The Case of the Candlesticks

Now that the World Series is in full swing, as it were, I think it is more than fitting that I refer to an iconic baseball movie, Bull Durham. You probably know the scene: there’s a conference on the mound with the coach, the entire infield, and Kevin Costner, who plays “Crash” Davis, the minor league team’s catcher. I’m not sure why these little meetings where they try to figure out how to align the players and which pitches to throw are called “conferences,” but that’s baseball for you. It doesn’t have to make sense.

So, there’s this conference, and the topic turns out to be not defensive strategy at all but what would be a good wedding present for one of the players. The coach solves the dilemma: “candlesticks always make a nice gift,” he says. That settled, they all go back to playing (losing) the game.

This week, a friend of mine asked for gift advice concerning a certain woman he’s been seeing. I don’t think they’re that serious, but I am certainly not the guy to go to for gift advice. My usual gift to people, if I like them, is a scandalously-witty birthday, wedding, or anniversary card with a New York State lottery ticket inside. Even though people usually find it clever and thoughtful, it’s beginning to wear out its welcome. After all, they have to go online to see if they’ve won, which I thought was part of the allure, but then what do I know? Apparently, not much. I sent it once to an economist who referred to it disdainfully as a “voluntary tax.”

So my friend wanted to buy this woman clothing for her birthday, as in a blouse. I didn’t think that was a good idea and was surprised that I had to explain it to him. But he fashions himself a fashionista (!) and thought a blouse would be just the thing. Incidentally, they call them “tops” nowadays, which is yet another sign of cultural deterioration. Another one is restaurants being called “eateries”! Will bathrooms soon be called “s#!–t-eries”? But I digress.

The danger in buying clothing for someone in a situation like this is that you can’t win. It’s a lose-lose proposition. If you buy something that, stylistically speaking, she likes (itself a near impossibility), you run the risk of size. If it’s too small for her, she’ll think you view her as small or petite when in reality she is not, thus depressing her. If you buy something too big, she’ll think you view her as a Big Mama, ready for a Curves gift certificate. This also will depress her. So, either way, you’ve got a depressed woman on your hands on her birthday, which is depressing enough once you hit a certain age. She will then point out in a resentful tone how men age more gracefully than women and what an insensitive boor you are. Game over. Throw in the towel.

“Candlesticks,” I told him, thinking back to the conference on the mound.

“That’s ridiculous,” he said. “How can I do that? I’ll look like a putz!”

He uses Yiddish words like a character in a Philip Roth novel.

Unsatisfied with my advice, he went ahead and bought the blouse anyway, which cost him a bundle and, naturally, didn’t fit. Afterward, when I asked for details he was vague and switched the subject to cloud computing, which is what he does for a living and is about as mysterious to me as gift buying. I don’t know if he’s still seeing her. If he asks again at Christmas I’ll tell him fruitcake. I married a girl once because she liked fruitcake.

I am reminded here of a pair of flannel bottoms (pajama pants) with the San Diego Padres logo printed all over them. They were sent to me as a very nice birthday present from a friend in San Diego. She sent me a large size, and I have been swimming in them ever since. I wonder just how big she thinks I am!

For feature image, go to Bull Durham. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance.

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