It was my Dad's birthday a week or two ago, and I purchased him a great man-present, something which combines the attributes of usefulness with desirability; a Gerber multitool. I got him the 600 model which is my personal favourite, and I've had it for donkey's years.
Now, when giving a man-present, there are protocols to be observed; it is perfectly acceptable to leave it in the bag it came in, or perhaps sandwich it between two sheets of newspaper if one is feeling like dressing things up a bit. Then, when meeting the recipient, one must casually toss it over to them with one of those raised nods we do and say "Here ya go bud." in a deep voice. The recipient, as is standard practise for anyone with a Y chromosome, reciprocates with a raised nod of his own, casually tears off the wrapping, looks the gift over from three directions and says, "Cheers mate. That's useful, is that" and puts it aside.
What you really mean when you're giving it is "Look, look, I've got you a prezzie, and I thought really hard about it and I never do that, and I reckon you'll love it, open it, open it, OPEN IIIIITTTTT!"
What the other guy means is "A present? For me? COOOOOOL! Look at that! Fantastic! I want to go and take something apart RIGHT NOW!"
I don't know where we learn the art of appearing not to be too bothered by giving or receiving presents. Was there a time at school when the girls were taken to one room for talks about tampons and not letting boys play with their jumper-spuds, whilst we were taken to another room and told "Right lads, next time you get a present, even if it's on your birthday, don't let it go to your head, right?". I don't recall it if there was.
I presume it's to do with not appearing too emotional in front of other chaps. That's for the fairer sex, all that gushing and being pleased and wot-not. It smacks of caring about what other people think of you and, in the big bad world, we are lone wolves, independent hunters, barely tamed for the purposes of civlisation, mavericks who don't give a good-god-damn what anyone else thinks! Ain't no-one gonna stop us using double negatives.
And then my wife wrapped it:
It took her two minutes. It looked lovely, and it completely destroyed the honed procedures of man-present decorum that have been fine-tuned through the generations. The effect it had on me was obvious. I couldn't wait to give it to him. I didn't toss it over onto the sofa, but placed it carefully on the table in front of him, and stood back proudly. I might even have said "Ta-da!"
My Dad was also not unaffected. His beard lit up with delight, and that was before he even opened it. It took about twenty minutes becuause he didn't want to damage the paper, before I reminded him he was allowed to, and then he gleefully tore it off as though he'd just been authorised to have a go at Liberace's piano with a lump hammer at the Smithsonian. When he opened the present, there was genuine pleasure on his face, and he waxed lyrical about the knife, and the Phillips screwdriver, and the pliers. He then practicesd the awesome one-handed opening flick for a bit before examining the tough belt pouch it came in. Then he announced he "would have to get a belt."
So what have I learnt from this experience? That appearances are important when it comes to gifts. That the warm glow I felt from having a present appreciated far, FAR outweights any blokey considerations of appearing to be laid back.
Next time I get a good present, I am going to squeal!