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The gift that keeps on disappointing
Wednesday, December 22, 2010 • Posted December 22, 2010

In case you hadn’t noticed, we have officially arrived at The Last Minute, when many guys look around and realize Christmas has once again not been cancelled, and they’re going to have to go out and buy gifts. And not just any gifts. Thoughtful, personal, heartwarming, individualized, special gifts. Gifts that don’t scream out "I bought this at Home Depot on Christmas Eve from a surly tattooed teenager because that was the only store still open and besides who ever has enough duct tape?" when someone opens it.

Now, I don’t have anything against guys going Christmas shopping at Home Depot, or doing it at the last minute, as long as they stay out of my way. Still, there are more thoughtful, personal, etc. gifts than duct tape, even the camo kind. The problem is that women generally expect something a little less, ah, useful. So if you’re buying a gift for a guy then Home Depot is fine, but if you’re shopping for your wife or girlfriend, you might want to go somewhere a little more snazzy, like Wal-Mart or H.E.B.

Many people just don’t shop well, as evidenced by an article I read recently on one of the internets. The title was something like ‘Worst Gifts Ever.’ It contained stories from people, mainly women, who had received some astoundingly lousy gifts from other people, mainly men.

If you go by this article, husbands and boyfriends rank right up there with the Grinch when it comes to Christmas spirit. The women complained about receiving things like red and yellow matching ketchup and mustard bottles, a laundry basket, Secret brand deodorant, an ice bucket with the Cadillac logo on the side (the husband was a car salesman, in that case), and in one instance, a toilet brush. At least the brush was new. One woman said her husband had given her some mustache wax, and it had been opened and used already.

Now, if you happened to notice, all these gifts were useful items, although the jury is still out on the toilet brush, from a male perspective. Still, you have to admit they aren’t very personal items, and even I, who once gave my wife a Paul Harvey book for her anniversary, realize these gifts are not optimum for spreading the joy. If you give your wife mustache wax you’ll probably end up in the hospital, and if the nurses find out why you’re there you’ll probably never get out.

So, does this mean guys are insensitive, uncaring, unimaginative, lazy, unromantic, and just plain bad at gift giving? Yes. And yet women are still surprised and annoyed when their boyfriends and spouses give them an abdominizer for their birthday. Go figure.

But there is hope for guys in the gift giving department. As a matter of fact, men can learn to give sensitive, thoughtful gifts to their wives and girlfriends, if they just follow one basic rule – buy something marked ‘petite’ and let her return it.

Now, if you’re buying something for an outdoorsperson that won’t help since, as far as I know, camo doesn’t come in petite sizes. But there is still hope. There was a story in Jim Sheppard’s Outdoor Wire newsletter recently about a fellow named Gary Dollahon, who claims to be an expert on last minute shopping for people who like to hunt and fish, even if you don’t. The story is full of suggestions, one of which is not to give gift cards.

This may be good advice. A while back I heard a high school senior complaining about gift cards. He said, "Giving someone a gift card is like saying, ‘I didn’t want to go to the trouble to pick out a gift for you, but if I had, this is the store I would have bought it at.’" Which is true, but it’s the thought that counts. Right.

One thing Gary suggested was to give the whole gift thing a sort of ‘sporting element,’ by which he means hide the gift somewhere and give the givee clues as to where to find it. Which is more of a scavenger hunt element, I think, but still, it’s not a bad idea. Unless the givee can’t figure out the clues and never finds the gift, in which case I guess you could return it for a refund. You’ll need the money, after the divorce.

I did that once with my wife, when the boys and I were going to be gone on a blue quail hunt on her birthday. I left a card with the first clue, and she had to follow the trail around here and there around town, and to our house and back to our office, etc. The clues, I thought, were pretty obvious, but maybe not. It took her over a day to finally find the gift, and by that time it had turned into a toilet brush.

Luckily, I was not around at the time. Gary didn’t mention that it’s a good idea to be gone when your gift is opened, but it is. Especially if you give your wife a paperback Paul Harvey book . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who has been Christmas shopping at garage sales all year. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or jeep@verizon.net

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