By Gabriel J Hernandez
AUTHOR’S NOTE: As a dealer of high-end vintage guitars and amps, the majority of my customers happen to be male. As such, this particular column is not meant to be a partisan or sexist statement in any way. It simply happens to reflect the fact that based on my sales history and overall customer base, most of the guitar players and collectors I encounter are male. That’s why I decided to write this piece from a “male” perspective. Additionally, being male myself as well as a longtime player and collector of guitars – AND married with two children – I have lived with and dealt with this dilemma on a personal level for quite some time. That said, if you are a female player and collector of guitars then please simply reverse the male personifications in this column and characterize them to your gender. I am not in any way taking sides here, rather offering a few light-hearted suggestions and tips based on my own personal experiences, and those of a few of my customers that I’ve had the pleasure to witness with my own eyes and ears.
If you play or collect guitars and have a life partner (in most cases a wife or girlfriend), this column is definitely going to hit home. Trust me we’ve all been there at some point. You’re online browsing Craigslist’s vast musical instrument section, or on eBay drooling on your keyboard as you analyze picture after picture of that gorgeous Les Paul with a killer flame maple top, watching as the seconds tick away inching you closer and closer to clicking your bank account away. Or you’re out and about and walk into your local music store or pawn shop and come face to face with still another guitar you simply cannot live without. In any of these scenarios, and usually with no hesitation whatsoever, you pull the trigger without even the thought of discussing the ramifications of said purchase(s) with your significant other. In many circles there’s a name for this: it’s called G.A.S., or Gear Acquisition Syndrome. And needless to say, it’s not a malady for the fainthearted.
More often than not, money is not the issue. What usually matters the most is the fact that you chose to buy another guitar without consulting (or even telling) your wife or girlfriend, choosing instead to deal with the consequences of that momentary lapse of reason at a later date. The problem, of course, is that “later date” creeps up on you faster than cheetahs chasing wildebeests on Animal Planet. You know it, and your significant other will soon know it. Frankly, you should have known better, or at the very least had a back-up plan in place ready to deal with the aftermath, because in your mind you already knew you were toast the next time she logs in to your mutually-held – and well-patrolled – bank account.
We’ll, consider this column your “how-to” guide on handling these punishing predicaments. Think of this as prescription medicine for G.A.S. Mind you, I’m in no way advocating going behind anyone’s back here (just don’t let this column get into the wrong hands). But if you’re prone to G.A.S. or other seemingly collateral disorders, then at the very least you could use a little guidance (or medicine), right? Read on …
Here are 10 ways to help you avoid your significant other’s wrath after buying another guitar, or piece of gear:
1. At the first occurrence of G.A.S., start with the diplomatic approach: discuss (don’t argue) the fact that “investing” in guitars is generally better than investing in the stock market, most mutual funds, and the majority of bank-issued CDs or interest-bearing checking accounts. This is a no-brainer, unless of course you’ve just purchased Bob Dylan’s 1965 Fender Stratocaster (sold for $965,000 this past December), in which case you might as well just stop reading now. However, if you can get away with this excuse (embellishment is a better word choice here), feel free to forego all other “embellishments” listed below.
2. Get defensive and revert to the truest and most time-tested response of all-time, “But honey, how many purses and pairs of shoes do you own, and why do you have so many?” (Be wary of the potential for flying objects.)
3. Come home with your new guitar or gear in hand AND the most expensive bouquet of roses you can find. Face it, most women love flowers, especially roses. If she’s allergic to floral arrangements, keep reading.
4. Come home with your new guitar or gear in hand AND a very nice, unexpected present, like new jewelry (diamonds and sapphires work best). Items such as sweaters (unless they’re made from imported South American cashmere) and lingerie (because you’re the real beneficiary here) don’t count.
5. Get ready for an expensive night out at a restaurant NOT of your choosing.
6. Take an accounting class and learn basic bookkeeping, then offer to take over the daunting task of balancing the checkbook for your mutually-held – and well-patrolled – bank account (to avoid suspicion, this one usually works BEFORE making your guitar or gear purchase).
7. Temporarily change the password on that mutually-held – and well-patrolled – bank account until your next paycheck, bonus check, or dividends payout check clears. Just know that while this suggestion may delay the inevitable, it’s certainly not a fail-safe solution to your inescapable and ominous doom.
8. Open your own bank account and secretly deposit ONLY bonus checks, off-the-record transactions, and dividends payout checks not expected by your better half. Then again, this suggestion only works if she hasn’t met your entire family, which would allow you the opportunity to blame new acquisitions on that very generous and very rich uncle or cousin she’s never met.
9. Keep playing the lottery. If you get lucky and win, you can then buy all the guitars and gear you want with a clear conscience (and she can buy all the shoes and purses she wants, too). This is definitely a win-win for everyone!
10. Nice and simple: tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Then take your lumps, and a few nights on the couch, like a man or (in rare cases) a woman.
When all else fails, one last resort would be to simply take your better half shopping with you when you go looking for guitar or gear. Think about it. If your destination is anywhere near a major shopping center – or in a major shopping center – she could easily embark on her own personal shopping spree and spend a bunch of money on a whole bunch of stuff you probably don’t give two hoots about, which – in turn – might make you less prone to persecution if she happens to take issue with your latest bout of G.A.S.
In any case, happy guitar hunting … and please, don’t hurt each other.
Gabriel Hernandez is the owner of Blues Vintage Guitars, Inc., a shop in Nashville, Tennessee, specializing in the buying and selling of vintage and newer high-end guitars and gear. He is also an accomplished writer, having earned a B.S. in Journalism from The University of Florida in 1988. Over a 25-year career he has worked as an investigative journalist for several news organizations and publishing companies, as a staff sports writer for The Palm Beach Post, and most recently as the Web Editor for Gibson Guitars at the company’s worldwide headquarters in Nashville. Hernandez has played guitar since the age of six, and been fascinated (some say obsessed) by the instrument – and music in general – ever since. You can reach him any time at 1-615-613-1389, or visit his company’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bluesvintageguitars.