Josh borrowed my camera for his tour. It was a nice camera five years ago when I bought it. It's still not a bad camera, but it's getting a little quirky. The most obvious problem is that sometimes your pictures come out with colored lines running across them like an old TV set. There's no equivalent of turning the aerial here, you just have to hope the lines go away on their own so you can take pictures. I guess that's a pretty bad problem.

He mentioned wanting his own camera, one that did not make everything look like a channel that you couldn't quite get. His birthday is in June, and so I started researching digital cameras to find him something before he left on the next tour. I didn't think my camera was all that bad until I started looking at how much better the new ones are. Even if mine did not embellish shots with random lines, it would look a little sad and dated next to the shiny new ones they have now. I looked at cameras, reminding myself that this was for Josh and a new one for me was just not in the budget at the moment.

At some point, I realized that I was going to have to let Josh in on my idea. As much as I would like to surprise him, I didn't want to spend a lot of money on something he didn't want. Did he just want a simple point-and-shoot, or did he want the option of playing with settings to take more interesting pictures? That was the main question that I didn't feel comfortable answering for him: what do you want this camera to do, anyway?

He said he wanted his camera to make phone calls and access the internet. Oh. See? This is why you ask. Because your boyfriend might specifically say that he wants a "camera," but what he really means is "smartphone."

So I dropped the idea of a camera, and I even stopped pricing them (though I thought about how much I might like one of them). I energetically talked to him about phones and offered to take him to the Verizon store that very day. He was sort of quiet and non-committal, as if I had offered to take him to a knitting class. No, it was worse, he seemed uncomfortable, as if I had offered to take him to a knitting class at the nudist colony.

Apparently, in Josh's family, they do not talk about presents. His parents don't ask him what he wants, they just give it to him. For him to actually specify what he wants makes him feel rude and presumptuous. His parents must have read him The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies.

My parents never read me that book, though I saw it at the dentist once. I come from the kind of family where Mama would chuck that year's Wish Book at us, tell us the per-child gift budget and let us go. Every year, as my October birthday approaches, she asks what I want. If I don't have an answer, I get a check in the mail. There is not much mystery or excitement in this process, but I always get exactly what I want. Sometimes what I want is a check in the mail.

I understand his feelings to a point. I have a hard time with bridal registries. In fact, I hate them. I get in a bad mood and write ranting blog entries every time I encounter one. I go to the dentist just so I can read about the Berenstain Bears. Isn't a registry the same thing as a hurled Wish Book?

Well, kinda. I think the difference for me is in the kind of relationship between the gifter and the giftee. With a registry, you're just asking everybody, whether or not your relationship has achieved the present-exchange level or not. It assumes the level, it assumes that you want to buy the happy couple a gift. Maybe you do, but maybe you don't really know them all that well and they didn't even have very good food at the reception. Registries bug me.

But I know that Josh and I have reached a gift-exchange level in our relationship. He picked my nose for me last week, and surely the gift level is somewhere before that. He would never say that I am required to buy him a birthday present every June, but I want to. So he might as well get over it and pick out a daggum phone.

He did. I might have thought he wasn't interested, but a few days later he mentioned that the Motorola Droid was on sale. Clearly, his discomfort with gift requests was overcome by his desire to check his email in the car. And hey, they're on sale: buy-one-get-one-free. BOGOF is one of my favorite acronyms. It sounds like the name of a monster - a savings monster! What he wanted was now a solved problem, but Bogof posed a different issue. Two phones?

I'm due for a phone upgrade. Every couple of years, I upgrade to the phone that was the latest in technology two years before. I get those because they are the free ones. I like having a cell phone, and I get a lot of use out of mine. But I am not one of those people. You know, phone people.

This is not to say that I don't appreciate smartphone. They're awesome. You can have the internet in your hand. I remember being in the fourth grade, and my teacher had a car phone, a corded number that looked like a regular home phone that happened to live in the center console of her Buick. I thought she must've had another job as a drug dealer or something, because it was 1993, and only the Incredibly Rich had car phones. But now it's 2010, and they have these tiny computers that fit in the palm of your hand and access the internet, which 1993 didn't even dream of. Check it out, the future has arrived. How could I not want one of those?

But I thought it was still a couple of years off for me. My next upgrade, I would get the kind with the flip out keyboards, because I've recently discovered text messaging. And then the upgrade after that, I would get a smartphone. By then, all the early adopters will have phones that will...I don't even know what they will do. Technology is working faster than my imagination.

Still, I was going to buy Josh a phone. And I could get a free one with it. May he always want birthday presents that come with a free gift for me, even if I wasn't sure I wanted one.

For one thing, I would have to pay $30 more every month for a data plan. Before last week, I'd had at least two years to get used to the idea of paying that much for my cell phone service. Now it looked like it would happen soon, and it bummed me out. I asked a couple of people with smartphones, phone people, to show me theirs so I could get excited about the higher monthly bill. Honestly, you don't have to play with one of those things for very long before you get a severe case of the gimmies.

Phones are not even phones anymore. They are little hand-held computers with the ability to make calls. When computers came out, some might have imagined that there would come a day when everyone would have a tiny personal one that lived in their pockets. But would they have imagined that we would get to that point through the evolution of the telephone?

I spent an hour and a half at the Verizon store last night, buying phones. It was truly a pain in the behind, but I was in a good mood the whole time from pure excitement. It is the first time I've ever spent money on my phone, rather than getting the free one, and the first time I've ever had a current phone. I feel pretty good about it. I've had to fight to urge to run around skipping and shouting, "Look at my phone. I can watch YouTube on my phone." For one thing, I don't want the phone people at work to think that I am one of them. Next thing you know, I'd be asked to join the Droid Faction as they plot against their arch-nemeses, the Iphonies.

And Josh feels great about his. I got him exactly what he wanted, because he asked for it, and I come out looking like the World's Greatest Girlfriend. He called me today to tell me how much he loved me and, oh, by the way, his phone is awesome. He can even take pictures with it and then immediately upload them to the internet. It's exactly the kind of camera he wanted.

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