Advising Guys on Buying Gifts

February 3, 2011

5 min read


If you’ve ever gotten a rotten present don’t blame your man. He’s GSC -- Genetically Shopping-Challenged.

The other day I saw a TV ad. Over a classy small, velvet box from a store no doubt frequented by Paris Hilton, a voice, halfway between James Earl Jones and Ben Gurion, said:

Real Men Give Diamonds. It means never having to say ‘You’re Sorry’ again.

If I look back on the stuff I’ve been given through the years by the males in my life, well…

Now, as a usually rational Jewish woman with a modicum of saichel, I knew this is just more blather-hype for that love-by-hand-grenade secular holiday, Valentine’s Day.

And, as a Jewish woman, anti-Semitic stereotypes to the contrary, we are the least spoiled around “holiday” gift-giving. After all, what Jewess on Chanukah expects eight nights of diamonds in the shape of latkes?

But then, what about those other days? Truth be told, if I look back on the stuff I’ve been given through the years by the males in my life, well…

At age 12, I met Joey, a nice boy from Bubbe’s Brooklyn shul, whose dad was “Goldstein’s Dry Goods.” Joey presented me with my first gift from a boy, and with trembling chubby fingers I opened the package. And there it was:

Thirty photos of the Myrtle Avenue El. (For the uninitiated, this was an elevated train line devoted to Brooklynites from Bushwick to Ridgewood.) Naturally, I thanked him profusely, which wasn’t easy as out of my left eye, I saw Bubbe doing dishes, her back heaving in silent hysteria. Maybe it was me? After all, what young girl wouldn’t swoon over more photos of a train?

OK, I thought, so Joey was a nerd-keit. But this was an aberration, no?


At age 17, at my send-off to college get-together, “Marv” handed me a heavy box. Quaking with excitement, I slowly unwrapped. And little by little it emerged.

A cuckoo clock.

“I wanted to get you something ‘personal,’” he explained. His friend Bernie gave him the idea. (Thank you, Bernie, wherever you are.) I thought hard. Had I ever mentioned a passion for clocks? Jumping German birds? Cuckoos? Was this a ‘personal’ statement about me? Once again, I plotzed with faux joy.

It’s been downhill from there. Now before you, my dear readers, get all huffy at my egregious lack of appreciation, it’s not the gift that gets to me. It’s the thought. And despite the most appreciated motive, these gifts were truly bad thoughts. Can’t they have better ones? So, after much deliberation, research, and years of clinical background, I asked myself, “What’s with these guys?”

Here my diagnosis:

They’re Genetically Shopping-Challenged (GSC). Despite the acute stress, the anxiety, the geshrei-ing, and the long female memory that accompanies rotten gift-giving, the condition has failed to make the Manual of Mental Disorders. Why? According to my reckoning, it’s a common condition that affects between 75-87% of the male population.

Simply, the male is hard-wired differently from the female. Somewhere along the Male-Genome they lack the DNA to shop – for us. (Or, if they have it, it’s lopped, like a shopping-circumcision.) All I know is, by eight days, Poof! Gone.

No doubt this is a vestige from their hunter days when “man” shopped: 1- to fix, 2-to shlep home bison, which is why today the average guy is terrific at buying sump pumps and car alarms that can be heard in Guatemala.

Shopping for a woman, however, requires different shopping-gifting abilities, without which the typical male gets farmisht, farfufket, and fartumelt.

Now that we know it’s not their fault, the female gender can do a few things to improve the situation:

  1. Don’t confuse rotten gifts with rotten love. Most men are not guilty of not caring. No. Remember, they’re Genetically Shopping-Challenged. Therefore, only send men to stores named either “‘R Us,” or “City” as in Perfumes ’R Us, or Godiva City. This way, even if they forgot what they came for, they won’t get confused.
  2. Hint in places they like. Personally, I’ve hung two signs that read: GIFTS I WANT/NEED/FIT, and DON’T THINK ABOUT IT. These are posted a) on the side of the computer; b) in the snack drawer; c) on the bathroom wall.
  3. Give specific directions. True, most men hate directions when they’re lost in the desert in a sandstorm, but in Bloomies, men need details: “Third floor. Glove department. Second case from the left facing the elevator. White cotton. Medium. Go at three. Tomorrow. Ask for salesperson #12987. She’s waiting for you.”
  4. Applaud every real attempt. Face it, ladies, how often have we looked like we were just hit by a 14-wheeler when our poor man has handed us those super deluxe Ginzu knives? Effort must be rewarded. But don’t over-praise. I once received Jean Nate dusting powder and clap-clapped my way into enough of the stuff to sweeten a small third-world nation. So don’t overdo.

After all this, I confess, there are some unlikely gifts I’ve received I cherish. My son recently bought me a red studded shirt with more bling than Lady Gaga. He said it “looked like me.”

It was also a size two.

Is this how he sees me? Or, could it be my progeny has figured a way around GSC?

Either way, I’m kvelling.

Finally, if you’re one of those guys who falls into the other 15%, instead of hocking me for being shamefully politically incorrect, please, do us all a favor and start shopping!

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