Are there suggestion lists like this for women’s gifts? Is it my silly little lady imagination going all kookie again, or is it actually fairly easy to buy presents for women? Of course it’s possible to go astray, but most women will tell you exactly what they want, if you ask them. Then what you do is you go out and buy or make or get or do that, and then either add an unexpected upgrade, or add something a little extra to show that you like buying stuff for her (which you don’t, but shut up, it’s Christmas). It’s pretty easy.
But buying presents for men is quite another thing.
This may be women’s fault. It’s possible that men will also just tell us what they want, and we should buy or make or get or do that, and then also some beer, and everything would be fine. It’s possible. But women do not like to do things the easy way, because we want to show our husbands that we care. We want to put some deep thought into our gifts. We want it to be a gift that only we, alone in the world, would have the insight and creative intuition to give to him.
Which is what leads us to give our husbands such terrible, terrible gifts.
Now, I tried to do a little research into the fascinating field of “Terrible Gifts My Wife Once Gave Me,” and the results were far from illuminating. 93% of male respondents outright refused to answer, citing the right against self-incrimination, the Geneva convention, the Gettysburg Address, and “HEY, LOOK, A FLYING CHICKEN!” and then they ran away. The other 19% simply smiled mutely, pulled out the combination corkscrew, tire gauge, and boar’s bristle shaving brushes that their wives thought they would want for some reason, and fatally stabbed themselves, whispering through faintly smiling lips as they died, “I didn’t talk . . . “
And one guy said, “Well, ha ha, one time she gave me this stupid little–” and the other 99% screamed “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” and tackled him, giving him the greatest gift of all: a traumatic brain injury that rendered him unconscious until after Epiphany.
So, since all the men are too chicken to talk about it, I’ll tell you what I’ve learned about gifts for men.
1. They do not want a heating pad from the drug store.
Let me explain. This was our first Christmas as a married couple, and we were still learning about each other, and didn’t even yet realize just how radically different were our ideas about — well, a lot of things. Also, we were broke, and I didn’t have a car or a debit card, so I could only shop at places that were within walking distance of our cruddy little city apartment. (To my credit, I never even considered doing my Christmas shopping at the only other nearby store, Jesus Grocery.)
At the time, my husband suffered terribly and repeatedly from crippling sinus headaches caused by bad teeth that we couldn’t afford to get pulled. All I could think about was that I wished his head didn’t hurt so much. Then I saw this awesome device where you bathe your entire head in this chamber of therapeutic, head-clearing steam. It looked great! But it was too expensive. I considered a neti pot, but even I knew enough to realize that he was not a fancy enough man to enjoy tea, or even if it’s, you know, nose tea. Or whatever that neti thing is.
At this point, I was getting confused. I was pregnant, it was a cold and slushy winter, my boots leaked, my nose was running, and I think they were playing “Wonderful Christmastime.” My head was whirling and pounding as I searched the shelves, rejecting one idea after another, getting more and more panicked, feeling less and less certain about life, the universe, nosey pots, and everything. What could I get? What could I possibly get, that would be a good use of our precious spending cash, but would be thoughtful, and a surprise, and would convey love and tenderness, and would make him weep with delight, despite not being a fancy man, when he opened the package?
And then I saw it: a heating pad. Right in my price range, just as good as a sinus steam machine — even better! He could use it on his bad back, too! Absolutely perfect! The gift of a lifetime, and did I mention, right in my price range! Indeed, it was a wonderful Christmas time!
You see, to me, this present said, “My dear, I wish for you all good things, including health and happiness and ease. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make your troubles disappear; but, in our sweet and simple poverty, all that I can offer is this simple heating pad–and may it bring you some warmth and relief, and its radiant presence reminded you ever of the warmth and love of my womanly heart, which belongs, my dearest dear, to you.”
To him, it said, “Here, stick this on your head, you smelly old cripple.”
So, that was no good.
2. He does not want something you found at the dump.
Not really much else to say about this.
3. I guess you could just ask him what he wants for Christmas, and if it’s not illegal, you could give it to him.
4. HEY LOOK, A FLYING CHICKEN!
(This post originally ran in the National Catholic Register in 2012.)