Women Are From Venus; Santa Is From Mars

Maybe you never noticed but the greatest gift giver of them all, Santa the C., doesn't do jack until the last possible minute. He sits on his ever-expanding posterior until Christmas Eve then bam! springs into action.

Sure, a division of elves got Santa's back but even if he were totally elfless nothing would change that savage heart-clutching deadline-induced style. How we gift is who we are.

For example, my wife orders everything from catalogues before carving the Halloween jack o' lantern. My sister shops year-round. She finishes in mid-June and works two Christmases ahead.

I, on the other hand, have faked a seizure to prevent a store from closing on Christmas Eve until I could locate something called nesting stock pots. A buddy of mine, who shall remain nameless in case the statute of limitations hasn't run out, once got into a Christmas Eve shoving match with an elderly gentleman over a pair of Isotoner earmuffs until the geezer threatened to kabong him with his oxygen canister.

I started talking to others and realized this had more to do with gender than personality. I had torn the scab off that Mars/Venus oozing sore. Those who shop early will be referred to henceforth as women. Menfolk comprise the second group. And for any guys thinking of swiping my staged seizure ploy, you should know it ended with me being open-mouth-kissed by a stock boy with a pierced tongue. I think he was trying to administer some Baywatch-gleaned CPR but I didn't stick around to make sure.

Steve, a voiceover artist, thinks men want to control a situation we're not completely comfortable with. "We'll buy gifts when we're damned good and ready and not a minute before! Plus, by waiting we get some great bargains. One year I got my wife a kayak. Not exactly the earrings she was hoping for but at 50 percent off, I say Merry Christmas, honey."

"Christmas kind of sneaks up on me every year," says John, a systems analyst. "I can never remember if it's the third or fourth Thursday of the month."

While I'm pretty sure he was kidding, it does reflect men's casual attitude toward the holidays.

"I like to finish shopping early so I can relax and enjoy the season," explains my wife. It's a refrain echoed by many of the women I queried. When I asked my wife to elaborate on where this seething stress level comes from she veered off on some tangent about how she has to do everything from wrapping and delivering gifts, writing and mailing cards, cleaning, baking, decorating and if I helped out a just the teensiest little bit maybe she wouldn't feel so desperately frazzled by New Year's Day.

Unfortunately, I didn't catch what she said because I don't have a tape recorder and my notes consisted mostly of the words "blah blah blah," with little puffs of steam rising from them.

Maybe it's not politically correct to say that all women do their holiday shopping early. Let's just say that women are more vigilant to shopping opportunities. Their gift radar is always up. They pay attention, listen for hints and think about whom they're buying for. Gifting comes naturally to women. It's a hormonal thing, like ovulating, except with ribbons and bows.

In a way it's spiritual. Women use gifts to define relationships, crystallize feelings and connect with the people around them. Their gifts are powerful yet nuanced, working on many different levels.

"Did you notice I picked the black and white color combination? It subtly suggests penguins and of course there was the night we were going to have dinner with my parents but you were late because you were watching that special about penguins on the Discovery Channel and lost track of time and we had a big fight and almost broke up but didn't and two weeks later you proposed. Remember? That's what this shirt reminded me of."

To which most guys reply, "Did they have it in blue?"

During the holidays women shower gifts on everyone they come in contact with. Coworkers, neighbors, stylists, petsitters, they all get a taste. Men are more selective. If we're not related to you or having sex with you, chances are you're getting nada.

It's not that we're thoughtless, it's just that -- okay, we are thoughtless. And not very perceptive either. The Y chromosome is a dim little knothead. Drop hints till you're blue in the face, chances are they'll only clang off our brainpan.

"If I really want something bad, I need to provide him with the exact details," Mary Ellen, a court clerk, says of her husband. "Catalog, page number, item number, color, size, which credit cards they take, etc."

"We're not clueless, we just hear things differently. So hints don't work," claims Keith, a carpenter. "If my ex said, 'Gee, this purse is falling apart,' what I heard was, ' I'd kill for a crotchless lace body stocking.'

"Did I mention she's my ex?"

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