For many years I bought my wife clothing for Christmas. My presents were always a big hit because I purchased them in nice stores, which meant she could exchange them for good stuff that was not repulsive. Apparently, I have awful taste in women's clothing. Still, my presents were always appreciated, the way one would appreciate a generous gift certificate. That's why this time of year--the first workweek after Christmas vacation--was always special in my house. There were many happy returns.

Eventually, though, I stopped giving my wife clothing. My ego could take no more battering:

Wife (to our teenage daughter): "Look what Daddy bought me."

Daughter and wife: "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA-


Wife: "Oh good, it's Bloomingdale's."

So, a few years ago, I switched to jewelry. Jewelry is safer because, with jewelry, "dreadful bad taste" can sometimes be confused with "playful whimsy." My wife almost always liked and kept the jewelry I got her, even the lacquered Russian brooch with a hand-painted portrait of Ulysses S. Grant.

But this Christmas season, while walking through Hecht's, I saw a beautiful hooded pullover. By "beautiful," I mean it was the color of the New York Giants home jerseys. Plus, it was made by Liz Claiborne, whom I had heard of, so I figured it was safe. My wife is a small woman; she wears either a size 2 or 4. This was a size 3. Perfect! I bought it.

On Christmas morning, my wife unwrapped it.



"It's, er, Liz Claiborne," I said defensively.

She looked at the tag.

"Yes it is," she said, struggling to keep a straight face. Turning to my daughter: "It's the Liz Claiborne Elisabeth collection."

Wife and daughter: "HAHAHAHAHAHAHA-


My wife dried her eyes. "Where did you get this?" she asked.

"Hecht's," I said.

My wife: "The woman's section?"

Me (wary--was this a trick question?): "Yes . . . right next to the bras."

Wife, to daughter: "He bought it in the Woman's Section."

Wife and daughter: "HAHAHAHAHAHA-


Every female reading this story is now thinking: What an idiot this guy is.

And every male reading this story is now thinking: Wha?

This is because men are completely ridiculous. They think that if a man does everything right, he can't be wrong. That's what I thought.

Well, I am wiser now. For the benefit of the people of my gender:

In a department store, a "Woman's" section is apparently a euphemism for "Fat Women's Section." The key is that the word is singular. "Women's" refers to all gyno-Americans. "Woman's" refers to a specific subset thereof.

Also, Liz Claiborne's "Elisabeth" line is apparently for behemoths.

"B-but, it's your size," I said to my wife. "It's a size 3!"

Now I was really entertaining my wife and daughter. There was a great deal of eye-rolling. Patiently they explained, as though to a particularly slow-witted gerbil: A size 3, in a "woman's" department, in the 'Elisabeth' line, is obviously not a size 3!

It's not?

"It's a size 3 extra large. It's the largest size possible."

My wife held up the garment like a matador's cape. I will admit that in the clear morning light it did appear somewhat large. I did not notice this when I purchased it. A guy does not notice every little thing when he buys women's clothing, such as that this particular garment could have served as a tea cozy for your average outdoor garbage can. Mostly, when a guy is buying women's clothing he is just trying to pay for the damned thing, and avoid having to look at the brassieres or "foundation wear," and beat it the hell out of there.

Anyway, after Christmas I considered sending the pullover to Jesse Armstead, my favorite Giants linebacker. But my wife would have none of that. She returned it and got herself something pretty. No harm was done.

And me, I am back to jewelry. My wife's birthday is coming up, and there is one piece I've been keeping my eye on, in a small antique store near our home. For some reason it has not sold in at least six months. It is a gold pin. My guess is that it was once worn on a chain, by a pimp. It says, in diamond-studded letters, "Fat Man."

Shhh. Don't tell the wife. I want it to be a surprise.