Every nationality has its quirky stereotypes, not that I agree with all of them, but here are some of the more common ones. The Irish love their drink, the Italians love their food, all Asian kids are smart. And here is another I’m sure you’ve heard: the Dutch are frugal.
Frugality is a good trait if you are the Dutch man buying a gift. You pick something out that’s practical, frugal, and you save some money for another day. If you are the Sicilian girl receiving the Dutch man’s frugal gift, you think what the hell is this? Why did he get me this cheap thing? Doesn’t he know what I really want?
You try to remember that a gift is a reflection of love, a mere token of what lies deeper in someone’s heart. The cost of a gift should not carry any weight or enter into the emotional transaction between the gift giver and the gift receiver. One should always show gratitude when receiving a gift – no matter how small, no matter the monetary value.
Sometimes it’s tough, though, when the one anticipating a special gift for that special occasion has certain expectations and those expectations aren’t remotely met. Not even slightly. It’s difficult to hide the disappointment, but, of course, the only thing to do is to be gracious, forget your expectations and say a simple “thank you.” Later, when you are alone, you can let your true feelings out and adjust your level of expectation for next time.
Take this one particular Valentine’s Day, many years ago…
After dating my Dutch boyfriend of two years, I was anticipating some sort of jewelry to mark the special occasion. A nice gold heart necklace would be appropriate, I thought. Instead, he gave me a little doggie stuffed animal. I guessed that he was saving the necklace for later in the evening.
“Oh! Cute!” I said, laughing along with him, as we playfully tossed the dog between us, expecting him to reach into his pocket for a small jewelry box saying something like, just kidding…here is your real gift.
When the night was over, and there was no gold heart necklace dangling from my neck, I went into my bedroom and I choked the dog, twisting his neck, until the seams holding the stuffing inside stretched wide open and almost popped. Then I threw him across the room, relishing the thud as he smacked into the wall – Ugh! The next day, I felt bad for the poor thing, lying on the floor, but that didn’t stop me from stepping on his head and then tossing him into the garbage.
When he returned from a trip to Switzerland one year, this same Dutch boyfriend phoned to tell me he was coming over right away to bring me a special souvenir. He couldn’t wait for the weekend to see me.
It had to be some sort of jewelry, I thought. Maybe a tiny pre-engagement ring? Why else would my normally calm, levelheaded boyfriend have such a sense of urgency?
This time he handed me a small hand carved wooden box.
“It’s beautiful!” I cooed, turning it, this way and that, to study the carving on the outside, my anticipation building for what was surely inside.
“It’s a jewelry box. Open it!”
I couldn’t wait any longer and neither could he. Obviously, he wanted me to see what was inside. I lifted the lid slowly, trying to control the slight tremble in my fingers, and my eyes caught sight of…nothing… but the tinkling sound of Edelweiss filling the room.
“It’s a music box, too!”
Now, that’s a real frugal Dutchman for you, getting two gifts in one. No wonder he was so excited to show it to me.
After five years of dating, I finally got a piece of jewelry for my birthday. My boss noticed and commented, “Hmmm, this young man must be pretty serious to give you such a nice watch.”
Not serious enough, I thought. Or he would have given me an engagement ring by now.
Then we broke up for almost three years. When we got back together, I was caught off guard, never expecting him to slip an engagement ring on my finger two months later. For all the years I anticipated, expected, and hoped for this piece of jewelry, it was finally there on my finger. I had to get real close to see it, though, because it was so small.
“It’s small, I know,” he admitted. “But it was all I could afford right now. Some day I’ll replace it with something bigger.”
“It’s beautiful!” I hugged him, we kissed, and six months later I said, “I do.”
As our 25th wedding anniversary was approaching, we reminisced about the years gone by, and I brought up a promise he once made to me.
“Remember when we got engaged and you promised to get me a bigger ring some day when you could afford it?”
From the look on his face, he clearly had no memory of that promise. Or else he was being the frugal Dutchman again. But, you see, there’s another stereotype I failed to mention, and one that is true: a Sicilian never forgets. Capisce?