In my last column, I advised that the best way not to screw up Christmas with your kids is to:
- Give them what they want, if you can afford it.
- Give them socks and underwear, even if they don’t want them.
- Remind them that you love them.
- Enjoy the fact that they behave well at this time of the year.
First of all, if you’ve done anything close to 30-40 percent participation in all of the above — from shopping and decorating to getting breakfast ready, then you’ve already gone a long way towards making this a good Christmas for her. (Forget wrapping — I mean, why even bother — you’re not as good at it as she is, and really, she doesn’t want you even trying. Go watch a game. Win-win.)
And if you have a good woman who cares more about seeing happy kids than gifts for herself, good for you. But, she’s still going to want … something. Here’s where my advice is so important.
I have been married twice and had my share of girlfriends before, between and after my marriages. I also went to Catholic School all my life, and learned the true meaning of Christmas … as well as the corporate one. I say this just to give some foundation.
With these years of experience, I would now like to share what I, as a guy, know about shopping for women for Christmas.
I know nothing about shopping, less about women, and apparently, I don’t know reindeer poop about Christmas.
Despite the popular wisdom to the contrary, “It’s the thought that counts,” is really just an urban legend.
What counts is getting into the unpredictable mind of the woman you are shopping for (or women, for those of you men who are truly suicidal) … and anticipating what she’s expecting. Knowing that what she wants may change several times between now and Christmas morning.
Hell, it will change between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.
What most women want — in my experience — is a gift that’s thoughtful and practical — but sexy, lavish but financially responsible, shows originality on your part and yet is exactly what she’s been asking or silently hoping for.
She wants something that will make her feel good about herself as a woman, but is not obligating herself in any way to you as a man. Most importantly, she wants something that will make her friends envious, but isn’t too showy. Because she — unlike some of her friends — is not like that.
See the conundrum? She wants Brad Pitt in a box. She wants a $4,000 handbag that will look good, but not too good, when she’s pulling coupons out of it at Target. She wants thinner thighs.
You got it? Only a few shopping days left!
Remember, it’s not the thought that counts. It is not even about the execution of those thoughts. There are no A’s for effort, no “nice try’s,” no grateful canoodling in her parents’ guest room (which really, is all we want for Christmas).
So, armed with the knowledge that you’re on a Kamikaze mission and likely destined for failure, I present …
How Not to Screw Up a Christmas Gift for your Woman:
1. Don’t spend too much … but don’t spend too little.
If you’re buying for your wife, or some other woman who you share finances with, or one who you possibly might some day … this is the chance to show your economic wisdom. Good luck. You’re in the Yuletide vortex between “Oh honey, we can’t afford that,” and, “Oh really, is that all I’m worth to you?”
Try something that says you’re aware of her goals and desires, and recognize her efforts: maybe a few sessions with the hottest male personal trainer in town — then watch that backfire on so many levels.
Scratch that. Your best bet? Something you shoplift at the jewelry store — and make sure she knows that — maybe even show her a copy of the in-store video tape. She’ll appreciate the effort and the frugalness, and will have something nice to wear when she visits you for the next 3-5 years.
Practical is not sexy
If you watch TV, you probably know that other than a masculine luxury car with a feminine 9-foot bow on top of it in their driveway, all men really want for Christmas are tools — or at least that’s what Sears and Home Depot think.
So let’s say you’ve decided your woman works hard around the house, and you’ve decided that you’re going to acknowledge her expertise by giving her some new or improved “tools” for what she does — a new vacuum, or a new dishwasher, or a shiny new energy efficient dryer.
First, look around the house. Do you have a fireplace? Is there a poker there? Pick it up, look at it … then stick it in your eye. Or go out to your tool bench, get a hammer … and hit yourself in your privates. It will just save time and her energy.
Really — a dryer? A vacuum? These practical and useful items make great “surprise” purchases 361 days of the year. The exclusions are Christmas, your anniversary, her birthday, and her ex-boyfriend’s birthday … because she still remembers it, remembers him, and assumes he’s leading a better life now than she is. And so, jewelry is the only thing that will work that day (if you happen to know when it is — but why would you?). Or a big bottle of tequila that you share.
But let’s focus here. Do not try and get anything practical for her for Christmas — it shows no ingenuity, no understanding of her life, and no appreciation for her as a woman — and by woman, I mean an un-married 24-year-old corporate executive with no kids, a soccer star for a boyfriend and a size 2 figure … which is how she expects you to see her.
Instead, get her something sexy … and then you can both go pick out the dryer on the 26th, after you drop the kids at soccer.
Sexy is not practical
Except, here’s the thing. Sexy is not practical. Sexy is not something you can give her. Sexy is how she wants to feel … when she feels like feeling that way, not when you feel like she should feel that way … which is all the time. Sexy is her idea of sexy, not yours. (though how a woman can get upset about a negligee in your favorite team’s colors is beyond me — I mean, an orange and blue teddy is SO hot!!)
Sexy is also generally not happening Christmas morning — because she’s dealing with the stress of the house and the decorating and the gifts and the family and her mother and the half a brownie she ate last night and … and giving her something sexy then just ain’t gonna inspire anything, except have her add “go to the gym” to her Christmas Day To Do list.
You want something that’s gonna make her feel sexy? Something that makes her want to be naked? I got just the thing. Here’s the bad news: it doesn’t include you, at least right away.
Get her a certificate for a spa day. A massage, a mani/pedi, a facial, a day of treatments and pampering and leaves and oils we’ve never heard of. A day of making her feel like a woman, the way we like to think we can … but we can’t.
A day of preparing to look and feel spectacular, like maybe she did the day you got married, and now only does in preparation for a Girls Night, when she’s prepping for the people she really wants to impress.
You want to really be a hero? Throw a Girls Night Out in the mix — dinner and drinks at some nice place with a few friends … a night that will end with her coming home to you, beautiful, grateful, and just the right amount of … spirit.
But do not make the mistake of including that detail in the plan. In fact, stay as far away from asking, suggesting or implying that you’re looking for a payoff as you can. Remember, ask and you shall not receive.
Just let it simmer, like a soup. Let the flavors of your thoughtfulness, generosity and understanding all blend … until it all comes together, at the right time, for her.
Final Way NOT to mess up a Christmas gift for your woman: Date a Jewish girl.
Mike Brennan has been a Pulitzer Prize-nominated newspaper reporter, a magazine writer, an investigative journalist, a nationally touring stand-up comedian, a joke writer for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, a morning radio host, a professional auctioneer for numerous charities, an editor, and a film and TV script consultant. He is currently working on a romantic comedy screenplay, and a humorous book on being a father, called The Tooth Fairy Doesn’t Pay for Yellow Teeth. He has lived in the Valley for 19 years, and has two teenage sons. Contact the author.