The Giving Is Easy!—Rock Hudson
Shopping for a man is a fine art. Speaking as a man, I know. I’ve been on the receiving end. And “Sometimes,” as a friend of mine once said, “it’s better to give!”
Shopping for a man is an art every woman should perfect, because it’s something she’ll be doing all of her life. And it’s never too soon or too late for her to learn.
Perhaps you’ve given a man what you considered a sporty tie and waited for him to wear it? Are you still waiting? Have you ever presented the love of your life with a handsome pair of cuff links? And did you receive a half-hearted thank you, as the poor guy drove away to buy a shirt with French cuffs so that he could wear them? Have you ever scrimped and saved in order that your gift might be a lavish one? And when he opened the package did you note that his embarrassment made it difficult for him to find the words to thank you?
Then you’ve lived—and I hoped you’ve learned an invaluable lesson.
It seems that there is a great deal more to this subject than meets the eye or the pocketbook. “All right, Uncle Rock, now you answer the questions,” you’re probably saying. “Just how should I go about shopping for a man? Where should I shop? How much should I spend?”
First of all, money will invariably rear its green head. But don’t let it throw you or your wallet. The cost of a gift is secondary. It’s the thought that counts. I was sitting at a luncheon table with a group of U-I folks not long ago when the subject came up. Susan Cabot was responsible. “Tell me,” she said, pulling an object out of her handbag, “what do you think of this?”
It was a key chain. Attached was a French coin, dated 1578. “It’s going to be a birthday gift. Think he’ll like it?” asked Susie.
“No doubt about it,” said I, and I’ll admit I envied the guy.
“It’s exquisite,” said Lori Nelson. “Where in the world did you find it?”
“In pieces,” grinned Susie. “Found the coin in a coin shop, the chain in a jewelry store and had ’em put together.”
“You getting serious about some guy?” queried Race Gentry. “That’s quite a gift.”
As it turned out, Susan hadn’t spent a fortune for the item. She’d gone by the old saying, “A gift should reflect a girl’s imagination, not her pocketbook.” The coin and the chain were less than five dollars, but they looked like a million. Which all goes to show what can be done.
As we discussed the subject, I found that everyone was pretty much in agreement. “I don’t think that a girl should spend a lot of money,” said Dick Long. “How much? Well, she might judge the amount by what she thinks her man can afford to spend on her. A girl might be willing and able to raise fifty or a hundred dollars for the cause. But if he couldn’t, she shouldn’t.”
“I agree,” said Race. “I don’t think gifts have to be expensive in any case. Definitely not more than ten dollars, I’d say. Probably in the neighborhood of five. Depends on how well a girl knows a guy.”
“What’s your secret, Lori?” I asked.
“I don’t always shop in the most expensive places,” she told me. “A lot of times I think I can find more personal things in little out-of-the-way stores.”
I’d be willing to second any or all of these statements when it comes to the subject of cold cash. I can remember a friend of mine back in Winnetka. He was going with a girl who could have written a perfectly good check for a productive oil field. My friend was in love with the girl. Then along came Christmas. Because she loved him, too, she really splurged. But when he saw the gift he nearly died. It cost more than he could have saved in six months, and that was enough to give the guy a king-sized complex. Her well-meaning generosity almost wrecked their romance.
How long have you known your guy? That’s another important consideration. If he’s a recent acquaintance, a gift isn’t necessary. A card will do nicely. However, Lori advises monogrammed handkerchiefs or stationery if you feel that you should remember him with a present on a birthday or at Christmas.
Provided you’re sure of his sense of humor, I’d say that a gag gift would be most welcome. I recall the time I lunched with a girl and couldn’t seem to drink enough iced tea throughout the meal. I must have had three glasses, as I love the stuff—winter or summer.
My birthday came along a few days later and, on this particular afternoon, I opened the front door to find a messenger standing on the steps. He handed me a large and weighty package, beautifully wrapped. In it I found a cake of ice and a box of tea bags, along with a birthday card. Needless to say, I got quite a kick out of it. Also lots of iced tea!
When it comes to the purchase of more serious gifts, one of the first rules should be, “Know your man.” Put your powers of observation to work. Note his wearing apparel, the kind of books he talks about, the magazines he likes to read, the records he prefers, his hobbies, his favorite sports. Is his wallet wearing thin? Does he complain about the holes in his socks? If you’re looking for clues, you’ll find them by the score.
If your man is a sportsman, it logically follows that you will head for a sporting goods store. Salesmen will tell you that a woman usually knows what kind of sport a man likes, but that she has no idea of the brand of equipment he finds most satisfactory. For instance, one of the safest things to give a fisherman is a creel for all the fish you figure he’ll be catching. Chances are, he’ll want to pick out his own rod or reel or lure, as he may prefer a special kind—one that he hasn’t mentioned.
A golfer? For around five dollars or less, you can find an assortment of possibilities. There are golf balls, putting cups, club covers, golf gloves, to name a few. Does your man go in for tennis? Again, five dollars or less will do nicely. You’ll find racquet presses, tennis balls, and recently I discovered a handy little gadget for carrying tennis balls. It’s called a tennis caddy. It’s attached to the racquet and holds the balls firmly against the strings so that they can’t roll away.
Personally I like to receive books. Recently a fan sent me a volume from the isle of Cyprus and it’s one of my most treasured possessions. I think you’ll find that most men like travel, adventure and sports books. According to bookstores, men go for science fiction and flying-saucer tomes. However, as far as your man is concerned, a clue to his preference in the book line can be gleaned from a bit of casual conversation.
If he reads extensively, why not a gift that will keep him in reading material for a whole year? I’m speaking of a magazine subscription. There are so many, of course, concerning hobbies, current events, specialized fields or interest that you may have trouble deciding upon the right one. There, again, you can probably obtain the information you want from your man—and he’ll never suspect!
As for wearing apparel, here’s a warning to the lady who goes out to buy her man a shirt. Salesmen will tell you that a single girl hardly ever knows her beau’s shirt size. She’ll simply figure if it doesn’t fit, he can always exchange it, and chances are good that he’ll have to do just that!
A great many women shoppers fail to realize how important it is to know a man’s measurements. Otherwise a salesman is forced to take a good guess. Sometimes he’ll call the lady’s attention to another salesman in the store. “Is your friend around that size?” he’ll ask. However, it’s best when there’s no mystery involved. If your man is tall (around 6‘1”), it’s likely he’ll take a 34-35 sleeve. A shorter man will require a 32-33 sleeve.
And there’s still another consideration—the collar. For instance, a shorter man who is inclined to be a little stout, will need a long type of collar, one that will add length to his face and body. For a tall man, buy a shirt with a medium or tab collar. If he has a collection of cuff links, he’ll want French cuffs. But when in doubt, buy without.
Unless you’ve seen him wearing colorful-type sports shirts, stick to the more conservative kind. If it’s obvious, however, that he especially likes loud shirts, let your imagination run wild in the color department and he’ll love you for it.
Just before I left for Ireland to make “Captain Lightfoot,” a friend gave me a wonderful shirt. A nylon shirt. And there was never a more appropriate gift for a trip. So I can happily say that if your man travels, I’ll bet that’s exactly what he’d like. One of the new fast-drying shirts that he can wash out himself.
But for his wearing apparel, the last resort should be a tie. They say that every woman believes she has the ability to select ties. Some actually do. A gal I know, name of Betty Abbott, is one of them. But so many women only think they have the know-how. A salesman in a leading department store told me that whenever a man has a navy blue suit, his girl is bound to select a flashy red tie.
As far as most men are concerned, however, silver is the newest shade and fast achieving prominence. Within the last six months or a year, there has been a trend toward foulards and smaller prints in ties. And remember, if this is your choice for your man, make that tie a conservative one. If you show a talent for buying his ties, you’ll really make an impression.
One thing is certain. You can and should rely on your salesman. If you like the way a salesman himself dresses, don’t hesitate to ask him to help you. Put your money on his taste. This will give you still another advantage. Salesmen see all of the merchandise that comes into their store and once a salesman has a description of your man, he can make a choice more easily than someone who has just walked in.
The leather line is an especially good one. Your man would be everlastingly grateful for a good leather belt. And you can’t possibly go wrong with a wallet—if you keep your eyes open and note whether he keeps his wallet in his trouser pocket or in the inside pocket of his jacket and make your purchase accordingly. My mother’s a great one for giving wallets. The occasion? Whenever my old one’s worn out!
Once again, I’d like to stress the fact that your man is an individual and you should recognize him as such. Realize that what applies to one man does not necessarily apply to another. I think Lori has a good idea in giving personalized gifts. For instance, her dad likes guns. So she searched until she found some cuff links in the form of miniature pistols. For a lifeguard friend, she provided a St. Christopher medal.
Know what your man dislikes as well as what he likes. If your man has the definite ideas of Dick Long, you’ll want to pay close attention. “I think a girl should steer clear of giving any sort of shaving apparatus or lotions,” says Dick. “They’re not always appreciated. Some men like to shave with the beat-up old razor they’ve used for years and don’t want to change. Of course, others would think a razor gift the greatest. It all depends upon the man.
“I like toilet articles, leather cases, any kind of mannish gift,” says Dick. “Tie pins or cuff links rather than shirts and actual pieces of wearing apparel, as a man usually likes to buy these things for himself.”
“Susie (Dick’s bride, Suzan Ball) buys me cigarette holders because I’m always losing them. She’s forever coming home with some gift for no particular occasion. When my pet ash tray got lost, she brought home a brand-new one—gift wrapped.
“Of course,” Dick says, “my favorite gift is my wedding ring!”
And take Race Gentry. “I hate to have a woman pick out my ties,” he says. “Or shaving lotion. And invariably I get one or the other. I like tie clasps or cuff links. And I like nothing better than a disguised present. I guess that’s because I got such a kick out of the first one I ever received.
“It’s been a while since then, but this memorable gift was from my brother and sister. I’d wanted a football and I’d been told that I wasn’t going to get it. When Christmas rolled around, I found a sweater box. As I was opening it, my sister muttered, ‘I hope it fits.’
“Turned out to be a football after all—they’d let the air out. And I was twice as surprised and pleased!”
Race has a suggestion that would make a mighty nice surprise for your man, especially if you’re going steady. I’m speaking of tickets to “the big game” or some other event he’s anxious to see. And it’s my guess that he’d like the idea twice as much because you can enjoy the occasion together.
I recall my favorite surprise gift. I was sitting in the living room at Vera-Ellen’s house one evening when she walked in with a large box. “Happy birthday,” she grinned and placed the box in my lap. “There’s a catch,” she told me. “You have to open it blindfolded.”
Then she left the room and, true to my promise, I wrapped a handkerchief around my eyes and tore into the wrappings. The box was light and seemed empty. But before I could reach into it, Vera-Ellen had returned. I could tell that she was putting something into the box. “Now!” she said.
Off came the blindfold and when I glanced down I saw a little puppy sitting there looking up at me. He was an Irish setter, so small that he couldn’t have gotten over a curb. I still have him and I’m nuts about him.
One of the most controversial items, gift-wise, is a photograph. Unless a man specifically asks for it, a girl should never give her picture to a fairly recent acquaintance. In fact, I’m inclined to think that no matter how well a girl knows a guy, she should wait for him to ask for that photograph. And no endearing, embarrassing inscriptions, please. It may seem all right at the time. But if you ever break up, you’ll wish you’d kept all that sentiment to yourself. This might also apply to inscriptions on key rings and tie clasps, for instance—and to handwritten cards that are to be enclosed with the gift. Watch your words, ladies!
And when you shop, remember to watch your step and shop with care. You’ll find your man will be eternally grateful!
—BY ROCK HUDSON
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE DECEMBER 1954