Neither of us like shopping, unless we know precisely what we want, where it can be found, and where we don't have to spend hours meandering about. Just as it's unfair to paint all women with a single brush, we object to the notion that men are sentiment-challenged thugs who can't pick out decent gifts to save their lives.
If you are a man who finds gift giving challenging, who perhaps feels intimidated (and possibly somewhat resentful) when it comes to the gift exchange process, read on.
1. I don't know what people want.
It isn't a question of what women, or kids, or fathers, or best friends want, so don't get hung up on this question. It's a matter of what the woman, or kid, or father, or best friend in your life wants. If you don't know, ask. Ask the recipient, a mutual friend, or another family member. Chances are someone will be excited to share a great idea with you, and the recipient is likely to be touched that you were thoughtful enough to ask around.
2. Gift-giving isn't a "guy thing."
Not true. Even in the most stereotypically masculine social circles, men are exchanging gifts all the time. Someone invites you over to watch the Super Bowl on a big screen TV, and you bring beer and chips. A friend is doing some work on his house, so you give up a Saturday afternoon to help out. While they may not come wrapped with bows, these thoughtful gestures are gifts nonetheless. It's just a matter of finding a gift-giving style that doesn't clash with your idea of what it is to be a guy. Men, you need to give this one up as a ridiculous stereotype - you will be called on to give just as many gifts as women do in a lifetime, and like any activity, you will improve with practice.
3. I hate shopping.
Fair enough. As I mentioned before, I'm not a fan of it either. But there are ways to streamline your efforts and, in some cases, eliminate the shopping altogether. Come back next week for a discussion of gift-giving strategies for those who hate shopping.
4. What if they don't like it?
Gift anxiety abounds. It may be particularly prevalent when it comes to new girlfriends. There's a lot of guess work involved, and you're risking the disappointment or disapproval of said girlfriend if you guess wrong. And yet, if you choose not to participate, you're going to look like a jerk. The pressure can leave you feeling resentful.
But there are simple ways to deal with this. First, talk to her about gifts. Does she like surprises, or would she rather tell you what she wants? What have her favorite gifts been in the past, and why? The answer to that question can tell you a lot: Does she like sentimental or romantic gestures? Practical choices? Second, talk to her friends and get their thoughts on the matter. Run some ideas by them and see what they think. Finally, realize you don't have to be perfect. Take a stab at it.* When she opens it, tell her how you thought of it, and why you felt it was a good gift for her (or write it on a note to be included with the package). Even if it's not the greatest, she should appreciate your thoughtfulness.
5. I don't see why I should have to give gifts at all.
We do live in an overly commercial, materialistic society, and you are justified in being wary of the increasing pressure, particularly around the holidays, to spend, spend, spend. We do not necessarily advocate giving gifts for every possible occasion. By all means, adopt a gift-minimalist and thrifty stance. Opting out altogether, though, will probably have a negative impact on at least some of your relationships. Assuming you would like to be a considerate, well-mannered, caring person, you are bound to have to do some gift-giving at some point, so you may as well learn to be good at it. Who knows, you may even learn to enjoy it. Anyway, chances are, this objection is just one or more of the previous objections in disguise. It's easier to opt-out of something you find difficult, but don't give into the temptation.
Mirroring and Gift-Giving
The truth is, men have much to offer when it comes to gift giving. When you give someone a gift, you reflect something back to them. A gift mirrors something about the type of person you think your gift recipient is. Think about it; when someone gives you a gift that isn't you, you're a little horrified that someone sees you as the kind of person who would like such a thing. When someone gives you a gift that's dead on, it makes you feel a little more seen, known and appreciated for who you are. It feels good to know that person really gets you. We all help define each other this way. We reinforce aspects of personality in those around us by recognizing and affirming them.
We all need to be known, appreciated and affirmed by the men in our lives, not just the women. If the women in your family are the only ones doing the gift-giving, your unique energy and presence is being missed, and that is very unfortunate. Start participating. Consider what you might like to mirror back to the people in your family and circle of friends and how you might do that.