Typical fortieth birthday gifts?

I turned forty today. My wife surprised me with a birthday party on Saturday that I enjoyed very much. A few of my buddies took me to a heated driving range and laser tag before we returned home to celebrate with twenty or thirty of my close friends. I was describing the gifts that I received to some of my students and former students today, and in listing them, I realized that this may not be the typical gift list of a forty year old.

My gifts included:

  1. A pocket copy of the US Constitution
  2. A sweatshirt that reads: Matt, The Man, the Myth, the Legend
  3. A basketball
  4. Gift cards to Dominos Pizza, McDonald’s and Wendy’s
  5. Snow pants
  6. Mille Bornes, a French card game that I played as a child
  7. Underwear (from my in-laws)

mille bourne

And what did my students give me for my birthday (in addition to their homemade cards, some sweet and some not-so-sweet)?

Diet Coke and candy bars.

In the words of one of my former students, “It’s like you’re not even a man yet, Mr. Dicks.”

Another said, “I can’t tell if you’re an adult nerd or just a big kid.”

The husband of one of my colleagues and the bearer of the McDonald’s gift card asked his wife, “Are we really giving McDonald’s gift cards as a birthday present?”


One of my friends said, “You’re easy and hard to buy for at the same time.”

All fair points.

Part of me kind of wishes that I desired the more traditional gifts that a forty year old might receive, because there are times that I can feel less than manly in my pursuits.

But another part of me is happy that I have no need for the more traditional gifts that a forty year old might receive. A quick Internet search revealed items like watches, cufflinks, ties, fine bottles of wine, sunglasses, nostalgia-based gift baskets, weekend getaways, gift certificates to fine restaurants and mid-life crisis items like flying lessons to be ideal gifts for the forty year old.

None of these things appeal to me very much.

Which probably says a lot about me.

Some good and some not so good.