Insensitive Male's Guide to the Holidays

You're a man. On the scale of evolution, you're slightly more advanced than roofing tar, but lag far behind most branches of the marsupial family. You try to be sensitive. Yet attaching the word "sensitive" to "man" is like linking "well-groomed" to "Yasser Arafat." But it's Christmas. The season of caring, empathy and, yes, even giving. If you don't forego your genetic disposition to think only of yourself, you'll be exposed as the self-centered slime you are. Sure, it sounds awful. But it doesn't have to be. After all, Christmas is supposed to be a celebration of Jesus' birth. Yet, if Jesus were born today, the manger would be condemned by OSHA and gobbled up by a building inspector who moonlights as a slumlord and rents the place out to poor immigrant families at $1,200 a month. Hence, Jesus would be born in a sidewalk and taken away from Mary, who would be deemed an unfit mother by Child Welfare. He would likely be adopted by an insurance salesman and his wife, sent to private school, and eventually would emerge not as the prince of peace but as a prophet of supply-side economics. Can you imagine two middle-aged professionals hovering over the nativity scene with matching jogging suits and a camcorder? That's why, in 1982, the Reagan administration officially changed the meaning of Christmas to the celebration of guilt and over-extended credit. Lucky for you. After all, the new rules of Christmas require not that you actually engage in heartfelt giving but merely that you present the facade thereof. Yet gift-giving still mandates brief reflection on the needs and wishes of others Ñ- no simple task for men. And chances are you've postponed this painful exercise to the last minute. That's why we have assembled five easy-to-handle tips for scamming your way through Christmas. It's designed so you, the simple man (is that redundant?), can fake your way to domestic harmony this holiday season:1. Avoid Household Appliances These hold a natural attraction for men. They're large. They're shiny. They have engines. But women don't see appliances as an expression of love Ñ- except in households of German descent. They'll believe you view them as unpaid domestic help. Your true feelings will be exposed.2. Avoid Power Tools Chances are, your sweetheart never whispered in a moment of tenderness, "Honey, if you really loved me, you'd get me that 9/16-inch, chromium-plated drill bit I've always wanted." That's because, for some strange reason, women never discovered the joy of hammering, sawing, puncturing and blow-torching stuff. Fact is, giving your significant other a radial arm saw or a rotary sander could very well get you emasculated or, worse yet, get your access to the remote control restricted.3. Resist the Old Bait 'n' Switch Perhaps the greatest error men make at Christmas is being seduced by the Bait 'n' Switch Strategy. This entails buying a sweatshirt with a football insignia on it or a pair of pants in your exact size, then offering them as a gift to your honey, knowing full well they won't fit and that you'll score them by default. Problem is, we're men. We're intellectually superior to most patio furniture, but little else. Your sweetheart will swiftly uncloak your scheme. And when you protest by saying, "But honey, I always thought you looked great in size 38 men's trousers," be certain she's near nothing that can be employed in an act of bludgeoning.4. Think Volume As a man, your insight to the wishes of loved ones is scant or nonexistent. Hence, the appreciation ratio on your gifts likely falls under 10 percent. The key is over-buying. Instead of purchasing your significant other one coat, buy eight in different colors. Even if she doesn't like any, she'll at least embrace the false assumption that you tried; you just happen to be pathetic. The great thing about women is they harbor inherent sympathy for the pathetic. She'll expect less in the future, which is much better than her appreciation any day.5. Buy Lots of Worthless Crap Since men lack the proper gene structure to exhibit imagination, we often rely on useful gifts. Such as winter boots, clothesline poles, or a newly installed rear-window defroster. But don't expect your sweetheart to turn to you with moist eyes on Christmas morning and say, "Geepers, dear, new rain gutters! Just what I've always wanted! I love you so much!" Most people want worthless stuff for Christmas. You know, like jewelry and fancy clothes, opera tickets and assorted cheeses from Belgium. The goal is to give them junk they'd never buy themselves. That's because, in America, the best way to show your love is to waste your money on someone else's behalf. And that's something even a man can understand. Editor's Note: A monosyllabic version of this guide is available in extra large print at most public libraries.

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