Get it right this year

Jonathan De Burca Butler and Deirdre Reynolds went shopping together and swapped vital notes on panic buying for your better half

LAST minute buying for the missus can be a bit hit-and-miss. One year, I bought her a black dress, which went down a storm with her and her cousins. I suspect, however, that because I showed such a surprisingly good eye, the cousins have questioned my sexuality ever since. Another year, I thought I was onto a winner when I purchased a gold bracelet. After a couple of months, the very expensive item had failed to make a public appearance. I confronted the should-be-wearer. ‘Gold is for old people,’ I was told, with an apologetic face. I haven’t seen it since I bought it and gave it lovingly to my girlfriend, but I suspect it might be a filling in someone’s mouth, at this stage.

With that in mind, I draft in Deirdre Reynolds to advise me on this year’s Christmas shopping. Our first stop is Fitzpatrick’s, on Grafton Street, where Deirdre picks up a very large and expensive-looking handbag. It’s designed by Michael Kors and retails at €379.

“You can never have enough handbags,” says Deirdre, looking at herself in the mirror, with the bag on her elbow. “Most of us can’t afford designer ones, obviously. But, in general, I’d say if you’re choosing a bag, bigger is better because you can shove all your stuff into it — your make-up, your phone.”

When I point out that my missus is always losing things in her big bag, the reply is simple. “That’s why you need pouches and compartments,” says Deirdre. I think about suggesting carrying less stuff, but I know, now, at 36-years-old, sometimes it’s better to keep the gob shut. I let it pass.

We move onto Brown Thomas’s lingerie department.

“Here’s an example of what a bloke thinks their woman wants,” says Deirdre, holding up a skimpy, red bra-and-knickers set. “Don’t buy what you think she wants. Buy what she actually wants.”

I’m happy to hear that, because €225 for something this flimsy looks silly to me.

“You want to go for something luxurious but not too flimsy or totally impractical,” says Deirdre presenting a less revealing, but equally sexy, piece. “So [this] Elle McPherson is perfect, because it’s a little bit luxurious but still wearable. Don’t get the size wrong, whatever you do, or she’ll have the hump with you for the rest of the year. So, if you can, have a rummage around her lingerie drawer. It might be better getting a sort-of camisole thing, because they come in dress sizes so they’re easier.”

Later, I spend the most enjoyable hour of my journalistic career researching what a camisole is. Well, we have to be thorough.

Downstairs in BT’s, my adviser picks up a bottle of perfume.

“This is Chanel No 5,” says Deirdre. “And it’s a classic. If you’re not really sure what to get her, it’s usually a safe bet. But, obviously, have a look around on her dresser and just see what she already wears. I’d say a bad thing to do is buy one of these generic gift-sets that come pre-wrapped, because it shows you didn’t really put any thought into it.”

At €57 for 35mls, Chanel No 5 seems a fairly decent option and I keep that in mind.

As I’m now beginning to feel somewhat light-headed from the mixture of perfume-overload and exposure to sexy knickers, we decide to move on to Butler’s for a coffee.

Even here, Deirdre comes up with an idea and picks up a huge, white box.

“If you’re really stuck, a massive box of chocolates [€48.50] is always good,” she says. “Calorie-counting goes out the window at Christmas. You can’t go wrong with chocolates and flowers.”

“What about a gold dress?” I venture.

Deirdre simply throws her eyes to heaven.

For him

STEP away from the slippers, ladies! Turns out your man is hoping to find something a little more glamorous under the tree this Dec 25. At least, that’s what I gleaned from my day spent Christmas shopping in the, ahem, ‘presents’ of a member of the hairier sex.

Traditionally, with the notable exception of Santa, men have always been regarded as pretty crap at buying Christmas gifts.

In fact, one recent survey found that six out of ten women had been forced to fake it (a smile, that is) on Christmas morning, when presented with something they’ve never wanted.

But now, it seems, we girls are just as guilty of getting it ho-ho-horribly wrong.

So imagine my surprise, when, having railroaded my colleague, Jonathan, into Fitzpatrick’s to advise him on buying a designer handbag for his better half, he makes a beeline for the fancy, Italian, leather men’s shoes.

Now, we all know that women love shoes — especially ones with red soles that are impossible to walk in.

But, unless I was his mammy and he was making his first communion, I would never have dreamt of buying a man shoes up to now. The formula is simple, says Jonathan.

Men hate shopping. Men need shoes. Therefore, shoes that they haven’t had to shop for are a winner. I make a mental note of this, and the snazzy €250 Barker shoes he’s trying, before moving on.

Around this time of year, every girl knows that the only way to get what you really want for Christmas is to drop hints — and lots of them. After 30 years of leaving magazines strategically placed open on the coffee table or expressing over-interest in a particular piece of jewellery, I know a hint when I see one.

So when, strolling down South William Street, Jonathan presses his nose to the window of The Grooming Rooms like a puppy at the butchers, it doesn’t take Stephen Hawking to figure out what he’s trying to say. Putting the ‘grrr’ back into grooming, the barber shop with a twist is sure to leave your man snoggable under the mistletoe.

When Jonathan’s not looking, I whip out my ‘naughty or nice’ list and jot down the prices: a traditional hot towel shave is €35 and a full- body, traditional Swedish massage is €70. The bad news for ladies is that you may have to relinquish some precious space on the bathroom shelf this Christmas, too.

As we potter around the Brown Thomas beauty hall, modern lad Jonathan takes a shine to a ClarinsMen hydration essentials gift-set (€36).

Containing a manly moisturiser, shampoo and shower gel and shaving foam, any metrosexual would love to find one in his stocking. But it does makes me wonder: Whatever happened to Old Spice?

However, nothing boosts a man’s ‘elf-esteem’ quite like drilling holes in a wall, according to Jonathan — as he does his best Marathon Man impression in Decwell’s hardware on George’s Street.

Hand-held drills, like the Bosch one for €109.99 that Jonathan is holding, fly out at Christmas as ladies not-so-subtly try to inspire their fella to finally put up that shelf in the spare room, the manager tells us. Or, maybe, it’s just to relieve all the pent-up frustration of visiting in-laws.

As we haul all our imaginary purchases to Butler’s for a coffee, I mull over what I’ve learned about men this festive season.

Shoes, pampering, and the attitude that if you want something done you should do it yourself?

Maybe Mr and Mrs Claus aren’t so different after all.


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