Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I've never been a very good gift giver. Some people are just so good at picking out meaningful items for their loved ones. So, I'm the gift card guy, and I've always been good with that. Who doesn't like getting a gift card? Minimal shopping for me, and the gift recipient gets exactly what they want. Perfect!
Last Christmas, I had just started seeing "Sally." I mean, we had only been together a little bit of time. So, I got her a gift card! It was like $50 to her salon. She seemed really happy! She got me a framed picture from one of our first dates, and a really nice hoodie I'd been wanting, and some other small things. All in all, it felt like we spent probably about the same amount of money, so I figured I did good.
Well here we are a year later and at dinner the other night, Sally asked what I want for Christmas. I offered a few ideas, then asked what she wanted and she said, "No gift cards," and winked at me.
Oh great. Now what? I asked if she was serious and she said yes, she doesn't need gift cards. Dang it. Though maybe she was joking, because she winked? Now I don't know what to do. I feel this newfound pressure to get her something nice, and I have absolutely no idea what that could be. I don't have a ton of money, either. And she has hinted a few times that she's giving me something "special." That just makes me feel more pressured. Any advice would be great.
I'll let you in on a little secret: For many women in the early stages of romance, it's not so much about what you give her as it is about the thought and care you invest in the choice. That's why Sally was likely irritated by the Great Gift Card Fail during Christmas 1.0. I imagine she used the card to get an enjoyable pedicure, complete with a soothing foot massage and some sparkly nail polish. Or she used it for a haircut. Or an eyelash fill. Or a waxing. The point is, you might not even know, because you didn't actually give her a specific gift. You gave her currency.
Women want to know that you spent time thinking about what's special to her. Exhibit A: the framed picture she gave you. She probably printed that photo off at work and bought a cheap frame at Walgreens, but it's the thought that counts. She didn't just give you any hoodie; she gave you one you'd been pining for. These gifts, in translation, say, "Hey babe, I'm paying attention to what you like, I'm listening, and I'm giving you things you desire."
Try this Christmas to do the same for her. If you're completely stuck on items to purchase for her, consider buying experiences. Pick up a pair of tickets to an upcoming paint night at a bar – it's a creative, lively way to spend an evening together. Book a night at a hotel and include a fancy dinner beforehand. Or pick up tickets to a show or concert she's dying to see.
And also, stop doing math. Gifts really aren't about equality of expenditures, so while you were pleased that during your first Christmas, you and Sally probably spent about the same, it really isn't the point. The value of gifts isn't in the sum total of the price tag, but in the emotional investment and value behind the gesture and the way it ultimately makes someone feel. You can't put a dollar amount on that.
Hi. I'm Wayne and I'm a gift card giver, too. They're just so darn easy. And I'm just so darn busy. One stop at the gas station on the way to the party — boom, a 12-pack, a bag of tortilla chips and a pocketful of gift cards. Shopping over.
But even I know that gift cards are only acceptable for 95 percent of your acquaintances, friends and family members. That other 5 percent — partners, kids and close family members – you have to put some thought and time into it. We'll focus on the partners today. (Good luck shopping for kids! What do they want: data for their parents' iPads?) Putting time and thought into gift-buying does not mean sitting across the table from your partner the week before Christmas and asking what they want. It means, as Wanda mentioned, paying attention. Like, all year long.
When you start really listening, you'll actually realize that your partner is constantly giving you Christmas gift material. They even give you cues on when to really listen up. When you hear: "Darn, I could really use a (blank) right now," or, "Oh, that's a really cute (blank)," or, "Grrr, this would be so much easier if I had (blank)," make a mental note. And yes, even when she says, "She's so lucky — her boyfriend bought her a (blank)."
Need some stocking stuffers? Just think about all the things your partner constantly borrows from you or friends and doesn't giving back. Buy them one of their own.
Look at you – a regular Super-Santa!
Want to respond to a recent column, point out a dating trend, or ask Wanda and Wayne for wisdom regarding your love life? Give them a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.