You know the joy that lights up a person's face when she opens her special gift from you on Christmas morning? I don't. What I know is the quizzical expression that animates her features for a fleeting, unguarded instant, her eyes desperately trying to hide what her mind is all but announcing: What the … ?

And so I've learned a lesson about gift-giving: Never try to buy The Perfect Gift. There is no Perfect Gift. There is only the Perfectly Good Enough Gift. If you pass up the Perfectly Good Enough Gift while searching in vain for The Perfect Gift, you end up buying The Desperate Gift.

Like, for example, a Hooters coffee cup for Mother's Day. I don't know if it's payback or what, but when serving coffee to guests at the end of a dinner party, Jessica seems to enjoy hauling out the Hooters­ cup she got a few years ago for Mother's Day.

"Hooters?" someone inevitably exclaims, their eyebrows and voice rising in unison.

"Oh, the coffee cup?" Jessica replies, as if surprised by the question. "Jim and Sam gave it to me for Mother's Day one year."

Everybody at the table looks at me as if I have just fed a poisoned steak to somebody's dog. I know what they are thinking: A Hooters mug for Mother's Day? What kind of husband are you? What kind of father are you? What kind of … of … person are you?

I want to reply, "Um, a very thoughtful person?" But then I remember we're not really conversing.

Instead, like a man accused of a horrible crime seated in the witness chair, I sputter an explanation. Sam was about 9 or 10 at the time, I begin, and we left the house intent on finding The Perfect Gift. That is where the problem started. At this point, I pause to gauge the reaction. Usually, I detect a thawing from the jurors, er, I mean, dinner guests. Especially the men. The women are still wearing their "Uh-huh, go on" look.