“What gift should I give my girlfriend?”

My girlfriend’s birthday is coming up, and I’m trying to think of something to get her. I know that jewelry is typically a good standby gift, but she actually doesn’t wear jewelry that often. It’s still an option, but I’m particularly looking for something that might be more creative. I’ve never had to buy a gift for a girlfriend before, so I’m going at this especially blind. If you have any suggestions, I would very much appreciate it!
Well, I don’t know your gf, so I can’t tell you what to buy, but I can give some tips on how to think about it.

Your first impulse — not to buy any kind of standard gift for its own sake — is sound. A woman who really likes someone wants a thoughtful gift that will always remind her of him. Only a golddigger wants the jewelry regardless of thought behind it.

If you know her sister or best friend, invoke their help. A bonus is that word will get back to her later and that kind of research gets you points. 😉

Next time you are at her place, take a look around at the objects she surrounds herself with; the subjects of her books; her interests. Listen to her — people drop hints all the time, even when they don’t mean to drop hints. Think about what you have in common, and what you like to do together. Your gift should represent you as well. Try to cross-reference. The more elements you can combine, the more unique and memorable the gift. Think before you shop.

An example: An ex-bf of mine liked toys … action figures and dolls and the like. I also have a few such toys scattered around my place. So he thought a toy might be an appropriate and fun Chanukah present. He wandered around a Toys R Us, armed with some general knowledge of me — including such tidbits as: I’m into dancing and vintage fashion, I like purple, I think collector Barbies are pretty. So when he found a “Dance til Dawn” collector Barbie in a purple flapper outfit, he knew he had a winner. And I loved it. It cost less than 20 and I still display it proudly.

Taking it a step further, that same day, he also found a Victoria, “Posh Spice” doll in a purple and black minidress, which gave him a great idea. Two months later for my birthday, he presented the doll with a modified package. A graphic designer friend color-copied the box, superimposed a photo of my face over Posh’s wherever it appeared and altered the “bio” copy on the back to read “Media Spice” and have my name appear instead of Victoria. I thought it was HILARIOUS and the two dolls stand among the greatest gifts I’ve ever got.

My point: Know your gf’s interests and personality, give it a little thought and do some legwork — and your gift can’t fail.

Also, write a card, or add a lengthy inscription to a store-bought card. Write from your heart — it does not matter what you say or whether it’s perfect. It can be sappy or not sappy at all, as long as it’s true. She will read it many times and treasure it. Cards matter.

Finally, I can advise you to stay away from food and clothes. Minefields both. Gift cards are a cop-out. At least buy SOMETHING from a store she likes and let her know she can return it if she wishes. She will want to know what you chose for her WAY more than she will appreciate the blank convenience of the gift card.

I would say an exception to this rule is a gift certificate to a spa where she can pick out her choice of frivolous treatments. That says you want to spoil her a little and give her a luxury, without dictating the specific treatment. Unless she hates pampering and froufrou girly things, this is always a winner. But you can only go back to that well so many times before it’s as thoughtless as Dad’s annual tie.


About amywinns

Semi-snarky, semi-sincere, occasionally ranting, always paying attention. Feminist who can work a skirt and crack a joke. Grammar nerd who is also fun at parties. Mid-career writer/editor with 15 years’ experience in newspapers & magazines who now helps developers at a major media corporation communicate with the suits who write the checks. Pro-women, pro-family, pro-choice, pro-workingclass, pro-entrepreneur, pro-farmer. Like every other bourgeois Brooklynite, I choose local/organic/raw food — mostly vegetables — whenever possible/reasonable/affordable but I’m not a smug asshole about it. Hometown: Atlanta. Weird hobby: lindy hop. No pets, no kids, no thanks.
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