Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fear of Christmas

With the holiday gift giving season upon us, most men start to feel a tightening of the chest and a moistening of the palms as they contemplate what to give their significant others. We are absolutely terrified of this chore (sorry…labor of love). Every man has experienced at least once, if not repeatedly, the wrath of a female who has been inappropriately gifted.

Men just naturally believe that a great gift does something valuable, has a practical purpose, and maybe creates the opportunity to enjoy a hobby or pastime together. Gifts in this category are kitchen and lawn items, bikes, skis, surf boards or scuba equipment. Obviously, these are gifts we would like to receive as well.

Kitty tells me that women want gifts that make them “feel” special. In other words they want stuff that shines, and has no purpose, (other than produce profits for jewelry stores and inhumane African diamond mine operators).

This desire, according to female logic, makes gift giving even easier, since all you have to do is visit a jewelry store with lots of credit left on your card and trust the judgment of the sales person, because you haven’t got a clue what is good or bad, although you somehow know the more expensive the bobble, the better.

The chain store J.C. Penny recently highlighted what happens when you misgift in a video called the “The Doghouse” which is where you are banished to in the certain event that you will screw up.

This video is supposed to be funny, but is mostly a horror film for men. It dramatically reinforces the jewelry/bobble myth, and promotes actually going into the J.C Penny jewelry department to purchase said items. (The only thing redeeming about this is that you can buy yourself an eight dollar digital watch that keeps time in 4 time zones and tells you whether its high tide or not. Now there is a good gift!)

So assuming you will probably make a mistake, and you will probably end up in the proverbial doghouse as a result, how do you recover without having to go Jac Penne’s. ? How do you extract yourself from the doghouse in time to enjoy Christmas turkey and booze, without feeling like you are a prisoner on work release?

I found a website that purports to have the solutions.

The article starts with what seems to be the best and most logical way to deal with the problem. “Sit her down. Explain what happened. Apologize”. The author then explains why logic and good sense never works in these situations and provides ten ways to get out of the dog house with specific instructions on each methodology. The broad categories of strategy include:

  1. A major ass kissing session
  2. Flowers
  3. Gifts (ironically) of the appropriate kind presumably from Penny’s
  4. Poetry (you can find some on the Internet)
  5. Food
  6. Social sacrifice (this one involves not doing something with the guys that you really want to do and doing something with her like going to the Penny’s jewelry department, which you really do not want to do)
  7. Sexual favors and/or cuddly affection.
  8. Clean the house (this one has its own traps however, since there is no way you can do it right)
  9. Public humiliation (they recommend that you tell everyone what a jerk you are in your Facebook profile)
  10. Ten lashings. (whatever)

The best way to avoid all of this of course is to make damn sure that you gift her properly.

Remember the sage words of Jack Nicholson when asked how he can identify with women so well. “I think about a man, and I take away reason and accountability.” When buying a gift, make sure there is absolutely no reason for it to exist other than it is a thing that has no reason to exist and because it has no purpose or practical use, it provides no accountability.

According to Jack, it works every time. Happy Holidays!

1 comment:

GSB said...

Holiday Gift Giving and the Meaning of Christmas

It's easier for kids to understand the meaning of Christmas. They get showered with gifts from Santa Claus, their family, their parents' friends and even relatives they've never seen or met. Kids think Christmas is the time when parents, after asking if you've been naughty or nice, buy a bunch of toys that they would have liked to have had when they were kids. Fortunately for the kids, their parents are too tired to play with the toys because they stayed up all night assembling them. Lots of kids today have two different sets of families, which is an inconvenience in many respects, except on Christmas, when they double-down on presents and run out of batteries long before their parents run out of patience. In general though, they get the idea that someone likes them and their parents are probably in collusion with Santa.

Some adults can’t even remember where they spent Christmas Day for the last twenty years of their life, let alone the Christmas's of their childhood, and do they really appreciate the true nature of this much celebrated holiday? Fond memories make it easier to recall Christmas' past. It's the time you spent at the end of every year, eating, drinking and feeling merry, in the comfort of your childhood home or at the home of your extended family and in some cases just with close friends. It's often the place where everybody in your family grew up and came back to every Christmas you can remember. For most it's the Superbowl of holidays and there is much comfort in revisiting the place where your family has celebrated this event for your entire life. Special holiday memories can also come from simply spending time with people that hold a special place in your life at a certain place and time.

Though it's widely accepted that its origins are rooted in theology, these days, much of the religion has gone out of Christmas. But the tradition of spending time with family and loved ones has endured. Fewer people go to church than in the past but somewhere in the back of our minds we remember and acknowledge that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. No offense, but even though it's acknowledged, that notion to many people is just a justification for a holiday when we go to the place where we grew up, throw a party and hand out lots of gifts. But it is a good opportunity to express love and appreciation for the people that are close to us--jaded as we may be. "Here you go--take these gifts...and don't say I never gave you anything." Then, once all the neatly wrapped boxes are shredded and contents exposed, it's time to break out the egg nog.

Unfortunately, as Christmas has become increasingly commercialized, too much of our gift-giving comes from some feeling of obligation and is supposed to demonstrate that the gift-giver is not really a self-centered monster who repents by giving something to somebody on this universally accepted gift-giving day. They believe this act will convince the rest of the world that they have feelings about someone other than the person that looks back at them in the mirror. We may not think this pertains to us, but how many people on your Christmas list this year received a perfunctory gift from you?

It would be nice to think that it's the rule rather than the exception that people spend their precious time finding a gift that expresses love and thoughtfulness towards someone close--someone they care about. What criteria do we use to make our Christmas lists? Many more gifts than we'd like to think are given to satisfy feelings of obligation, or worse to fend off guilt. How many times have you heard someone say while receiving a gift..."you shouldn't have" or "but I didn't get you anything" and when giving a gift "Oh, it's was nothing,"..or "think nothing of it" Should you even bother when the only motivation is a feeling of obligation and the recipient feels guilty because they didn't reciprocate and worse, you think less of them for not returning the favor. They never dreamed that they'd get a gift from you. At this point something has gone wrong.

Some people, and they're easy to spot when you see them out shopping, are completely conscious of the nature and meaning of Christmas. They're the ones who are smiling and looking at this winter holiday not as a necessary annual exercise or some unpleasant task, but as a chance to express love and experience the joy of giving. Their enthusiasm about gift-giving is infectious and a tribute to the spirit of the holiday. They exemplify the notion that it is better to give than to receive. These people do exist and fortunately they carry the torch for everyone else who sees Christmas as a continuously approaching deadline for finding something and wrapping it up for the people who likewise give us some useless but contemporary gift that was selected under similar conditions. The people that really care spend great amounts of time picking the perfect gift for the people they love. Even if they don't spend a lot of time, if it's not perfect it's at least functional or thoughtful. To them it's not a gift of obligation but a gift of love that tells their friend or relative that someone in the world actually cares about them, however undeserving or shallow they may be. To some degree, we are probably all guilty of giving gifts to satisfy our own feelings of obligation.

Maybe a good measure for determining who it's necessary to favor with gifts on Christmas is to consider who you would buy something for if it wasn't a designated gift-giving day. It's easy to justify giving a gift if you think you'll look like a schmuck if you don't. Who wants to be seen as cheap or thoughtless? Why can't you give a gift to someone you really care about any time you feel like it? Why do we think gifts have to be presented on a designated gift-giving day. I guess that some people might be suspicious or uncomfortable if you expressed your feelings about them on a non-traditional gift-giving day. "Well it's Tuesday and I thought you'd like this stainless steel colander. I know how you worry about your pasta sticking." Whether you're a man or a woman giving this gift to a man or a woman on the third Tuesday in June, most likely your friend would think you're whacked-out. People are suspicious of gifts that are tendered on days unrecognized as traditional gift-giving days. It's unfortunate but true. Why is it that our motives become suspicious to others when we give out of nothing more than love or friendship? "Okay so what's the catch, what do want"? That's the natural reaction. If it's not said it's thought. The answer: "I just want you to know that I care about you and appreciate you, and I wish I could express those feelings anytime I feel like it." And as your friend turns their head sideways like a dog listening to you practicing French on them, you can say..."Okay, just consider it an early Christmas present."

It's does give us a special pleasure to show our love and appreciation of others with gifts, and in return it's very satisfying to be appreciated and loved. But maybe if you just feel like you should, you shouldn't bother. Do it because you want to and not because someone else shouldn't have done the same for you.

Maybe the meaning of Christmas is simply to show our love and appreciation for people we care about. And, fortunately we have designated one special day to do this.