Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Giving Christmas Presents People Like

The Key To Good Christmas Presents Is...ASK!

With Christmas just a few short weeks away, I thought it would be a good time to discuss proper holiday gift giving. I am inspired to share these ideas with you because many of us have those in our family or circle of friends who are gift-challenged and truly clueless as to what constitutes an appropriate present. There are those of us that can pull it off and others (like my mom) who consistently fall short.

In fact you may be that person who, despite all the hints in the world, still manages to come up with the quintessentially awful gift whose offensiveness is only surpassed by it's obnoxiousness. Though I know plenty of women that could use some help in this area, generally it is the guys that have the worst time deciding what to get their ladies and not the other way around. For example, I just read today about a guy who gave his girlfriend prescription strength deodorant for her birthday. And lived to tell about it.

Here's a quick quiz to see if you need help in the gift area:

How many guys think it's okay to purchase for their wives a blender or other kitchen appliance?

How many guys think a new vacuum or household cleaning product is an appropriate gift?

How many guys are going to make the blunder of blunders and get their wives some type of work-out/ weight loss program dvd, book or exercise device?

If you raised your hand to any of these I have just two words for card. Seriously, if you want to avoid an argument this year, think jewelry, perfume, lingerie, electronics and clothing and get her gift cards loaded with lots of money for those stores - it could save your marriage, maybe even your life!

My mother is one who struggles with this kind of issue, though at her age we dare not mention it to her. Still, it is a problem I have personally dealt with all my life. I distinctly remember my eighth Christmas where I excitedly spied several different sized packages with my name on them sitting beneath the tree. Sure, I had been a good boy all year (by most standards) so I deserved to be afforded lots of great new toys and games to play with. I remember thinking what cool parents I had that would lavish me with cool gifts like this. That thought quickly faded as I withdrew the present from the first box.

A pair of summer shorts. In the wrong size. During winter. In yellow plaid. In some kind of itchy material that smelled funny. Was this some kind of sick gag gift? No, this was just the work of my mommy dearest. For a moment I pondered whether she had stripped them from the dead body of some elderly golfer or found them in the clearance bin at the thrift store. Neither, as it turned out. They were part of a bunch of used clothes one of her friends had given her which had previously belonged to her late husband. So I was close.

I dreaded opening the rest of the boxes. What if I found some old guys used undies or his false teeth? And what could I do with sweat-stained bowling shirts and shiny, black wing-tips? As it turned out, however, my fears were unfounded as there were no tobacco-scented shirts, no ancient sweater vests, no holey argyle socks or any other used items. My mom had simply seen those shorts and instinctively knew I would love them. Yes, probably because I was such a huge fan of humiliation and physical abuse. Methinks not.

I had fully expected a Hot Wheels track and cars because I had been hinting, nay, begging for them for weeks. Instead I got a year's supply of socks and underwear (wrapped in individual packages to simulate an awesome Christmas), some Disney comic books (again, not my taste), a new pair of slippers, a new robe and other miscellaneous clothes, including a pair of wine-colored slacks. Slacks? Again, I'm only eight years old. It's not like I have a lot of business meetings to go to. I did get a few toys, though not anything I wanted or really cared for.

As for the Hot Wheels, she gave them to my older brother who had asked for a new baseball glove and bat. My mom's reckoning was that if we got what we had asked for, then it wouldn't be a surprise. And now, forty years later, she is still surprising me.

I know that some of us are difficult to shop for because we are older and have already surrounded ourselves with all the stuff we need to be happy. Personally, as I'm not particularly materialistic to begin with, I feel that I fall into this group. This is why I believe that the best approach is to just ask what they want. And get several suggestions so you can pick the least expensive one...if you want to.

Why deal with the angst and fear of getting someone the wrong gift when they can just tell you? At work they had a gift exchange each year and we were instructed to fill out a little card to let whomever drew our name what our interests, hobbies and gift preferences were. (My response was always the same - "exotic underwear"). This system seemed to work well and everyone was content with their gift.

I think that most people would rather have what they want than hold out for the "surprise" and a crappy gift. So just ask! Don't assume they will like mouse-head cuff links just because they have an interest in taxidermy any more than they will like a deed to land on the moon because they have an interest in astronomy. You just can't jump to conclusions that easily. You will get burned.

There are those instances where the recipient says they either don't want a present or says that they don't care what you give them as they will love it either way. You can go a safe route, such as get them a DVD of a favorite movie or a CD of one of their favorite bands, but then you run the risk of getting them something they already have. If you feel that gift cards are too impersonal, then maybe a creative approach is the best bet.

If you have some creative skills maybe something homemade such as a painting or a quilt would be a good solution. If they have a yard and plants then maybe a decorative plant or tree for the yard, or even a houseplant would be good. Are they drinkers? Who could turn down nice bottle of wine or spirits. If you still can't figure it out, then the internet is rife with strange, unique and one-of-a-kind gifts that will make them laugh and create a story to remember.

And guys, any woman who replies to the question "What do you want for Christmas?" with "If you loved me, you'd know what I want!" gets an Xbox.

End of story.


  1. Great points here, Tom, and some marvelous anecdotes!

    It's a quandary....many folks are thrust into holiday gatherings with people they barely know or see during the year, and gifts are an unspoken expectation.

    And lots of us have childhood Christmas tales of woe.....(like Ralphie's bunny suit instead of his Red Ryder!)

    Sometines a commonplace gift is received better with creative packaging. I once received a 4-hole harmonica in a box that would wrap a 36" TV!

    For many, especially aging folks, food items (specialty pastries, international food baskets, forzen meats for grilling) work well, as do gift cards from grocery or drug stores.

    My friend wrote a poem to his mother and is having it done in calligraphy and framed, for her. Special original photographs in frames are good too. oh I want to see you, Tom, in the exotic underwear and black wingtips!

    Good job, TG.

  2. If you think it would be funny to give a 12-pound Gummi Bear, this is the holiday gift guide for you. Worst Christmas Gag Gifts

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