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Sharp Gifts

by Stephen Lautens


December 3, 1999

I find it difficult to think about Christmas until after the first day of December. Even though the Halloween stuff barely made it off the shelves before being muscled aside by the plastic Santas and rubber reindeers, I refuse to let the department stores dictate the beginning of the holiday season.

If they had their way, we'd have one long holiday season beginning on January 1st and ending New Years' Eve. Eventually, we'd all spend our entire lives in greeting card stores, and still never find one we liked.

But now that December is finally here, I don't mind hearing Christmas carols blaring out of store speakers. In fact, I'm starting to feel downright Christmassy.

And in the spirit of Christmas, I want to pass along to the ladies the secret of buying gifts for the men in your life.

It never ceases to amaze me how much soul searching women go through looking for the perfect present for the men in their lives. They try to find an after-shave that is manly yet smells good ­ like "Pizza" by Ralph Lauren. They worry about whether he'll wear a green shirt, or if a ratchet set is actually something a man would really use.

I'm here to tell you that there are only two presents you can guarantee a man will like - flashlights and pocket knives.

It must be genetically programmed into us. I've never met a man who doesn't think a flashlight or pocket knife isn't a great gift.

When I was best man at my friend Rene's wedding, his present to me to remember the tender feelings of that special day was a great boot knife. That was fifteen years ago and I still throw the knife in my bag when I head to the cottage.

My friend Rob and I exchange presents every year at what has become known as the "boys Christmas". We give each other all the stupid stuff no one else ever would. So we wrap up miniature bottles of booze, plastic army men and Star Trek tattoos. And every year, we each give the other a pocket knife.

Do we ever look at it and say: "But I already have a pocket knife"?

No - we always say: "Great, another knife!" and proceed to see if it will cut through a beer can.

Dad was one of the most un-knife like people you'd ever meet. Even so, every Christmas my father always had a tiny Swiss Army knife handy to help cut pesky tape and ribbons.

I don't know what primitive urge attracts us to knives, but trust me, we never get tired of them. And nothing says love more than giving a man a knife.

For anyone who's at all squeamish about giving things with sharp edges as presents, you'll be happy to know that men also love flashlights. The flashlight gene is right next to the pocket knife gene in men.

Maybe it comes from reading under the covers as kids. Or being sure that something in the closet is just waiting for you to nod off.

Whatever it is, most men never grow out of their love affair with flashlights ­ everything from those tiny key chain beams to the monster 12-battery police torches Most men have at least a half dozen by the side of the bed.
And don't go all Freudian on me, about how knives and flashlights are just a symbol to compensate for male physical insecurity If you're using that thing to cut string or light up a room, you have serious problems.

So if you have a man who's difficult to buy for, look no further than a store that sells knives and flashlights. That is if you can get past the crowd of men outside with their noses pressed up against the window.


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