Perfect Christmas gifts for women? Why we men are rubbish

The fact is, men don't tend to remember things like dates or sizes.

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The Independent Online

A recent study by Superdrug has revealed that men are – surprise, surprise – basically crap in relationships.

The study showed that 39% of men don’t know their wife’s bra size and another 23% don’t know their partner’s dress or shoe size.

More staggeringly – perhaps to women but possibly not to men – around 10% of husbands couldn’t recall their other half’s date of birth, hair colour or even job title. Some men even had problems with their wife’s middle name.

All of this leads rather predictably – in the run up to Christmas – to the statistic that 12% of women have had to return a gift that they didn’t like because of their partner’s forgetfulness. Presumably this fact is designed to send men scampering to Superdrug where they will splash out lots of money on their wife’s favourite perfume (34% of men don’t know their wife’s preferred scent). Either that or they will be splashing out on hair dyeing products so they don’t have to remember their wife’s natural colour.

Other than giving us an insight into Superdrug’s marketing strategies, what does this survey actually tell us? Is it that men are just forgetful and a bit crap? Or is that they are callous, heartless bastards who think the world revolves around only themselves? Or is it that the things in the survey just aren’t important to men but that this doesn’t actually reflect on either their crapness or their heartlessness?

I am a man. I have friends who are also men. As such I can perhaps use my insider knowledge of ‘man’ to answer these questions.

I think the best way to approach the issue of what causes men’s ambivalence to dates, clothing sizes, grooming products et al is to look at how men approach these subjects with other men. By taking a control group of just males, we can perhaps work out what is truly important, or otherwise, to the less fair sex.

Let’s start with dates. Most men, or at least the men I know, don’t send birthday cards to each other. They probably don’t even know the dates of their mates’ birthdays. The most they stretch to is a quick “Happy b’day mate!” on Facebook if they happen to be online and notice the Facebook reminder (note the inability even to write out the word ‘birthday’ in full). Even then they might not be arsed. This is not because their mates are not important to them. It’s just that birthdays and emotional bonds don’t correlate in the male psyche. Most men only know the age of their friends because they were in the same year at school or uni, providing they can remember their own age of course, which is not always a given.

If you asked two male friends if they could remember the date they first met, you might suffer anything from mild ridicule to real physical violence. You certainly wouldn’t get a sensible answer. But of course you would never ask two men this question because everybody knows that the arbitrary establishment of a particular date as somehow constituting a meaningful property of a relationship between two people is anathema to men. Besides, if we did get into the whole date-we-first-met thing we would only squabble endlessly over whether to use the date when we actually physically met, or the one when we first got together.

In terms of clothes sizes, do I need to spell it out? No, men do not know each other’s clothes sizes. ‘Fat bastard’ is about as close as any man comes to estimating his friends’ measurements. I don’t even know my own size, so how could I possibly have the mental wherewithal to know that of my friends?

Similarly, if I knew their favourite scent I would think about having myself checked up, although oddly enough, I probably do know all of my friends’ favourite scent. It is probably Lynx because that’s the one that takes the least amount of mental energy to select when shuffling, zombie-like, down the male grooming aisle of the supermarket; that and the fact that when you spray it on, legions of fit women drop on you out of the sky.

I do know the job title of most of my friends but in most cases I struggle to envisage what it actually means or involves. I suspect however that this is more a by-product of the modern workplace than of male relationships. I also know all of their hair colours and that is because they don’t confuse me by changing them every other month and in most cases it is the same shade anyway – ‘lifeless, greasy brown’ it might be called in one of those colour charts.

Funnily enough, most men do know their friends’ middle names but this is only because of the peculiar quirk of finding it funny to take the piss out of each other’s lesser-known monikers. I have a friend whose middle name is Spread. Case in point.

I think I have shown that the answer to my original question is this: it isn’t that men are useless or heartless; it’s just that we don’t attach particular emotional importance to the dates, vital statistics, names, jobs, ages, preferences or pretty much any form of ‘hard’ retrievable fact about the people we love. We are, in a sense, on a higher, purer emotional plane, where all the mundane, workaday trappings of relationships – like remembering the birthday or the name of our partner – are mere baggage anchoring us down.