Ditch the Gyrating Elvis

Men and Women and the Perils of Gift Giving

There’s nothing like cheap impersonal crap for Christmas, is there?

A buddy of mine once worked at a company that at the corporate Christmas party proudly presented to each and every employee�an extension cord. Well, hoop de holly. At least it beat the previous year’s gift, which was a wall clock featuring the company logo.

They say that it’s the thought that counts�and that’s the point. Tempting, isn’t it, to sail down the aisle at Walgreen’s on December 23 and grab the first battery-operated gyrating Elvis in a Santa hat you see. But if you’re going to run through a mall and snatch up the first plastic angel statue you see just because you “need” to give me something, save the receipt. Better yet, had me the cash in a wad. It’ll go over better.

I think this is the reason men dread gift-giving and women are so often dreadfully disappointed. The menfolk are utilitarian, the ladies the emotional responders. Men buy things they think we need , honestly thinking they are helping�because isn’t this showing that he cares, buying you a WaterPik when just yesterday you were whining about the dentist bill? Why then all the frowning and withholding of some serious second-base action?

I mean it, guys�this is why you get in trouble when you stash Isotoner slippers and space heaters under the tree: we might speak of them, you may perceive a desire for them, we may even clip coupons for them, but that doesn’t mean we want them for Christmas or our birthdays or, God forbid, Valentine’s Day. I can pretty much guarantee a fake smile and a great big “Oh, look�.a spatula!” when the wrapping comes off. Followed by a brief but intense beating featuring said spatula.

At the core, we women aren’t much different from men when it comes to gift-giving. Unless we sit you down and hand you a catalogue with the item, size, and color circled for you, we want something that is uniquely us . That is why my Uncle Denny immediately forfeited his fianc�e the instant he gave her a bracelet for Christmas�an exact copy of the bracelet his mother had opened four seconds earlier.

And that’s why even if we give you a tie, it’s going to be a tie that is you . It’s your favorite color; we plucked it from the Garcia Collection because we met at a Grateful Dead concert; it matches the interview suit you wore the day you were hired. Chances are, when a woman shops for a gift, there is going to be meaning behind it. You may not need a tie. You may not even want a tie. But we put some serious thought into what we love about your individuality, and the tie reflects that, and so we fully expect to see it wrapped around your forehead at the end of the next wedding reception.

Bottom line for all gift giving�personalize, personalize, personalize. Think of the target’s passions, characteristics, and all that he or she holds dear. Now expand on it.

My cousin, knowing that her husband drinks a lot of Starbuck’s coffee, once bought him a couple shares of stock in the company. If your grandmother grew up in San Francisco, ferret out a nice watercolor of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you and your sweetie have A Song and you’re low on cash, print the lyrics on high-quality stock and frame it up with pictures of the two of you. Roommate study abroad for a year in Rome? Go directly to the nearest shelf of Italian wines. If you’re completely stumped, there’s always Google and gift certificates.

And of course, cold hard cash. In a wad, please. Looks like more that way.