How to Choose the Perfect Gift for a Woman
Men often purposefully avoid the decision of what to give as a gift to a woman. In trying to determine what gift will be appreciated by the recipient, I use tricks to elicit clues that I think are undetected, but I know the reality is that the reverse can happen. The hints from the female can be subtle and cryptic and often disguised in general conversation so it is hard to be sure that you are picking up on the right message.
The problem is listening and deciphering the messaging. A word of warning about relying on ‘hints’. Be aware that when women say that they need a new ironing board or washing machine or something to clean the grout in the tiles with, this is not a gift hint. When making your gift decision, try to keep in mind that other women will ask your wife what you gave her for her special occasion. Do not let her answer be, “a vacuum cleaner”. You don’t want to be that pitiful guy, okay.
On the other hand, it can be argued that it is even worse that you should need to ask outright, “So dear, what do you want for your birthday?” Do you know so little about the love of your life that you don’t know what she would like? In fact, with this sort of direct questioning, you could be digging a hole for yourself and entering a situation that is difficult to reverse, specifically if she responds, “Surprise me darling”.
The terror that accompanies the necessity of buying a gift for the special woman in your life, or any woman for that matter, is palpable. The palms sweat, the throat dries, and we get that horrible stomach knot that precedes disaster, particularly in the department store when the sales lady asks, “What’s her favourite colour?” or even more loaded, “What size is she?”
So many things can go wrong when buying a personal gift for a woman, especially a woman you may not know that well. Flowers? How were you to know that there were pink carnations on her beloved grandmother’s funeral casket? Chocolates? Is she diabetic, on a diet or allergic to nuts and dairy? Fragrance? Jewellery? Homewares? These are all a matter of individual taste, so prepare for disappointment. Anything with a size is also fraught with risk. Make sure you keep the receipt handy for that Valentine’s Day lingerie gift because there is a fair chance that it could be returned.
I don’t know how many times since we launched our first Mainie collection of Aboriginal art silk scarves that I have said, “I wish these were around when I was working in Japan.” A Mainie scarf is truly the perfect gift for an almost infinite number of reasons - uniquely Australian, beautiful, luxurious, designed to last a lifetime, lightweight, economical to post and easy to pack in carry-on luggage, appropriate for any occasion, not too personal to give to another man’s wife, no wrong sizes, it will always fit, and the most compelling reason of all, a scarf is the ultimate in timeless and practical fashion. It is a versatile and useful adornment that will be happily worn year after year.
For many years, I held a senior management position for a global company that was Japanese based and owned. The company was transitioning from an Asian based stronghold in the industrial control systems market into the lucrative northern hemisphere, as well as some major projects in the Middle East and Africa.
I was seconded to the Tokyo based division that managed international contracting and tenders because most tenders were written in English and I had been technically trained in Japan with these new and innovative systems. I was based in Sydney at the time. These arrangements meant that I travelled a lot to Tokyo to enter the “bid team” that was set up for major tender processes.
I have been an unashamed admirer of Japanese culture. The foundations of this culture were, and I believe still are, a genuine sense of honour and respect with tradition at the core. The gift giving was ritual and therefore was treated as a measure of your respect and sense of worth - not just for the gift recipient but mainly by the gift provider. The practice of the gift culture was vital so the gift itself was central to this respect process.
The tradition was that on my arrival to the bid meeting in Tokyo, I publicly presented my gift to my Japanese counterpart who was the industry expert or manager. For instance, if we were tendering for a power station system, my counterpart would be our company’s global expert on power generation. He was important and respected accordingly. His gift was the easy part – a bottle of good scotch whiskey would always be gratefully received. But to complicate the whole process in demonstrating my worth to the bid team, I then had to give him a gift for a woman in his life, most commonly his wife, whom I had never met. Wine or a box of chocolate coated macadamia nuts – maybe, but what if she didn’t drink or had dietary requirements? Personal gifts like fragrance, cosmetics or bath and body products were not appropriate. These were far too intimate to give to another man’s wife. Similarly, the giving of jewellery. This could offend.
So, enter me - the world’s dork at gift giving – usually bearing some nondescript token offering like a piece of pottery, a scented candle, or the crummiest of possible choices, a tea towel. Many times, I think I “lost face” with my colleagues in the bid team because I failed at gift giving miserably and often. In Japan when you lose face, you are ranked accordingly in the team. I have no doubt that for my unimaginative efforts in gift giving to my colleagues’ wives, I permanently occupied the lowest position in the team.
If only Mainie had been around then. I would have been king. A stunning Aboriginal designed, handmade silk scarf - the perfect Australian gift – meaningful, ethical, guaranteed to please and beautifully boxed ready for giving. If only.
Posted by Denis Keeffe