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It Really Is the Thought That Counts. . .

The Festive Season will soon be upon us.  Are you ready?

At the risk of jumping the gun, although TV ads and department stores have already been in the Christmas mood for several weeks if not months, let's talk gifts for just a moment.  Here are a few related thoughts for average guys looking to kick up their everyday gift-giving style this Christmas season.  

1) Avoid giving any and all of those cheap, stupid, tacky, and tasteless joke gifts like that dreadful plastic singing fish, a bass I think, that made the rounds here in North America, during the 1990s.  What does a gift like that say to someone?  That you are a thoughtless ass, who waited until the last minute and didn't know what else to buy.  That's what.  Think about it for a moment.  How might that make your family member, partner, or romantic interest feel?  My guess is pretty crummy if you aren't careful, even if they say nothing.  Gift-giving is a complex business full of meaning, real or imagined, as well as the various associated pitfalls when you get it wrong, or a gift is misunderstood.  Far better to refrain from anything like joke gifts.  You're not eight years old anymore either, so forget the whoopy cushion, dribble glass, and/or plastic dog barf as stocking stuffers.  Ok, boys?

2) It truly is the thought that counts, so if you are determined to get a gift for someone, for God's sake, put some genuine thought into it.  The gift need not be the most expensive thing you can afford either, but make an effort to give something that is tailored to a person's particular interests and lifestyle.  Don't simply pick up any old thing left on the nearest reduced or remainders table a few days before Christmas.  I've long suspected this is the entire reason behind the artificially scented candle industry.  There's a reason for the nonplussed response, "Oh, you shouldn't have. . .  You really shouldn't have!" 

3) There is nothing whatsoever wrong with presenting  people with a simple Christmas  or holiday card with a hand-written note inside, wishing them and their families the joys of the season.  As my maternal grandmother pointed out to my sister and me when we were young, if you don't know someone that well, or you are a bit strapped for cash yourself, a simple card is an acceptable option.  You don't owe anyone a gift after all, and most people will be tickled to death that you remembered them at this busy time of the year.

4) If you absolutely must present a gift to someone but are unsure what to purchase, consider their interests for a moment.  Are they involved with charity work or a humanitarian organization?  Do they rescue and foster certain kinds of animals?  Then, why not make a donation in their name to a particular organization that is affiliated with such work?  You can mention it in a brief hand-written note contained within your Christmas card, sort of along these lines: Dear Steve and Sandy, I know you'll appreciate the small donation I made in your names to Poodle Rescue, to assist with the rescue, rehabilitation, and placement of abused and unwanted dogs.  Merry Christmas to you and the children, John.

5) If you know someone old and alone, maybe a neighbor or more distant family member, please go see them, or invite them out.  If not for Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day, then sometime during Christmas Week.  It's all too easy to forget that this time of year can be very lonely and difficult for some due to a variety of reasons.  Often, the gift of human company and interaction is the best gift we can give to someone.  So, how about doing your small bit to spread a little bit of that good cheer we hear so much about every December, and drop by the lonely old lady's house on the corner with some eggnog and cookies a day or two on either side of Christmas?  It can't hurt.  And who knows?  You might just brighten someone's day and help him or her to feel like they matter a little more in the grand scheme of things.  You might also, as a result, feel a bit better about yourself as you move into the new year.

6) One final thing with regard to Christmas and holiday gift-giving.  There seems to be a marked tendency for guys to present those special someones with engagement rings during the Christmas season.  I'd suggest, though, holding off and asking for her (or his) hand at another time.  Why?  First of all, so many guys already do so that asking for someone's hand in association with Christmas lacks any originality whatsoever.  Second, if the answer is "No," or the even more awkward, "Can I think about it?"  you have forever after associated what ought to be a happy time of year with something unpleasant, which will take quite a while to get over if you have any sensitivity at all.  Third, if she or he accepts your proposal, there is always the risk that the rest of the Christmas period will become overshadowed by a mad dash, driven by a bizarre desperation on the part of some I suppose, to begin making wedding plans at once.  What is an already fraught time of year for many becomes even crazier, depending on the personalities of the young woman in question and/or her mother.  Perhaps, then, it's best to wait until after the holidays are over before you get down on one knee and pop the question.  I experienced this myself twenty years ago with someone who might have become the first Frau von Boffke but, in the end, did not (luckily as it turned out).  Consider yourselves forewarned. 

There you go, guys.  Half a dozen things to keep in mind as Advent and the Christmas season approach.  It really is the thought that counts, so don't remain clueless this Christmas.  Demonstrate that you are, indeed, truly thoughtful when it comes to gifts and give them with a modicum of consideration and style this Christmas and holiday season.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Here it is.  The Singing Bass.  How many of these, I wonder, were given as last minute Christmas gifts to long-suffering wives and girlfriends by their childish and thoughtless male counterparts in the 1990s?


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