Monday, November 28, 2011

2011's Top 10 Feminine Gifts; or, an attempt at humor

When Taylor Marshall posted his "Top 10 Manly Gifts..." list last year, I went on a bit of a redheaded rant about it all.

This year, Taylor has posted...the same list. The same exact items. Only two (or three, depending on how you look at it) of which are less than $50.00. (Yes, the pipe by itself is $39.99, but Taylor specifically suggests that you buy the carcinogens to go with it, and I'm assuming that will add a bit to the price; there are also two of the four knives technically below $50, but one of them is only less than $50 if you don't buy it new, apparently.) The rest range in price from $50 to $200--but at least they aren't "lame" like ties or polo shirts.

I think I covered my objections to this sort of thing pretty well last year; I also wrote the following:
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.
Rather than write another rant about Taylor's list this year, I think it would be more fun to take my own suggestion from last year, and write my own list. Since, however, my attempts at humor are sometimes not all that easy to spot (my fault, alas), I thought I would try to avoid misunderstanding by first saying this:

The part of this post written in red, below, is meant to be humorous. I do not think there is, or ought to be, a top 10 list of Feminine Gifts for your wives, daughters, mothers, grandmothers (or other women who embrace True Femininity while rejecting the masculinizing influences of the modern world). In fact, I think that women, like men, are quite different in their likes and tastes, and that there's no one right perfect pre-1960s way of being truly feminine that somehow defines femininity in a way that no other female way of living does. But for the sake of humor, we'll pretend that I do think exactly that for a moment, so that I can create a fitting counterpart for Taylor's list.

2011's Top 10 Feminine Gifts for your Wife, Daughter, Mother or Grandmother***

As every feminine Catholic woman knows, but (alas!) many manly Catholic men do not, the kinds of gifts you give the lady in your life are mostly just okay--if that. Many men seem to think that shopping, being a frivolous, trivial, female sort of activity (heaven only knows how much time the little woman wastes each week in the grocery store!), is not expected of men, and thus they feel put upon as Christmas draws near--must they really extinguish that manly pipe sometime before evening on December 24th and drag their manly-boot-clad feet into some glittering department store long enough to purchase whatever perfume is pre-wrapped at the fragrance counter?

Sadly, most women won't actually tell you what they want for Christmas, either out of that mind-game stuff girls like (e.g., if he really loves me he should pay enough attention to me to know what I like!) or because she is too distracted by the silly non-essentials of the season to have time to make a list. But when Christmas is over and she's back for her regular visits to the beauty salon, let her have something more to say to the question, "So what did he give you for Christmas?" than a sigh, a pout of those pretty lips, and the admission that you once again went for pre-wrapped perfume, or a pair of gloves, or an electronic gizmo that you actually wanted for yourself.

But how can you manly men know what the fragile little creatures around you actually want for Christmas? Well, here's a list that ought to be foolproof, and if it's not, chances are your woman is a closet feminist, or something:

10) A companion to the men's gift suggestion to the old-school shaving brushes (and a little cheaper, too, gentlemen!), may I suggest an old-school beauty brush set like this $95 Giorgio Armani one from Neiman Marcus? Now, maybe your wife or mother will insist she doesn't need such a thing--the cheap, plastic throwaway brushes that come with the inexpensive makeup she buys with the family budget in mind do just fine--but don't believe her. What truly feminine woman wouldn't want to create, as the ad copy on these brushes says, that perfectly airbrushed look? And think how dainty and feminine and spoiled she'll feel as she applies her makeup with these little trinkets, designed, with their shiny silver case, to appeal to her girly side.

9) Alas, there just isn't a counterpart to the men's suggestion of a pipe and tobacco; truly feminine women shunned even the jeweled cigarette holders. Still, we women have our addictions, and chocolate is one of them. There are many fine gourmet chocolate shops available online as well as what you may have in the local area--perhaps you already know what her favorites are? If not, this box of sixteen handmade gourmet chocolate mice might make her scream, but in a good way--none of that jumping on a chair business to go with it. At $48, it probably will cost you what your pipe and tobacco cost her (except for the worry that you'll die of cancer, but we're not counting those costs today).

8) Nothing says "I'm a truly feminine woman" like a pair of high heels, right? And if she can buy you boots--number 8 on Taylor Marshall's list--then surely you can figure out how to buy her high heels (I'm thinking this is one time that a gift certificate might work). Although the top brands will be much more expensive than your manly boots, she should still be able to find a nice pair of heels for between $95 and $135 (the price of the boots). To make the gift extra special, go shopping with her so she can ask your opinion as to whether the heels she's selecting give her that desired feminine effect.

7) Why not buy a Kindle for her, too? For both men and women, though, I'd spring for the slightly more expensive model that doesn't come with ads, as the $79 version does. There's nothing particularly manly or feminine about having to sit through commercials before you read a book. :)

6) The chances are good that the women in your life already have nice Bibles (she's probably still treasuring the one someone gave the two of you as a wedding gift, even if it's an inferior translation; women are so foolishly sentimental that way). To fit with her busy lifestyle as wife and mother, why not buy her a copy of Shorter Christian Prayer (about $12 at Amazon)? Customer reviews even say it fits well in a purse. :)

5) I love that Taylor suggests one homemade gift, even if Mom has to go searching hardware stores in the middle of the Christmas season to be able to make the truly manly rosary. Mom doesn't need a rosary, though; she has dozens. What she needs from her manly man is nearly always going to be: shelving. Whether she wants you to build shelves, buy shelves and put them together, or mount a single shelf somewhere in the house, if you want your wife to swoon this Christmas, tell her you'd like to give her a homemade gift: and then ask her what kind of shelving she most desperately needs. (Of course, this only works for the truly helpless feminine type (like me) and not for women who can, and do, design and install their own shelving.)

4) Alas, women don't need guns. Unfortunately for you men, the phrase "feminine protection" doesn't mean a pink-handled Glock. But Taylor says that every man should own at least one gun, and I say that every woman should own at least one LBD, or "little black dress." This, again, may be a gift certificate situation, as the dress will likely need to be selected personally by the woman who's going to wear it; the basic black dress for a matronly grandmother will be very different from the one needed by the girl who is being really attractive in a modest, vintage sort of way to all the gun-toting prospective manly Catholic future husbands out there. As you can see from the link, the price of such a dress is comparable to the price of a firearm.

3) While you're brewing your own beer, your wife, mother or daughter could be making her own candles! She likes candles, right? What could be more retro and feminine than a house full of homemade romantic candlelight, especially after you've installed the shelves that make it possible for her to keep the candles out of the toddler's reach? This kit seems like a good deal at $64, considering all the candles you can make before you have to buy more supplies.

2) Chances are your wife doesn't need a $200 luxury kitchen appliance to go with your meat smoker (unless she's making do with an inferior mixer and could use this one). But if her kitchen is already good to go, put that money where she'll really appreciate it: into a really nice bag, the sort she wouldn't buy for herself. Perhaps she likes designer names or styles (the more modestly-priced ones, that is); perhaps she'd be more interested in this leather organizer ($199) or this English leather book tote ($159).

1) Taylor's last category is knives, ranging in price from about $30 to about $75. Now, some women like knives, too, but we're focusing on Top Feminine Gifts here, remember? And what could be more feminine than pearls? You could get anything from delicate earrings (if her ears are pierced) to an eye-popping 100 inch strand to a gold-clasped bracelet--all you have to do is determine what kind of jewelry she wears most often or what she most wishes to have to complete that truly feminine look she so desires.

So there you go. You now have no excuse to buy your wife a pre-wrapped perfume gift, a pair of gloves, etc. Well, except that you might not be able to afford these little feminine luxuries, or your wife might be a totally different kind of person who doesn't want any of this stuff and doesn't see any of it as bestowing on her some sort of retro-feminine "cred" among people who go for that sort of thing...

***This part of the post is humor. I have not been compensated in any way to link to these items, I don't own them, and I don't mean to imply any product endorsement. E.M.

Okay. The humor part is over.

Perhaps the best advice I can give to men and women at Christmas is: don't buy "manly" or "feminine" gifts, and don't take advice from people who make lists. Instead, think for a minute about your wife, your mother, your grandmother; your husband, your father, your grandfather, and so on. Think of them as individual human beings, with individual tastes, likes, dislikes. Within your budget, think of a way to give them something that shows that you care about them as human beings, if that is possible to do; and if it's not, if they really don't need things, perhaps the gift of time or some service is a better gift after all.


m.z. said...

I stand by my response from last year.

priest's wife said...

hmm...I know that you wrote in jest, but I would LOVE some shelving!


Red Cardigan said...

Oh, so would I! :) I seriously am incapable of making my own. Not because I'm a helpless feminine ornament--I'm just a total klutz. ;) I stay away from power tools because I *like* my fingers.

beadgirl said...

I want shelving too! I can actually do it myself, technically, but I'm so short and we have old plaster walls that crumble if you look at them funny, so a real carpenter a la St. Joseph would be awesome. Alas, I married an "unmanly" man who uses his hands to cook and play the piano.

On a more serious note:
"Think of them as individual human beings, with individual tastes, likes, dislikes."
Yes yes YES.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Gifts specific to the INDIVIDUAL woman? Or man? What a thought!

If it is on a published Top Ten List, chances are I don't want. Chances are even greater I'm not buying it for anyone else either.

Thanks for putting this in its proper perspective.

It all reminds me of the debate in a college French class as to whether computers are masculine or feminine. (Every noun in French has a gender). The men in the class said feminine, because once you commit to one, you have to spend half your income buying accessories for it. The women said masculine, because once you commit to one, you realize if you had waited six months you could have gotten a much better model.

Red Cardigan said...

Siarlys, I love that story. :)

kkollwitz said...

My wife & I stopped exchanging gifts long ago. We're happier for it, and besides, our stuff is already a burden.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

There is a longer version of the computer story at (Good Clean Funnies List).

Tony said...

4) Alas, women don't need guns. Unfortunately for you men, the phrase "feminine protection" doesn't mean a pink-handled Glock.

There are a number of women (many of them dead and violated) who would disagree with you.

Karen said...

Ms. Manning, you and I have very little in common, besides hair color. I haven't read anything in months that I liked as much as this article. "Think of them as individual human beings, with individual tastes" is the best advice for dealing with other people of whatever set of chromosomes available.