I don’t think men are from Mars. I think they’re from Whoville, where every year they align with the Grinch and band together to ruin Christmas. Each holiday, after thoughtfully deciding on, shopping for, and wrapping the perfect presents for my boyfriend, I can’t wait to see what he picked out for me. I breathlessly anticipate tearing open the perfect romantic/sentimental gift, and every year I’m sorely disappointed.
I’m not alone.
Do they do it on purpose? Of course not. It’s just that men hate the pressure of holiday shopping and would cut off their right arm to avoid it.
We women, on the other hand, have high expectations because we put lots of thought into gift-giving. Throughout the year, we pick up on the little hints he drops and then do our darndest to make sure he has a wonderful holiday filled with everything his heart desires. To women, gifts have hidden meanings, and we try to decode them to understand how our guy feels about us.
To men, buying us gifts is a necessary relationship evil, ranking right up there with attending our mother’s birthday party.
If you’re a woman over the age of fifteen, you know exactly what I’m taking about. In the name of research, however, I went out in the field and asked random men plus a few guy friends whether they look forward to shopping for that special something that will thrill their wife or girlfriend, or whether they dread it more than, say, buying tampons.
Read no further if you think there will be surprises. It was unanimous: Men hate holiday shopping. Yes, even more than cruising the feminine products aisle. Yes, even the sweet guys, and, yes, even your man. Here’s what they said:
Peter: “I am in the bah humbug category.”
Gary: “I hate having to shop for my girlfriend at Christmas. It’s way too much pressure and the holiday is too commercialized. I buy her nice things throughout the year when I see them. But I don’t want to have to buy her something just because society says I have to on a certain day. It’s so stupid.”
“I hate shopping, period. I do try to be thoughtful but sometimes I’m more successful than others. Keep my name out of this, please. My wife reads your blog.” Anonymous
Jason: “I enjoy it, but I can say this because I don’t currently have a girlfriend.”
Ron: “The pressure I feel to outdo myself each year gets overwhelming. It is hard to keep being imaginative and thoughtful. Plus, guys like to buy practical things, but women don’t seem to appreciate a new toaster for Christmas, even if they desperately need one.”
TJ: “I love shopping for my girlfriend. It’s the wife who is the hardest. What do you get someone who buys everything she wants already? I get more mileage out of making her a gift from scratch. I use some construction paper, maybe a few cotton balls (for snowmen), some nice green and red crayon, BAM: instant romantic card.
Mike: “I typically don’t like holiday shopping for my wife, but I do strive to give her thoughtful gifts. I don’t wait until the last minute, but if I do the shopping too early, I always think I’ve shortchanged her, and end up buying a couple of more presents. The grand total is always too much (in her opinion, not mine).”
Steve: “After 14 years of marriage I have learned the value of the gift certificate. The store is never out of them. Plus it gives my wife and kids a chance to get out of the house. She has a good time as long as the kids behave. And if they don’t, she can’t wait to get back to the house so it’s like several gifts. Either way, I get time alone. I consider myself a very thoughtful husband.”
David: “My wife never tells me what she wants so I usually get her jewelry or a gift certificate or something that she can take back. I don’t hate it but it’s not my idea of a fun thing to do on my day off. Sometimes I buy her gloves or something like that and a book and a gift certificate and some jewelry like gold or pearl earrings. That’s it. One year I bought her a bike. That was not a good thing.”
Matt: “Yes, I hate shopping for my wife. Lingerie is returned for something more comfortable. Jewelry is greeted with an eye-roll if it isn’t diamonds. Plus, it’s hard to get creative at Christmas since you’ve been milked on birthdays, anniversaries, birth of children, etc. Shopping for the girlfriend, on the other hand, is much more enjoyable. Everything is met with wide eyes and glee. But I’m sure that will end over time also.”
John: “Usually yes, I hate shopping. However, this year we have decided to give each other ideas (not necessarily a list) so it should be much easier. Of course there will be a few surprises thrown in. Over the years though, it has been a stressful time. I think that whole Mars & Venus comes into play. She wants cleaning to be easier… a new Shop Vac oughta help. Something we can enjoy together…doesn’t a plasma TV fit the bill?”
Jim: “I am not crazy about shopping generally, but I don’t really mind holiday shopping. I figure she puts up with my crap all year long, so it’s my chance to do something nice and let her know I appreciate her. Choosing something she’ll really like is tough sometimes, and the fact that I’m a world-class procrastinator doesn’t help things. I try to have some fairly definite ideas about what to get, and then hit the mall early (like 8:00 a.m., usually the Saturday before Christmas) before the crowds arrive.”
Also from Jim: “Cautionary tale about a guy I used to work with: He waited until Christmas Eve to go shopping for his wife, and when he tried to check out he discovered that she had already maxed out all their credit cards! Having no cash, he came home empty handed. He was in the maison-de-pooch for quite a while.”
Dan: “My friend and I shop for our wives together every December 24. First, we hit a few bars. Then we hit some more. Just before the mall closes, we race in, buy whatever’s on the Gap mannequin in our wives’ size, and go back to drinking. Our wives get pretty pissed when they get the same outfit. But isn’t it the thought that counts?”
Ben: “I always intend to get a thoughtful, wonderful gift, not always expensive but thoughtful. Sometimes when it clicks perfectly I get the gift and surprise her with it. But sometimes when the schedule of my whacked out life is too much I miss my window and end up with a turd of a gift. I am always aware of the gift being a turd or not. Guys like to pretend they are oblivious to all of this and get to say, ‘I’m a guy, what do you expect?’ We are aware however.”
See what I mean? Young and old, sweet and not-so-much, married and unmarried, men are all alike when it comes to Christmas shopping for women. As my friend’s wise mother put it, “Lamb, they are all the same.” Indeed.
Girls’ Survival Strategy
So what’s a girl to do? Much as we hate it, the best way to get exactly what we want is to spell it out, leaving no stone unturned. Give him specifics: List the URL or store location, price, color, size and SKU. This strategy ruins the surprise, sure, but at least you won’t end up with a leather thong or a CD of heavy metal monster ballads.
Another option is to have a good friend call your man and say, “Hey, if you’re stuck about what to get your wife/girlfriend this Christmas, we were shopping last week and she mentioned she’d love to have X. Thought you’d want to know.”
Or, do as my friend Annie does and buy things for yourself, have them gift-wrapped, ship them to your home, and send him the bill.
The last option is to do what I do: Hope and pray that this year will finally be different and that he’ll spend a lot of time and effort searching for the perfect present that will show how wild he is about me and how well he really knows the inner me.
With expectations like that, it’s no wonder I’m always bawling on Christmas morning.
Pointers for Men
For men with women who refuse to tell them what they want (and yes, darling boyfriend, if you’re reading this it applies to you too), there are a few staples that make most women happy. They are: a beautiful full-length coat (hint: if she’s a vegan, skip the fur and leather), diamond or pearl jewelry, tickets to an island getaway or a gift certificate to her favorite clothing store.
My best advice, much as men hate it, is to pay attention to her comments throughout the year. Has she mentioned a trendy restaurant she wants to try? Make reservations and stick a note in her stocking. Does she love Oprah? How about the TV host’s 20th anniversary DVD collection? Is she into jewelry? Freshwater cultured pearls are affordable and lovely; lavender freshwater cultured pearls are trendy and hot right now. As always, Tiffany & Co. jewelry will make her day, but if you’re short on cash, get her a few books on subjects she’s into (the thought will melt her) or burn her a mix CD of songs that remind you of her. I wouldn’t attempt making her a homemade card, though, unless you’re planning on tucking tickets to St. Baarts inside.
One final thought: If you want to have a merry Christmas, avoid giving her the following gifts AT ALL COST:
o Kitchen appliances, including, but not limited to
o exception: High-end coffee maker
o Tools (she knows you just want to borrow them)
o Sheetrock (my friend did actually get this one year)
o Weight-loss books, tapes, magazines, gadgets, etc. Don’t even GO there, mister!
o TVs (another gift that’s a thinly-disguised present for you)
o Puppies (c’mon, everyone wants to pick their own dog, and who wants to train one during a holiday)
o Sports tickets (like you, we claim to love stuff we hate just to make you happy)
o Gift certificate for a makeover (obvious, obvious mistake)
Good luck, guys. Try to stay out of the doghouse this year.