By Brian Nagle
Originally printed in the Northern California newsletter in 1998
The close of the Renaissance Faire Season means that Fall is here. And right in back of fall, of course, is the holiday season.
You know that means gift giving, or should I say mall wandering for most men? It’s become a tradition of sorts, seeing all those disgruntled men, protest flags flying, sporting that glazed look in their eyes as they say to themselves: ‘I don’t know what color, size, style… I hate doing things I’m not good at… and shopping for ladies is right up there on top of my list.’ Well, men, you know I only give good advice, so now I have a few suggestions as to how you can avoid this unpleasant annual situation and still be the good guys all your beloved ladies know you are, down deep. And right now I want you to remember that no matter how much they may occasionally drive you crazy, these women are basically living saints. You love ’em, can’t imagine life without them. Realistically speaking, your life would be lonelier, duller, grimmer, grubbier and (probably) poorer without them. Just keep that thought with you as try and get through the day.
First, relax. I’m going to keep you out of the malls and out of embarrassing situations. That is, of course, unless you want to see some poor souls that make Ebeneezer Scrooge look like a fun guy.
Now, don’t even think about using one of the two old copouts that have been overused too many times before. To wit:
Copout #1. Saying ‘She can have anything she wants; let her pick it out herself.’ (What she probably wants is having someone give her a little thought and attention, and a little gift is a symbol of this.) This copout is particularly painful to witness every time I hear some Bozo say, with a stupid grin on his face, ‘What did I give you this year?’ What he gave her was another ton of grief and a half ton of laundry and maybe some stretch marks along the way.
Copout #2. Having another lady do the shopping for you. The recipient generally knows and although she may play along, she is embarrassed. Others now know the dirty little secret, that her man is a shopping clod. This is worse than copout #1.
NO. You can do this yourself –hell, you can do anything, after all– you’re a man, a manly man. Shortly to be a manly man with gifts! (Oh, I love that Renaissance Faire talk.)
So, you come to the Faire with her and maybe some friends. The 49er’s are not going to call you out of the stands to suit up; stop waiting for it to happen. The president probably isn’t going to call either. You say to the ladies, in a loud clear voice, that you have some special ‘major shopping’ to do and that you’ll meet them at a definite time and place (you tell them where and when and give them the map that is available at all information booths and the main entrance –or laying in the dirt where many of the patrons lose theirs.) Now, if there is one thing most women know it’s shopping, no further explanation is necessary or required. You are talking their language. By saying this you will either be judged off your rocker (but they won’t say so), a teller of tall tales who is really heading to an ale stand and the belly dancing show in that order (but they will only tease you amid your protestations), or will score some major points with all the women in attendance. A basic rule is never, ever, ever, miss an opportunity to score points with the ladies. They come in useful later. Think of every chance to be useful, helpful, thoughtful or sensitive (like emptying the dishwasher without being asked, buying your own birthday present for your own mother, offering to take the kids out for some “dad time” when mom is feeling under the weather, offering to vacuum the weekend before Thanksgiving instead of on the morning of, taking the garbage out when its raining (and not making a big production out of it –come on, its a little water! you’re not being asked to slay dragons!), picking up your own towels, trying not to get shaving cream on the bathroom mirror…. you get the idea…). Anyway, welcome all these opportunities to pick up some points to help you slide through those less than great moments with ease and grace. With a little fore-thought you could even end up being the kind of guy the ladies would be happy to accompany on the kind of shopping trip that makes you happy: Think boat yard, car show, etc. And before you think you could do that on your own…. just remember, she’s the one who usually has the check-book and veto power over major purchases. And you are glad she does! Now, with that settled, lets re-think that whole Holiday Shopping thing.
Most of the craft people at the Renaissance Faire are more than honest and dependable (indeed, most of us depend upon repeat patronage, faire year, after faire year). We at NF&F stand behind our products. We wrap, ship and can do Layaways; we take credit cards, make suggestions and offer help in any way we can. We even endeavor to fill emergency telephone requests.
We make many unique, limited, and low production pieces that won’t be seen in every department store in the state during the holiday season. (Have you ever noticed the way all the stores seem to have the same choices during the biggest shopping season of the year? Do they all have the same buyer? Or, do all their buyers have the same taste? Or, do they think all the shoppers have the same taste? It’s a question of philosophy, or mayhaps marketing, for another time.)
We guarantee all our pewter castings for life (my life, not yours, but I’m in pretty good health, thanks to good holiday shopping habits). When was the last time you heard of any lifetime guarantee?
We’ll hold and ship your selections with an enclosed card that we’ll help you write (until you get the hang of it –and you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll get in the spirit of all this gift giving business once the veil of mystery is dissolved). Your presents will arrive when they are supposed to, or we will wrap them and put them in a plain brown bag for you to take along with you.
If you want to send several presents to different addresses, simply bring their complete addresses with you. We’ll take care of the rest. Just come up and tell us you’re on a quest for a present for a lady or ladies (that’s sisters, aunts, mothers, grandmothers, godchildren, daughters, and yes, your ‘sweetie-pie’) and you’ll be in good hands. You can even bring some friends along and dazzle them with your worldliness, sophistication, savoir faire and overall shopping grace. That’s if you care to show off a little. Shopping in this manner is comparable to sliding in to home plate with your spikes high. In addition to solving most of your gift giving problems we’ll most likely end up entertaining you. Now, that’s what I call a pleasure faire, turning a task into an enjoyable experience. But wait! Do I mean shopping can be fun? Yup, but don’t let it get around…
P.s. If you are reading this on-line you’ve probably been clued into the fact that we dragged ourselves into the twenty-first century and designed a website. Not the fanciest website –we avoid the dancing graphics– but definitely serviceable. No one-click ordering (not with us), with jewelry one-click decisions can lead to massive misunderstandings and multiple returns. However, we do encourage you to drop us a line, or call, and we will endeavor to help you.