Decoding Men's Oddball Love Signals
His gifts are terrible. He talks when you want him to listen. His idea of a date is take-out pizza on the couch. Is this your guy's notion of affection and romance? Well, actually, yes.
It's the Thought That Counts...Right?
Which leads to the next great romantic failing of man: Guys
give lousy gifts. You know it. We know it. That checkout guy at The Home Depot
knows it. Given this, perhaps it's worth viewing any gift we bestow as a symbol
of great love — not in spite of the fact that the gift will be terrible,
but because we know the gift will be terrible.
"For most women I know, the ability to conjure innovative gifts seems
innate. When my wife gives me things, I am almost always astounded at her
creativity," says Brian, a 35-year-old copy editor in Brooklyn, NY. "By
contrast, my presents tend to be of the 'Here's a cheap box of DVDs that won't
even work in your home player' variety — poorly conceived, politely received,
and then discarded and seldom thought of again. I try; I honestly try. But
every piece of tacky jewelry and so-wrong-it-hurts item of clothing I've ever
given her only confirms that gift-giving is just one of those things I am
terrible at. On the upside: To avoid embarrassment, I have perfected the art of
the special-occasion dinner out. It's an easy one to nail on the head."
The problem is, we really don't understand what you want. Most guys
want practical gifts — a router, a power saw, a 10-pack of replacement spools
for his Weed Eater. For the life of us, we can't understand why you would need
another pair of earrings when you already have several hundred that can do the
trick. (An Ipsos Insight survey of 1,000 Americans ages 18 and older found that
jewelry was the second most requested gift by women but only fifth in terms of
what men planned to give.)
"The big issue is that women are always looking for the greater significance
in men's actions," says Schwartz. "And when he does get something that we're
proud of, we can impress our girlfriends: He bought me jewelry, or he took me
out to a romantic dinner. They're tokens of affection, and the more things we
can hold up as symbols of his devotion, the better we feel: Oh, he bought me
this, which shows how much he loves me. Deep down we might appreciate a
less-than-perfect gift, but still, we're thinking, How am I going to explain
this bowling ball to my girlfriends when they ask what he gave me for my
Which brings us to the lingerie.
Perhaps the most controversial of all man gestures, the giving of lingerie
is an enigma wrapped inside — well, not a lot of fabric. The Ipsos survey
mentioned above found that 22 percent of men give lingerie for Valentine's Day,
yet only 2 percent of women want to receive it. Lord knows, all you're thinking
when you open the box and dangle these doilies by the spaghetti straps is,
Does he seriously expect me to spend the 20 hours on the StairMaster it will
take for me to even consider wearing this?