Now that Halloween is over, ‘tis the season to go shopping. To that end, I am going to put a public service announcement out there for you guys to help you avoid sleeping on the couch until March. Warning: there will be some gender stereotyping to follow.
I will start by stating the obvious. Men and women communicate in different ways. If you want to read some really interesting actual scientific work on the subject, read pretty much anything Deborah Tannen has written on the subject. (Frankly, I think her book “You Just Don’t Understand” should be a mandatory pre-requisite for a marriage license.) Completely oversimplifying, men communicate directly. If, for example, the man wants the new Game of Thrones book for Christmas, he will say, “Why don’t you get me that new Game of Thrones book for Christmas instead of another bottle of cologne I’m not going to wear?” (He will not, however, ask her for the new Ryobi drill he wants, because he cannot trust that she will pick out the right one, plus, he would be deprived of the right to wander around Lowe’s for two hours examining all the drills.)
Women, on the other hand, speak indirectly. If a woman wants a gift certificate for a massage she will say something like, “Ooooh. I carry all this tension in my shoulders. I sure could use a massage.” At which point, if he is paying attention, and if they haven’t been married all that long (or are still dating) he may rub her shoulders for a few minutes. But he will never in a hundred thousand years translate that into, “Why don’t you buy me a gift certificate for a massage?”
Why? Well, this is a short, little, superficial blog, and the answer is lengthy and heavy. Read Ms. Tannen’s book if you are really interested in the answer. I’m not dealing with whys here, I’m dealing with whats. And the truth of the “what” is that if you want to know what to buy your mother/wife/girlfriend, you cannot ask the direct question and get a useable answer. You are most likely to get “Oh, you don’t have to get me anything,” which, only in the rarest of women, actually means that. (I am actually one of those women, for which my husband counts his blessings daily.)
One friend’s adult son asked his long time girlfriend what she wanted for her birthday. She gave him a long list of things to choose from, which included things like a denim jacket, some particular tennis shoes, and an emerald ring. She buried the ring in the middle of the list. What did he do? He bought the first thing on the list he ran into, which happened to be the tennis shoes. Luckily, his mother (a woman) found out before the actual gift giving, and explained using words with only one syllable how he had to buy the ring if he thought they had a future together. This was news to him.
Unfortunately, there are not universal rules, there is no code book, or translation dictionary I can share with you. Each woman is different, and her means of sideways answers can be subtle. What I can do is share with you some universal pitfalls.
- A vacuum cleaner is never ever ever ever a good gift. I don’t care how much one is needed in the house. I don’t care how much she complains about the lack of suction in the old one. The message a vacuum sends? “I want you to clean better for me.” This includes dustbusters, shopvacs, and anything designed to remove dirt from your home.
- Kitchen appliances are dangerous territory. Some of us really do want a new mixer because we love to bake and the old one (if we even have one) isn’t cutting it. Personally, I love Crock Pots, but you know your special woman better than I do, and you don’t want a gift that says, “Now you can make my dinner before work and it will be ready as soon as I get home!”
- No matter how much the advertisers try to sell it to you, don’t buy her facial skin care products. That says, “Honey, you are looking old and wrinkled. Here’s something you can do about that.”
- If you are going to buy her clothes, make sure you know her size ahead of time. If you don’t, or if there are three or four different sizes in her closet, don’t EVER err on the side of too big. I know, I know, most men don’t even know what women’s clothing sizes mean, but trust me, if you buy her a size larger than she normally wears, you might as well just come out and say she is fat. For that matter, if you buy her something too small and she tries it on, she might just feel too fat and think your too-small-clothes-choice is a hint that she should lose weight to fit in it. So, now that I think about it, don’t buy her clothes.
- No matter how much she has said she wants one, don’t buy her a treadmill or other piece of exercise equipment. The message is that she should be using it more often.
- Yard equipment is up there with vacuum cleaners. As a general rule, women don’t like gadgets, and aren’t all that impressed with engine capability. Yes, that backpack blower might just have the horsepower to blow the bricks off your house, but she doesn’t want it. Especially not if she is pregnant. (This actually did happen to a friend of mine.)
There are more examples, but I try to keep these posts relatively short. What I would like very much is if, in the comment section, readers would share the absolute worst gifts they ever got from someone they love. What a great way to kick off the holiday shopping season!
P.S. You can never go wrong with a gift certificate for a massage.