Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Tuesday, December 03, 2019
What’s the Best Gift For the Man Who’s Hard to Shop For? Sometimes, Nothing.
My father is impossibly hard to shop for. Now, a dad myself, I am too. And I understand why.
Nov 22 2019, 4:05 PM
When I receive a gift I’m not expecting from someone who doesn’t know me all that well, I sort of lose control. It starts with a prickling sensation in the back of my neck and follows with a reflexive, forced smile. My heart quickens, the hair rises on my arms, and I feel myself blush fully. Openly sweating, I open the thing. I praise it before I can fully grasp what it even is. I thank the giver profusely. Make eye contact. Keep smiling, I say to myself. Be cool.
I try to make sure whatever internal valve makes the normal thoughts flood in my head say untouched. But it doesn’t and the thoughts flood in: I don’t like this gift. God, I hope no one notices. I’m terrible at receiving holiday gifts. A lot of men are, too.
I find most stuff — the trinkets you get for someone that are nifty things you might see in a “cool gift” catalog — are just not for me. I don’t really want stuff and I find this sort of gift exchange to be super impersonal. Yes, I fit the hard-to-shop-for dad cliché. But I am also a defender of that narrative. Everyone is hard to shop for. If you’re giving someone a gift because you care for them, that gift should show that you know them. Great gift-giving is an act of empathy, it’s being able to see the world as someone else sees it and buy them something that fits who they are. It’s damn hard to know someone well enough to give them a good gift. That’s the point.
But if you really knew me, you’d know that I, in fact, do like a great variety of things. If Patagonia sells it, I’m there for it. Have a good book? I love books and will even read it and talk to you about it. I’ve yet to find a running gadget I didn’t enjoy. I’m someone who can be shopped for. You just have to listen.
I came to my curmudgeonly view of gifting through my dad. He’s the reason I’m terrible at receiving gifts.
But he’s also the reason I’m a good gift giver.
Even though my dad has an MBA and is a dealmaker by trade, he’s a very bad liar. More often than not, I can bluff through my palm-sweating, blushing reaction to a bad gift. He definitely cannot. He’s also a little more honest in his actual dislike of gifts. “I don’t need any of this crap,” I once overheard him muttering under his breath one Christmas at his parent’s house. I was maybe 10 at the time. The sentiment blew my mind. I was a kid and kids love crap. Who didn’t like a bunch of crap?