Dom Joly: Birthdays, Valentine's... I don't get what women want

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The Independent Online

I just can't read women. It was Stacey's birthday last week. "I don't want a present. You got me lots of nice stuff at Christmas and we're going on holiday to St Lucia for half-term." That's what she said. So, I don't get her a present. I do, however, pay for her and her best friend to have a posh lunch and a two-hour spa treatment at our local posh hotel. I also made breakfast, took the kids to school and swimming lessons, and then took her out for a meal in the evening with a couple of friends.

Not bad, I thought. Very bad, thought Stacey. It was clearly a huge problem that there was not a physical present to unwrap.

"It's just me being greedy," she said with sad eyes. "When I get over it, I'll realise that just having the family around me is all I need." This was an Oscar-winning performance and made me feel like a total bastard.

I just can't play games of this sort. If someone asks me to come round for supper at eight, I'm there... at eight. Apparently I should be there at 8.30. Well, bloody tell me to be there at 8.30 then. The same people will also tell you "not to bring anything... ". So you don't. Then they stare at you all evening for not bringing a really rubbish bottle of wine for them to put aside. If they wanted me to cater for their dinner party then they should have asked.

When I met Stacey there was none of this not-ringing-for-three-days-to-show-that-you-weren't-too-desperate type stuff. We just met, got on and got on with it. That's how I like life to be – really uncomplicated. Sadly, Stacey has become a lot more cryptic in her declining years. Now, "no" means "yes", although "go away and leave me alone" still means exactly that.

I do try and do the right thing. Stacey bought me an Xbox 360 for my birthday (because that's what I asked for) and I've played it solidly – sometimes for eight, nine hours a day just to prove to her how much I love it and her for buying it for me.

Weirdly, she gets really angry that I spend so much time on it proving my love for her, and yet I remember how furious she was when I didn't wear the lovely yellow mohair jumper that she bought me two Christmases ago. I'm just trying not to repeat my mistakes. Sadly the jumper fell into the fire in an unfortunate bonfire incident soon after I got it. Such a tragedy.

I suppose that what I'm saying is that I try my best to be a good husband, but seem to be repeatedly failing. It's one of the reasons that I do so much travelling around the world on my own. I'm keen to study other cultures and pick up as many tips as possible from them as to how to become a better husband.

I'm off on a golf trip to California at the end of the month – just nine days, with three men. I think it'll give me time to reflect on how lucky I am and just what a wonderful family I have.

Golf is actually another point of dissent in my marriage. Stacey gave me a wonderful set of Ping clubs for my birthday three years ago (because I asked for them), but now grumbles when I spend half a day on Saturdays playing the game.

What did she expect me to do with the clubs? I actually hate the game but took it up and now play regularly just to show her how much I appreciated her present and how much I love her.

Women just don't get this stuff.

Valentine's Day is coming up and that's another minefield. In the old days it was a time when you could legally stalk single women for a day, sending the objects of your affections slightly creepy, unsigned cards. Now you have to ask the person you're married to "to be my Valentine". If they say no, then that's pretty much that, and me sending the pretty girl in the petrol station a little hand-drawn card is, apparently, a total no-no.

Maybe I'm just getting too old. I'm sure St Lucia will sort everything out. Hopefully she'll love the surprise of me bringing my friend Toby, the racist alcoholic along.

I'm just doing my best.

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