Rule of the Season: Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth?

I've always taken gift exchanges rather seriously. It may seem a cliché, but the best gifts take some thought. Whether it's homemade or store-bought, a gift that involves effort is the best one of all.

I want my presents to be perfect. I know it's silly and not always possible, but I take it personally when someone gets me something common. If I'm only going to wind up adding it to my junk pile – if it has no sentimental or useful value at all – then why bother giving it to me? I'd rather receive a card than a pointless gift just so the giver can feel better for having presented me something. I know that's a little harsh – and that I'm not always the perfect giver myself – but there's an art to gift-giving. A present should depend on what the other person likes, not what you like.

The value of a gift's not based on the name brand of an item or the amount spent. If you want to get your girlfriend a Prada bag or Tiffany bracelet, or your boyfriend a Brooks Brothers sweater or Coach wallet, go right ahead. Just make sure it's what he or she wants. Don't assume someone will like it because you spent mucho dinero for it.

Most women (including me) LOVE jewelry! Personally, I'd rather wear jewelry that's a little unique and not sold in bulk at Tiffany's, but each woman has different preferences. Do your homework and find out what she'd rather wear. You can always bring a female friend along for help, or ask a salesclerk. If your potential boyfriend is obsessed with Bobbleheads or your potential girlfriend collects Pez dispensers, find one they don't have. Impress them with the depth of your search.

One of the most creative gifts I've ever received was bought off a street vendor. It was a dancing Louie Armstrong that sang my favorite song, "What a Wonderful World." Now, if you don't have street vendors selling such treasures, there is always eBay.

A few steps will help in the process: Make mental lists of what the other person wants or needs. Try to wow him or her with some creativity – I'd much rather have a CD mix and nice dinner than a purse or perfume.

Or impress with the presentation of a gift. For example, you can hide the watch he's been eyeing or the earrings she's been wanting in a bag of gourmet chocolates (just make sure they don't melt). To assist you in your endeavors, I've compiled a brief guide on what to get significant others in your life for Chanukah.


Dating for Under a Month:
If you're not officially "together" and a gift holiday is coming up, it's better to have something just in case, even if it's small. I'd feel horrible if someone bought me something and I had nothing in return. Try these on for size:

• Zagat's Philadelphia restaurant guide;

• Ground coffee (or beans) from a place like La Colombe;

• Dinner out.

For Her:
• A single rose;

• A bottle of wine and two glasses.

For Him:
• A CD of that band he was talking about at dinner;

• A six-pack (bottles, please) of his favorite beer;

• A cool-looking plant, to remind him of you.


Dating for 2 to 6 Months:
• Write a song or poem;

• Tickets to a place you can attend together (i.e., a sporting event, theater show or concert).

For Her:
• A toothbrush to keep at his apartment;

• An engraved jewelry box.

For Him:
• A photo album, started with a few pictures of the two of you;

• A watch (pocket ones are in).


Dating 6 Months to a Year:
• A mixed CD, burned with your favorite songs;

• A night on the couch watching his or her favorite trilogy;

• A favorite book or CD, autographed by author or musician;

• A digital camera or MP3 player.

For Her:
• A boxed set of a favorite TV show;

• A necklace with a pendent or gemstone (birthstones are very personal).

For Him:
• A sports jersey/gear of his favorite team;

• A subscription to a favorite magazine or newspaper.


Dating for a Year or More:
• A gift certificate promising a night out, with all the amenities – dinner, cab fare, etc.;

• A key to his or her apartment (priceless).

Longer-Term Relationships
When you've been together for more than two years, you have a clue of the kinds of gifts your significant likes, but stay creative. Take a horse-and-buggy ride in Old City, get them a spa package or take a day trip.

Most importantly, if the person has made it clear that they are not interested in the relationship going further, don't get a gift! It's not going to make them take you back, and it only cries desperate.

And above all, make sure to watch the reactions in the actual exchange. Whether you like the item or not, if a person took the time to do something special for you, make sure you show your appreciation. No reaction at all – or, of course, a bad one – can be devastating, especially early on in the relationship.

And last, but not least, remember to say thank you – in person, in note form, via e-mail or, well, get a little creative!

Ever give a memorable gift? Send anecdotes to: [email protected]



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