Jan 192010
A cheesy iphone Ad made by Me.

Image by twenty5pics via Flickr

I don’t own an iPhone… partly because I don’t use my phone enough to warrant paying inflated monthly contracts, but mostly because I don’t like Apple’s restrictive business practice of tying customers to a particular network provider and locking them in to proprietary software and services. But the January sales are starting to change my mind.

Wherever you go in town during the sales you’ll find a particular breed of sorrowful creature: laden with carrier bags, wandering aimlessly outside fitting rooms, trying desperately not to look like a pervert in the lingerie department, and generally milling about on a never-ending quest for non-existent seating.

I’m talking, of course, about the long-suffering shopping-husband… a cross between an over-laden pack mule and a rabbit caught in headlights.

These people are usually so far outside their comfort zone that you’d expect them to be in a constant state of panic. They’re not, because the edge of that panic is dulled by the mind-numbing monotony of trotting from shop-to-shop behind a credit-card wielding spouse. That, and the preoccupation of juggling an ever-growing mountain of shopping bags, combined with the mental anguish of totting up next month’s credit card bill.

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Dec 242008
Thomas Nast's most famous drawing,

Image via Wikipedia

(Written last week for the Christmas Eve WOW! supplement in the Evening Echo)

By the time you read this it will be Christmas Eve.

Now there’s a scary thought… especially since I haven’t bought any of my Christmas presents yet. Like most men I leave my shopping until last minute, and that means lots of stressful running around a few days before the main event, dashing from shop to shop with a vague hope that inspiration will strike at any moment. If past experience is anything to go by, it won’t, and I’ll end up with something “nice”.

Nice is a really naff word; never more so than when applied to a Christmas present. Nice is neither one thing nor the other… it’s a pale pretender in comparison to more powerful descriptive words like “inspired”, “awesome”, “outstanding”, “brilliant”. Nice is never going to be “just what I always wanted”. Nice, inevitably, is an “also ran”… just good enough to be acceptable, but not good enough to be noteworthy.

This year I want to do better than “nice”. That shouldn’t be too difficult, because the only presents I have to worry about are my wife’s, from me and from the girls. She sorts everything else out.

In fairness, the presents from the girls are no problem either… I’ll just take them into town one day, point out a few suitable bits and bobs (organic soaps, loofahs and the like), wrap them up, put them under the tree… job done. It’s the present from me that’s wrecking my head, as usual.

I’ve had months to pick up the the subtle signs, and weeks to decipher the more blatant hinting. Yet here I am just a week before Christmas with nothing bought and only a couple of vague notions swimming around in the vacuum that was once my brain.

I suspect I’m not alone. Men in general are appalling at Buying presents. Ask us to choose something for ourselves and we’ll be calm, decisive and direct, but ask us to pick out a present for a loved one and suddenly we’re mindless, quivering wrecks. It’s like flicking a switch that induces instant lobotomy.

And so I’m floundering again this Christmas. It’s too late to order anything online (an option that came to my rescue in the nick of time last year). Last night I bit the bullet and asked for some direct input. Forget the subtlety, this was an emergency and I needed some hard data to work with.

So she got out the laptop and up popped the “Tiffany and Co.” website. I felt the blood drain from my face. In terms of high-risk Christmas shopping Jewellery is second only to clothes. I spent one summer in a former life working at Ratner’s the Jewellers – not quite in the “Tiffany and Co.” league, but still a jewellers. If working there taught me anything (apart from the fact that retail is a cut-throat, dog-eat-dog, commission fuelled maelstrom) it was that men should NEVER be allowed to pick out jewellery for their wives or girlfriends. Boys buying ear-rings for Mum is one thing… as for the rest, forget it.

It’s not as bad as it sounds though… she’s into silver rather than gold, and we’re not talking glittery gemstones here either, so the little blue box might not be too much of a stretch after all. I’ll also be in Dublin for a few hours on Saturday morning… so you never know.

By the time you read this my Christmas shopping woes will be behind me, but the mystery will remain for one more day. What is in that box under the tree? Is it something “nice”, or for once could it be more than that?

A very merry Christmas to you all!

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