Posted in Advice, Dating, Friendships

Gift Giving: How Is It Done?

With my birthday just around the corner, I’ve been thinking a bit about gifts. Not because I’m wholly selfish, but because this year has been such a strange mix of highs and lows, and I was thinking back to how things went last year for my birthday and I’m hoping for something…perhaps not as awesome as last year, but definitely more interesting than it seems to be turning out thus far.

Since things have been so very up in the air in my life, I haven’t even planned a party or anything. My roommate asked me what I had planned, and I told her I had no idea. Her asking me that question was the first time I’d really thought about my birthday at all…

But now it’s on my mind.

simpsons-questionsIt’s on my mind enough that I asked the Boy what he was going to get me for my birthday. This almost caused a bit of a row… His response (probably meant to just be silly and to lighten an awkward situation) was to ask me what I was going to do for myself, followed by what I was going to get him (his birthday’s a little over two months after mine).

It was a slightly hurtful reminder of all the failed promises from before: the Christmas present that never materialized, and last year’s canceled Valentine’s Day, and having to beg to get last year’s birthday gift, which although discussed, always seemed to be forced and wasn’t really a gift that really fit my personality. It reminded me just how little the Boy thinks of me that he has never been bothered to put any thought into a gift for me.

But what if that’s not actually the case?


What if he’s really just that awkward and doesn’t really know how to give gifts?

I’ve never really considered it that difficult of a task to get a gift for a person. The hardest part for me has always been deciding between a practical gift or a sentimental gift, and I generally go for the sentimental gift. To me a gift with meaning is more than a gift with function. Finding something that has both is usually the goal.

cufflinksHence, over a year ago, when I got the Boy hidden flashdrive cufflinks for Christmas, I thought I’d hit the jackpot! Flashdrives, since he’s a computer guy, and cufflinks because of an inside joke about him being a secret agent, James Bond style. Even after that, I’d try to get him little things here and there. Like I got him Godiva chocolates once because he has a sweet tooth and was particularly stressed out. He’d been on a business trip and commented that he might hurt someone if he didn’t get chocolate soon… or some joke  to that effect. So, I made sure to have some for him when he got back.

Then, for his birthday last year, I took him out to a nice restaurant near my apartment. I thought that was fair because I couldn’t afford a gift, plus, since at that point he’d never gotten me one, I didn’t think I should buy one. It was during that dinner that he gave me my flask (the gift I had to beg for, which was discussed, but really has nothing to do with my personality).


I remember the discussion about the flask. Like this year, I’d had to ask what he was going to get me, and he, like this year, asked me what I wanted.

I really hate that question. That question says to me that you don’t know me, or you can’t be bothered to think about what I would like. It hurts me down to my core. It twists like a knife, particularly when asked by someone who should know me better than most, which, by this point, the Boy should.

Like the Boy should have known that a flask was an impractical gift, and other than an occasional joke about sneaking liquor into work (which I would never actually do), it didn’t have any real sentiment behind it.

Then again, I distinctly remember us discussing a gift he was getting for his significant other at the time, in which that gift seemed even less practical than the flask, and when I asked him why he was getting that gift, his response was that that was what other people had suggested, even though it didn’t seem to fit the personality of the receiver….

Like with my flask, he really struggled to come up with a gift for someone he cared about. Almost agonizing over what to get and where to find it.

Hence, I think he might just be that clueless.


So, what advice would I give when it comes to gifts? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it’s the thought that counts. It’s how the gift relates to both parties. It’s the way in which you show a person you know them, know who they are, know what they like, know what they need. It’s the story that goes with the gift.

My flask has a story now. It’s a story of the Boy’s awkwardness with gifts, and will either become a cute story reminding of how we struggled to get to know each other, or a painful reminder of how little he truly understood me. I’m hoping for the former, because I actually really like my flask.


Honestly, I do!

Though I haven’t had the opportunity to actually use it, it is kind of a novelty item that I can brag about. And it means a lot because of where it came from, the person who gave it, and the struggles he and I have faced just to be as good of friends as we’ve become. The struggle behind it makes it somewhat precious, and that is one helluva story! In the end, that’s what matters most.

I’ve tried to explain it before. Like last year, after my birthday, I said this:

It’s never the amount spent on a gift that matters; it’s the thought put into it. Does it show the appropriate level of love? And I mean that to mean either romantic or platonic, depending on the situation. Does it have a story that can be shared between the two parties? Years from now, will I be able to look back and say “so and so really knew me! He got me (blank) for my birthday one year and here’s why that’s perfect!”

It’s the story that matters. When searching for a gift, you should really think about what you know about the person and what stories do you and the other person already share.

Is there an embarrassing moment that has now become a sweet memory? Like between me and the Boy concerning the flask.

Do you have a special inside joke that no one else knows about? Like my joke with the Boy about being a secret agent?

Is there a secret they’ve told you and no one else? Perhaps a fear they had to overcome. I have a fear of sharks, so a gift that makes sharks less scary would be really cool.


Practicality helps, though. After all, a gift with a story, but no usefulness means you have no occasion to tell the story. Like with my flask, as much as I like it, I’ve talked about it more on here than I have to other people because I’ve had no opportunity to use it.

Similarly, jewelry bought for someone who doesn’t wear a lot of it, or who might be allergic is no good.

Keep those things in mind when buying a present. What is it that the person likes? Or what do they need? And will they have the occasion to use it?

If the person you’re buying for is moving into a new place, and you know they like to paint, take them to one of those BYOB paint classes. They will be making their own gift (technically), but it will be an experience that the two of you can share. And every time you come over, you can remember the experience because your gift will be displayed as a decoration in the house.

That’s a pretty specific example, because it is something I’d like, but there are other options of course.

The goal when searching for the perfect gift is balancing practical usefulness with sentimental value.

You can factor in monetary value if you want, but I’ve already tried to discuss that around Valentine’s this year. The basic trick there is to determine how much of an impact you want to make, and then balancing the price tag with the sentimental value.

It’s a trifecta:

  • Sentimental meaning
  • Useful Practicality
  • Monetary value

Good luck to those of you trying to find the perfect gift!

And if you’re one of my friends trying to decide what you should get me for my rapidly approaching birthday, you can find some basic ideas on Pinterest Gift Wishlist page. Please note, those are examples of things I like, but you don’t have to just pick something from there, as if it were a gift registry, because that is NOT what it is!




High school teacher by day, relationship/romance blogger by night. Help me add author to the list. Vote for my book idea here:

4 thoughts on “Gift Giving: How Is It Done?

  1. Another very important rule of gift giving is to not give expensive gifts too early in a relationship. A few years ago I was dating a girl and I still wasn’t sure how serious I was about the relationship. I had planned on getting her a DVD of a movie she liked because that was the level I thought we were at…she informed me she was getting me a PS3. This created a couple of problems for me, 1)not knowing if I was ready for this to be a serious relationship made me hesitant to accept such an expensive gift and 2) knowing that she was going to spend that much on me made me have to up the value of the gift I was getting her because it would be really poor form for me to get a PS3 while she got a DVD. And when we broke up 5 months later she tried to take the PS3 back, so rule number 2 from me would be don’t give a gift that you will be upset that you gave if things don’t work out and #3 NEVER ask for a gift back because that’s just crass

    1. All good points. When I picked out the cufflinks for the Boy, I asked his friends because I was afraid of that very thing. Unbeknownst to me, the fact that I asked that made them think I was more involved than I actually was at the time. But they still gave me good advice and I went with the cheaper pair. It was the right decision and I stand by my gift, even though it backfired some.

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