The (Im)Perfect Gift

How do you foul up one of the year’s most important decisions? Let me count the ways.

 All over North Texas, CEOs are struggling with one of their most momentous decisions of 2007: how to give their significant other the perfect Christmas gift. In light of the importance of this once-a-year dilemma, how in the world could anyone possibly screw it up? Let me tell you how I did last December.

It all started when my beautiful Better Half came home from a party talking about how great her client had looked in a new pair of lambskin boots. At that point a light bulb came on in my thick head, just like in a cartoon. Maybe, just maybe, I thought, my B.H. was telling me she wanted a pair of those boots, too.

The next day, I rang up my wife’s client on the sly and told her how B.H. had gone on about the boots. Soon enough, she was saying what I wanted to hear: “Sounds like somebody wants a pair just like them!”

The boots, the client explained, were indeed lambskin, came up to the knee, and were sold by Chanel. She’d bought them at the Chanel boutique in Highland Park Village, where she’s a regular, and she recommended I get down there pronto, as those particular boots might be sold out.

So I did. A Chanel salesman helpfully looked up her original order, then frowned. Unfortunately, he said, those boots were not available. Those, gulp, $2,000 boots.

Back to the phone I went, reporting this roadblock to my wife’s client. “Any ideas?” I asked. She paused a moment, then said brightly, “Neiman’s should carry them! Call my saleswoman there, and they can have them shipped to you in a day or two.”

So again, that’s what I did. The accom­modating saleswoman at the downtown Neiman Marcus store said that if I could get her a check that afternoon, the boots would arrive by Dec. 24.

I hightailed it there just before closing, forked over the dough, and walked out of the store beaming, content that the deed was finally done. Two days later, the boots arrived in a big express-mail box.

Christmas morning I proudly presented the gift to my wife who—did I mention this before?—happens to be one of the biggest horse aficionados on the planet. When she opened the box, her jaw dropped. “Oh, no!” she exclaimed. “I didn’t want these boots. I told you they looked good on my client, not me! And they’re made out of … pony skin?!”

Turns out, I had ordered the right style of boot, but it was made of the wrong material. And, try as I did to explain that “pony skin” didn’t necessarily mean the boots came from the hide of a real pony, B.H. would have none of it.

The gift I’d worked so hard to arrange wasn’t just a bust, it was a monumental bust. One that “proved” I was not only oblivious to her tastes in fashion, but that I was an equine killer to boot.

Fortunately, this tale had a (somewhat) happy ending. Neiman’s returned my money with class and speed, no questions asked. My wife scored PR points with her client, who felt complimented on her exquisite taste in (lambskin!) boots. And I learned a tough lesson about giving your significant other an important gift: No matter how hard you try, gentlemen, there’s a good chance that, in the end, you’re gonna mess it up.

This Christmas will be different, though. B.H. is on notice to provide me with a list of five acceptable gift options. And she’s got a deadline to do it.