When my son was getting married, I knew exactly what I wanted to give his future wife at her bridal shower. Though this was the 1980s — well before women were seen on TV taking down walls with reciprocating saws — I ignored her registry and headed for Home Depot. I picked out common tools any housewife would need: to hang pictures, tighten a pot lid, maybe build a birdhouse. I spelled out “Jenny” in decals on the red metal box.

She opened the gift while surrounded by fragile crystal, impeccable china, fluffy white towels, and sexy sleepwear. She was gracious about it, but I realized that I’d been more focused on what I wanted to give than on what she wanted to receive.