A cyberpal of mine, Nancy W., is diabetic. So what was her husband thinking when he gave her a hot chocolate gift set from Walmart one recent Christmas?
Apparently he wasn’t thinking at all. Just shopping at the last minute, she says, and operating on his usual autopilot: Hot chocolate set, huh? That’s a nice gift.
“My diabetes is not a new diagnosis,” Nancy says, calling the gift “thoughtless.”
That was the only thing he gave her that year, incidentally, whereas she had “put a lot of effort and money into his gifts – and he is a hard person to shop for.”
Here’s a Christmas clue, guys: When you go to the mall or buzz around online stores, don’t think along the lines of “That’s a nice gift.” Try it this way instead: “What would be a nice gift for the woman I love?”
As Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson notes, men can “look like heroes or idiots” each December. Which do you want to be? Learn more in his video, then keep reading for additional better-nots.
Not all women are about perfume and jewelry. Heck, I know a lady who had a cement mixer on her gift list. (She was making hypertufa troughs for her garden.) And not all women are hypercritical harpies who love to berate you about your gift choices: You clueless clod! You can’t take five minutes to think about what I’d really like? Another holiday ruined!
Is it the thought that counts?
It’s impossible to say what “all women” don’t want. Truth be told, some women don’t want gifts at all because they feel the holiday is intended for children or because they already have everything they need. (I made a deal with my partner this year: He could get me a gift only if there was a stirring tale of thrift attached.)
That said, Stacy nailed it regarding appliances. Unless the woman in your life specifically listed a washing machine or coffee maker, forget about giving her a piece of machinery. In effect you’re saying, “Throw in a load of laundry and bring me some coffee, willya?”
One woman told Time magazine that her husband gave her a waffle iron. Apparently he was thinking more about his own needs than any of her potential desires: “He thought if we had a waffle iron, I could make waffles for him.”
Again: Nothing wrong with putting a toaster oven under the tree if that’s what she is hoping to get. But only a dunderhead would expect his sweetheart to be thrilled about receiving a clothes iron when she’d actually expressed a wish for a coffeehouse punch card or a Sandra Dallas novel.
That old saying “It’s the thought that counts” applies to you, not her. As in, take a minute to think about what might make her happy instead of giving her a household appliance. Otherwise you’re sending the message that she is important only insofar as she serves others. (Or serves waffles.)
It’s not (for) you, it’s (for) me
Which brings us to another no-no category: gifts that are actually more for you than for her.
If she’s never expressed an interest in microbrewery, it is not kosher to give her a beer-making kit. You know, the kind of thing that you know she won’t use but which you’ll happily appropriate.
“The worst present I ever received (during my marriage) was a state-of-the-art barbecue grill because it was clearly for him to put out by the pool,” one woman told The Huffington Post.
Flip that one its head for a moment, guys. Suppose your sweetie gave you a quilting frame or some high-end cosmetics for Christmas. Are those gifts based on a typical guy’s wants and needs? Nope. So please don’t inflict this kind of nonsense on the woman you love, either.
As for the framed photograph of yourself that Stacy mentioned? Don’t even. Sure, some women might want a nice picture to put on her desk at work. But they might just as likely think you’re an egotistical jerk.
A much safer bet: Frame a photo of the two of you, especially one taken at a special moment (your wedding reception, that great trip to Hawaii).
Merry Christmas! Here’s a G-string!
Again, it’s impossible to generalize about what all women want. When it comes to lingerie, though, better err on the side of caution. Some ladies love silky barely-theres, and other women might feel insecure or even objectified by the sight of lace scanties and (heaven forbid) garter belts.
“Nothing says ‘I respect how hard you worked to feel good about the way you look’ more than stripper clothes,” writes Redbook columnist (and guy!) Aaron Traister.
If you know for a fact your sweetie loves the frisky stuff, take Stacy’s advice: Give her a gift card to her favorite undies emporium along with a note about how much you look forward to seeing what she buys. However, no fair pouting if she decides to buy yoga pants and perfume.
Speaking of perfume: Unless you know she wears the stuff and unless you know exactly what kind she loves, don’t cut loose in a scents shop. What smells great to you might be the last thing she’d want to spritz behind her ears.
But don’t get lazy about those trips to the parfumerie. My now-ex purchased Chanel No. 5 year after year, even though I told him I had several unopened bottles in the cupboard, and even after I’d stopped wearing perfume because it made me wheezy (undiagnosed asthma). Buying scent had become the easy way out; ditto hardback books by an author I’d told him I no longer wanted.
Don’t tell her that she’s fat
Even if she is. (Hint: She already knows this, fellas.) Giving an unasked-for gym membership, exercise video or set of weights at Christmas is saying, “I so dislike your body that my special gifts will be reminders that you’ve gained weight.”
(You qualify for extra Insensitive Clod points if she gained weight due to bearing one or more children since you’ve been together.)
To be clear: This doesn’t mean you can’t have a frank but loving conversation about health and fitness. Just don’t do it during the holidays. Remember what attracted you to her in the first place and focus on a gift that will remind the both of you why you’re together.
Not sure about your ability to buy the right thing? Get a gift receipt, for heaven’s sake. In fact, take a tip from Stacy and buy things that can be exchanged. Picking up a sweatshirt and a cactus jelly-and-candy gift set from an airport gift shop while you’re on a business trip leaves her without a chance to divest herself of things she will never use.
That now-ex I mentioned earlier? Once he bought my Christmas presents from the gift shop at a casino where he’d been sent on assignment. Although I thanked him, part of me was feeling that this was one more example of how little attention he paid to what might make me happy. (Or to the fact that Christmas falls on the same day each year; he’d had 364 days to shop.)
Is he an ex because he didn’t do gifts well? Of course not. Our issues were far more serious than that. In fact, I believe our culture places way too much emphasis on holiday giving. What’s under the tree should not stand in for year-round love and respect.
That said, any gift you give should be an expression of how much you care, and that includes caring enough to look for something that would make the other person happy.
It just takes a little time
I’ve heard of women who buy what they truly want and thank their spouses/partners for the gifts they “gave” that Christmas. Maybe that will work for you, too.
Be aware, though, that this is how that suggestion might sound to your darling: You say I’m the most important person in your life. So couldn’t you spend a LITTLE time thinking about a meaningful/thoughtful gift? And maybe make that time NOT be around 4 p.m. on Dec. 24?
A few more gifty tips:
- Pay attention! When she talks about things she likes throughout the year, put such things on a list of possible presents.
- Don’t buy repeat presents. So your sweetie really liked the hat-and-gloves set you gave her last year. That doesn’t mean she wants/needs another one.
- Skip the gag gifts. Some sweethearts have a great sense of humor. Others aren’t as likely to exclaim over a singing trout, an ugly Christmas sweater or a flatulence machine. If you really must buy something like that, please don’t make it your only gift.
- Gift cards rock! Unless they don’t. Some women love getting them, others are offended. You should know her well enough by now to figure this out.
- Don’t give stuffed animals. Junior high was a long time ago.
- Don’t give real animals, either. Seriously: Do not give a pet for Christmas. The decision to adopt is a serious one, and she ought to have some input in the choice.
- Get a gift receipt. Just in case.
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