Monday, December 13, 2010

Checking it twice

I wasn't going to blog about this at all. In the grand scheme of things, it's just not that big of a deal.

But I was slightly annoyed by this post of Taylor Marshall's titled "Top 10 Manly Christmas Gifts for Your Dad or Husband." And that annoyance was building in the way it does in a redhead's brain, so that I finally decided to write about it and get it over with (see sidebar for relevant Mason Cooley quote).

Marshall's list contains the following items in this order:
  • an "old school" shaving razor, complete with badger hair brush;
  • pipe and tobacco;
  • boots (the cowboy variety, not the winter snow sort);
  • Kindle;
  • a "nice leatherbound pocket Bible";
  • a "nice durable rosary" which wives will probably have to make from components bought at a Manly Hardware Store;
  • a gun (the real kind);
  • Homebrewing kit;
  • a meat smoker;
  • a pocket knife
Forget the wimpy ties and polo shirts, Marshall tells female readers; guys don't want that stuff.

Hmm. Where to begin?

I could start with the obvious point, which is that unless oral cancer is now a manly virtue (to say nothing of lung cancer and other ills), wives who actually love their husbands won't buy them pipes and tobacco--especially if they are presently non-smokers. There seems to be a subset of Catholic guys, though, who think that just because the Old Great Catholic Writers smoked pipes and wrote movingly of the pipe's virtues, somehow the humble pipe (unlike the filthy cigarette) will magically avoid being a carcinogenic agent. That is not the opinion of most medical professionals, however; even occasional tobacco use can lead to no small number of rather nasty side effects, so this is one "manly" gift that doesn't really make the cut.

Then, too, there's the question as to whether a gun is really a necessity--or whether this is, depending on one's locale, even a legal gift to give someone. Sure, any number of people who enjoy hunting are responsible gun owners; others who use guns for protection but who are cautious about leaving the weapon where children can get hold of it are also responsible gun owners. But considering the alarming statistics about children and gun accidents, it's not necessarily unmanly for a gentleman to decide not to own a gun when there are many small people living in or regularly visiting his home.

The main problem with the other gifts on the list (aside from the fact that not every gentleman will want a meat smoker or a homebrewing kit) is the cost. Only three of the gifts on the list, the pocket Bible, the homemade rosary, and the pocket knife, cost less than fifty dollars. Most of the other gifts start in the seventy dollar price range, and the cowboy boots and Kindle are approximately $130 to $140 apiece. Topping the list is that meat smoker at just under $200.

Now, I have a feeling that if I were to write a blog post titled "Top Ten Truly Feminine Gifts for your Wife or Mother" and include a $130 handbag, a $140 bottle of perfume, or a $200 bracelet, and then list four more gifts in the seventy dollar and up price range while insinuating that the "usual" gifts of music cds, scarves or gloves or slippers, or perhaps a festive Tupperware (tm) set were "lame" or "generic"--well, I think that gentlemen readers would, quite rightly, cry foul. It is not, after all, very difficult to buy one's spouse a truly "manly" or "womanly" gift if one's gift budget permits the purchasing of a couple of rather expensive items. It is much more difficult to accomplish the same thing on one income and after having purchased gifts for one's children and relatives and co-workers; it is much more difficult to come up with satisfactory presents for one's husband--or one's wife--when money is tight and the budget for indulgences is severely limited.

Many Catholic families, blessed with many children and struggling to live on one income in a time when employment continues to be perilous and costs continue to rise, will see in Marshall's list not a helpful collection of gift items for husbands and fathers, but a fantasy comprised of items too expensive for the average person to afford. I myself find the list illustrative of a certain masculine mindset that sees value only in rather expensive gifts and is inclined to be dismissive of items of lesser cost (no matter the amount of love put into their purchase) as "lame" or "generic." So unless materialistic self-indulgence is also a new masculine virtue, I think this list is one that would have been better had somebody checked it twice.

24 comments:

priest's wife said...

great post red cardigan!

We are really trying to simplify- if any expensive things are bought, it will be a replacement mattress or blinds (getting enough sleep to go to work is very manly, I hear)

manly stuff- a six-pack of good beer (he will take at least 2 weeks to finish it while sharing with me)- yummy trail mix, new t-shirts, a rake, going to a movie- Voyage of the Dawn treader is manly- right? :)

Melanie B said...

The other problem I have with almost all of these lists (What your husband really wants, what your wife really wants) that seem to appear at this time of year is that they always reflect the author's very personal taste (and maybe that of his or her close friends) and ignore the fact that tastes vary widely and there is no one-size fits all kind of gift. What makes one man say, "Now that's a manly gift will often leave another man cold. Frankly, I almost never see my own tastes reflected in the "what to get your wife" lists.

This list for example says don't buy your wife practical things, she wants frills and luxury items. In fact, I often would prefer the practical gift to the useless pretty thing that takes up space. Also when the budget is tight even the practical things can seem like luxuries if you've been putting off their purchase. Then the second half of that list, the intangibles, strike me as things one should be doing anyway, not really "gifts" per-se. Not that it's not good for a reminder to refocus on one's priorities; but I do think most women would like something to unwrap beneath the tree. (And now I realize that the Mason Cooley quote applies to my own comment. My annoyance with that particular article is written out and off my own chest. Thank you for the opportunity to vent my own frustrations in your comment box, Erin.)

Charlotte (Waltzing Matilda) said...

I have no patience for either of those kinds of lists. I think all they do is encourage a stereo-type that frankly, we could do without. But I take exception with the Marshall list more because he seems to be using the Catholic faith as an excuse to be a neanderthal. Catholic men should be gentlemen, not "manly" clods who are only focused on being cool! I didn't think grown men really used the word "lame" and "generic" anymore, but I guess I was wrong. And if there is one good thing that my red-meat-gulping, cigar-puffing, boot-clomping "manly" father (with the 5 heart attacks and a triple bypass to prove it) taught me is that owning a gun is not a right of passage, it's a tool that should be properly used, maintained and protected. It's a serious responsibility, just like real manhood!

Barbara C. said...

That sounds like a perfect list for one of my friends who is married with no intention of ever having kids. He's a high-tech redneck, and he and his wife have an extensive gun collection that they take to the shooting range (as well as their conceal and carry licenses). He also has his own beer on tap in his basement and takes his turkey fryer when they go to various NASCAR races. And I'm sure he could use the rosary and Bible when he starts the deaconite program next summer. LOL

My husband on the other hand would find all of those gifts completely lame and generic. He'd much rather have sports memorabilia.

Anonymous said...

The list is simply hilarious.

Anonymous said...

I'm really hurt by all y'all, because these are the kind of things I might actually like, many of them anyway. God forbid a man might actually point out what many men might be interested in. Hardly "neanderthal" or "NASCAR".

Charlotte (Waltzing Matilda) said...

Dear anonymous of 10:46am:
My gripe with his post has more to do with his attitude than the items themselves. My husband used to have a smoker, not a $200 one, and enjoyed using it right up until it almost blew the electrical box in our house. I also gave him a rosary made out of hematite once that he carried and used until the sheen rubbed off. And he currently uses an "old school shaving kit" because it works better for getting a clean shave, not because he thinks it's more manly.

Marshall was the one who used the word "neanderthal" so I think he understood what the tone of his post was implying. He might have even been posting this list for controversy's sake, I wouldn't be surprised. Attitude is everything and if there is one thing Marshall's post is full of... it's attitude!

Barbara C. said...

I'm not mocking anyone about liking NASCAR or making fun of my friend. He's like a brother to me. But I do find it interesting that those were almost all things that he would like. He has cowboy boots, too.

But he is the only man of my acquaintance who would probably like any of those things.

Patrick said...

If you're worried whether or not your rosary is "manly", you're focus is on the wrong thing. Pray a rosary made from pink glass beads or shiny things: the BVM doesn't care if your rosary looks like something your grandma has in the jewelry box.

I don't like the trend that defines "manliness" as a function of products. Those things (pipes, guns, etc.) were often the *effects* of manliness, not the causes.

Dymphna said...

Except for the cigs and pipe my husband would like most of the stuff on this list. He also prefers a non girly rosary like I have. Men are not like women, thank God and why can't dad get a good gift this year? No man really wants a five dollar pack of underwear or a lousy tie.

Red Cardigan said...

"Why can't dad get a good gift this year?" Now there's a good, Catholic, non-materialistic, poverty-of-spirit attitude for you.

Sheesh.

LarryD said...

Red - maybe Taylor was just spoofing. And just wait until you see my list...

;-)

Anonymous said...

Y'know, I'm no fan of tobacco -- my parents were both heavy, heavy smokers, my mom Tareyton's my dad Pall Mall, which is unfiltered (and he died of severe lung cancer recently). So I get what RedC says about pipes/cigars, etc. I still worry about what growing up in that house will mean for my own future house.

But still...in the 21st century, we males are just emasculated. I watch Fight Club and think, yeah, that's about right, with allowances for the medium and the insanity of it all. Every where we turn, we're just f****** by political correctness and 2nd wave feminism in particular. And I hate it. And it's destroying us. And families.

And so anything that helps me feel like a male with 2 cojones, whether that be guns or dogs or a fishing rod or whatever, is helpful. I'd give me left arm if someone thought to give me some sort of manly gift, rather than a tie -- which, tied to the capitalist corporate world, is emasculating as all get-out -- or a shirt, or something similar.

You guys, men are in a precarious position, and we need love and care. We're on the edge, in general, and usually 37 seconds from snapping and killing someone. I know Taylor's post came across as hackneyed, cliched, trite, Missal-of-1962-in-amber, etc., and that he's a relatively cocky and proud young man who needs a good ass-kicking, and so anything RedC has to say about it (or anything) I'm gonna listen to with ears wide open. She's awesome. But God in heaven, what a f****** horrible world we men live in. Jesus, some one take us seriously and hear us for once.

Anonymous = 10.46 AM

Anonymous said...

house=health

MightyMighty said...

Ditto to that! I HATE how magazines will list "10 great gifts under $50", with most of them being pretty close to $50.

Where is the creative, "10 great gifts that are free"? or "10 great gifts for less than $15"?

We're in no position to spend $30-50 per gift on our combined 25 immediate family members (siblings, parents, siblings' spouses and children). Hmm, that would be about $1000? Without doing anything for friends/coworkers?

I prefer to find a small, super-thoughtful gift for each person, only thinking about price as an upper limit, not a lower. No, I wouldn't give somebody a $2 chapstick, but I might give them a $10 cosmetic I know they'll love.

We bought far more thoughtful gifts this year than last (thanks to working half as many hours!). We spent about $500 last year for 23 people, and this year we spent $350 on 25 people.

These lists would be more helpful if they were more creative and less about finding a fancy version of knick-knacks.

m.z. said...

Real men don't ask for gifts for Christmas or birthdays. I can't fathom the level of insecurity that requires loved ones to offer tributes regularly. That's equally applicable to real women.

Anonymous said...

I think you're making too big a deal out of this. But hey, it's your blog.

Red Cardigan said...

Um, yep, Anonymous! That's kind of the point of having a blog. :)

MZ, I can't fathom the level of insecurity that fails to bestow tokens of love, however imperfectly, upon the beloved. "Taking each other for granted" is not a virtue.

Appalachian Prof said...

We are cutting back as well. This year, everybody's getting underpants.

Tony said...

Anonymous, don't feel bad. The gift list were just the kind of things that I would love to receive (and have given on occasion).

I did not notice that the list said "top 10 least expensive gifts".

1. an "old school" shaving razor, complete with badger hair brush;

I have one of those. I've been using it for a few years. It cost me about $30 for the safety razor, and $30 for the brush.

Once I bought those, the blades for it are about $15 for 100, and I buy the soap for $12 / 2 pounds at A.C.Moore (a lot less with the 50% off one item coupon).

Shaving now costs me next to nothing and it's an enjoyable ritual I go through every day.

2. I tried a pipe. It's too much work for me. But I like a cigar. I smoke them occasionally when I have enough time (not often in the winter, and about once a week or two weeks in the summer).

My wife has bought me cigars I like and lighters and cutters (even though she thinks they're "stinky").

I married a wife, not a mom or a nanny.

3. boots (the cowboy variety, not the winter snow sort);

I'm not a cowboy boot type, but I can see how some guys might enjoy them. Especially the custom made for your feet variety.

4. A Kindle would be neat, but this year I splurged on a netbook for about $350. Small compact, I can not only read books and stuff on it, but do other computer related things.

With guys, "gizmos" are always appreciated. I told my wife that every Christmas I'd like to see one "toy" for me under the tree.

5. I carry my Douay Rheims bible on my iPod Touch.

6. I make rosaries, and I have recently learned to make wire-wrap rosaries that are very durable. A praying man wants a rosary that doesn't have small crystal beads, and holds together well. A favorite that I make are the ones made out of Bethlehem olive wood beads.

7. I prefer to pick out my own gun. That's a hard thing to buy for someone else. Like for my wife, She'd have to find out which ones fit her hand properly, and had recoil she could take while practicing.

8. I tried home brewing. It's fun. It'd be fun for any guy who likes to tinker and drink beer.

9. I don't know about a meat smoker. Seems like a very limited sort of appliance.

10. A pocket knife is a good idea. I like the SOG one hand openers. You can open them with one hand while you hold the package or box in the other.

As far as the carcinogens... We're concerned about your health. Obesity is a real problem in this country, so no candy, bonbons or cookies for you. I hope you like the Christmas veggie platter.

Also, alcohol contributes to more deaths in the U.S. than firearms, so no wine or liquor for you. Many times kids get into the wine and liquor, so we're protecting the little darlings too.

As far as the alarming statistics about children and gun accidents, five times as many children drown in swimming pools than are killed in gun accidents, so no swimming pools.

The most offensive part of this post is that Erin thinks she knows what's best for us.

This infantalizing of adult men drives me bat****.

Baron Korf said...

Amen Tony!

Red Cardigan said...

Well, gee, Tony, so you married a wife. And she knows you want a "toy" under the tree--do you then fuss at her for spending too much on the kiddies, I wonder? Because some of the men I know who want and expect expensive gadgets for Christmas throw a fit if their wives spend $60 on a new winter coat for the eight-year-old. But perhaps you are lavish toward your children or grandchildren and other relatives and the poor and your parish priest and everyone else before you go demanding "gizmos," in which case I suppose it must be laudable for you expect expensive goodies under the tree.

And I stand by what I said about the smoking thing. I watched my grandfather die of emphysema--years after his smoking killed my grandmother, who "spoiled his retirement" by dying of cancer so young (age 54). My obese great-grandma lived into her nineties, for what it's worth.

Smoking is not some glorious manly art. But hey, gents, go right ahead. I just encourage your wives to demand that you take out hefty life insurance policies--because most of them will end up fairly young widows, and your mouth cancer treatments (yep, even occasional cigar smoking is linked to oral cancer) is going to deplete the old bank account rather.

You know who I think of as the most manly man who ever walked this earth? St. Joseph. Guys who want to be manly would be a lot better off practicing a little light carpentry around the house than being poseurs.

Baron Korf said...

You do realize that one of the strengths of this list is the range of prices being $16 to $200 or more. There is also a wide variety of topics covered by that list: hygiene, fashion, cooking, faith, literature, and hobbies. What's wrong with that?

Pipe smoking is different in style, substance, and use. As such the risks are generally lower. The primary danger for cigarette smokers is the shear volume that they consume. Most pipe enthusiasts smoke 1/10th as much or less than the average cigarette smoker. Now there is a risk involved to be sure, but so does drinking, hunting, fishing, skiing, biking, and hiking. I've known of people dying to each of those hobbies. It is all about risk management.

Carpentry nearly killed one of my college professors. He was turning a bowl and it shattered on the lathe and put a hole through the garage wall. A quarter second earlier or later and the fragment would've gone through him instead.

Tony said...

Well, gee, Tony, so you married a wife. And she knows you want a "toy" under the tree--do you then fuss at her for spending too much on the kiddies, I wonder? Because some of the men I know who want and expect expensive gadgets for Christmas throw a fit if their wives spend $60 on a new winter coat for the eight-year-old.

Actually, no. I find it's much better to give than receive. On Christmas morning, my pile is usually the smallest (both in cost and number of packages). I wouldn't have it any other way.

My wife is the one who taught me frugality.

But perhaps you are lavish toward your children or grandchildren and other relatives and the poor and your parish priest and everyone else before you go demanding "gizmos," in which case I suppose it must be laudable for you expect expensive goodies under the tree.

I don't believe you'd find the word "demand" or even "expect" in my comment above. As we have advanced in our careers, my wife and I have become able to afford more expensive things. Though we've been known to buy each other practical gifts (one year I bought "her" a stainless steel sink and installed it, and she bought "me" a reverse osmosis water system).

And I stand by what I said about the smoking thing. I watched my grandfather die of emphysema--years after his smoking killed my grandmother, who "spoiled his retirement" by dying of cancer so young (age 54). My obese great-grandma lived into her nineties, for what it's worth.

When someone dies of cancer, it always seems to be someone's smoking that did it. I have yet to see "enviromental tobacco smoke" as the cause of death on someone's death certificate.

I know a guy who liver problems, a couple heart attacks, was shot at in the war and injured, and when he dies it'll be his "smoking" that's listed as the cause.

We are all going to die of something. My grandfather lived almost to 90 after a lifetime of smoking Parodi cigars. Go figure.

Smoking is not some glorious manly art. But hey, gents, go right ahead. I just encourage your wives to demand that you take out hefty life insurance policies--because most of them will end up fairly young widows, and your mouth cancer treatments (yep, even occasional cigar smoking is linked to oral cancer) is going to deplete the old bank account rather.

I will enjoy my premium cigar, knowing full well of the dangers. I drive my car, swim in the ocean, play golf, shoot guns and other potentially dangerous persuits knowing full weill the dangers.

My chance of contracting oral cancer is 6 times more than a non smoker. That measn for most people it's 1 in a million. For me it's 6 in a million. I have a 1 in 600,000 chance of dying in a fatal car accident. That doesn't prompt me to stop driving.

You know who I think of as the most manly man who ever walked this earth? St. Joseph. Guys who want to be manly would be a lot better off practicing a little light carpentry around the house than being poseurs.

Well, you can do both, you know. Now if I can only learn how to make flowers bloom from my walking stick. :)