"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves." --Rainer Maria Rilke (©julenisse/Fotolia)

Monday, December 24, 2012

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... A garden weasel and a tampon caddy.

Listen up fellas, partners and creatively-challenged gift givers! There’s just a few hours left to redeem yourself and come up with something that won’t force your significant other into an Oscar-worthy performance when he/she opens your present on Christmas morning.  

I hate to generalize and say more men than women have a problem selecting thoughtful and loving gifts, but the evidence points in that direction. The facts also suggest that men and women disagree on what is a thoughtful gift. An informal poll of friends and acquaintances around the country turned up a surprising number of auto-related gifts under the tree, including a gas can (Ohio), windshield wipers (Kansas) and a hurricane survival kit (Florida). One of those givers shared this logic with his wife: “You spend so much time in your car alone and I just want you to be safe.” Okay, so those auto gifts are thoughtful in a way… but that kind of thoughtfulness, as one receiver so well put it, is more appreciated if your guy brings it home on Thursday evening just because… NOT wrapped up under the Christmas tree. No mistletoe kisses for you!

Another group of “practical gifts” went the gardening route—garden scissors, garden weasel, weed whacker. “I still can't figure out if it was supposed to be a joke,” said the scissors receiver, who had to open that gift t Christmas dinner in a restaurant.

Advice: Do not EVER get your woman a household or kitchen appliance unless they specifically ask for it.  (That includes smoke alarms and battery chargers. Yes, sadly, that happened.) And “asking for it” doesn’t mean you noticed her cursing at the vacuum cleaner one day. A Missouri friend got a rotisserie one year.

“When I opened it, I looked at him and said: ‘That was the first thing you saw when you went into Wal-mart! We had stopped on the way to the in-laws so I could pick up video cassettes for the camcorder I bought for him. While I was in there, he slipped in, got the rotisserie and put it in the trunk.”

Yeah, that gift went back to the store.  An acquaintance in California does a comedy set based on gifts she’s received. I can’t wait to hear how she makes a table saw and an air compressor so funny.  

Wal-mart surfaced in another friend’s tale. She got dead roses from the Wal-mart clearance cart, as well as a dollar store candle. When she lit the candle the glass jar it was in shattered.

Which brings up another point:  Don’t be cheap. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money. You really don’t. But don’t just buy any old cheap thing, like my friend whose dad gave her mom a flip hairbrush from Walgreens one year when they were having a “no-cash” Christmas. Think, fellas! Homemade coupons for things like backrubs, chores and breakfast in bed are always welcome.

The two gifts that made me laugh the hardest are different as can be. One was a pet turtle that died the next day. If you’re going to give a pet, you better damn well make sure it’s healthy, because we gals cry when our creatures die.

The funniest gift, from a friend in Indiana, was a Tampon Caddy. (Yes, you read that right.) It’s a little thing for carrying tampons discretely in one's purse. “It's still too funny to me,” says my friend. “He got it at the grocery store in the little display of random items at the checkout. Couldn't have cost much more than a dollar--and it tickles me to think that he had the cajones to actually purchase it.” Indeed. I know my man wouldn’t have bought it. Thoughtful and practical sure, but I hope it’s not all she got that year.

Men have been known to redeem themselves, though. Several of my pals said all was forgiven last Christmas when their husbands gave them iPads, thus debunking any thoughts you might have that women don’t appreciate the latest technology. Many of us do.  Another friend’s partner was let off the hook for the low points of dictionary gifts when she got “the softest black pajamas with black and white penguins on them.”

You can say “it’s the thought that counts” as much as you like, but it’s the quality of the thought… Not just that you panicked and thought you better get your ass to CVS so there’s something under the tree. If you want Mommy kissing Santa Claus you may need to step up your game. Regardless though, if you have a good relationship, your lady is apt to overlook the occasional bombs in the gift-giving department.

A friend in Kansas says she’s mastered the "wow" look because her gifts are so far out there. But she also knows what the real gifts are in life.

“As the years go by, I become more thankful for a husband who gives me daily ‘I love yous’ and realize it really is the sentiment behind the gift. Twenty-five years together this year. That's a lot of awful gift giving.”

I will strive to remember those daily “I love yous” and other kindnesses, just in case I get an earthquake disaster kit this first Christmas in Southern California. 

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