These are dangerous times in our society, and especially for men. I don’t mean the recent rain, or the crowds and traffic that grow during this holiday season, I mean the perils of shopping between now and Dec. 24.
Guys are generally not programmed for shopping. Your typical male (not me, but typical male) is able to rebuild a transmission or defeat 100 zombies using just this thumbs, but he can’t find the shoe department at Kohl’s. He can remember the batting averages of the entire starting lineup of the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates, but can’t recall the dress or shoe size of his wife or girlfriend, even though she told it to him just before he climbed into the car.
Principal among the difficulties is that in most relationships, it’s the women/wife who arranges for most Christmas purchases. That leaves the male with just one job: buy a gift for his wife. This is clearly an unfair burden on him, because he’s got very little or no experience buying anything that’s not for himself.
I’ve taken some friendly fire shopping, and I get the shakes going into some kinds of stores, especially those whose names begin with “Victoria’s” and ends with “Secret.”
My classic “VS” story involves going into such a store and getting friendly advice from a perky young thing. The exchange went like this:
Me: I, uh, need, to uh, get …. gift … something …. wife … thing.
Her: Oh, we have tons of cute things! What size is your wife?
Me: Uh …. uh …. uh ..
Her: (cupping her bodice helpfully): Well, are her ***** this size?
Me: (turning bright red) Santa Maria!
She was sympathetic to my plight, and remarked that, like most men, I don’t have a lot of experience buying lingerie. She did then add how she did have a small circle of regular male customers who, uh, bought such items for themselves.
So those are your choices –you walk into such stores as a guy and are either clueless or a cross-dresser. Not a happy way to shop.
As scary as that is, the other alternatives are worse. You can buy her a household item, like a skillet, but expect to get it waved at your noggin by some wives. “Is that all you think of me as, like your maid or cook?”has been known to be said. In fact, the same might be said about goods purchased in the above paragraphs.
Your last-ditch alternative is to buy gift cards, which are basically gift certificates in varying amounts which you use like charge cards until you wipe them out and end up buying a lot of stuff you can’t really afford but are too embarrassed to stop.
Of course, this opens you up to the charge of being an insensitive block of wood who doesn’t pay attention to the hints she’s been dropping since Halloween. Of course, you know she’s right. She’s pointing at the shiny stuff in the jewelry store window while you are staring at the big screen TVs across the way.
“Yes, dear,”you’re saying. You’re just made a promise you will not remember at all. Although, believe me, you WILL be reminded, eventually.
Now, in my situation I have it easy, since Marilyn is very kind about my lapses in gift-memory. But since I didn’t get married until I was 40, I have lots of experiences with pouts, slammed doors and frosty conversations when I dropped the Christmas ball, so to speak.
My advice? Play close attention, be alert to hints and if none of that works for you guys, go all out on Valentine’s Day. Two months isn’t all that long to sleep on the couch.
This Retorts column originally appeared in December 2012, but hey, some truths are eternal.