This holiday season, let me give you a little shopping advice.
Women don't want more slippers, bad perfume or scarves, and despite what the commercials say, no jewelry, please. We can't afford it anyhow. And we're not buying that the ginormous TV is for us.
What women really want this year is a cheeky little vixen named Siri.
"My new best friend," "a blessing" and "loyal assistant" are the ways some women have described Siri, the voice-controlled, personal assistant on the iPhone 4S.
Women want her. They covet her. They've even told me they "lust after her."
"I would love to have her," Janet Vander Ley told me at an Apple store the other day. She looked at her sad, little iPhone 3, which will never house Siri. "My 16-year-old son has her. We got him the 4S. … He asks her questions all day long."
What would Janet do with Siri?
"Oh, I know you could ask her to make reservations, schedule appointments, get directions," she sighed. "She'd be so useful in my life."
And yes, the program is a she. That was made quite clear to me by another woman in the store when I asked her how she liked "it."
"Siri is a she," said the woman, a federal worker and mother of two teens. "She's my new best friend."
Of course. Who else but a best friend would tell you, when you ask about the meaning of life, that "all evidence to date suggests it's chocolate"?
A good deal of Siri's energy will be spent answering questions like that.
Mostly, by men.
Late-night host Conan O'Brien made that point just a few days after Siri made her appearance, in a sketch that spliced Apple's own scenes of women asking Siri to remind them to buy milk, or for directions to a hospital, with two recliner kings asking her to make "reservations for two at 7 p.m. between your breasts" and so forth.
Siri has a sense of humor designed to deal with men's raunchy questions. When dorks ask her to talk dirty to them, she responds: "Humus. Compost. Pumice. Silt. Gravel."
And when she is asked, "What are you wearing?" she responds, "Why do people keep asking me this?"
Obviously, this is designed to deal with Man Humor. Women, of course, would ask her who she is wearing.
But let's get back to the purpose of Siri. A personal assistant. Most men I talk to tell me that the utility of the software is underwhelming. Well, duh — for the most part, men don't multitask the way women do.
"She is terrific. I can make lists, she'll remind me what to buy at the grocery store, she'll help me keep it all going," said Krista Reusche, a team manager at a tech recruiting firm. She uses Siri to set up meetings, make calls and set reminders. "For women, it helps with organization."
Who wouldn't want a little help with all that?
"I had that. Her name was Azza. Azza beats Siri, hands down," said Anne O'Leary, a retired foreign officer who is interested in Siri but not necessarily lusting after her.
Azza was her everything in Egypt, keeping O'Leary's house, social life and business life running like clockwork.
"If you want that kind of help, someone who does everything to help you, you don't get an iPhone. You have to move to a Third World country and pay above-market rates to get the best, the best help," she told me.
Meanwhile, Siri fans already have demands for her improvement. "If only she folded laundry," one woman wished on an online parenting forum.
A friend of mine didn't need Siri to be a girlfriend. "Siri needs a diff voice — Barry White or something," she said.
Ah, but Apple did figure this out in some parts of the world. Siri, it turns out, is a man in France.
Bien sur. And something tells me French women would also never, ever go to a Black Friday sale.
© 2011 Washington Post