Houston, we have a present problem.
Manfriend is going to be a quarter century old. As I sat at my desk a few weeks ago, looking at manly stores on my computer screen, I was at a loss. I was totally SOL because I couldn’t think of a single present to get him. It’s the same problem every time a birthday or some gift-giving holiday arrives — don’t get me started on Christmas! You scour the gift guides looking for the perfect thing, but nothing ever seems good enough.
Some people just buy something expensive the gifter would enjoy but maybe not the giftee. Others go for a gift card from a favorite store, but that has been a cop out since high school. The really lazy people just stuff cash into a drugstore card adorned with a dog wearing a party hat.
While all these options are fine and will be appreciated by the birthday boy, I want to knock his white tube socks off. I’m probably one of the 200 people on the planet that gets more joy from giving gifts than from receiving them. Just ask Manfriend. Last year I asked him if he wanted to open some of his presents early.
So those cliche moments when the giftee opens a present on Gift Day (G Day) only to hold up an ugly sweater and paste on a fake smile of excitement are the bane of my existence. We’re allotted only so many days to get free things, and it’s a huge disappointment when a gift falls flat.
My family seems to have the art of gift giving down to a science. Ne’er does a holiday pass when someone isn’t completely taken aback by a present given to them — even my father and that’s saying something.
So I’m going to let you in on the family secret to gifting that perfect thing the person will never see coming: Get them something they will use!
Sure, this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how hard it can be to find that one thing your loved ones needs. Unless it’s your mother, few people will be openly vocal about needing something, so finding the right thing can be difficult.
For holidays that usually call for more than one gift, like Christmas, we start with asking for a wish list. This part can be as easy as asking your bestie for her opinion on your love life or equate to plucking nose hairs. It all depends on the giftee — ahem, looking at you, Dad. Lists give you a jumping off point and allow you to get them what they want, but let’s take it to the next level for at least one present.
However, taking it to the next level is harder and takes more planning. It involves putting on your sleuth hat, watching and really listening to the giftee for a few months before the G Day. Is there a piece of their wardrobe that is getting ratty? Or a sweater that they really wanted by couldn’t afford? Are they excited about a new video game being released? Is there a specific television show/movie/comic they’ve become obsessed with?
Then take the information gleaned from your recon, grab your wallet and get shopping! I’ve also learned from my mother (the sneak) how to go shopping with the giftee and slip items they get excited about into shopping carts to be purchased while they’re in the dressing room. Talk about sleuthy!
**Because of the surreptitious way we come up with gifts, my family also has a rule that the giftee isn’t allowed to buy themselves anything significant in the month leading up to G day.
Last year, I bought Manfriend an XBOX One — Womanfriend of the year right here, folks! He had sold off all his gaming systems and games when he was 19 to help pay for college expenses, but when we moved in together and had a little more disposable income, he started talking about buying a new gaming system. Since I discovered we could also use an XBOX to surf the internet and watch Netflix, I thought it was a worthy investment.
When Manfriend finally opened the gift he was confused at first (my family also has a habit of wrapping presents in old boxes), but soon realized it was the real deal and lost his mind. Had I been an intelligent Womanfriend, I would have recorded his reaction as he yelled and jumped up and down on the bed. It took weeks — and hours of game play — for his excitement to wane.
Since gaming systems are super expensive — even though I got this one on sale — it’s unrealistic to expect a reaction like this every time. As a result, this year I went for smaller things I knew he needed. This year (as I let him open some of his presents early again) he wasn’t as excited as last year, but there was no fake enthusiasm to be found. And I was smart and recorded his reaction this time.
How do you find the perfect present for those you love?