Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What Not to Give Men For Christmas

For all the vaulted theory that men hold the power in this society, they really get the short end of the stick when it comes to gifts.

Let's consider the average mall. It has two beauty parlors, one spa, two places for nails, seven to eight women's shoes stores, three big department stores with five women's sections and fifteen to twenty specialty stores catering to women's clothing from hair accessories to evening gowns to yoga pants. The stores often use aroma therapy, and smell like vanilla bean, roses or fresh baked cookies.

The same mall will have two shoe stores that specialize in kids and adult sneakers, one barber shop and a shop for renting tuxedos and buying suits, all in the "old" section of the mall, all in tan or dull green colors. The stores for men often have a faint musty smell, reminiscent of the reference section of a library.

The woman stores have names like "Mixed Emotion," "Petite Treasures" and "Uncommon Threads." The men's stores are "Today's Man," "The Men Store" and "Big and Tall."

At Christmas, the women's stores will trim their windows with lights, hand out chocolates at the cash register and drape elegant gowns with holly or gold ribbon. The men stores put cheap Santa hats on the manikins.

Even the higher end stores that try to market "What to buy" for a man have a static quality to them. How many massaging machines or movie replica sword shaped letter openers can one buy before they seem old? James Bond stuff tends to feel anemic and dated, like watching Roger Moore rather than Daniel Craig. Funny Ha ha books on current events will gather dust after a single read through and leather bound elegant copies of the last installment of Harry Potter are just sad cries for help.

Watching even a smidgeon of television during the weeks from November 1st to January, one is inundated with the idea that women want two things this Christmas season, cars and diamonds. Watching the same television during those three month, one comes away with the idea that what men really want for Christmas is for women to get cars and diamonds.

So let's get to the issue at hand. What to buy men for Christmas is not something that can be answered through a simple list. What not to buy however, can. So here are my tips for what Not to buy men for Christmas.

10) Dress or sport socks and underwear packs: These are not gifts. These are necessities. They can be wrapped up in the most beautiful of boxes with tissues and ribbons. They are sill just socks and undies.

9) Cooking pots and pans or tools we don't actually already know how to use. Bread machines, fondue pots, mandolin slicers, these are things that we will have to spend time reading instructions in order to operate. Most men spend much of Christmas Eve reading assembly instructions, so having to do it after opening a gift doesn't contribute to a festive mood. Also, though it might have escaped notice, most men are not big fondue eaters.

8) Any box of chocolate that must be shared or surrendered.

7) Summertime yard tools. My husband can weed whack with the best of them. But having a summertime toy in the dead of winter means he has to wait six months to play with it. That's one of those, it's the thought that counts sort of moments that makes a guy wonder, "What do I have to do to get some thought around here?"

6) Gag gifts. Most men are not twelve years old, even in spirit. Dancing Elvis Santas, singing fish, not a good plan. Ever.

5) Budget busters. It's fun to splurge. I admit, if I get in a shopping zone, it's hard to stop seeing great things that I think would tickle and delight those I love and that includes my husband. But the one thing one doesn't want a man thinking when he opens a gift is "How much is this going to set us back?" If you agreed to a budget, stick to it. Draw or write up the dream idea to save up for, and maybe supply an account where the money will go to make it happen, but don't force the issue by preemptively purchasing a sofa or a table or a trip, using the sentiment of the holiday to justify the expense. Doing this sort of gift giving is essentially a holiday hold up.

4) Anything he'd feel embarrassed to tell his mother over the phone he got for Christmas. Anything you'ld feel embarrassed if he told his mother he got from you for Christmas. Give stuff, just not stuffing. No naming a star after him. No purchases from infomertials and nothing that feels like pure filler like toothbrushes or a shoe shining kit.

3) Unless he's been asking specifically or already is into it personally, fitness equipment or gym memberships strike a wrong note. This is like them saying to us, "Merry Christmas! Drop and give me twenty! Your arms look like flabby pink sausages! Move! Move! Move!" Put another way, would any of us appreciate a gift membership to Jenny Craig?

2) Bombshell life changing events like an undiscussed acquisition of a dog, horse or beach house time share. Surprises at Christmas are fun but not if they should have been vetted or seen a vet before purchasing.

The history of men's gifts is so replete with stories of sheer terrors and errors that it generated a now seasonal phrase: "Many happy returns."

The number one thing men should not receive for Christmas is the impression that they were an afterthought. Men should not feel that they came after the kids, tree, Christmas cards, stockings, new Christmas dress, plan for the Christmas Eve meal, wrapping, outside display, Santa treats, toy for the dog and bonus check for the garbage man. They deserve better than last minute ties and wallets and engraved money clips. They deserve to be celebrated with warm pie and good steak, with the movie of their choice and a bathrobe that doesn't predate two administrations. They need color and fireworks and music and sports, wine and foot rubs, kisses and books you know they've been wanting, all wrapped up in warmth with heavy bows of thought tied on top.

The point is, that men require as much thought and devotion as we as women hope to receive ourselves and want to give to our families. Good luck to us all, finding that something that reveals this truth. Maybe a diamond or a car...that might do it.


Jeremy said...

my best story of a gift was last year -- I unwrapped a set of air tools my wife got me (probably to keep me from constantly going over to my neighbors to disapear for hours). I was very pleased and suprised at her thoughtfulness.

The funny part was after all was unwrapped and the hooplah was winding down I looked at my wife and asked, "so, where is the air compressor?" to which I received the blank stare to beat all blank stares.

Now my nice set of air tools are sitting in their box in my shed, patiently waiting a source of air.

MightyMom said...

after seeing several of my gifts intentionally lost I quit trying to figure out what he'd like and just ask him. Problem is that he frequently replies "nothing, I already have all I want" which leaves me, once again, in the dark. So, throughout the year I take notes of things he's spied and stated would be "nice to have" and try to get those for Christmas. Doesn't always work, but he hasn't intentionally lost anything in awhile.....


Mowie said...

That's a great post! I've compiled a little 'list of lists for hims', if you're stuck for ideas:


Kathy T. said...

Loved this. My hubby's always hard to buy for. His great passion's toy trains, but I know zilch on what constitutes a good train piece. So I generally bake him goodies. His eyes still light up at a chocolate cake, at least.

I also loved your analogy on good humor being like chocolate. If I may add, I sometimes think of humor as like making pastry. Overhandle it, or handle it heavily, and it comes out stiff, like cardboard. Use a light, deft touch, and it comes out delectable, and just a bit flaky.

You definitely have the right touch!

Im-an-afterthought said...

I got a belt. Sad and disappointed doesn't begin to cover it.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!