We’ve all heard the horror stories of the boyfriend who turns up for a special occasion with some gift-wrapped lingerie or a copy of Halo 3 for the XBox. While there’s nothing wrong with these gifts, inherently, they practically shout, “I a thinking of myself. I like these things, therefore you’ll like these things.” It can come off as a gift for yourself in disguise, and make you look selfish, not generous and loving.
I learned this lesson the hard way as a teenager, shopping for my Mom. While my gift was not as obviously thoughtless as the example I’ve mentioned, the result was the same. As a sensitive young goth boy, I wanted to give something to my Mom to help her understand my tragic young soul. I settled on an attractive volume of poetry from the Irish poet W. B. Yeats, which I signed with a lovely and heartfelt inscription.
Except she would never see it.
The next year, while looking for gift ideas, I noticed the Yeats book on her bookshelf. I flipped open the hard cover to be greeted with a sound like fresh celery being broken in half. You don’t spend as much time as I have in my life avoiding homework without being able to identify a book’s maiden voyage. This book had never been opened.
Feeling spiteful and misunderstood (aka not that different from every other day of my adolescence), I decided that I would do the exact opposite. I would go to the mall and select the last thing on Earth I would ever want as a gift. I settled on Chicken Soup For The Mother’s Soul, which was quite in that year.
She loved it. She even took pictures so she could show her friends what a thoughtful son she had.
Can you spot the difference? The deciding factor was I was thinking of her, not myself.
As guys, it’s not that we’re fundamentally flawed or unable to give good gifts. It’s that we’re not prepared, by life and society, to possess the skills required to be good givers.
This could be the year that all changes!
So enjoy the Guys’ Guide to Gifting, where we’ve compiled tips for choosing the perfect something for that special someone. We’ve broken it down by categories, to help you pick the right gift for all the special people in our lives. (Watch out for the second edition of our guide that will cover gift to brothers and buddies!)
For The Lovers
Let’s return for a moment to the lingerie example, as it’s such a cliche. Now, nearly every human on Earth enjoys fancy underthings. It’s not a quintessentially bad gift, it’s just screaming, “I hope I get lucky for this!” That’s not to mention the fact that a lot of lingerie is highly impractical, and would be useful for the odd special occasion, maybe once or twice a year, taking up valuable closet and drawer space the rest of the time.
Wouldn’t it be better to pick something they’re going to use and love all the time?
Here are some thoughts and ideas for picking the perfect gifts for our lovers:
- Spend Time, Not Money: One of the biggest challenges facing many men is the idea that a gift has to be expensive to be perfect. It’s almost not our fault – society tells us to measure our success with our pocketbook, and little else. Having been nearly destitute for half my life, at this point, I can tell you, this is just not true. Money can even get in the way of finding the perfect gift, tempting towards glitz and flashiness, over thoughtfulness.For the lovers in our lives, they want to spend time with us, not gather more meaningless bric-a-brac in the closet. They want closeness and connection, to build new memories, to feel loved and appreciated and to be really seen. Towards this goal, consider a nice meal at someplace they like for a gift. For extra gold star brownie points, make it one stop on a fun night on the town. You could even give this gift a little early, running around and enjoying the holiday season together. It is, after all, the most wonderful time of year.For those who are looking to get serious, maybe about to take their relationship to the next level, a romantic vacation might possibly be the greatest gift of all time! Rent a cabin with a fireplace somewhere, if funds permit!
- Stop, Collaborate, And Listen: One of the main reasons why women are thought be better gift-givers is their genius at extracting information from any and every available source. A notepad next to the telephone, a passing comment in a conversation, even subconscious cues, can serve as the clue you’ve been looking for, for that perfect gift. Our lover’s friends and families can serve as an excellent source of inspiration. It also raises the possibility of collaborating on a gift, making more elaborate options feasible. While it might sound like snooping and sneaking, all is fair in love and gift giving! It will be worth it when you see their face!
- One Size Does Not Fit All: For those of us buying gifts for the ladies this year, I’m going to tell it to you straight. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the way women’s clothes are sized. There is no standard in place. They lie. They cheat. One designer’s Size 1 could be another’s Size 6. Ask any woman.That being said, it takes a brave and foolhardy soul to consider clothing for a gift. Which is unfortunate, seeing as that’s what a lot of ladies would want to receive. If you absolute must swath your beloved in the finest silks and velvets, consider taking them with you and footing the bill. It ruins the surprise, but you’ll make sure they get what they want. It also fulfills the spending time mentioned above.Last thing, real quick, because it’s important. It takes an advanced degree in Calculus for a guy to figure out the sizing of women’s underwear. Get it wrong and, at best, your gift is never touched and will eventually be used to wipe up coffee stains and, at worse, can make them feel overweight and unattractive. While it might seem like a fun and flirty gift, it can turn into a fun and flirty night of hurt feelings and awkward silences. Use caution.
- Things That Smell And Feel Nice: I’m going to be honest – I have never once in my life “Ooh’d” and “aah’d” over a lavender skin moisturizer or cilantro exfoliating cream. It wasn’t until sitting down to write this article did I realize that nearly every gift I’ve ever seen that has been given by a women, let alone received, contained at least one kind of soap, lotion, gel, or something that smelled good in some way. How many lotions does one person need, and what are they all for? We may never know, but the answer is “a lot”. Regardless of gender, gifts that stimulate the senses are always a good idea. It raises the possibility of enjoying those things together as well as filling your lover with good feelings whenever they use them. Soft pajamas, things made of silk or Egyptian cotton, candles, incense, and bath bombs are all great gifts, and make for great stocking stuffers!
For The Mothers
Moms can be hard to shop for. What to get for the woman who has done so much for us? We truly, literally, wouldn’t be here without our mothers. Here’s one chance to show them what they mean to us.
- Spend Time With Them: See above, and for the same reasons.
- In A Sentimental Mood: One of the main reasons why women have an easier time with gift-giving is they are encouraged to be emotional and sentimental, frequently pouring love and support on everybody around them. (Thank you, ladies. We appreciate you!) As guys, we are taught to suppress our instincts and emotions, pretty much all of the time. While that might come in handy in battle, or fighting sabretooth tigers, it’s not that useful in modern life and is actually to our detriment.That attitude has to be checked at the chimney, this holiday season! If ever there was a time to play it stoic and keep a stiff upper lip, this is not it! Instead, become an emotional fount! I have seen not just ONE mother,but a ROOM FULL of mothers, reduced to weeping carnage from one SINGLE, SOLITARY photo cube! Let’s get sappy this year!
- Handmade = Heartfelt: Again, one of the reasons why women can have an easier time with gifting than men is that we’re taught that everything has to be expensive to be worthwhile. Our first instinct is not to sit down with some felt and some safety scissors to make a card or knick-knack. Traditionally, men are not as involved in crafting as women, although this is changing in recent years. First of all, homemade does not necessarily mean cheap. Trust me, there are some brilliant craftspeople out there! Check out the Handmade Section of Etsy if you don’t believe me. Secondly, when it comes to Mothers, they don’t care how well it’s made. It truly is the thought that counts. Consistently, throughout my life, my homemade gifts to my Mom have looked like the creation of some emotionally distraught five year old. She doesn’t care; she loves them, in fact, with my homemade creations going over better than the store bought gifts on many occasions.
- Just Call (or send a card): I have it on good authority (sorry, Mom!) that it would be enough if you were to just call every once in a while. If you’re just too broke and/or busy to do anything else for the Mothers in your life, just pick up the phone and say “Hey!” Too often, our lovers and significant others take care of all of the holiday card duties. I couldn’t list a single friend or family member’s birthday if I’m not signed on to Facebook. I don’t know anyone’s address.This year, take it on yourself to do some of the holiday mailings! Your creations might be crude, your sentiments might not be as eloquent, while your still strengthening your sentimentality muscles, but they will appreciate it!
While it might feel awkward at first, opening up, getting emotional and connecting with the loved ones in our lives could result in being perceived as the high-powered, crime fighting Don Juans and Casanovas we secretly are! And while giving the perfect gift is its own reward, you might be surprised to find a whole new level of birthday gifts this year, if you’ve done your job right.