Were you not given the gift of giving good gifts?
Hey, we all have our shortcomings.
When Christmas rolls around, do people leave you out of the Secret Santa circle?
There’s always next year, man. Just you wait and see.
When you say, “I come bearing gifts,” does your significant other run out of the room faster than a millipede on steroids?
Well, if it’s that bad, you should probably just throw in the wrapping paper. I honestly don’t know if I can help you.
But that’s not going to stop me from trying.
I’ve got some solid tips here on what NOT to get your sweetheart that I hope will enable you to select something she’ll love.
1. If you are getting a gift because you want it, don’t get it.
You asked her what she wants for Christmas. She told you it would be nice to get tickets to see “Les Misérables.” You go online to the ticket vendor and notice that your favorite musician, Jimmy Buffet, is going to be in town around the same time.
“Wow. This could be a win-win,” you think. “She loves ‘Why Don’t We Get Drunk?’ and maybe she’ll want to do what the lyrics suggest next if I just get these tickets instead.”
Stop right there. I admit I see your logic, but …
She was kind enough to tell you what she wanted. That is often top secret information that you don’t get. Don’t screw this up.
Get her what she asked for, shed your tears during the musical and maybe she’ll want to go to Margaritaville afterward.
Just remember: Chances are that if you want the gift you are buying, she doesn’t.
2. Don’t imagine the person you are buying the gift for is someone she is not.
One of my biggest Christmas failures occurred in the early years of Internet shopping.
I found an online retailer that had all kinds of cool stuff for low, low prices. I couldn’t resist.
I got a big, awesome coffee machine, because who wouldn’t want a big, awesome coffee machine?
I got a beautiful, comfortable bed sheet set for the same reason.
I even purchased some really precious candle holders that I thought could add a lot of character to any room.
There was just one problem with all these great, discounted gifts: She didn’t want any of them.
She didn’t drink that much coffee. She had perfectly fine bed sheets (that were actually the size of her bed). And she couldn’t have candles where she was living.
It wasn’t that I wanted these things. It was that I let what appeared to be deals take precedence over the person who was receiving the gifts.
I was driven to imagine her as being someone I should have known she was not.
That kind of exercise in gift purchasing will always result in failure.
3. Don’t give a joke gift unless you are prepared for the possible consequences.
It’s one thing to buy a joke gift for a friend. It’s another to buy one for your significant other.
Let’s explore this in story form:
Once upon a time there was a king who loved his wife very much.
One cold morning in the midst of November, the young prince and princess were talking with the queen.
“Queen Mother,” they said, “Father told us not to tell you this, but he got you a diamond ring for Christmas.”
The queen was delighted. Sunbeams emerged from the sky and illuminated her face. It had already been such a long, cold season, and the thought of a new diamond ring from her husband filled her with warmth.
Finally, Christmas arrived. The queen had not revealed the knowledge she held but anxiously awaited her gift.
Once in her lap, she opened it with fervor. But what greeted her gaze in that small box was not a diamond ring.
In fact, it wasn’t even close.
What was in that box was a dime on a ring.
Yes, the king had instructed his finest craftsman to create a “dime-on ring.”
He rolled with laughter, as did the prince and princess.
That night, a mysterious dragon laid siege upon the castle and the king, prince and princess were never seen again.
However, it is said that the queen was seen in the following days with a large diamond ring on her finger.
Need I say more?
4. Don’t buy gifts that put undue pressure on her.
This may sound confusing at first, but I’ll quickly clear things up for you.
“Honey, I thought I’d get you this size 0 swimming suit because you’ve been so successful at losing weight that I know you’ll be there in no time.”
Let’s ignore the fact that you’re already treading on thin ice because you’ve become dangerously close to saying she should lose weight but have put some nuance into it that could allow you to reach the shore safely.
Now, let’s reverse the scenario: “Honey, I bought you a Speedo because (see above).”
You don’t want that, and she might not want a size 0 swimming suit. Ever. But now there is pressure to one day wear that size 0 swimming suit. That’s not cool.
Here is a better idea: Get her some perks to reward the good work she is already doing.
“Honey, I noticed that the gym you work out at has these great massage packages. I hope you enjoy some sessions after your workouts.”
You, sir, have just become a hero.
5. When you actually find a good gift, don’t try to make it the gift that keeps on giving.
It is so tempting.
You think back to last year and how hard it was to find a gift. But, lo and behold, she loved that Doctor Who collector’s coffee mug. And, wow, there are nine more mugs in the set! You’ve got your next nine gifts planned!
Like I said, it’s tempting.
But you can’t do it.
Not only is the element of surprise going to be gone after the second mug, but she might just assume you are no longer trying. Heck, maybe you don’t even care about the relationship anymore. Maybe it’s stagnant, just like your stupid Doctor Who coffee mug gifts!
No matter how terrible you are at buying gifts, the most important thing is to keep on trying.
If you weren’t born with the gift of giving good gifts, it’s something only practice can change. But as you climb that learning curve, be kind to others and get gifts that are returnable. At the end of the day, they’ll at least thank you for that.
(This piece was written for the Nov./Dec. edition of Her Voice and can be viewed here.)