The Man’s Guide To Gift-Giving

Sure, it’s easy to think of a gift you’d like. But what do you get that special lady in your life? Read on for tips that other men have used to achieve success.

By Kent Miller

ver since the Trojans spotted that big wooden horse on the beach and thought, “Oooh, goodie!” gift-giving and receiving has been fraught with the possibility for miscommunication.

And that horse was a gift from guys, to guys. Think of all the ways things can get even more complicated when a guy gives something
“You’re sexy, you’re beautiful, you’re the moon and the stars.”
to a woman (not just any woman, either; specifically, to a significant other). So let’s start with some simple rules — rules that come inscribed in most women’s DNA, but, alas, need to be clubbed into most men’s brains with that large, blunt object better known as “experience.”

Your gift should coo, “I think of you when I get up in the morning, when I slip into my striped PJs at night and every other breath in between.” One of those prefabricated bed-and-bath gift sets says, “I was thinkin’ of the quickest in-’n’-out present available at the mall.” Your gift should sigh, “You’re sexy, you’re beautiful, you’re the moon and the stars.” A new Netbook — even if you think she needs it, even if it’s top-rated by half the techies on Twitter — grunts, “You need more screen time.”

As Justine Santaniello, a TV producer in New York City, puts it: “Women look at the holidays as a time to receive romantic, unique gifts from their mate, not for you to give them kitchen gear that they can purchase on their own!”

Don’t give her hardware, but don’t go to the opposite extreme and give her a pet. Sure, most are soft and cuddly and cute, but they might also poop on her new couch... or worse. Cynthia McKay, a psychotherapist from Parker, CO, recounts a spectacular example of how these things can go horribly awry: “Me being an animal lover, my then-boyfriend wanted to get me something special. It was a flying squirrel. When I opened the cage to pet it, it bit me and leaped out of the window, never to be seen again. I spent my birthday in the emergency room getting rabies shots.” Ouch!

However, if you’re still set on getting your sweetie a pet of her very own, Adam Goldfarb, Director of the Pets at Risk Program at The Humane Society of the United States, suggests giving a gift certificate that can be used towards pet adoption fees. It doesn’t sound romantic, but according to Goldfarb, “You can go to the shelter with your significant other and pick out a pet together. A lot of times people think they know what breed they want, but when they actually get to know the breed up close, they feel differently.”

So far that’s no hardware, nothing adorable that can fetch a Frisbee… well then, how do you give that special gift that says “I love you” to your special lady? Here are some real-life tales of gifts that won the girl over, shared from both genders’ perspectives.

The write approach
“I always keep a small notebook on me, so when Amanda mentions something that she wants someone to get her, I write it down and don’t mention that I did. When the time comes, I pick it up and there it is for her birthday.”
– Brandon, comedian, Albany, NY

Lesson learned: Pay attention.

The way to a woman’s heart…
“Years ago, we were pretty much broke. I’d secreted a little money away for Valentine’s Day.
She loves to hike and just wants to spend time together!
I called our favorite restaurant and asked if it would be possible for them to deliver a pizza on that most romantic of all evenings. I asked if they could make a heart-shaped pizza! Romance ensued on delivery of the curiously shaped bread, meat and cheesy entrée. Can you purchase a stomach filled with love for $12? Sure, and a full heart, too!”
– David, graphic designer, Seattle, WA

Lesson learned: Be bold. Be original. Be schmaltzy.

Take a time-out
“When my future wife and I started going out, I sent her a lot of flowers and chocolates. But now that we’re both so busy, she wants quality time. So I take her to dinner. We’ve done a lot of trips, too. We drive back to Illinois to visit her sister. We take trips to the beach and the mountains. She loves to hike and just wants to spend time together!”
– John, law student, Washington, DC

Lesson learned: Give of yourself.

Everything old is new again
“My husband notices over time what I need, even if it’s not something I think I need. I own this wonderful upholstered rocking chair that belonged to my great-grandmother. She was a chain-smoker and the chair was high-quality in 1942, but hadn’t had any care since then. Very stinky! I was always saving to have it reupholstered. Little did I know, he had been doing the same thing — saving a little here and a little there — and snuck it out of the garage. I found it next to the tree on Christmas morning. He had it reupholstered to match the original fabric. It’s lovely and gets used every day now!”
– Jessica, freelance writer, Seattle, WA

Lesson learned: Plan. Save. Repeat.

Other helpful hints: “budget” should never mean “cheap.” Even if it’s just a card and flowers, get her a nice card and flowers.

If you’re shopping for clothes or jewelry, a few well-lit photos of similar items are far more valuable than trying to guess what she’s trying to describe to you. Have her bookmark things that catch her eye and save them in a special gift folder on your computer. Learn what colors, styles and fabrics she likes by observing the outfits she wears most. (It doesn’t hurt to memorize her eye color, now and forever.) And matching two or more fashion items (a jacket and a blouse, for example) is just another way to show you’ve thought a lot about her.

In the end, it really is the thought that counts.

Kent Miller is currently writing a comic young adult novel. His articles have appeared in Nintendo Power magazine, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The San Francisco Chronicle and The St. Petersburg Times (Florida).
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