If You Have a Choice....
Don't get me wrong--I absolutely adore my husband. Mr. K is kind and funny and smart and loving and silly and tender and generally my very best friend and greatest love. It is also about as easy to buy gifts for him as it is to hand tie cooked spaghetti to a moving train while riding a horse. Backwards. I may have had this rant last year--if so, feel free to go knit a few rows and come back. Otherwise, read on and share my pain.
See, you knew there was going to be pain involved as soon as you realized that I was Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving, didn't you? And you were correct--I would much rather be panicking at 11:25pm on Christmas Eve and trying to wrap something from Rite Aid in an empty cardboard toilet paper tube and hoping that the thought really IS all that counts. You know, like normal people. But the fact is that I live in the Greater Seattle Area, which means that Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving is only slightly less chaotic than the running of the bulls in Pamploma, with nearly as many tramplings and quite as many gorings (I do realize that I could probably impact that last number if I didn't insist on carrying my knitting with me...on long straight #10's...but that's another matter entirely). For that reason, and because I cannot afford the additional crazy that shopping in such circumstances is likely to inflict upon me (got plenty, thanks), I graciously made my way out to the shops today to shop for Mr. K. (If you understand "graciously" to mean "I sulked and pouted and glared at anyone who attempted to touch any item I was even remotely considering within a 10 foot radius." There's a reason no one likes to shop with me at Christmas time.)
Let's start with clothes. Mr. K has a lot of rules about clothes. When we shop together, a typical interchange goes like this:
Me (holding up attractive shirt): "This is nice...what about this?"
Mr. K (with expression on his face suggesting that someone somewhere nearby has dung on their shoe): "Ew. No, I wouldn't ever wear that color." (Picks up another, nearly identical shirt in a shade approximately 1/8th off of the one in my hand. ) "But look at this one. I really like this one."
Me: "But.....they're practically the same shirt!"
Mr. K (looking askance at the heathen in his presence): "They're not at all the same. For instance, I'd never wear that one."
Which is when I try hard not to scream. And then again today when he told me that he really could use some new, long-sleeved shirts for when he starts his next job. That sounds easy, but let me assure you: it is easy in the same way that parking a 1957 Chevy in a restroom stall is easy. It is easy in the same way that threading an elephant through a turnstile to get on the subway is easy. It is easy in the way that finding a shred of Brittany Spear's dignity or self-respect is easy--that is to say, pretty much impossible.
Some of the rules are pretty clear, such as "no stripes". Many of the rules, however, are vague and known only to Mr. K and a buddhist monk somewhere on a tibetan hillside who has taken a vow of silence and anyway does not talk to women and has a sore throat--such as why one of two nearly identical shades of blue is "perfect" while another is "really gross". Some of the ones I know:
As mentioned above, there can be no stripes, with the caveat that even a single stripe bisecting a shirt at chest level is still a stripe. And the two halves of the shirt are now really fat stripes. Therefore, it is clearly a striped shirt and definitely off limits.
It may not be any shade of red, yellow, orange, or white. It may only rarely be black and frankly, that sort of exception is best left to Mr. K. It may, in fact, only be dark blue, forest green, or one of two shades of gray that are never in the stores I shop in, even though all the wrong ones inevitably are. Brown is right out.
It may not be in any way a sweater--not even a thin sweater, not even a stylish sweater, not even a handknit sweater--not even a cashmere sweater. It may not have friends who are sweaters. It may not have fantasies about being a sweater.
It may not have a collar and it may never EVER have short sleeves. I'm not sure if Mr. K goes through life fearing a monkey attack on his wrists or what...but he seems to think that short sleeves are the devil. Unless he's wearing a ratty t-shirt...and even that's a little risky.
It may not be any sort of wool or wool blend--too dangerously close to sweater territory.
It may have a logo on it, or it may not--this is one of those rules that is troubled by the vagaries of Mr. K's mood at the time of purchase.
It may not be light enough in color that spilled coffee or chewing tobacco would show (I know, it would be easier if he avoided spitting on himself....but there you are).
It may not have any polyester in it at all, due to Mr. K's fear that he will wear it into the metal shop, stand too close to the forge, and set himself alight. The fact that he has special work clothes for the shop and would be tackled by me in short order if he attempted to wear his new Christmas shirt in there with all the grease and fire and metal bits does not, apparently, figure into his reasoning with this one.
And there are non-shirt rules, as well. Socks are desirable as gifts (honestly, he really likes getting them) but they must be white cotton, they must not have stripes on them (I'm not sure if he was terrorized by a stripe in his childhood or what), and they must be exactly the right length to go over his calf but no further. I inherit the socks that fail this exacting test...which is why I have a whole drawer full of socks and he needs new ones each year after the two pairs that passed muster LAST year have gotten worn thinner than the page of a 200-year-old hymn book.
He does not wear hats. He does not wear scarves. He does not wear gloves except for a pair that he has had for some years that understand him. These gloves are special friends and threatening to supplant them is a bad judgement call indeed.
He does not play golf, go boating, or bowl--thus eliminating an entire shelf of "gifts for the man in your life" in most stores right now. Can't say I blame him there. I'm still trying to figure out what marketing genius figured that 12 items ought to be just about right to create a Christmas wonderland for 175,000 different men. Some of them REALLY different.
He is not a "motorhead"--that is, he does not spend time or money doing anything to his truck but driving it. I did have success one year buying him a seat warmer for it but, since he still has just the one ass, I think that gift idea has pretty well been used up.
He has a perfectly dreadful wallet made of stingray that creeps me out if I ever have to touch it--which is probably part if why he likes it so much and will never part with it in favor of one that I purchase for Christmas. It's fun to give the wife the heebie-jeebies.
He enjoys a limited number of musicians and has all the music of theirs that he wants. Once a person has Blondie, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Peter Gabriel, and Queen, Mr. K does not understand why that person would waste money on more music.
He loves his tools and always wants more, but they are all terribly precise and expensive items that can be found only in a tiny hidden shop at the end of an alley in a small town in Outer Mongolia which is open from 10pm to 10:15 pm on the third Thursday of every month with an R in it. No one knows what they're for besides Mr. K and a few other knifemakers who are, apparently, sworn to secrecy.
He does not do puzzles, play games, build models, have or want an ipod, or collect anything except the abovementioned tools. He likes to go out and pet them. This is not a real help in choosing Christmas gifts.
A gift certificate is, clearly, the most logical choice and yet, Ms. K unfortunately has Christmas foibles of her own. Specifically, she wants to surprise Mr. K on Christmas morning with the perfectly chosen gift, without him having any clue what it might be, without him already having it, without him having to guide the process, and without him knowing how much was spent. In other words, Ms. K is sworn to defend the ridiculous yet again.
I fear it may be a long December.