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My birthday’s coming up, and I bought myself a dreamy present. I’ve been doing this every year for a long time. But I’m not the only one who does this… am I? 

It arrived today, and when I put it on I realized two things: First it fit and looked better than I’d hoped. And second it fulfilled a long ago desire. I hadn’t thought about this year’s gift until I saw this cream-colored, v-neck, cable-knit sweater with crimson and navy trim by Lauren Ralph Lauren.

Photograph from Etsy

I didn’t see it coming, but it’s a 50-year flashback. That’s right, 1968. My junior year in high school when all I wanted for my birthday was “The Sweater” all the cool girls were wearing. A British “cricket sweater.” Remember those? I dropped hints for weeks and even showed it to my sisters. That year on my birthday I was thrilled when the cake and gifts were brought out, and I spied a box from Charlotte Shop, the nicest women’s clothing store in town. 

At school everyone else wore their sweaters with pleated, preppy skirts and loafers, but I pictured how cool it was going to look with my big bell-bottoms and clogs. Maybe some beads and red-ball earrings. I was so excited as I tore open the wrapping…  and so disappointed when I saw a banana, shawl-collared, cable-knit cardigan with brown wood buttons. But you probably saw that coming, didn’t you?

I hated that sweater. I was stunned. How could my parents know so little about me? Had no one picked up any of the million hints I’d dropped? And to top it off, my Dad was upset that I was upset… 

 My 17th birthday may have been the inception for what grew into my joyous, yearly  tradition of buying myself “the gift I really want” for my birthday.

Maybe I was subconsciously following advice I’d learned at a personal growth seminar years ago. People were discussing life’s disappointments, and the literal and figurative pony we never got, when the facilitator told everyone it was time to “let it go and buy our own pony.” One woman actually bought herself the horse she’d always wanted! There were also a few guys who bought themselves a sports car. 

Now here I am, all of these years later, with the perfect sweater!
XO, Donna


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Donna O’Klock spent 35 years in the beauty business, talking, teaching, and learning. These days, she’d “rather write than talk. It’s better that way because I can edit.” She writes two blogs, and, and is the author of  Sick and Tired & Sexy: Living Beautifully with Chronic Illness.

Austin, Texas, has been her home since 1978, but she and her fiancé have downsized and are traveling the country in their RV.


  1. What a great idea! I usually buy things I want when I want them but I never considered a birthday present. I’m going to start this tradition and maybe I’ll start with the perfect Christmas present!

  2. Good for you! I do the same thing, at Christmas as well. That’s one of the great things about growing up and having your own money. You can have the stuff you want. No wishing that someone would get the hint and buy it for you. My birthday is coming up on Nov. 18 and I still haven’t decided what special thing I should present myself with. Better get to work on that!

  3. My mother used to say, “If you get everything you want when you’re a little girl, you’ll have nothing to look forward to when you’re grown.”
    That’s what makes buying the things I wanted as a child so satisfying as an adult. Enjoy that sweater!

  4. That’s what I do at Christmas. I buy something I really want… unless my budget is feeling stressed and then I realize I’m not really missing a thing! xoxox, Brenda

  5. How true Donna – thinking back to the time when we were kids, birthday gifts were items such as simple sweaters, and we had to be bloody well grateful for them too. Nowadays, kids get things like new mobile phones or designer handbags. I remember my 18th birthday gift from my thoughtful mother was a handheld mixer. I still have it, it’s almost 34 years old and it still works – I’m not much of a cake maker so it’s had little use. I’ve often looked at it and wondered what my daughter’s reaction would be if I ever gave her one as a birthday or Xmas gift – I wouldn’t want to be in the room to see it. I keep it because it’s a funny little thing and it does still work for the few occasions the family want to use it, and I guess it’s a stark reminder of how different times were back then.

    I learned to ‘self-gift’ around the age of 40. Oh my gosh what a feeling of power! Husbands mean well but sometimes don’t like to be ‘told’ what to get for Xmas… mine is funny like that. So I self nurture and self cater. I have a birthday in the week before Xmas, and my wedding anniversary, all within a month. This timing requires special preparation on my part to think up what I really want.. Like Brenda, if the budget is already stretched, I wait and save. I am not going to end up like those bitter and twisted old ladies who complain that life never gave them what they wanted – because they didn’t know that you’ve got to go out and get it yourself, and take it with both hands. As I’ve posted before, my poor mother died early aged 56, and this has left me with an indelible determination to seize the moment, to live for the day and enjoy all life has to offer. I also work incredibly hard and contribute to the family income, and make sure everyone in our family is taken care of before I buy for myself.

    So glad you love your sweater, that it wasn’t a disappointment when you received it, and that you have gone someway to touching base with your inner teen who missed out. Wear it every day! (My inner teen appreciates my self-gifting too.)


  6. We always got practical presents for birthday and Christmas. My birthday is in Aug so I always got school shoes and clothes, along with notebooks paper and pens. At Christmas, it was pretty much the same thing with flannel pajamas, socks, and boots. In my first marriage, my husband usually stuck hundred dollar bills in my stocking because he didn’t want to bother shopping. One year I had cowboy boots custom made for him, he gave me a pair of socks with toes and some hundred dollar bills. In my second marriage, we agreed early on that if we wanted something we would buy it for ourselves and forget gift giving. He is into electronics I like jewelry and designer bags. I am big on gifts from me to me.

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