Men, I hope you stayed out of the doghouse this Christmas by remembering to never get your special lady a vacuum cleaner, blender, toaster, mop, washing machine, ironing board, crock pot, mixer, pots, pans, feather duster, and well, you get the idea--anything used for cleaning, cooking, washing, or commonly associated with any type of menial household chore. The more practical the present, the more likely a disaster waiting to happen.
JC Penny's bewareofthedoghouse campaign seemed to create a buzz in the blogosphere. Watch the linked video. I think it's funny; but to be fair, a tad sexist as well. Women are never exactly exiled to the doghouse when they give a bad present.
Although, giving a man a typically masculinized useful product (like tools for example) does not work to reaffirm contested gender roles. Most men are fine with the assumption that they like hammers (and therefore fixing or building things) as a collective group. Most women, however, are not fine with the assumption that they like vacuum cleaners (and therefore cleaning things) as a collective, because they've been unduly confined to this role for centuries past.
Therefore, my response to the JC Penny's ad is this: Men shouldn't get all the heat for poor gift giving attempts, but at the same time, men should know better than to give "gifts" that make women feel like domestic slaves. It's just common sense my friends.
Gender roles aside though, the best bet for a successful gift is one that is tailored to the individual. If your wife/girlfriend hints she wants a blender for Christmas, it might (and I say might quite purposefully) be okay to forgo the diamond earrings you were going to get her and go for the blender she requested instead. Gifts that indicate you've paid attention (commonly known as 'gifts from the heart') always go farther than gimmicky ones that TV commercials tell you must get.
That said, I think it's funny that my dad got my mom a pink sapphire ring. I wrote this post even before I saw her present. My dad is a smart man, smart man.