Aside from a police cruiser, I couldn’t care less about tangible gifts. And I don’t mean the old police cruisers, the stripped-down 1968 Crown Vics your friend would buy at an auction so he could terrorize young kids with beer by pretending to be an undercover cop. I’m talking about one of those fully equipped Dodge Chargers with V-8 engine and onboard computers.
Some people think that the cellphone is distraction enough, but that wouldn’t even compare to the multitasking enjoyment of checking e-mails and chatting on message boards as I make that slow trek along Route 114, talk radio on, Bluetooth to my ear, and coffee in my cup holder.
You can have your sports car. As the ultimate toy, I’ll take a car with a computer any day. It’s the closest you can get to the Batmobile, which is every man’s all-time favorite fantasy gift. Because this is the gift-giving issue, they asked me to write about the ultimate fantasy gifts for men. After polling thousands of men (and by “thousands” I mean “five”), I came to the conclusion that they all want the same thing, and that thing is something you can’t write about in this kind of magazine.
So, I discarded those suggestions, gave it considerable thought (and by “considerable” I mean “barely any”) and came to the conclusion that if it’s not a cool new car, men don’t appreciate much of anything. Even if it is a new police car, we want to test-drive it before you present it to us in the driveway with a big red bow. That wisdom applies to new golf clubs and even flat-screen TVs, too. We may not know more than you do about those subjects, but because we’re men, we think we do. There’s an entire chapter about this in Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.
This is not intended to be coarse, just honest. There’s no question that we appreciate your thoughtfulness, because we are not barbarians. But gifts themselves normally don’t bowl us over, no matter how skillful our acting. We’ll do our little “Isn’t that nice? New cufflinks” dance for the gift-giver, but the reality is that we just don’t care about most gifts because (A) what we really like is toys (B) that we’ll just buy for ourselves anyway.
Yes, yes. We love BlackBerrys, iPods, Wiis, golf clubs, and motorized grill-cleaning brushes from Brookstone. But those are all things we are going to buy eventually, not just because we want them, but because we know how important an active consumer is to the American economy.
If we receive something we already want as a gift, it simply means that the item has arrived in ourÂ possession early, that we don’t have to pay for it, and that we don’t have to think of some silly story to tell our wives. (“Yeah, it’s an office-chair massager. My doctor wrote me a prescription.”)
Look past a man’s vacant smile and scripted thank yous and read his mind as he receives gifts. This is what you’ll get: “Oh, golf ballsÂ….that saves me $30″ or”A shirt and sweater Â… I’ll have to bring those back when they don’t fit” or “Heyyyy! I know where this is going. Right in the drawer.” If we receive something we hadn’t thought of, we probably didn’t want it. It may not even be intended for us. “Oh,” we say, summoning our inner Dustin Hoffman. “Isn’t this nice, a relaxing two-night stay at a spa. And look, it’s the same weekend as the Super Bowl…”
The old phrase is that it’s a challenge to find a gift “for the man who has everything,” but the reality is that it’s a challenge to find a gift for the man who really doesn’t care about receiving anything.
My father is like that. He’s an avid reader, so for years I gave him bookstore gift certificates for his birthday. Over the years, he’s stockpiled a nice collection of gift certificates. I think this year for Christmas I’ll give him a gift certificate to a restaurant, which is really just another gift for my mother, who appreciates the night out.
If you’ve read this far and are still expecting to find a great fantasy gift idea, please accept either of these two pieces of advice: First, consider putting as little effort into this as possible and presenting us with something we will probably buy ourselves anyway. Keep your expectations for us very low, and we’ll all be happy. And if you’re still looking for ideas, there’s this other men’s magazine, and it has this section called “The ForumÂ…”