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Factors to be considered as you shop

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

I have discovered one of the Secrets of Life. Unfortunately, just knowing it exists doesn’t help me make it work.

It’s called the Spouse Approval Factor, and I read about it this week in a review of plasma televisions. It seems to be a common term among people who sell the kind of geeky, electronic gear that makes grown men swoon, yet has something less of an effect on the female gender.

As I understand it, the SAF is an important consideration when discussing the possibility of bringing home a television roughly the size of a drive-in movie screen.

Questions to be anticipated from one’s spouse might include:

n What the hell is that?

n Where do you think that’s going to go?

n Did we win the lottery, and you forgot to tell me?

n If it’s going anywhere but the garage, you can forget it. (Not exactly a question, but certainly one is implied.)

n Does it come in mauve?

Although the Spouse Approval Factor seems somehow linked to big-screen TVs, hyper-speed computer systems and, for some odd reason, giant aquarium tanks, I am sure it has applications in everyday life.

In other words, married men should buy nothing – nay, do nothing – without first having a long talk with that inner voice which says, “Just how much trouble is this going to get me in at home?”

I suppose the alternative would be to have a long talk with one’s actual spouse. But anyone with experience in such matters can tell you, when it comes to big-screen TVs or, say, redecorating with a boar’s head over the fireplace, the discussion will be a short one. “No,” she said.

So the better strategy is to figure out for yourself the Spouse Approval Factor and decide, if you do come home with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, whether you would end up sleeping on it. Literally.

Less risky is the strategy which involves maneuvering the spouse into the proper store and using the power of suggestion. “Wouldn’t it be great to watch ‘Wheel of Fortune’ on a 52-inch plasma screen?” Then count on an SAF-savvy salesman to sidle up and purr, “And it comes in mauve …”

Unfortunately, this strategy is absolutely worthless this time of year. I’m talking about Christmas shopping, when men are forced to leave their comfort zones – hardware stores, electronics departments and auto-parts counters – to enter a world they safely ignore for 364 days of the year.

Talk about SAF stress. We’re supposed to be out there looking for a gift with 100 percent Spouse Approval Factor because, theoretically, it is for the spouse. (Any man who has tried to buy, say, a riding lawn mower for his wife no longer need consider SAF, for he no longer has an S.)

We wander through the women’s clothing department eyeing sweaters with only one thought: Her reaction on Christmas morning will be, “I hope you kept the receipt.”

We sniff our way up to the perfume counter and say, “Uh oh. I don’t think Old Spice makes a women’s cologne.”

Shoes? Forget it.

Beauty aids? “Are you trying to tell me something?”

Something to decorate the home? See “keep the receipt” comment above.

Jewelry? Aha! There is one sure-fire, 100-percent-SAF gift for any occasion, as far as I can tell, and it involves anything with diamonds.

Unfortunately, diamonds are the most expensive things on Earth, with the possible exception of a pound of designer coffee. And this is where the whole SAF theory begins to fall apart.

Men look at diamonds with all the romanticism of a welder. They shine. They sparkle. They’re beautiful. And they’ll cut through anything.

In other words, diamonds do have a practical side to them, but your spouse is probably not going to appreciate them on the tip of a drill bit. So we wrestle with the other SAF – Self Approval Factor.

How can we justify spending so much money on something that doesn’t have a useful function?

Big-screen TVs obviously are practical items, because it’s important we can see Brett Favre’s nose hair when he’s throwing a touchdown pass. And, well, how many hours can one truly spend sitting around gazing at a diamond?

Giant aquariums keep fish alive – a humanitarian purpose. Golf clubs promise useful exercise, no matter how much dust they collect. Riding lawn mowers … obvious.

Ahhh, you say. It’s Christmas. It’s about giving, not the gift. It’s the thought that counts. Selflessness, not selfishness.

And you would be right. Don’t worry about the Spouse Approval Factor. Give a gift from the heart, and you will be rewarded Christmas morning with gratitude far exceeding the value of anything purchased in a store.

If that doesn’t work, hit the post-Christmas sales. Whatever she really wanted may be cheaper then anyway.

Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal. Contact him at editor@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1221.