The Christmas shopping season officially has begun! For the men that I know well, Christmas shopping is a duty that is almost impossible to live up to. For these men, and for all the men out there who feel helpless and lost in any store other than Lowe’s, I am going to present my TIPS FOR SHOPPING FOR FEMALES. The first thing for men to keep in mind is that what women love 364 days a year does not necessarily mean that they want to see it under the tree. Women want to feel special and feminine at Christmas. As a matter of fact, men should keep that in mind for all occasions! So here goes:

TIP NUMBER ONE: If it has something to do with keeping things clean, women don’t want it as a gift. Those nifty little steam cleaners for carpets? FANTASTIC. But if you give her one for Christmas, it’s an INSULT. “What, you don’t think I can keep house? Well, YOU try cooking, doing laundry, trucking kids around, taking care of Fido, and just see how many spots YOU will find on the rug!”

TIP NUMBER TWO: Women, as a rule, hate gifts that come pre-packaged. I know, the department store tells you that if you spend $30, you can take home a really nice shrink wrapped basket that contains soap, a loofah, some body wash, and three lip balms. Men love this, thinking that somebody, somewhere, has scoped out what women like, and put it together for them. This is erroneous. Generic things in shrink wrap are too cheesy for words, and only men will buy them.

TIP NUMBER THREE: The home made gift certificates that say, for example: “Good for two back rubs,” or “Will do dishes every Friday,” are COMPLETELY BOGUS. No one EVER lives up to promises made on these things. Children can get away with gifting these to Moms, but never men. Do men think we are really that gullible? And if a man DOES actually try to make good on one of these, it is a half-hearted effort at best. Charlie’s idea of a back rub is twenty seconds of vague patting while watching a television program. And a kitchen cleaned up by most men has grease around the edges every time.

TIP NUMBER FOUR: If it is in a big package, it better be a big gift! I have said this before, but it bears repeating: my friend, who received BED PILLOWS in a big beautiful box from her husband at Christmas twenty years ago HAS NEVER FORGIVEN HIM. A big box, to a woman, promises things like cashmere coats, leather boots with five inch heels, or cable knit cardigans!

TIP NUMBER FIVE: Unless she is a gourmet cook, don’t consider kitchen paraphernalia. Le Creuset and Cuisinart are SPECIAL INTEREST gifts. As a matter of fact, any special interest gift is risky. Sports equipment, fitness gear, gardening tools, and things like bird feeders are only welcomed by real enthusiasts. The rest of us regular women think that the kinds of gifts found in, say, the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog, are very technical and kind of BORING.

TIP NUMBER SIX: I may be the only woman in the world who feels this way, but for me, getting a CHRISTMAS ORNAMENT for Christmas is anti-climactic. It is too late to use it this year, and in order to enjoy it, a whole year has to go by. Furthermore, almost every family I know has TOO MANY Christmas ornaments already. Just because the stores are full of them this time of year is no reason to get one for your wife!

All in all, this time of year is fraught with peril for the male shopper. The best advice I can give to any man looking for the perfect gift is this:

Are you considering buying that thing in your hand? Before you go to the cash register, look around the store. Find a woman. Show her what you have in your hand. Ask that woman if you should buy the item. DO WHAT SHE SAYS. Foolproof!

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