Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Stockings for The Man Who Has Everything

 Ed. Note: Today's beautifully written, funny, must-read post is by Will Fletcher -- lawyer, writer, and, not incidentally, my son-in-law. 

          Show me a man who thinks he’s got everything and I’ll show you a man who’s overlooking something.

         I remember a documentary about the billionaire oilman J. Paul Getty.  He opened a museum on 64 acres in Los Angeles in 1974. The 105,00o sq. ft. building is a re-imagination of the Villa of Papyri, the residence of Caesar’s father-in-law that was nestled halfway up the slope of Mount Vesuvius. The “Getty Villa” was constructed because J. Paul’s personal art collection (comprised mainly of Renaissance and Baroque period paintings) outgrew the wing he added to his house to showcase it. 

     Today, more than 44,000 pieces of Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities dating to 6,500 B.C. reside at the Getty Villa (now the smaller of two Getty Museum locations).

         But Getty never saw the museum. You say because he died before it was completed, right? No, no, he was alive when it opened.  In 1974, Getty was a semi-recluse living in a 400 year-old mansion near London, an estate with two swimming pools, tennis courts and its own trout stream. He bought the property in 1959 for $850,000 from the Duke of Sutherland (and you know that neither man had to waste three hours at the closing). Occasionally, people from the museum visited Getty in London. 

      He closed his eyes and listened while they described the rooms to him and where all the art was placed. Isn’t that something? J. Paul sitting there in his London castle and just imagining a walk through his enormous museum on the other side of the world?  I’ve had a tailor describe what my pants would look like after taking them in a quarter-inch at the waist, but I’m guessing the experience isn’t the same.

        So, I don’t know about the hard-to-shop-for person in your life, but none of my friends would unwrap a gift and say, “Oh great, another terracotta mixing vessel from 300 B.C.” But Getty might have said that. He had everything -- so much of everything he never even saw all of it. 

      And here’s the mistake you want to avoid when shopping for the man who has everything: You’ll never get the right gift choosing from the esoterica found on the fringes of the known world. That’s where he gets all his stuff anyway. If he doesn’t have a kevlar iPad case, a Montblanc laser pointer, a coffee thermos made from the thermal tiles of a decommissioned Space Shuttle, then it’s because he’s already passed them over.

        In Getty’s last years, people whispered that his socks had holes in them. His shirts and sweaters were worn out (maybe he never visited the museum because he had nothing decent to wear. #drama #issues). But that’s a lesson: Spend your golden years looking to score a few dozen more swordsmen's helmets from the Battle of Thermopylae and your basic everyday items suffer. And what would have been good advice for any of J. Paul’s five wives is good advice for someone gift shopping for the man (who has everything) in her life – the best stocking stuffers you can find for him are very simple, everyday items. Consider these ideas:

1. Buy him a better brand of socks than he would buy for himself.

Cotton, wool or cashmere -- you're choice. Just make sure they're the up-to-the-knee model please.
        Men wear the socks with the gold stitching at the toes because they’re in  every store and we’ve always worn them – but we don’t love them. They were our first “dress up” socks and, like beer, they’re sold in packs of six. Most men have never heard of Point 6 socks. They’re the best. And after a man wears the pair he found in his stocking, he’ll dump his entire collection of gold-caps without regrets.

2.  Buy him a box of the cheap pens that he likes.

      It’s not that he didn’t love the Waterman fountain pen with crystal inkwell that you bought him years ago, it’s just that life moves very fast. I have a few of these pens, too. And I intend to use them when I finally have the time to write my memoirs on undisturbed  afternoons near the fireplace. Until that happens, I need a pen that doesn’t insist on ceremony or get offended falling to the bottom of my briefcase. 
       If you haven’t noticed his go-to pen, this list of “affordable pens geeks love” may be helpful for you.  Part of what you’re giving is the gift of always having a pen on hand, so stuff an entire box (usually 12) in the stocking. Remember not to steal the pens away from him (like my wife does!) for the obvious reason (but apparently not a deterrent) that it diminishes from the act of giving in the first place.

3. Buy him the “paramilitary” version of something he needs so he’ll actually want it.

        I’d never carry a sissy pencil case, but I don’t leave home without my Diplomat Pocket Organizer Series 2, available in drab gray or coyote brown here:  If he hasn’t taken to certain purchases you know would serve him well, look for those same things again, only next time add “tactical” or “EDC” (every day carry) to your search terms. Is he always asking you, "where are the scissors?" 

      Put a pair of these folding “tactical” scissors in his stocking and he’ll hold onto them for the rest of his life:  Voila! 

4.  Buy him the “quality” version of the thing he’s always borrowing from you.

        I have a “friend” who’s always borrowing his wife’s fingernail clippers when they travel. Her problems would be over if she splurged on this $18 pair, proudly “hailing from Seki city, a region in Japan long known for their top quality blade craftsmanship”:  Men fall for durability, “top quality,” and craftsmanship. You’ll bury him with the tactical scissors in one pocket and his Seki city clippers in the other. 

       Instead of thinking about what these cost, my “friend’s” wife should think about the peace of mind she’s buying herself knowing these samurai sword-grade clippers would stick like Velcro to my hand. My “friend’s” hand, rather.

 5.  Buy him a new wallet. 
        You already know that he doesn’t replace his wallet when you notice that it’s time for a switch. But that misshapen leathery wad that looks like a fossilized pb&j on wheat bread isn’t going away without help. We simply don’t notice that it’s all used up.  You know when men buy a new wallet? When other men tell them it’s time to buy a new wallet. 

        It’s embarrassing to have your best buddy tell you it’s time to pitch your wallet because, when he does, he uses the same voice when he says you need to pop a Tic-Tac. 

      So that’s it. The lesson is that the man who has everything probably won’t show you his socks. Focus on what he’s ignoring and you’re very likely to come up with a winning stocking stuffer. Good luck!


Kathy said...

I love Will's writing! And great story about Getty. What a charming son in law you've got.

Karen Albert said...

Will is wonderful and such great ideas! I have been to The Getty Museum; sad to me that J Paul never saw it in all of its wonder!

Art by Karena

mette said...

I too enjoyed reading this post: ).

Kathy said...

"...that misshapen leathery wad that looks like a fossilized pb&j on wheat bread..." Love it!

Amelia said...

Thank you Will Fletcher for a humorous, but also helpful post for the man who has everything. Great suggestions and very helpful. I'm taking notes of all your great ideas.

J. Paul Getty used to remind me of the phrase "as rich as Croesus". He was probably richer than Croesus...and he had holey socks...:)

Wonderful Son-in-Law you have Tish!

SE said...

I enjoyed this- and should a male-type turn up before Christmas, I'll have a better idea of what to get him. Wish I had read this years ago- back then, I spent weeks on the outer-fringes-search for the man who had everything....

Class factotum said...

Yes! More Will! All this talent in your family. Sigh.

Christina said...

Fabulous list! I recently purchased some gold cap socks for the stocking. I am returning immediately and ordering some Point 6 socks. They won't arrive by Christmas - but they will make a great New Years surprise!

Charlene said...

Loved this post!! Really enjoyed the story about J. Paul Getty and the great ideas. I decided long ago that the practical things were all my hubby really wanted.

vicki archer said...

Brilliant ideas and great to have a man's point of view... Happy Christmas Tish... xv

Vicki said...

An aside about the Getty Villa in Malibu, California...I'm within driving distance and for my entire adulthood, it is one of my most favorite places in all of the world. I was fortunate to travel to many places in the world at a younger age, so I have seen many museums, cathedrals, monuments and statues or art works and beautiful buildings but there is still nothing more calming and enjoyable to me than strolling in the grounds of this lovely villa. I haven't been there for awhile, and it was shut down for a few years for renovation but, do you know, and I believe it may still be the case, entry is free to the public! The atmosphere is intimate and quiet, the ocean views are so pleasing and the feel of the place, to me, brings more pleasure than its sumptuous art.

That said, your son-in-law's article here is a gem and I enjoyed reading it.

Tish, thank you for such an enjoyable blog; I've enjoyed reading you in this past year having learned much from your interesting and varied, thoughtful and insightful posts. Happy Christmas to you and yours!

Coco Love said...

Gosh this was a very enjoyable and helpful post. I have always thought those sort of presents were boring but it looks like I am wrong. I must save this post to nudge my memory for future birthdays and Christmases.

So interesting about Getty. Thank you and Merry Christmas.

Gam said...

Will has blogging talent! Great post!

BigLittleWolf said...

I love the folding scissors! Very cool.

Here's what I like for the "man who has everything" - a personal letter written by hand, on real stationery. If a friend, then words of why the friendship is a gift. If a loved one, the appropriate variation. If a family member, perhaps a lesson learned at his side. If the "man in your life" - what makes him so special, and with specifics.

Beyond that, perhaps a single teabag in a flavor he particularly likes, wrapped, with a small card entitling him to "share" his tea (or other refreshment) with you, the woman in his life, preferably over a romantic morning in bed...

We can all afford less "stuff" as fun as it is, and using the most beautiful pens and papers to write the words that can mean so much.


Duchesse said...

Spot on! Have you also seen

Duchesse said...

Oh sorry that is "your-man"

Maggie said...

I'm married to a lawyer too, but now he's a lawyer with Point 6 socks! Well, only 1 pair as it's pretty late in the game to get his size, but I'll be a return customer. Great site! Thanks for the hints and hope someone heard the one about "your friend".

This is a great blog - very funny and hit home! Happy Holidays -

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

What a great post...
my husband had gold plated Cross pens but he prefers the rolling ball gel style cheap pens and actually has a "thing" for pens!

Tish I enjoy your blog so much.
Thank you for your creative and clever posts.

Anonymous said...

wow, I thought you had a ring-side seat to my life and that of my husband's. Socks (gold toe variety) are always on his list but after reading your tip, the quality has just been amped up. I have already spotted the need for/replaced the wallet and have also replaced the fingernail clippers. The pencil case will be perfect (after-Christmas) present for son attending college. The cheap pens are already in place, in fact his secretary always orders an extra box because he goes through them like water, leaving a trail as he goes. Thank you for the extra wonderful items and Merry Christmas and a wonderful,joyous New Year to you and yours.

Fifi222 said...

I have just found this blog via Viviennefiles. Your son in law's post is perfect. I have a son and a husband who are very hard to buy for ( aren't they all). I wanted to say +1 on the Japanese nail clippers. We bought some out of necessity on a recent trip to Japan and they are SO much better than the usual ones you see. Who knew?

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