My wife’s birthday is easy to remember. November 11; 11/11. Nonetheless, I used to find myself scrambling for a gift on the afternoon of the tenth.
Not anymore. Because now I have a guy.
A jewelry guy, that is. As soon as November rolls around, I can expect a call from my local jewelry store. This year, one of the store’s owners called in mid-October to let me know that his artist had sent over a line of baubles — just in time for my wife’s birthday. My guy added that a few of these items would look delightful alongside the necklace I had purchased for our anniversary (which necklace was that, again?). When I stopped by to see for myself, and my eyes fell on an attractive ring, my jewelry guy deftly pulled a notecard out of an old-fashioned Rolodex. He knew my wife’s size. Of course he did.
One of the best decisions I made, as a husband and a father, was to shift my shopping habits so that my purchases were always at least a little bit personal. And that meant finding a guy — or gal — for that.
I have a guy for everything now. Maybe it’s just what happens when you leave the city and move to a small town, where the locals run their own shops and the grocer lets you open a tab when you forget your credit card at home. And maybe seeking out a guy is impractical for dads living in big cities, who shop on Fifth Avenue and know better than to try talking to a sales clerk on the floor. But one of the best decisions I made, as a husband and a father, was to shift my shopping habits so that my purchases were always at least a little bit personal. And that meant finding a guy— or gal — for that.
Just last week I stopped by the local florist to pick up flowers for my wife — a weekly ritual that is, itself, solid marriage advice. She asked after my wife and demanded a photo of our kids. And then she recommended blue hydrangeas and pink Gerber daisies because she knows my wife loves Gerber daisies and figured that the bright blue petals would make them pop. She cut a few of my wife’s favorites, twisted them between fluffy hydrangeas, and sent me on my way.
Having a guy is not just about getting what you want — it’s about building community. After I bought my son a kaleidoscope from a local shop owner (my toy guy, naturally) we crossed paths at a supermarket and he asked, shyly, whether we were enjoying his erstwhile gadget. Suffice it to say nobody from the checkout line at Toys R’ Us ever followed up on my purchases.
And it’s not just about getting the best gifts. When I stopped calling AAA and started leaning on my local mechanic, the entire experience changed. My “car guy” and I are now on first-name terms. My pals at the liquor store have given me advice about the single malts behind the counter, and shared a trade secret that I now pass along to you — box sets of liquor, with the fancy glasses, almost never cost any more than the bottle itself. My local butcher takes orders by text message, and once hopped into his car and drove to a local slaughterhouse because he didn’t have enough chicken to fill my order. I’ve sworn to my local corn vendor, who insists I sample his raw corn before buying, that I’d never even purchase a dry husk from Wegmans, my local supermarket.
Having a guy is not just about getting what you want — it’s about building community.
Are they my friends? Not exactly. They’re in a different category. I wouldn’t go out for a beer with any of them (and I doubt they’d share one with me), but they’re far from the faceless proprietors from whom most Americans buy. My guys are relics of bygone business dealings. They’re the vendors our grandparents haggled with on market days; the local cobblers who chased profit, but wouldn’t sell a sole they couldn’t stand by; the honest peddlers who used to actually peddle their wares by cart and seal deals with handshakes. When I shop for my wife, or my kids, or myself, at one of these vendors there’s a trust — and a genuine concern that does not, and maybe cannot, exist when I stand in line at Target or buy jewelry at a chain store.
Having a guy means developing a working relationship with the people behind the trinkets that fill our homes, but it also means small talk, even when you’re in a hurry, and sometimes means haggling over the price of corn or changing plans when what you want is out of stock. So don’t get me wrong — I’m not a purist. I shop at all the big chains, too, and enjoy the convenience.
But having a guy also means a having florist who remembers to weave in Gerber daisies every time; a mechanic who knows your car inside out; a toy vendor who’d care if your kid hated kaleidoscopes; a jeweler who never forgets your wife’s birthday — or her ring size.
And that’s a guy worth having in your life.