Thursday, February 16, 2012

I'll Scratch Your Back, You Scratch Mine


That's a big word that probably isn't part of most people's vocabulary.

It means:


The practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit, a mutual or cooperative interchange of favors or privileges
It forms the basis for a lot of relationships...government, foreign countries, business associates, boyfriend and girlfriend, husband and wife.

Jeff and I are going to Brazil in a couple weeks to speak at a marriage conference.  Besides buying airline tickets, we have to purchase a travel visa.  We have to pay Brazil to let us visit their country.  They call it a "reciprocity fee."  It didn't used to exist.  But then the U.S. decided to charge Brazilians (and other countries) to come to our country.  The Brazilians thought, "Hey, if we have to pay, you have to pay!" and they came up with the reciprocity fee that Jeff and I are now paying for.
When we found out we had to pay this fee, it made me think of the whole concept of reciprocity.  Usually, it is used in a more positive sense of the word.  Negatively applied, it usually means revenge; but positively applied, reciprocity simply means, "I'll scratch your back, you scratch mine."

Jeff and I do this all the time.
Me:  "Will you run to the store for me while I make dinner?"  (Implied:  "While I make your dinner")

Jeff:  "Do you want a latte?"  (Implied:  "If I bring you a latte this afternoon when the kids aren't home, then you owe me.") {and "You owe me" in man's language always means sex!}

Me:  "I'll type that up for you right now, but I'll need you to finish loading the dishwasher."

Jeff:  "I'll go for a walk with you, but then you owe me."
But this Valentine's Day is my all-time favorite example...
You must know by now how much I enjoy all things holiday.  I love to decorate and make special food and give presents.  We always exchange small gifts on Valentine's Day.  I wrap them in our special Valentine's bags and tie each one with a long ribbon.  Then the gifts are piled in the center of the table in a pretty jumble and the long ribbons are trailed to each plate.  Each person simultaneously pulls his or her ribbon to retrieve the gift.  This year I got my son a pair of Nike shorts, my daughter a pair of funky slippers, my other son a package of guitar strings, my other daughter a stainless steel thermos with a world map holder, my husband a pair of Nike track pants and his favorite soap, my college kids those cool head massagers, and my mom a black toile drying mat and a small square baking dish.  Jeff got me nothing...not because he doesn't love me, just because he waited too long.  I wanted a Kangaroo water bottle---a cool bottle that has a little compartment that holds a car key, money and your driver's license.  And the bottle is leak-proof.  Perfect for Zumba.  Only can only buy them online.  So by the time Jeff collaborated with Kate, it was too late.  That was Sunday, because we celebrated the day we had the whole gang together and a big dinner.

On the actual day of the holiday, two days later, it just so happened that at dinnertime all our kids were away.  (This is a very rare occurrence).  So when Jeff called to see what I needed at the store I told him to pick up our favorite marinated steak.  Then I decorated the table again and lit candles and turned the lights down.  I even dipped strawberries in homemade chocolate ganache.  I thought for sure Jeff would give me my gift at dinner.  But he didn't.

He thought we could order it together online because then I'd get exactly what I wanted.

Not romantic.

So I played my reciprocity card:  "I bought you a gift, I made a wonderful dinner (twice!), I lit candles and dipped strawberries and wore your favorite perfume and a special outfit, so as long as we're shopping online for my water bottle can I get a couple extra things too?"  Of course he said yes...get whatever I need.  So I ordered a travel blanket and a travel pillow for our all-night flight to Brazil.  I did wonder for one moment if my reciprocity wasn't bordering just a tiny bit on manipulation, but then I thought that the other items were things I would have probably purchased anyway, so now we both felt better because we bought them together "for Valentine's Day."

Practical, even acceptable, but still not romantic.

Then yesterday after my morning shower I was drying my feet when I noticed my winter-rough heels and chipped-paint toenails, and I wistfully wished for a pedicure before I went to Brazil.  I didn't say anything out loud to anyone...didn't so much as drop a hint.  When Jeff came home from work that day, he handed me a bag.  It was from The Allison, my favorite spa.  Inside was a gift card for a pedicure and a manicure.  How could he have known?  I was excited.  It was the perfect gift.  Apparently, the online shopping for a water bottle didn't settle well with Jeff.  The reciprocity was just a little off balance, so he made it up big-time by lavishing on the "favor and the privilege."  So I was happy and felt more than amply reciprocated (and impressed!).

But, alas...the law of reciprocity is still in effect.  Now it's my turn again.  And I know what Jeff is thinking.
"You owe me!"


  1. Oh boy...this was a great story. Not much I can comment on this one. I loved it! and...I learned a new work. "Reciprocity". Lets see..will U Don really know what I'm talking about?