I went Christmas shopping for the family yesterday. Nothing about it was easy.
This was especially true shopping for my two sons. They are young men now, so forget about toys or even video games. I know little about the music they listen to, so CDs are not possible. I have no idea which movies they have already seen, so include DVDs among the “won’t work” gifts. Have them give me a list, you say? I do. It includes things like cars. One son put down “clothes” when he has never liked a single item of clothing that I bought him.
Women have faced this dilemma with men for generations. In the olden days (as in the days prior to about 1990) there were standard fallbacks, however. The gifts might not have been inspired, but they filled the box and were useful. The problem, I realized while walking miles through the mall, is that most of those gifts have been eliminated from the possible gift list, due to changes in how we live.
The list of items disappearing from the fallback group includes:
1) Watches. The store flyers are full of them and the flash sale sites are pushing them, but most young men do not use them anymore. They use their cell phones instead. I realized this about six years ago while giving an exam in one of my classes. There are no clocks in our classrooms, and students kept raising their hands, asking how much time was left. How odd. Then I realized none of them, not a one, had a watch on. With the No Cell Phones rule during tests, they had no way to pace their time. I have not seen either of my sons wear a watch in forever.
2) Wallets. These are not much used by young men either now. At most they use money clips for bills, and pockets for change. Every young man owns a wallet, mind you. They just don’t carry wallets so the one they own never wears out. License and credit card will go into a window holder on the money clip, or into a thin holder that joins the clip and coins in pocket. A wallet bulging in a pocket is “old guy.”
3) Ties. There a few places where male employees still have to wear ties to work, but their number decreases every year. Neither of my sons works at such a place. A couple of ties, for weddings and funerals and the occasional attempt to look grown up for a special date, and they are set for life. This is a shame because ties have colors and designs, so are fun to buy. Women always liked giving ties more than men liked receiving them, I suspect.
4) Cologne. Again, the stores push it. Hard. And every man already has a bottle or two. He may wear it on those occasions when he puts on a suit and tie, and carries his wallet. However, a lot more gets bought for them as gifts than ever gets used. How often do you get into an elevator and notice any man in it giving off a cologne scent? The everyday wearing of cologne by men never took off in this country.
5) Tools. You may have a young man in your life who uses them. You may even know enough about them to know what he needs or wants. Lucky you! I strike out in both categories. Younger son is getting some anyway, since he showed a modicum of interest in passing a few months ago and I am desperate.
Has anything replaced these items? As best I can tell, these things have:
1) Hoodies. Possibly the only item of clothing that a mother should try to buy as a gift for a young man. Otherwise her choices will be met with knowing smiles (kind ones, if they are good kids.)
2) Gift cards. The ultimate fallback gift for everyone and increasingly the only gift anyone wants. Only a Christmas gift opening scene is both brief and boring if that is all that is under the tree.
3) Underwear. What, you never had Santa bring underwear? Lucky you, again.
4) Books. Thank God! For those who read them, and even those who don’t (because they should, and moms get to give those kinds of gifts too.) Real books, even if they have ereaders, so there is something to unwrap besides another gift card.
5) Covers and holders and accessories for smart phones and tablets. For these to go in the fallback group, it is important to know what is already owned. No one needs 5 ipad covers. But there are possibilities here. It just takes a little sly research
What are your fallback gifts for guys? Do you still get to use the old standards? Have you discovered fallback gifts I haven’t thought about? What are you getting the men in your family this year?