Why can’t men buy women what they really want for Christmas?
Scratchy, flimsy undies you’re supposed to feel sexy in, jewellery so blingy it’s surely been nicked from the neck of Puff Daddy, perfume you wouldn’t be smelt dead in, a frock that would look better on your nan... and a gift token.
Merry ruddy Christmas to you.
If you’re expecting yet more of the naff presents your bloke puts beneath the tree year in, year out, your only solace is that, come Christmas morn, millions of UK women expect to be in your new slippers.
They too are preparing to feign delight as the wrapping falls away from yet another unwanted box of toiletries. Talc? The last time he saw you using it, you were sprinkling the baby’s bottom. Body lotion? How can he not have noticed the stack of last year’s still unopened on the bathroom shelf?
Women are also resolving to hide their disappointment when they receive something useful – like a vacuum cleaner or a new set of oven gloves.
The worst “useful” gift I ever got? An iron and an ironing board. I kid you not. They both lasted a heck of a lot longer than the man.
Year in, year out, husbands and boyfriends do not buy the things their women really want. And the reason we get upset is because we see each gift as a physical manifestation of what we mean to you.
That gym membership for the non-gym bunny? You bought it because you think we’re fat.
The kitchen gadget and the cookbooks for the undomestic goddess? Trying to chain her to the kitchen sink?
The Star took one Sheffield couple shopping to find out why men get it so wrong.
Photographer Andy Crookes and his fiancé Philippa Leddingham have been together for five years. The wedding is booked for next year and they have been virtually inseparable since they started dating in school sixth form at the age of 18.
“Andy is generally pretty good at gifts,” Philippa says protectively (he’s still in earshot). “But there have been some mistakes...”
We’ve come to the Next store at Meadowhall to find out just how far apart the gifts he will pick out for her are from the ones she would pick out for herself - if she were in the driving seat of Santa’s sleigh.
Each of the 23-year-olds has a make-believe budget of £250 and a gift to buy from six of the store’s departments - women’s fashion, shoes, accessories, perfumery, lingerie and homeware.
I trail in Philly’s wake as she hurtles off towards fashion. She ignores the glitzy party frocks, the sequinned tops, the Christmas jumpers. But her eyes light up when she spies a classy cream tuxedo-style evening jacket at £50.
“Perfect,” she says, slipping it into her basket. “Andy is terrible at buying me clothes. He picks nice styles, but they are always two sizes too small for me. It’s as if he sees me in a completely different way to what I actually am...”
It’s kind of a compliment, I suggest. “But annoying when everything has to go back to the shop,” says the Howells para-legal.
He’s a hit with perfume, though, she muses, as she arrives at the counter and is overwhelmed by the array of big brand names. Armani, YSL, Lacoste... Where to start? She doesn’t know.
“Andy always buys my perfume. He’s got the knack. Since my favourite got discontinued he’s managed to find lots I really liked...”
She snaps up a £29 bottle of DKNY Be Delicious and moves on.
In lingerie, she streaks through lacy knickers, balks at basques and doesn’t give dainty nighties the time of day.
What she wants is “something cosy and comfortable - something to relax in.”
She finds it in a soft and fluffy dressing gown, £26.
Will Andy make man’s biggest festive faux pas and head for the frillies? “He made that mistake when we first started dating. He knows me too well to go there again,” she says.
Next, it’s upstairs to Next Homeware - surely a place where a man should never tread when it comes to Christmas gifts for his other half. Not in Philly’s case, though; she coos over cushions, goes potty in tableware and has to stop herself from picking up a bathroom waste-bin and a new toaster.
Then she spies it; the thing that would whip her heart into a frenzy if only Andy were to buy it for her... a £30 food mixer.
She snatches it up and presses it close to her chest, like a five-year-old with a new doll. “THIS is what I really, really want,” she beams.
How will Party-Pix photographer Andy have fared? Will he have focused on all the right things? We head off to find out...
Worst gifts we think you could get a woman
Ignore the adverts. And your own motives.
Something you can share
A communal gift that you will get just as much use from as her is just plain selfish.
No excuses about you not having the time, or the money, or any idea what to get her. And don’t ever believe her when she tells you that she doesn’t want anything.
How boring. How unoriginal. Plus you’re telling her exactly what you think she’s worth.
So you think she’s fat do you?
In conclusion - how Andy fared
Andy clearly knows the real Philly. He was on the right lines with several items - the pyjamas and the shoes.
He got the perfume bang on the nose, too.
But he lost points dramatically for buying things that were too glitzy for the girl who likes simplicity.
Does that mean he secretly wishes his clearly Contrary Mary was more girly?
A psychologist could have a field day.
As for Father Christmas, he’s still scratching his head, shrugging his shoulders, and whittling about what to get for Mrs Christmas.