Wrap the myrrh for a manly Christmas

December 05, 2004|By Dave Barry | Dave Barry,Knight Ridder / Tribune

CHRISTMASTIME is a festive time -- a time of parties and presents and songs that we all love, except for "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," which I for one got tired of in approximately 1958, and which now causes me to dislocate my forefinger stabbing the car-radio button. I prefer traditional Christmas carols, such as "Ding Dong Merrily on High." I am not making this carol up.

The lyrics are:

"Ding dong merrily on high!"

"(Something something something)"

I don't know the rest, because I never got past the first line without cracking up. This song used to absolutely slay me and my boyhood friends when we sang it in St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Armonk, N.Y. And no wonder: It is a well-known axiom of music, discovered in 1783 by Mozart (this was Herb Mozart), that "there is no such thing as a bad song that has 'ding dong' in the title." Other examples are "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" and "Shama Lama Ding Dong," which is not to be confused with "Rama Lama Ding Dong," also an excellent song.

But getting back to Christmas: My point is that, although this is a festive time of year, it can also be a difficult and stressful time for a certain group -- a group whose needs, all too often, are overlooked in our society. That group is: men.

Why is the Christmas season so hard on men? There are many complex and subtle reasons, by which I mean: women.

This problem dates back to the very first Christmas. We know from the Bible that the Wise Men showed up in Bethlehem and gave the baby Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Now, gold is always a nice gift, but frankincense and myrrh -- at least according to my dictionary -- are gum resins. Who gives gum resins to a baby?

The answer is: men. The Wise Men, being men, didn't even start shopping for gifts until the last minute, when most of the stores in the greater Bethlehem area were closed for Christmas Eve. The only place still open was Big Stu's House of Myrrh.

So the Wise Men showed up at the manger, handed their baby gifts to Mary, and headed for the eggnog. Mary looked at the gifts -- which were not wrapped, nor were they accompanied by cards -- rolled her eyes, tossed the gum resins to the goats (which ate them) and said: "Next Christmas, we are going to have some gift-giving rules." But the Wise Men didn't hear her, because by then they were over by the crib trying to teach the Baby Jesus to pull their finger.

This is basically how things stand today. At this point, in the Christmas season, your standard woman has already purchased and wrapped thoughtful gifts for approximately 600 people, including her children, her relatives, her friends, her husband's relatives, her co-workers, the children of her friends, relatives of children of her friends, coworkers of friends of her relatives, husbands of her coworkers' relatives' friends, etc. She has also purchased several thoughtful gifts for nobody in particular, so she will not be in the horrifying position of receiving a gift from somebody for whom she does not have a retaliation gift.

In contrast, your standard man, at this point in the Christmas season, has purchased zero gifts. He has not yet gotten around to purchasing an acceptable gift for his wife for last Christmas. He did give her something last year, but he could tell by her reaction to it that she had not been dreaming of getting an auto emergency kit, even though it was the deluxe model with booster cables and an air compressor. Clearly, his gift violated an important rule, but the man had no idea what this rule was, and his wife was too upset to tell him.

And now another Christmas is looming, and this man, terrified that he will screw up again, has been wracking his brain for gift ideas for his wife. Nothing automotive this time: He won't make that mistake again! He's thinking Weed Whacker.

But he's not sure. He's a nervous wreck. A lot of us men are. That's why we buy gifts at the very last minute, or, optionally, never. It's not that we're thoughtless jerks!

Well, OK, thoughtless. But not jerks! We're doing our best to get through a stressful season. So on behalf of all men, I ask all you women to cut us some slack; and accept us for the imperfect beings that we are compared to you; and above all, in the spirit of another great Christmas carol, bring us some figgy pudding.

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