There will be gifts, part one

The approaching 60th party brings me to the topic of gifts.

At the risk of coming off pickier than the picky eaters I railed against, I'm anticipating birthday gifts with curiosity and a bit of unease.

My friends will fall into two camps: those who will put thought into their gift, and those who will realize at 6 pm. that they need something in hand in a few hours.

There's the No Gifts Please route but my experience is that some people bring them anyway, and the ones who do not say that's not fair.

It is unfair to characterize men as less-talented gift givers, but my experience confirms this. I used to offer escort my GFs' partners on gift-shopping expeditions. "How can this be difficult?" I used to think, as they pawed the ground and snorted in front of sales persons.

Here are the guidelines I offered them.

1. "Get" the recipient
Notice her clothes, her favourite objects, authors, colours, scents, pastimes.

Is it any wonder my salsa-and-all-things-Cuban loving friend D. wept when her husband gave her a gadget-stuffed Swiss Army knife for her 50th birthday?

2. Details!
Mike gave Monica clip-on earrings; she has pierced ears. She nearly divorced him.

3. Quality trumps size
One exquisite bar of soap is a nicer gift than a huge cheap straw beach bag.

4. Avoid catalog shopping (unless you are in the Antarctic and she is in Buenos Aires)

Catalogs reek of desperation and close-your-eyes-and-point. If you must order from a catalog, refuse their gift wrap/card option, remove all vendor packaging and re-wrap with exquisite paper and ribbon.

5. Add your personal touch

An iPod Touch is even better when you take the time to download your mix of her favourites. The gold bangle le Duc chose is one of my cherished possessions because he had "Je t'aime, je t'aime, je t'aime" hand-engraved in an oversized script that fills the entire interior.

6. Forget "the bar"

That's the mythical bar that's in your head: "If I do this now, what will I give her next year?" The competitive spirit has no place in giving.
And the corollary:

7. Go big once in awhile

You don't have forever to see someone you love's eyes light up.

The second dozen roses, the solid instead of plated, the hardcover instead of paperback. If you hear yourself saying "good enough" it probably isn't. "Going big" does not have to be monetary. She loves to fly fish and you love the track? Go fishin'.

8. A day late is a million dollars short

You had 364 of them, pal. Your shopping neighbourhoods are full of sales professionals poised to assist. There is no excuse for saying "Your birthday is today but I'll get your gift on the weekend" unless you are on a heart-lung machine.

If you put a bit of thought into it, the recipient will not only enjoy the gift, she will appreciate the love and celebration that went into the selection. Don't worry about "perfect"- no one gets it right every time.

Part Two, tomorrow, will recount gift gaffes. Part Three will end the series with descriptions of gifts that delighted.


Anonymous said…
Sending this to my
materfamilias said…
My husband is not a natural at gift-giving at all, but he has become very good through the years because he knows how much it matters to me and so pays attention (plus some of the women he works with give him a hand, telling him which shops are surefire).
I love those few occasions when one knows exactly the perfect gift and doesn't worry about, as you say, "the bar" or whether the price is a bit higher than the relationship usually allows for -- a few years ago, a friend of mine, new to gardening but rapidly becoming quite passionate about it, had a birthday. Ignoring the idea of the usual token gift -- a paperback, bath stuff, etc. -- I splurged on the Sunset Western Garden Book, one I'd waited several years to buy myself. She was thrilled and I really felt as if I'd scored a coup rather than just getting the job done (as gift-giving sometimes becomes)
Anonymous said…
Aahh gifts, so good when you get it just right. I laughed at your friends D's gift, (sorry D) but its just so typical isn't it?
Duchesse said…
toby: You have discerned the reason for this series of posts! Two more coming up.

ma: That was a brilliant gift!

cybill: In my experience it is nearly always men who do this ham handed giving. The sequel: she bought herself a pair of diamond earrings on his charge card.

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