What must it be like to be a dad at Christmas? To float around in a bemused sea of hipflasks, money clips, nose hair trimmers, whiskey stones and “gadgets”? To live in a world filled with hues of leathery brown and hiking sock grey amid odours of tobacco, sandalwood and muck?
You see, dads are condemned to live in this permaworld of penknives-that-are-also-torches and baffling monogrammed handkerchief sets because it is a nearly impossible task to figure out what men are looking for in a present. It’s a sweeping generalisation, yes, but one I feel confident to make.
Men, and particularly dads of any age, are an absolute mystery and this is reflected in the shelves of largely useless “gifts for him” that we find ourselves standing in front of every Christmas.
We second guess ourselves as we reach for the beard oil, almost certain that he never even cracked the seal on the one he received last year. Or what about this ye olde shaving kit complete with horsehair brush and a razor likely to induce tetanus? That seems like something he would never even consider using in a blue fit. Maybe that’s the perfect present?
Of course, many men have varied interests and niche hobbies and rich lives, but why isn’t any of this apparent when the time comes to buy them the perfect gift?
Is it that they are just simple creatures with little to yearn for beyond giant ice cubes and a shower gel and deodorant combo?
I consider myself a thoughtful gift-giver and truly enjoy putting together lists of presents that I think will be delightful and useful to the recipient, yet so often when it comes to the men in my life they become one-dimensional amoebas in my mind’s eye, and I cannot come up with anything more imaginative than “something for the car”.
Is it that they’re not so adept at communicating their needs and wants? Is it that they are just simple creatures with little to yearn for beyond giant ice cubes and a shower gel and deodorant combo?
I used to despair each Christmas trying to find the perfect present for my dad. Year after year I would resort to hats or scarves or socks, occasionally branching off into something linked to his chosen hobby (fishing. The other dad hobbies are golf, gardening and The Car). One particular year I think I gave him a new lead for the dog, given that he was the one who most often walked the dog. I definitely gave him a tie on at least two occasions; this was a man who I only ever saw wearing a tie at his own funeral.
I have friends who tear their hair out trying to come up with gift ideas for their husbands. “He just doesn’t like anything,” one said to me when I asked her for her thoughts on buying for men, “He’s just happy enough with what he has.”
Maybe that is the crux of the issue. Maybe men would prefer if the whole exchanging of gifts was just done away with and they didn’t have to carry out the double task of thinking of something they’d like for themselves and also coming up with a reciprocal present.
At least the generic gifts for women are somewhat more useful. A scented candle only has one fairly inoffensive job, and a creamy-paged notebook will never go to waste. I would worry meanwhile that presenting a man with an empty notebook would lead to mild panic about what he’s supposed to write it in. Better then to wrap up an expensive hunting knife for a guy who can’t use a drill without an ensuing fiasco.
I do long for gifting for men to improve. I want them to be truly excited and energised by their gifts on Christmas morning. It’s a hard slog but I think progress can be made. Have you considered a prestige Lego set? Prices for adult Lego sets can start at about €50 and go into the hundreds for the more complicated projects.
And, given that the greatest gift you can give a man is something that won’t add to the clutter, you can always direct him to Done Deal or Adverts to offload the highly resealable set when he finishes it and grumbles “what do I do with it now?”
There’s a subscription service for everything now: beer, cheese, wine, seeds, snacks from other countries. What about actually useful gadgets? Robot lawnmowers, smart home devices, a decent drone, a Kindle.
When I’m buying presents, I always like to think of items that people covet without realising they covet them: a truly comfortable full tracksuit, a pair of Crocs as slippers, a cash-and-carry sized box of their favourite crisps, a voucher for a night alone in a hotel, their favourite board games from childhood. Even if you are going down the socks route, maybe consider a luxury cashmere blend, because who on earth doesn’t covet a luxury sock?
Men of Ireland, does any of these appeal to you? Is your interest piqued? Can you please, please let us know what you want for Christmas? Answers inscribed on one of your many, many novelty hipflasks please.