Make Christmas Suck Less

Black Friday just passed. If you’re like most dads and fathers, what to get you crossed nary a mind, while the women in your life were camped out on a sidewalk in $300 worth of new tent to save a whopping $100 on some new thing to replace the perfectly good one you already have at home.

Christmas gifts are the biggest screw jobs imaginable, especially if you have young kids. Between ugly ties, shoe horns with extended handles, and knockoff cologne sold from the trunk of an Armenian’s car, Christmas Day has become a contest to see who can give Dad the most useless gift.

OK. The duct tape wallet is kinda cool, but did you really have to go through three rolls before you got it right? That stuff’s pricey.

Duct tape walletKids are the worst about gift buying for Dads. Mostly because they don’t have any money, and if they use what little they do have…well, you know how that turns out. Your gift is a piece of macaroni art and a pack of Black Jack chewing gum.

The little ones have an excuse. They don’t have much to work with and are making the best of their resources. I admire that. They also don’t have a firm grasp on the concept of time.

I don’t know about your house, but around mine the worst part of any child buying me a gift is that it is most likely accomplished with my money because they operate in a very cash-poor existence.

However, I hold the teenagers to a little higher standard. They have magnificent plans, that I won’t be able to finance, laid out for the rest of their lives, but act surprised when they wake up Christmas morning  empty-handed because they “couldn’t make it to the store in time” or I’m “just so hard to shop for.”

Both of those excuses are horseshit. Christmas is the same day, every year, and like most men, it takes almost nothing to make me happy. Silence is always a good start.

I’ve got a great idea for a gift that won’t cost a penny. Do your fucking chores without being told.

That’s the gift that keeps on giving.

That and herpes.

Don't Blame the Shirt.
Don’t Blame the Shirt.

Despite being detail orientated, women screw up gift giving, too. It’s not their fault. A woman’s sensibilities are just different from a man’s. Men fail in picking the correct color or size of a gift. We always go small, not to make you feel fat, but to avoid the accusation that we think you’re fat. It’s really a no-win situation.

That’s why men love to give flowers. No sizes to worry about. No whining about calories or recriminations about hoping you’ll share with us like there is with candy. Not only that, but flowers can be given to a woman of any age and any relationship to the giver.

As a caveat to flowers, I would say to be cautious about roses. There’s a whole hierarchy involving rose colors that is more complex than semaphore and the Gay Hanky Code combined.

Just be sure to spend the couple of extra bucks for a card. There are a million of them out there, so finding an appropriate one is a snap. Don’t go for perfect. “Good enough” works fine.

At least, Christmas isn’t some made up, phony baloney holiday, like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Kwanzaa.

My Name is Raaaaalph!
My Name is Raaaaalph!

I guess I can’t complain too much. My family has figured out that a liquored up Carlos is willing to go through the ceremony without too much complaint. As a friend of mine once told me about receiving gifts from wives and kids,

“It’s not about you or a gift you actually want, asshole. You have all the shit you want already. It’s about them showing their feelings about you.

So, put on your big boy pants, shut the fuck up about it, and let them have their moment to express their gratitude to you.”

Sorry about the language, but that’s the way men talk, when the wife and kids aren’t around.

Where women miss the mark in selecting gifts for their men is not understanding exactly how basic most men are. Sure, there are a few men floating around who would love tickets to Nutcracker, but most of them already have boyfriends.

For the most part, men are super easy to please. Weekend road trips, fancy dinners, and antiquing are the last things that come to mind when our woman says she has a surprise for us. The first thing we think is “Threesome.”

Women, your best bet is to look around the house (and better yet, the garage) for a guide to what your man would most appreciate as a gift. If he is a handy sort with a pegboard full of tools, there is your starting point. The same goes for a workbench covered in remote control airplane parts, a large cigar humidor on his desk, or a set of golf clubs that are always in the car trunk.

Free of charge, I will now provide you a tip of such profound insight that you will swear it was passed down from grandmother to granddaughter going back to the dawn of time.Reading

Walk into the bathroom your man habitually uses and look around. Most likely on top of the toilet tank (perhaps in a wooden rack or wicker basket, if you have managed to civilize him) will be a collection of magazines he uses to help wile away the time while responding to nature’s call.

If you see car magazines, your man likes cars. If you see gun magazines, your man likes guns. If you see nudie magazines,…well, you get the idea.

The point is a man’s leisure-reading interests are an excellent clue to the activities he enjoys. That point is only profound in the sense that it is often overlooked. Actually, women are the same way.

That probably explains why my wife’s bookshelf is filled with gardening books and romance novels.

Once you have an idea what interests your man, try to put yourself in a position where you accompany him to a store specializing in those items. Even if you have zero interest in the activity, ask to go with him or include a stop there while you’re together running other errands. Even if he suspects you are setting up the situation, any man worth his salt will keep his mouth shut and play along. It actually works better if he is suspicious, and you will see why in a moment.

When you arrive at this retail establishment that specializes in his interest, you will see a transformation occur. One idiom everyone understands is “kid in a candy store.” Your normally calm, staid man will develop a gleam in his eyes and become antsy. He may even drool a bit. That is when you know you have come to the right place.

Pay attention to everything his picks up and examines. Home in on those items because that is his heart’s desire. If he examines two of essentially the same item, he is comparing them in contemplation of acquisition. Ninety percent of your gift selection work is done.

This is where you have to get sneaky. Pretend to be interested. Ask what the differences are and why one is better than the other. Good men relish the opportunity to pass on our knowledge. You’ll be tired of listening before we are tired of talking.

That’s why young men should find an older guy to hang out with; they know about stuff and are willing to explain it. It’s something that comes with getting old.

Again, don’t worry about your man figuring out what you’re up to. It will actually work to your benefit because he will say something like, “If I were to get one, it would be this one.”

And that is exactly how easy it is to buy a gift for a man. Like I said, we are not complex. We like useful gifts that accomplish a task. With that in mind, here are some gift ideas for the men in your life, so you can plan ahead:

images (4)Tools: A man without an assortment of easily accessible tools considers himself slightly less masculine. The first step to modern man was Homo Habilis.

The Tool Man, or Handy Man depending on which scientist you ask, was the first of our ancestors to use implements to make life better. Shortly after discovering tools, I suspect Mrs. Habilis started writing out the first Honey-Do List, and weekends have never been the same.

Modern man continues with the innate desire to fix things. In my garage, I have no fewer than two dozen hammers. I don’t blacksmith as a hobby, which by the way requires a huge number of specialized hammers. Neither do I collect antique hammers. I have accumulated specialized hammers for different applications.

You don’t frame a house with an upholstery hammer or the other way around. And don’t even get me started on how many sets of screwdrivers I have. The way to many a man’s heart leads through the Tool Corral at Home Depot.

images (17)Firearms and accessories: I am a Gun Guy. Or as a friend of mine once called me, a Gun Queer. I wear the title proudly, even though the entry on Urban Dictionary is derogatory. Whomever wrote that definition can screw off.

I’m changing the definition starting right here, and I proudly proclaim that I’m gay for guns.

Firearms themselves can be a big ticket item, and your budget may not allow for the purchase of a new Remchesterby Ultra Deluxe Extra Mangum Rex. Have no fear, loving woman.

Ammunition in any of the common calibers is always a good choice. It says, “I’m not exactly sure of your tastes and preferences, but I get you on a deep emotional level.” It’s far more personal and heartfelt than a gift certificate. Even if it’s a caliber he doesn’t have, it’s a good excuse to make another gun purchase or to use later for barter. Either way: Mission Accomplished! download (12)

Liquor: Even men who are not connoisseurs of The Devil’s Drool will not turn up their noses at a bottle of firewater. Scotch is my libation of choice. Not just any Scotch, mind you. I am a single malt man, but I have developed a taste for Bourbon over the past few years. Yes, they are both whiskey, but they are entirely different from each other and wonderful in their own special ways. If your man has a preferred drink, you should know it already.

If you can’t remember your man’s favorite drink and how to prepare it, can you really expect him to remember your favorite flower and lingerie color?

When in doubt, ask him what he drinks already and get him more of it. Just like ammunition, more of what he likes and uses is never a bad thing. Alternately, ask him what he would buy, if he wasn’t afraid it would take away from paying for essentials. If you’re dead set on making it a surprise, ask one of his friends whom you trust to keep his mouth shut. Lacking a trustworthy buddy, ask your dad, grandfather, or an uncle. One of them will either know or know someone who does.

images (54)Knives: These could almost be categorized under tools were it not for the fact that virtually all tool manufactures turn out piss poor knives. So, they get their own entry.

Edged tools, which is arguably what knives are, hold an important place in life. Look around your kitchen for an idea of how many forms they take and ask yourself why one may be better than another depending on the task. You would have a tough time carving a roast with a vegetable peeler.

A man does not have to be John Rambo or running a trap-line to have need of something with a sharp point and the ability to cut. Even something as simple and utilitarian as a single-blade, folding pocket knife is a heartfelt gift your man will cherish the rest of his life.

My wife figured this out years ago. As a result, I have a dresser drawer full of pocket knives that rotate through my pocket the way a business man rotates his ties. Good quality brands of knives can even be found at Walmart.

download (21)Grooming: Men may look scruffy sometimes, but we all have need of grooming supplies. Even men with beards have need of them. Give him a thrill every morning with the gift of a shaving brush. Not just any old shaving brush. Pay the extra money for a badger hair brush.

The badger isn’t harmed. He’s wrestled to the ground, a clip of fur is taken, and he is released back into the wild. Well, not really, but you can tell yourself that, if you’re one of those animal rights folks.

This is a situation of a natural product being far and away superior to anything man-made. A good quality badger hair shaving brush will last your man the rest of his life. It can literally be handed down to his grandson.

As a matter of fact, if you have the funds and the inclination to search for one, there are exquisite examples of shaving brushes made in the 19th century set into handles of exotic hardwoods and even ivory. We are talking usable antiques.

If you insist on going the modern route (I recommend boar hair, at a minimum), get a set that includes a shaving mug, stand, and a cake of soap. There is a huge range of shaving soaps available in different scents and ingredient combinations to suit your man’s skin type.

My wife makes my shaving soap (among other types) here on the farm, so give us a shout, if you’d like to try some.

To be really adventurous, include a new safety razor. Or if you’re going with the antique theme, ask grandma if she has one squirreled away someplace. Again, if you go new, go quality. You’ll be money ahead in the long run.

On a special safety note: This is a different kind of shaving that has a bit of a learning curve. Don’t hurry and don’t try to learn it while drunk or tired because it can be a little dangerous at first. However, once mastered, a safety razor provides a smooth, extremely kissable face you did not know was possible.

For the man with facial hair, nothing cleans up a mustache or shapes a beard quite like a quality pair of scissors. I’m talking about purpose built, micro-serrated along the edges shears used for nothing other than keeping your man’s facial topiary in tiptop form. They may seem a bit pricey for a pair of scissors, but like anything else in life, get a quality tool and it will never need replacement.images (55)

Sausage and cheese combo packs: My wife scoffed at these until I explained. For those who don’t know what these are, you see them in front of checkout registers starting about Thanksgiving every year, but thanks to the internet and retailers such as Bed, Bath, and Beyond, they are available year round. I guess “beyond” has more of a ring to it than “sausage and cheese.”

“Bed, Bath, Sausage and Cheese” just doesn’t roll off the tongue the same way.

Those packages of assorted dry cured sausages and various cheeses are proof that God loves us. The really fancy ones have tiny little jars of assorted mustards and crackers (and for the adventurous, chutneys). I squeal like a little girl who just discovered a spider in her underwear drawer when I receive one of these.

They are the perfect gift for the man who has everything or if selecting from one of the above categories still makes you nervous. How better to say “I love you the way you are and don’t mind if you get a little chubby”? Maybe that was a poor choice of words.

You can’t ever have too many of these combo packs around. They keep just about forever, and have protein and calcium without too many carbs from the crackers. As a quick meal for the gentleman on the go or a bachelor sitting in front of the boob-tube in his boxers, who doesn’t feel like cooking and can’t order take-out because pay day isn’t until Friday, these combo packs are better than a supply of Meals Ready to Eat stashed in the basement.

I have instructed my wife to keep a supply of them somewhere in the house for those times when we need a last minute gift for a man. However, she has to hide them because I will ferret them out like a…well, like a ferret down a rabbit hole.

That’s it, ladies (or men. I’m not picky when on the receiving end….damn, another bad word choice). A guide to buying gifts that will make any man think you’re the coolest chick he knows.


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