Men would rather give than receive. Keep this in mind, ladies, as you freak out, panic, and wring your hands over what to get your beloved for Christmas. Around this time of year, I offer my services to various female friends who are all on maddening quests to buy their boyfriends and their husbands the perfect gift. These women are driven partly out of love, and partly because they feel they have to top the gifts their husbands and boyfriends have gotten them in the past. These gifts were, of course, exactly what the women wanted, and they were either cleverly hidden or extravagantly wrapped.
The secret to buying a woman the “perfect” gift, of course, is simple. You listen to her.
Over the course of a year, a woman will consciously or subconsciously reveal exactly what it is that her heart desires most. A good boyfriend or husband is a man whose brain and ears are like one of those high-tech eavesdropping satellites used by the government that search gales of chatter for specific keywords. When he hears “so pretty,” “can’t afford,” or “what do you think,” he immediately flags those words, stores them in his internal gift database, and come the holiday, creates a Perfect Gift Action Plan.
Women want to return the favor, because women are strangely competitive about things like that. But mainly, women return the favor because women have this annoying habit of wanting to share the warm blanket of their love with everyone in their life. So if they had their breath stolen by a gift that seemed lifted from their dreams “Inception”-style, they insist on re-creating that experience. They want their significant other to swoon.
But here’s the truth, ladies: ain’t going to happen. First of all, I’m going to admit, buying a gift for a man is super easy. There are four main man gift groups: Booze, Meat, Electronics, and Sporting Equipment. There is a fifth group, which is strictly related to mothers and their sons, and that is the Sweater group. But there you go. Buy any gift in any of those groups and bang-o, you have a happy man.
But if you really want to make your man happy this holiday, give him the gift of praise. I know women love to make fun of men and their insecurities. I’ve read many times over on this site about what a drag it is to stroke a man’s ego. But stroke his ego. Celebrate his nog! Congratulate him when he places that tiny log wrapped in paper in the fireplace, then places a single, lit match underneath it. When you get your gift, the gift he probably bought the night before but had been agonizing and thinking about for six months, go nutters. Later that night, after you’ve made his bells jingle and he’s blown tinsel all over your ornaments, tell him he’s the greatest, naughtiest elf in all of Santa’s workshop.
Think about it this way: if men and women are still driven by ancient biological impulses, then it makes sense that man is a giver, not a receiver. I do believe that humans have a basic programming, even if those evolutionary edicts are, at worst, cold, brutal, and prize survival at all costs. But in the face of these instincts, humanity has still found time to develop such lovely things as mercy, empathy, and flannel. We can subvert our own natures. Except when it comes to gifts. Do you think cavemen wanted to be given a mammoth tusk? Nay! They would have preferred to bring home a mammoth tusk to the cavewoman in their life. Even early man realized that he had to bring something to the table of man other than sperm. So he provided meat and tusks and other cool stuff he found while running around, and getting trampled and gored by prehistoric beasts.
Face it, if man didn’t earn his keep at the cave, he would have been kicked out of civilization’s genesis by females who asked, in grunts, “What is the point of you, caveman, now that you’ve knocked me up?” This is why we’re into giving, not receiving. We hope that the women in our lives will continue to let us stay in the cave if we can prove we can translate the heart’s secret whispers.