It’s better to give than to receive, so the saying goes. Well, whoever said that has obviously never had oral sex – or, for that matter, a girlfriend. Because where women are concerned, there is one thing that fills us men with dread. And that’s having to buy you a present.
Christmas is a relationship danger zone, which is perhaps not surprising when you compare the thought you put into what you’re going to get us with the rubbish we usually buy you. A previous relationship of mine didn’t quite make it to January because, much as l loved the Mont Blanc pen she’d bought me, the pretty summer slippers I gave her ‘didn’t count as shoes’, apparently.
In our defence, what you should grasp is this: women and men are worlds apart when it comes to the whole present thing. This is mainly because it gives you an extra excuse to indulge in your most (and our least) favourite activity – shopping. Come December, you’ll happily breeze into one of those pointless-looking gift shops and buy scented candles that smell like toilet cleaner, or one of those decorated boxes that’s too small to hold anything useful.
Men hate shopping at the best of times, but particularly at Christmas and birthdays, when there’s the added stress of having to buy something for somebody else. Normally, we work on the ‘if we need it, we buy it’ principle, making the idea of presents a little redundant. And we kind of assume (given the amount of time you spend in shopping malls) that you do the same. Which is why, when it comes to gift giving, our ‘practical’ head comes into play.
We know you like handbags and shoes but common sense (or a glance inside your wardrobe) tells us you already have more than enough of those. There’s always perfume – but then we’re worried that you’ll think we‘re only buying it because we don’t like the way you smell. And clothes? You spend most of the year buying the season’s must-haves, then hitting the roof if we suggest that new puffball dress might make you look pregnant. How can we be expected to make the right choice as we frantically sprint around Woolies at 5pm on Christmas Eve?
Even when we do use our initiative, we’re guaranteed to have it thrown back in our faces. My girlfriend took one look at the jacket I bought her from Mango last year – one I'd seen her admire several times – before asking for the receipt so she could change it ‘for another colour’. She then came home with a pair of shoes because ‘they didn‘t have my size’. Faced with this kind of reaction, is it any wonder you end up with something from us made by Margaret Roberts rather than Roberto Cavalli?
My friend Mike used to do surprisingly well with the chat-up line ‘Can I buy you a drink or would you just like the money?’ He now applies the same approach to present shopping and takes his partner with him. She gets what she wants, which – when it’s lingerie – has meant that he does too. Often right there in the changing room. Romantic? Perhaps not. Foolproof? You bet!
So this year, to avoid the usual letdown of a clumsily wrapped bottle of bubble bath, at least give us a hint. Point things out in the jeweller’s window. Tear out the fashion pages of COSMO and leave them inside the TV guide, where we’re sure to find them. Write us a ‘dear Santa' letter and slip it in with our Christmas card. Or, failing that, just tell us what it is you’re after. And even then, make sure we keep the receipt.