To all men: can you please make it easier to buy presents for you? | Emma Beddington
A shiver of dread traverses my spirit at this time of year, despite the golden-leafed glories of autumn: three men I know have birthdays in quick succession. Why are many – if #NotAllMen – so hard to find gifts for? Do they not have trinkets that catch their eye, stuff they hanker after and once-in-a-lifetime extravagances in open tabs on their phone to be examined, covetously, late at night? There are about 40 things I want at any given time: I can reel off a list sorted by price and ease of acquisition, from a bike bell to a “deathlayer” hen (“like having royalty visit your coop” according to the page I look at on my phone late at night).
The men in my life don’t, apparently. My husband only wants technological items with specifications so abstruse they must be sourced via URLs he provides. My stepfather is a notorious ascetic whose current goal appears to be to liberate himself of all material possessions, becoming agitated if as much as an unexpected packet of digestives enters his life. And in 40 years of gift buying, I have only had two successes with my father: pictures of his grandchildren and a wildlife cam (both my husband’s idea).
It hurts because presents matter to me. I want to be known intimately enough to be surprised and delighted by, say, a Victorian lustreware mug with a poorly sculpted frog inside. Yet I am currently deep in Man Gifts 101 shame, sheepishly presenting books, booze and food, year after year. Capitalism seems similarly bewildered by presents for men, offering either set dressing from Fast & Furious 8 (Vantablack and garishly flashing gadgetry) or accessories for a PG Wodehouse character (hip flasks, golf tees and moustache wax). It’s that or admit defeat with an “experience”: three hours cheating death somehow on a bleak airfield for £250.
Which is why I am pleading: men, please share your private passions. Say “Ooh!” at shop windows, or decoupage ideas I can steal or start collecting antique pencil sharpeners, Mountain Dew flavours or false teeth. Anything, please. Call it your present to me.