At Christmas, women write meticulous lists of gift recipients and gift ideas, because no one ever tore open a present and looked at a man -- unless he was her husband -- and thought, "Why'd you get me this crap?" Gift recipients always look at the woman in the relationship, even if they're the man's own parents.
Men, on the other hand, at this time of year, engage in what can only be called gift-grabbing.
My sensitivity to such gender differences leads to public yuletide arguments between my groom and myself. When he Christmas shops, pushing the cart as fast as he can through store aisles, he impulsively grabs Bic pens, cooking utensils, personal-hygiene items, and Muppet-themed nutcrackers, telling me to mark Aunt Eulonia, Uncle Chester, my daddy, his sister and our oldest son off the list.
"What the hades is Aunt Eulonia going to do with a turkey baster and some dental floss?" I stammer. He gives me that annoying, conspiratorial, oh-yeah-baby wink and presses on. But I work hard selecting and wrapping presents, and it irritates me when men go messing things up.
Perhaps you remember that break-in last December over on Shadowmoor Drive? Some looters decided to do some gift-grabbing and stuff their own stockings. These weren't just petty thieves, either. These were bad, low-down, hardened criminals. They didn't shake boxes to guess the contents. They didn't stealthily peel back paper to peek inside. The culprits unwrapped every present, EVERY ... SINGLE ... ONE, completely disregarding the hours spent cutting gift wrap and neatly folding it around oddly shaped objects, not to mention all the taping and the tying of bows.
With the lady of the house out for the evening and unavailable to greet disdainful glares across sets of pink fuzzy socks and coffee mugs that plug into car lighters, they carelessly discarded unwanted goods amidst the mounds of festively colored, thoroughly shredded, holiday papers.
When the family returned home to discover their living room rug covered with Christmas clutter, the husband quickly caught his weak-kneed wife and called the police. "Don't worry, honey," he reassured her after getting off the phone, "they didn't take everything. You can re-wrap it."
Last December, as I read the newspaper story to my spouse, ad-libbing for him, as I've done for you, he stopped me. "Why are you getting so mad? It wasn't your house."
"But I can empathize." With Christmas crime-scene forensics expertise, I declared, "It was men. And if they had half-a-bit of home training they would have taken everything and thrown what they didn't want in the dumpster behind the IGA." I got really worked up. "The nerve of leaving those presents unwrapped and strewn about on the floor. Now someone has to wrap them ... AGAIN!"
Men! It was like trying to explain to my beloved why my daddy wouldn't want a package of medium-tipped, ballpoint pens and a purple polka-dotted apron with the B-word embroidered across it.
"You know what happened next," I huffed. "The husband either gathered up everything for his wife and/or secretary to rewrap, or he just said, 'Y'all come on over here and grab your gifts. Son, that Sponge Bob snow globe is for you. That spatula under that pile is yours li'l girl. Pop and Maw, I think I see your matching pair of potato diggers in the corner there.' And, of course, Son, Li'l Girl, and Pop and Maw all stared directly at you-know-who."
"Who?" my husband asked.
I enter this first week of December bracing myself for another Noel.
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson, GA. Lucy invites readers to e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her web site, www.IfMama.com.)