WOMEN SHOP, MEN BUY The approach to gift giving is wrapped up in gender


AS THE CHRISTMAS shopping deadline approaches, some very real differences between men and women -- and the way they select gifts for one another -- come to light.

Let's face it. Women and men shop differently. Or more accurately: Women shop; men watch football.

It's the same scenario every year. Women, on the whole, finish their Christmas shopping around the same time men become aware of some sort of holiday coming up.

Granted, the stereotype doesn't fit everyone. There are always too-busy career women who run out of time to shop, and sensitive "renaissance" men who have chosen just the right silk blouse for their significant other well in advance.

But for the most part, you can bet your Christmas club account that more men than women will be out there fighting for a parking space on the mall lot this weekend.

Take the case of Mary Ruhe, of Parkville, for instance. Her presents have been wrapped for two weeks; she's been known to start shopping in August. Or Dawn Ellison, of Clinton, who Christmas shops year-round and usually finishes a couple weeks before the big day. Her husband, on the other hand, will most likely be out there "at the last minute," she says.

Indeed time has a different meaning to men. Women shop for hours. Men shop on their lunchbreak.

Then there's practicality. Women tend to buy essentials for their loved ones. They buy warm winter clothing -- sweaters, socks, gloves -- and carefully shop for the best value.

Men buy perfume. Practical to men means easy.

According to Gina Wilgis, a fragrance salesperson at Hecht's, who has met her share of perfume buyers, men don't even start shopping in earnest "until around the 20th." And then, with typical thoughtfulness, "they'll take anything that's wrapped," she says.

Hold on, says William Bolean. "I've finished my shopping." He boasts that he's had his wife's gift in hand for weeks.

But question him more thoroughly and he'll admit that not only is his wife's gift the only one he had to buy, but that he didn't even find it himself; an observant neighbor who knows his wife's taste discovered it in an "unbelievable stroke of luck."

That's another thing about men. They manage to get someone else to do their shopping whenever possible. Look at single men; their list of female recipients includes mother, sisters, girlfriend, maybe even an aunt or grandmother.

But married men only have to worry about a wife. Once married, it seems, Christmas shopping duty is turned over to "the women."

If men have any strategy about Christmas shopping at all, it probably goes something like "Buy anything that comes in one-size-fits-all."

Actually, if you took a rough poll of men, as we did, you'll find that their favorite gifts choices for the women in their lives are jewelry and perfume.

That's only reasonable. Earrings come in only one size, and cologne is like beer. You can never have too much on hand.

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