The following editorial appeared in the Chicago Tribune:
You know those television ads where a ruggedly handsome guy springs a diamond ring on his gorgeous wife? And her face crumples with joy?
Pure fantasy. Most males are hopelessly, appallingly, terrifyingly clueless when it comes to finding an acceptable gift for a wife/girlfriend/significant female. Just ask any woman.
A George Foreman grill was once offered as a Mother's Day gift to a woman we know. It still occupies a prominent spot in the Very Wrong Gift Hall of Fame, as her husband is often reminded.
A friend remembers a Christmas in which her father presented her mother with - no joke - a huge bag of coal. He thought it was funny and useful, she recalls. Some 40 years later, her mother is still not amused.
The Wall Street Journal recently ticked off a list of the worst gifts ever given by men to the women in their lives. Those included washcloths, cheese graters, weed whackers, nasal strips to prevent snoring and a case of ChapStick.
The holiday gift-giving landscape is treacherous, filled with booby traps. So, as a public service, we've assembled a few rules to keep in mind:
Never give her anything that you bought in an airport gift shop.
If the words "she could really use this," cross your mind while holding a gift, put it down and leave the store. Men like useful gifts, like tools. Women do not consider those gifts. For instance, she may want a bread maker. But she doesn't want it from you. And she doesn't want it as a gift for the holidays.
If you have a teenage daughter, beg her to help you pick out something for your wife. But don't blindly delegate the responsibility. A husband we know assigned his preteen daughter to select a gift. Her innocent but misguided choice: Flannel pajamas.
A Blu-ray disc player is not a gift for her. That is a gift for you.
If you ask your wife/girlfriend what she wants and she replies "nothing," do not believe her. And women, how about a little help here? What's wrong with leaving a catalog or two around the house with page corners strategically folded?
Keep track. A friend once presented his spouse with a pink turtleneck sweater from Ann Taylor two Christmases in a row. He claimed he forgot. She never has.
Never give your mother and your wife the same thing. "Every time I looked at that hat-and-gloves combo that we both got," said one friend, "I wanted to burn them."
Anything you bought on Christmas morning at Walgreens is not something you should tuck under the tree for her.
The thought doesn't count. You don't get points for trying hard. Get over it.
A vacuum? Are you insane?
Some parting advice: If you find yourself in the mall, head spinning, throw yourself on the mercy of the sisterhood. Ask a woman for help. But be prepared to open your wallet wide. A friend says: "A woman who is approached by a strange man who wants her opinion about corduroy slippers versus Water Pik will probably lead that man by the collar to the jewelry counter, where it's hard to screw up."
If all else fails, remember the mantra that one woman taught her toddler son as a helpful reminder to her husband around Christmas time: "You can't go wrong with cashmere."