Avoid the Christmas Crisis

No matter what people have told you, it is not just the thought that counts. It really is the gift. It should not be so, but it is.

Christmas is beloved by children and by women who get the right gift.

But the annual holiday of giving strikes fear in the heart of any man — husband, father or boyfriend — for he must choose gifts. Small matters he may delegate to his secretary — at least if he works in New York or Washington. He can ask his Significant Other to do the honors for the kids who have long made their lists. He can ask advice about his mother.

But for the gift for his lady, he is on the hook.

The thoughtful guy might know he could plan a cozy weekend in a bed and breakfast. He could create a photo album online, write or copy a poem for her, plan a special dinner. Similar kind acts can limit expenses and maximize the fun.

Only 10 percent of men are capable of such premeditation. The other 90 percent prefer the delaying tactic. They wait until the deadline: Christmas Eve.

Don’t they know Christmas Eve is the worst time to shop? Selection is limited, prices are high and sales help insufficient. But the task appears so gargantuan, their fear of failure so high, that the fewer choices the better.

Why do they wait?

First, fear of failure. What if she doesn’t love his choice? He must avoid scorn and ridicule at any cost.

Second, the push/pull of money. Should it be just a nice gift? If a costly gift, will it be judged as an apology for a misdeed (past or intended)? Perhaps more of a commitment than he intended?

Third, the knowledge that he should know what to give. She must have mentioned something she craved. But heck, he wasn’t listening. As usual.

The Win/Win Solution

How can we help him avoid his discomfort?

Hints may work, but the best solution for the caring, savvy lady is total transparency. Leave copies of your favorite catalog open to the page. Place a heavily outlined ad, clipped from a newspaper or magazine, open on the kitchen counter, on your desk, on his desk.

Short of that ploy, seek a trusted jeweler or salesperson in a store you both frequent. Visit and select several items in different price ranges from which he could choose. 

In 24 years as a gemologist and appraiser with a large customer base, I maintained a file of customers’ purchases with both his and her current choices. The cards reminded me to remind them about special occasions. 

Such a file can avoid many a faux pas. You might not believe it, but certain men have purchased the same item for their lady love, and more than once. The smart salesperson keeps a record of such choices and prevents that oblivious man from embarrassing mistakes. 

This is a Win/Win situation: The giver knows his choice is vetted, the receiver gets her chosen gift, the salesperson ensures faithful customers.

What are the odds of this best-of-all outcomes? Two in 10?

We come full circle. The holiday season is not easy for most gift givers.

Happier Holidays All Around

Or for most gift sellers, either. 

I ought to know, on both scores. For I am the Hapless Jewish Jeweler. I have worked all the Christmas seasons, taking my time off on Passover.

Christmas for all jewelers is another story beginning in mid-summer when the jewelry shows are held and the sales season starts. By the time Thanksgiving arrives, jewelers have long placed their orders, and new stock has been delivered.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, marks the beginning of our hardest work season. With autumn hours already longer, our feet already sore, the electric footbath comes out of the closet.

The sounds of Christmas cheer begin, Muzak ceaselessly broadcasting its deafening Red-Nosed Reindeer, Jingle Bells and Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. It takes all my strength to refrain from screaming when I hear those songs. I long for New Year’s Day to bring the end of the returns season.

For all our sakes, change your ways! Shop early, when you can find plentiful choices and great service.

Good luck — and happy shopping for one and for all!

This story, Roberta Safer’s first for Bay Weekly, was written in Elisavietta Ritchie’s Memoir Workshop at Calvert Library and prepared for publication with her help.