Viewpoint: Gift-giving guidelines


A season of gift-giving has concluded. At some point in this coming year, you, Dear Ophthalmology Times reader, will need to select the right gift for that "special someone."

A guy bought his wife a beautiful diamond ring for Christmas.

After hearing about this extravagant gift, a friend of his said, "I thought she wanted one of those sporty four-wheel-drive vehicles."

"She did," he replied. "But where was I going to find a fake Jeep?"

Because this process sometimes can be a challenging one, and because it is important that ophthalmologists be happy and avoid disappointment, I offer some guidelines to ensure success.

It's awfully fun to surprise someone with the perfect gift, and my thesis is that it's also easy (if your special someone is male). In that case, simply choose from among the following options:

1. Concert tickets (Black Eyed Peas, Eric Clapton, or The Stones).

2. A nice bottle of wine (the "safe gift").

3. A nice single-malt Scotch (the gift that keeps on giving).

4. Tickets to the USC-UCLA game followed by dinner at Fogo de Chão.

5. A tie (mandatory if this special someone is your dad).

6. A new Mercedes or 35-foot power cruiser (if your special someone is yourself).

You can't fail with these gifts and, fortunately, none of them needs to be wrapped (the tie and Scotch will come in appropriate boxes).

If your special someone is female, then gift selection becomes much more challenging. What makes me an expert on selecting gifts for female special someones? In short-nothing. But I did grow up with five sisters, so perhaps that gave me the smallest amount of insight.

Items like clothing and jewelry are difficult to choose, because tastes and fit are so specific. One might think logically that handing the special someone your credit card and telling her to go to the store to select what she wants is the right way to go. But in most instances one would be wrong.

Rather, the expectation is that you, based on your detailed knowledge and careful observations of your special someone, will select just the right gift.

In addition, it is said that proper presentation (i.e., wrapping the gift in some appropriate paper) is as important to the female gift recipient as is the presentation of a gourmet meal to a serious chef. Personally, my package-wrapping skills are non-existent, but it is the thought that counts, and so the wrinkled wrapping paper is not a big problem if what is inside is pretty good.

But what to place inside the wrapping paper? A recent newspaper article ("The gift that needs forgiving," The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 15, 2009), brought to my attention by an alert Ophthalmology Times reader, described a man who gave his female special someone a gift of those snoring-preventing nasal strips and breath strips. He thought the gift would be appreciated because it reflected his delightful sense of humor. He thought wrong.

The article cautions male gift givers never to give a gift that suggests your special someone is less than perfect: "no unsolicited exercise equipment, self-help books, wrinkle crèmes, or nose-hair removers." I disagree.

A gift to help a special person be healthy and happy enjoying exercise has been among my best gifts. It depends upon the specific person. But I do agree with passing on the nasal strips or nose-hair clippers.

My thought is that, to help get the economy going again in 2010, we ophthalmologists should be especially generous in our gift-giving this year. Aside from the positive macroeconomic implications, one of life's greatest pleasures is to surprise a special someone with a unique and unexpected gift (such as a subscription to Ophthalmology Times).

By Peter J. McDonnell, MD director of the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and chief medical editor of Ophthalmology Times.

He can be reached at 727 Maumenee Building 600 N. Wolfe St. Baltimore, MD 21287-9278 Phone: 443/287-1511 Fax: 443/287-1514 E-mail:

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