Sparkly jewellery says love, a Cuisinart says what's for dinner
By KIM IZZO AND CERI MARSH
Saturday, November 24, 2001
Tis the season for eggnog, mistletoe and, of course, gift-buying. While you may always know the exact thing your mom or best friend wants, coming up with the perfect gift for your sweetie isn't always a joyous task. Herewith the U.D. guide to man-woman gifting:
For couples who live together: If you're in a long-term relationship, especially a cohabitation situation, holiday gifts can become mired in disappointment. Sure, we'd all adore the kind of lover who meticulously makes note of all our desires and files the info away. But let's be real: Many of us, especially men, find shopping tedious and anxiety-ridden.
Fortunately, the comfort-zone advantage of some relationships affords the luxury of simply doing what you did when you were a kid: making a wish list. But before you hand it over, be sure to ask your partner what he or she would like.
If it's a specific item you're coveting, be blatant and tell him exactly where he can find that black Tahitian pearl pendant with the diamond clasp. Clever stores have recently taken to holding "men's nights" for boyfriends and husbands who want to please their lovers. Often, these stores have the girl's info on computer - her sizes and selections - to make shopping even easier. And if you're feeling greedy, just think of the anxiety that you're relieving him of.
Many happy returns. That neon green sweatshirt make you look jaundiced? Feel free to march into the store and return it for that lovely grey turtleneck. That's right, no need to feel guilty about returning a boyfriend's or girlfriend's gift. You need to be polite, but firm. If it's not your style, best to speak up and get what will make you happy. But, of course, before you mention your distaste for the colour, shape or size of the item, you will thank your love for the fact of the gift.
Any reasonable person, especially in a romantic role, will want the recipient to be pleased with the present. So no feeling insulted or hurt because Bingo hates fleece polo shirts, even if you know he'd look great in it; instead, take him shopping for what he does want. If the present is simply too big or too small, then it's an easy thing to exchange.
Open book. If your new lover gets you a novel you already own or a CD you really despise, no sense in fibbing. The truth will be written all over your face. But please, say a sincere thank you, not "You know how much I hate Celine Dion!" In fact, it is proper decorum to wait until the next day to explain your lack of elation, so that your disappointment isn't an instant bubble-burst for your partner.
Spending limits. Some couples do set a dollar limit on gifts. But inevitably, someone exceeds it. Keeping costs down is a nice gesture when one of you is under financial stress. But people should always buy what they can afford, and not pay too much attention to price tags on gifts they receive. It's really is the thought that counts. If you have set a limit and have kept up your end of the bargain hunting, but receive a Porsche 911 Turbo, you must still be gracious when accepting the too-much gift.
Appropriate gifts. The early stages of a relationship, i.e. dating, are full of gift-giving landmines. What to give and how much to spend is often fraught. If you've been having sex with this new person in your life, then you do have to give something - good chocolate, great scotch, a CD of her type of music or DVD of a fave film (rifle through her CD/DVD collection). If you haven't yet slept together, but you intend to pursue the person, a gift is a sign you care. To give nothing sends the message that the relationship isn't in any way important.
However, those in a new relationship around the holidays should avoid trying to impress with extravagance. Too expensive or intimate a gift - jewellery, for example, if you're not already madly in love - will make the other uncomfortable and make you look clingy. If you are the recipient of that Porsche and it's only been a three-week relationship, you may want to question the sanity and motivation of your suitor. Likewise, if you get leather fetish gear from the girl you've been dating but haven't yet slept with, it may be time to run. Say thank you, but run.
Two-timer gifting. If you are dating more than one person at the same time, you may not, under any circumstances, give them both the same gift. It doesn't matter if they'll never know - it is simply wrong. And the urge to give the same thing to two different lovers probably speaks to your sense of their interchangeability, and thus, demands deeper thought. After all, a gift should reflect your knowledge of the receiver. You shouldn't give your two lovers even the same sort of gift. So, if you're giving Bingo the new Verve boxed set, stay away from CDs for Felix. Hell, why don't we just say it: Just stay away from dating two people at once.
"Useful" gifts. Women, more than men, expect gifts to be a reflection of the giver's love. Therefore, no matter how useful that cordless power drill will be in her life, it's not what she wants for Christmas. This goes for any appliances. Cashmere says love, a leather-bound volume of poetry says love, jewellery that sparkles says love, a Cuisinart says what's for dinner. The other end of this spectrum, however, is the cliché gift: the slinky negligée, the perfume, etc. Unless very well chosen, these gifts can seem like they came with very little thought attached.
Ex-gifting. It's perfectly fine to give holiday gifts to someone you are no longer dating. Do be careful to keep things neutral and not overly romantic. This is a case when practical gifts can be just the thing. Like cookbooks for the ex-boyfriend who always showed up hungry at 7 p.m. It's not appropriate to spend a lot on ex-gifts, as that comes with a couple connotation.
Illicit mate gifts. If you are having an affair, you absolutely must give a gift. Of course, you really shouldn't be having an affair, but if you are, gifts are a necessity. Affairs are so stressful, who would have one without the perks?
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