Core: noun, the most important part of a thing, the essence; from the Latin cor, meaning heart.

Click for Front Page of Current Issue (Home)

 Volume 2.15  This View’s Guest Column December 16, 2002 

Holiday Shopping Advice for Men
    Bill Dunn    

The halls are decked, the lights are twinkling, and glowing plastic Santas adorn front lawns across the country. As the cheery carol explains, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Ever since the holiday season officially began the day after Halloween (the season unofficially began for the retail industry the day after Labor Day), people have been flocking to the malls to do their Christmas shopping.

By “people,” of course, I mean women. Since there is still some time left between now and December 24th, men have yet to give any thought to Christmas shopping. But who can blame them? It’s a very painful subject. No one looks forward to participating in an event with a guaranteed 100-percent failure rate.

Year after year, the same excruciating scene plays out on Christmas morning. As gifts purchased by the woman of the house are opened, there is a joyful squeal and a gushing, “Thank you, Mom! It’s just what I wanted!” When gifts purchased by the man of the house are opened, there is a moment of puzzlement, then a disappointed frown, and finally a polite, “Thank you, Daddy.”

But the worst is yet to come. The gift-opening festivities always conclude with mom opening her present from dad. The room falls silent as everyone stares. Beads of anxiety perspiration trickle down dad’s forehead. A look of optimism—which even a die-hard Red Sox fan would find delusional—appears on mom’s face as she anticipates that somehow this year will be different. She carefully unwraps the package, and finally the gift is revealed. In lieu of a polite, “Thank you,” the typical response is a quivering lower lip and a choking, “I’d better start breakfast.” And so, once again, at approximately 7:15 on the morning of December 25th, soft sobbing can be heard in kitchens all across America.

And once again, in living rooms all across America, men sit on their couches, rubbing their unshaven chins, wondering what went wrong. Oftentimes they sacrificed as much as one full hour of their valuable time wandering through the mall the night before, and still Christmas morning was filled with pain and disappointment.

Unlike what many people think, the problem here is not a lack of effort—one hour in the mall is more than enough time to buy good gifts, assuming you do a little planning beforehand and catch a break by finding that rare sales clerk with more brains in his head than piercings on his face. The real problem is that men do not instinctively grasp a subtle gift-giving concept: when you buy a gift for someone, you must buy something they would like to receive, not something you would like to receive.

I know a guy who bought his bride a hedge trimmer for Christmas. To his surprise she cried, and she could not be consoled, even when he explained it was the best hedge trimmer in the store, and it had self-sharpening blades, and a high-torque, overload protected, two-speed electric motor, and…

Figuring he didn’t spend enough money, the next year he bought his wife a deluxe, state-of-the art, ten horsepower snow blower. Again, it was scrambled eggs and tears for Christmas breakfast.

The following holiday season this poor guy was frantic. He went to a bank and tried to take out a commercial loan to purchase a backhoe for his wife. “I’ll park it in the front yard with a big red bow on it,” he thought. “She’ll be thrilled.”

Luckily, before the commercial loan was processed, this guy’s father-in-law gave him a little friendly advice. “Why don’t you get her some jewelry?” he suggested.

“Jewelry? I hate jewelry,” the guy replied.

“Fine. Then don’t wear it.”

“Well, of course I’m not gonna wear it. It’s not for me, it’s for— Ohhhh… now I get it.”

From that moment on, Christmas morning ceased to be a time of sadness in that particular fellow’s home. Instead of scrambled eggs and tears, he now enjoys a holiday breakfast of pancakes and kisses.

And the good news is all American men can learn this priceless Christmas shopping secret—even you! But it will take a great deal of effort and discipline. While cruising through the mall on the evening of the 24th, you must resist the urge to enter any hardware department or electronics store. Instead, force yourself to go where you’ve never been before: those little frilly and fragrant boutiques.

Avert your eyes if you must. Hold your nose if necessary. Just grab the first thing you see and buy it. I guarantee your wife will love it; not because it’s just what she wanted—chances are she’ll never use it. But she’ll love it precisely because it’s not just what you wanted. You’ll receive the most passionate thank-you kiss ever. It is possible to make this holiday season truly “the most wonderful time of the year.”

© 2002 Bill Dunn. Used with permission.

Bill Dunn is a free-lance writer and born-again Catholic who resides in Connecticut. He can be reached via his website at:

    Webpage © 2002 ELC    

 Volume 2.15 This View’s Guest Column December 16, 2002 

The View from the Core, and all original material, © 2002 E. L. Core. All rights reserved.

Cor ad cor loquitur J. H. Newman — “Heart speaks to heart”