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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

The Myth of the Perfect Gift*

*Somerset, PA Daily American
December 18, 2010
as "The Search for the Perfect Gift"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

Well, here it is.  Late December and I still haven't bought my wife's Christmas present. And yes, I'm in deep trouble.

Buying for a female is quite possible the severest challenge that faces a man.  Anything you do for her involves a dangerous trek through an emotional minefield where the slightest misstep results in complete disaster.

With any gift, one has to strike a balance between “not enough,” “too much,” and “just plain wrong.”  Also, the selection of a particular item sends a message, whether intended or not.  A diamond necklace and a mushy card to one’s wife?  Right message.  The same gift to a casual relation-female co-worker?  WRONG message.  A gift card from Victoria’s Secret to your girlfriend?  GOOD message.  The same to your female boss?  Run and hide. 

The goal of every husband’s gift is, of course, to make her cry.  With joy, that is.  I know we already make them cry, but usually for all the wrong reasons.

The husband always feels a tug-of-war of emotion when shopping for his wife.  For instance, I would dearly love to get my wife the gift she truly deserves, one reflective of all the joy she’s brought me, the sacrifices she has made, and trials she has endured.  But the Hope Diamond is just not for sale.

Complicating this process is the contradiction in how men and women view the world and each other.

Men usually see things in absolutes, black and white, if you will and that makes us predictable.  Guys, on average, are heavily into technology, which makes us pretty easy to buy for. Whatever it is, just get the latest version with the most options. That applies to anything from iPods to pickup trucks. Although we occasionally need clothes, usually that's not high on the list.  Don’t get me wrong.  We’ll gladly take them; it’s just not something we generally think about. 

Women just don’t think that way.

They view the world through the filter of their heart with eyes that see an infinity of subtle shadings, the recognition of which men are despairingly color-blind. This is what lands us in the doghouse with depressing regularity.

Now, clueless I may be, but even I know a woman's gift must not only pass the teary-eye test, but also the verdict of the fashion police, in short, other women. So, when I propose to buy a fashion item, be it clothes, shoes, or jewelry, I must possess the instincts to not only nail what she considers fashionable, but what her fellow females (is that an oxymoron?) find acceptable; even worthy of envy.

A few years ago, I suffered a case of temporary insanity and actually shopped in a jewelry store by myself. For a man, this is tantamount to heading into the jungle unarmed and barefoot. After agonizing over the choices for a long period of time, and I suspect severely testing the patience of the "Gem Counselor," I came up empty.  While I would still like to surprise her, my fashion handicap requires me to take her to the store, point at something and say definitively, “That’s the one.”

There are a few of us who do get it right, who do possess the instinct to divine her secret wish and the wherewithal to afford it; men who really do exist outside the pages of romance novels.  Whoever you are out there, please write a book, or start a website and help out your fellow guys.

I have failed at the gift game many times, but I keep striving for that Christmas morning nirvana.  The perfect gift may be a myth for all I know.   But while I may not know fashion, footwear, or fine jewelry, what I can give her, what is always received with appreciation and gratitude, are those perfect gifts given all year long; the things that have the highest value:

My respect, my devotion, and my love.
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