "Nobody" because who can love you like me, who can sex you like me? Nobody.
There were some other tracks on there, but those were the gems.
I ended up dropping her laptop square on its side as I slithered around in the dark at night trying to upload the playlist without waking her up. It was destroyed. Who can break your expensive electronics like me, who can make you cry on Valentine's Day like me? Nobody.
But this month marked our five-year wedding anniversary. And for the first time since Dildocalypse 2002, rather than cower, I actively attempted to thwart the curse, to battle its evil away. It was to be a great, glorious day.
God was to look down from the heavens and kiss me on my forehead. Instead, I went to the mall and wandered around like Israelites in the desert.
I went to Betsey Johnson, a mostly pink store that sells cutesy dresses that cost too much and does a good job of making women who aren't skinny feel shitty about it. Young Jeezy was with me. He brought his furious rasp, offering "Chickens No Flour" and "Rough," featuring Freddie Gibbs. The songs blended together perfectly because that's what all Jeezy songs do. It's like he recorded one 14-hour song back in 2004 and has been leaking it in four-minute increments every few days since. Someday someone is going to connect them together like Alfred Wegener did the continents and we'll all have a great big laugh. The lady working couldn't hear him in the earbuds shouting "I make it rough on you n****s, I make it rough on you hoes," but she probably would've appreciated the staidness of his business model.
I went to a shoe store with Future. Ack. That guy, there's just nothing redeemable in his mush-mouthed analytics. I'd uploaded "Made Myself a Boss" and "Magic" to see if maybe he sounded better when I was in an unfamiliar setting. Nope. He still sounded like the guy from People Under the Stairs who had the end of his tongue cut off. I think I'd been aware of Future's music for, like, six weeks before I even realized he was speaking English. Sorry, Future. But enjoy your millions of dollars and fame though. Because that's coming to you. It's unavoidable. You suck, America.
2 Chainz showed up. You have to appreciate that guy. I mean, basically he's good at two things (having interesting hair and saying "muddafuckin' kitchen") but he's become one of hip-hop's most ubiquitous features. "Riot," "Spend It," and "Feeling You" were his contributions to the afternoon. His tempered venom was welcome, particularly while sifting through gift baskets at Bath & Body Works. Nothing says "I Know Jackshit About You Other Than You're A Girl Which Means You Have A Vagina Which Hopefully Means You Like Things That Smell Like Vanilla And Apricots" like a gift basket from Bath & Body Works. I've made that mistake before.
UGK came along, their wonky, church-y squish unfurling in the form of "Diamonds and Wood," "Murder," (which, FYI, features the greatest verse in Southern rap history by Bun B), and an obscure song called "Texas" released in 1992, recommended by a guy who runs a site that catalogs such things. No group has ever existed more perfectly as a thesis statement of Southern rap than UGK. They came on while I was trying to pretend like I knew what I was doing in the hipster haven Urban Outfitters. Reading sardonic T-shirts while listening to classic aggro rap is probably the most ironic thing anyone has ever done. If the cashier (ultra hip, ultra alt) had been privy to the situation, he might've had an orgasm. I bought a backpack from UO once. Fuck that place. It fell apart by the time I made it to my car. I didn't take it back because it immediately seemed like an appropriate punishment for Fate to deliver a 30-year-old man for buying a backpack. Fuck you too, Fate.
Two hours there. Approximately 43 songs. And the gift that I left with?
A gift card.
An unfilled, unoriginal, untragic, uninteresting, undildo-y gift card.
Shea Serrano is a writer based in Houston. He is a columnist for the Houston Press and L.A. Weekly, and has written for XXL, SLAM, URB, the Village Voice, and more.