Eric is, of course, a computer geek. The computer, the library, and his D&D group cover his major hobbies. The library is very well furnished, especially considering we had almost no overlap in books (we'd have more if he hadn't lost some to his ex-wife) but plenty of overlap in reading taste so there are dozens and dozens of books he would almost certainly like but hasn't read on our shelves. (And we keep adding to it anyway. Also, I read Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls last night. It's excellent. Why is Jane Lindskold not better known?) The D&D only requires the occasional infusion of a $30 book on magical items or a $10 bag of dice and the weekly $5 for pizza for the gaming night.
The computer, though, that's a different story. When I moved up here in late 2005, we decided that I needed a new computer (mine was purchased in 1999 and wasn't the highest-end model even then) and since he wanted an upgrade, he'd get some new things and pass his old, but still considerably better, things to me. (I did get a new motherboard and hard drive.) I'm perfectly satisfied with my computer, except for the annoying recent development that it won't shut down properly. He, however, feels he needs a new one.
I think it started because his mom got a new computer, slightly faster than his. But the truth is, he likes new computers the way some men like new cars. (At least this obsession is cheaper.) His computer works perfectly well for gaming and Illustrator and such, he admits. But he wants a better one.
So we've agreed that he can order a computer from Falcon Northwest, which does custom-made, very fast computers. He can get all the fastest, coolest gadgets he wants (within reason). This will be his combined Christmas and (next) birthday gift, and he doesn’t get another new computer for three years. The plan is to order it around Christmas, since we'd like to save a little more money first, but I might let him order it early depending on how other things go.
[Tangent: we got a joint checking account last weekend and Edith warned us not to give up our separate accounts. "You've got to have separate mad money," she said. "That way Eric can buy his computer and Jenny can buy her spinning wheel without the other person having to approve it. You have to have your own money. When kids come mad money gets to be a real issue." I was surprised, and annoyed, because (1) we already bought the wheel and we've agreed to this plan for the computer (which will be five or six times more expensive than the wheel), and (2) this was pretty clearly a projection from her own failed marriage with a man who, she's said more than once, got mad when she spent money but didn't hesitate to spend it himself. We've already been operating on our own rules for big purchases: if it's over about $100, or for joint use, consult the other person first, unless it's something like $150 worth of work clothes at a sale or something equally common-sense.
Further tangent: we discussed my desire to put stone paths into the vegetable garden and into the new herb garden I'm going to be developing out of the side yard lawn for next year, and I was trying to think of cheaper alternatives. "Just get the stones," he said. "They'll be much nicer and, what, $100 isn't really that much."
"How about $400?" I countered, since I don't know exactly how much they would cost yet.
He only hesitated a little. "Or $400." Apparently he really doesn't want to mow the grass. But I thought it was interesting that he's willing to pay more than I am for something I want. I think he was surprised when I agreed to the Falcon Northwest thing, too.]
His birthday is coming up in a month, and I'll be getting him a present, though nothing particularly flashy. Fortunately I know a couple of things he wants. But I was thinking that the really great thing about this arrangement about his computer is that I don't have to worry about what to buy him as a present for an entire year. (This is not to say I won't think about it--or that I won't get him something small anyway. But I don't have to.)