Little Ways To Show Him You Care

Little Ways To Show Him You Care

Looking for just the right way to let a guy know you’re smitten without going overboard? Heed this advice from our duo of dating-etiquette experts.

By Phineas Mollod and Jason Tesauro
uring the giddy, carefree weeks of early dating, the urge to send smitten vibes to a new beau is inescapable. Email and text messages mostly fill the void, but little gifts demonstrate a kind of ribbon-tied thoughtfulness that mere emoticons can’t match. The point is not to wow him by breaking the bank and offering gold chains thicker than high-voltage power lines; instead, this is the time for fun notions given for no other reason than, “I was thinking of you.” Also, like talking parrots, men can be mimics... to get them in the habit of gifting to you, start by gifting to them. Besides, any gent worth his salt deserves a gift-wrapped something now and then.

Take notes on his tastes
The best gifts are a product of a keen eye and ear. After hours of dinner table banter, did you make mental notes when he mused: “I’ve always wanted glow-in-the-dark cufflinks” or “I’ve been craving an Oh Henry! bar all week.” Moreover, after visiting his pad, it’s easy to spot hobbies and tastes, so that on a lark you can fill in gaps in his LP collection or locate a quirky doodad for $8.50 on eBay that complements his Bavarian beer stein fetish. Should you spend the night sometime, and you’ll find other domestic areas that beg a lover’s touch—does he love your chiffon pie but have no rolling pin? Buy him one, and get cooking next time you visit.

Ladies should especially focus on items that most men can’t be trusted to buy themselves (cologne, hip duds, and accessories). Play around with motive, and you can have even more fun:

A hat trick of gift-giving motives
Gifts that you buy for him, but benefit you
This two-way street of gifting is one of the fringe benefits of romance. Akin to narrowing down entrée choices to two because you’ll both go halfsies, certain gifts for him are nearly as good for you. A stylish shirt, soft sheets, and theatre tickets may benefit him primarily, but—as his main squeeze—you’re in the fortunate fallout zone.

Gifts that you buy for yourself, but benefit him
It’s not selfish to restock your “goodie drawer,” though every gift shouldn’t fall under this category. These delights—lingerie, perfume, etc.—don’t even have to be wrapped. Here, the gift is not so much the merchandise itself, but the feeling it inspires when he knows that it’s for him to revel in with you.

Gifts that you buy for him that benefit him and the rest of society
Enliven a flame’s cultural tastes—music, art, wine, literature, etc.—and you’ll make him a better man. Teach your guy the ABCs of jazz, the delights of Shakespeare, or perhaps just the joys of a good, too-much-talking foreign film.

Five classic stand-bys
Clothing Before your next date, switch his ratty polo for a sexy new shirt you found. You know the kind... by the time he bought it for himself, it would be out of style. The lady gets the bonus of seeing a fine-looking man in well-chosen garb. Regarding clothing and accessories, unless you're trying to instill brand loyalty akin to religious fanaticism, don't worry about impressing with designer logos. Follow this simple equation: Solid-state quality + Saturday-evening-worthy style + the fact that you picked it out = memorable, durable, fashionable goods.
Flowers Yes, you can give flowers to a man. If you feel funny presenting irises to your lumberjack, consider a bowlful of exotic fruits to brighten a bachelor’s bare studio. Houseplants are even better, since you’ll come to mind when he pulls out the watering can (or trudges to the nursery for a replacement after he treats that thirsty ficus like a cactus).
Cologne Given that the Old Spice and English Leather are most men’s idea of “fragrance,” do not leave the delicate decision of scent up to a sweetheart who knows little beyond lackluster musks. Spend a long lunch hour trolling the cologne aisle at a local department store to find him just the right fragrance—and advise him on how to splash it on with restraint.
Sheets/Duvet Show a young buck what proper bedclothes are. No lady wants to tumble around, let alone spend the night, shacked up on a storied mattress blanketed with tattered sheets and old love affairs. A fresh package of high-thread count sheets makes everyone sleep easier.
Culture Instead of dumping the collected oeuvre of Beethoven on his lap or giving him the entire Everyman’s Library of hardcover classics, bestow a gift that improves his cultural quotient and fosters togetherness. Sign up for joint cooking classes, dance lessons, or six weeks of Italian 101. Of course, a subscription to The New Yorker might find its way to back of his toilet before the front of his consciousness, but at least you’ll have something to read when you’re over at his place.

A list of lovely, low-cost tokens
While a roll of bridge toll tokens for your neighborhood river crossing screams "practical," it's quite low on the romance-meter. Instead, look for thoughtful goodies that jump out and speak to an impulse without impacting a budget crunch. Try: lottery tickets (but call halfsies on any prize over a mil); perishables (exotic fruits or delicate truffles cry for immediate gratification); anything under $5 bought at a street fair (the oddest things make the quirkiest love mementos); handkerchiefs (every gent needs a new supply for the lonely breast pocket of his sport coats, particularly in the sweat-ready months); a pair of swank cheapie shades (as ZZ Top crooned, "Go get yourself some cheap sunglasses”).

Nice touch: Between dating lovers, sexual favors are never an inappropriate gift and serve nicely on those occasions when a Hallmark card won’t cut it.

Phineas Mollod traded his J.D. for the editorial life and is often found riding the congested E train with his wife and daughter in New York. Jason Tesauro pushes pen and ink by day and leads the lifestyle seminar series by night, ne'er far from his sweetheart and a Brady Bunch houseful 'o tots in Virginia. Together they are the authors of The Modern Gentleman: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy and Vice and The Modern Lover: A Playbook for Suitors, Spouses, and Ringless Carousers.
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