by Jeff Eslinger, man of a certain age
For those who may have any doubts about the saying, “it’s the thought that counts,” I invite you to attend church the Sunday after Christmas. You will see men wearing ties that were clearly picked out by a loving child or grandchild, and will rarely, if ever, see the light of day again. Church is a great “catwalk” for ties with wild floral prints or little tractors. Truth be told, we enjoy showing off these ties – once or twice – and only at church.
If you are no longer a child, however, buying gifts for the guys in your life can be daunting. And the older we get, the daunting-er. Youngers guys might be a little fussier, especially about gadgets and technology, but they don’t have as much stuff, so you have a decent chance of guessing right. Older guys are actually less fussy, but they have more stuff, and to make matters worse, you’ve used up all your best ideas over the years.
For the purposes of this article, let’s assume your guy isn’t one of those easily impressed, easy to please types that will get a thrill out of any shiny new gadget. Let’s assume you’ve pulled some hair out over this guy. Don’t be discouraged. Just keep these guidelines in mind and you’ll be fine.
Guideline 1: The thoughtful gift card.
What is the opposite of “it’s the thought that counts?” Gift cards, right? No one has ever said, “Oh how thoughtful!” to the giver of a gift card. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can give a gift card or gift certificate that will be appreciated. The key is to be specific. You may not know anything about his favorite hobby to show him you care about helping him enjoy it. Personally, I like to support small, local businesses, so a gift card or certificate from a local specialty shop is perfect. Online specialty stores can be good, too but the older the guy, the less appealing online shopping may be.
An example of being specific is that a sporting goods store might be a safe choice, but even better would be a specialty shop that focuses on just one activity, like a golf pro shop, gun store, fishing tackle shop…you get the idea. A good bet is any place that offers custom services, accessories or instruction. The older the man, the more specific you need to be. They not only have everything, but they also know everything (even if they don’t) so they’re probably just going to get the newer version of something they’ve worn out. Don’t worry…they are impressed that you are thoughtful enough to enter just a little into “their world.”
Guideline 2: NEVER offer to shop with him.
Some people like to give a gift card or cash and then offer to take the person shopping. These people are not men. Men are hunters, not gatherers. We go into the woods, kill our prey and drag it back to the cave. We shop the same way. Even armed with a gift card, guys know what they want and where it is. The entire shopping episode will be over in minutes. Don’t be offended if your thoughtful, specific gift card does not result in a day of browsing through all the choices offered in the shop. If he’s going to hang out there, it will be to shoot the breeze with the guys in the store, but not to browse. You have not given him a day at the spa. You have given him a spear, and he knows how to hunt.
Guideline 3: Give him a nudge.
Young guys are ready to challenge the world and try anything, so they’re easy to nudge. Buy a young guy a cowboy hat and he’ll go riding; maybe even buy himself a horse. Buy him a bow and he’ll climb a tree and shoot a deer. As guys get older, though, they get set in their ways and it’s harder to nudge them into anything new (long-time wives already know this). So try this:
If he’s a hunter, talk to his hunting buddies and find out what they think he’s missing out on. Maybe if he you gave him a duck call, he’d try ducks instead of just pheasants.
Books or magazines might be a good way to nudge him. If he loves the Discovery Channel, get him their magazine, or Popular Science. Ditto for History Channel. There are at least one million different magazine titles for every living human, so if you try hard enough, you’ll be able to subscribe him to Left-Handed Monkey Wrench Collectors Quarterly.
And finally, consider renovating one of his favorite but long-forgotten items. There’s probably some old “junk” in the back of the garage or attic that you could polish up or even have professionally reconditioned. Golf clubs, tennis racket, telescope, or any dust-covered item that looks like he once gave it a good try is a good candidate. If it looks like it was top quality “back in the day,” it’s something he’d like to get back to, with a little nudge from you.
Guideline 4: Ask
Not all guys are big on surprises. You know your guy. If he’s the type, just ask him what he wants, and go get it. You may not be able to relate to this, but trust me: if he hasn’t bought it for himself but still wants it, he’ll be thrilled to get it. If you’re lucky, you can drag a few different ideas out of him so he won’t know which one you decide to give.
My point, if I have one, is that it’s the thought that counts. You just have to know where to direct your thoughts, and I hope these guidelines are helpful.
See you in church.