Since I started the Guy’s Gift Guide earlier this week, I have received a number of e-mails from men who are in new relationships who are unsure of what kind of Holiday gift will be expected of them. First, let me say, that no matter how new the relationship is a gift is required. It can be a small gift or a big gift, whichever you prefer, but a gift is a symbol of your coupledom and must be purchased.
While a gift is a requirement, only a spoiled brat would expect something extravagant from a man that she hasn’t been dating for very long. Thus, you are well within your rights to purchase an inexpensive but well thought out gift.
As for those of you who are fans of the grand gesture, there is a chance that buying her an expensive pair of ruby earrings might totally freak her out because she got you an iTunes gift card and now feels like you aren’t on the same page about your relationship (true story). So be careful.
Here are some tips for men whose relationships are less than three months old.
Does your girlfriend have a favorite band, comedian or sports team? Then you’re in luck, because tickets make a great gift. It’s also a great way for you to spend time together and start collecting the memories that will define your relationship going forward. But what if the event she would want to go to (Miley Cyrus, Kathy Griffin, Ultimate Fighting Championship, etc.) isn’t your cup of tea, what do you do then?
Buy two tickets and a gift certificate for a nearby restaurant, then put the tickets and the gift card in a pink envelope with a card stating that you bought her a “girls night out” for Christmas. Explain that you know she’s been “under a lot of stress lately” and you wanted to give her a fun, relaxing outing to look forward to. (Fun fact, most women will tell you that they’re stressed out even if it is just a normal day, so exploit this weakness whenever possible. It makes you look observant and empathetic.)
The key to getting out of the event is to make the evening really girly, so if you need extra leverage replace the dinner date with manicures and facials at a spa. This makes it clear that the outing is a chick thing, and there are no boys allowed. If she still insists, then get tickets to an event that you want to go to but she might not be interested in and make it a quid pro quo thing (but don’t use those exact words, those words are almost guaranteed to land you in trouble).
Another great Christmas option is something that I call “The Real Date.” As relationships progress, the dates become a less grand as the four star restaurants turn into greasy spoon diners. This is a natural progression and there’s no shame in it, but sometimes it’s a good idea to return to the flowers, suit and fancy dinner of yesteryear.
If you need a restaurant suggestion, try Cityzen (pictured above), Hook, or Rasika. Just make sure that the restaurant you choose has great food, an extensive wine list and dim lighting. A date like this gives her the opportunity to get dressed up and reminds her that some of that new relationship fire still exists after a few months of togetherness.
But what do you do if dinner at a four-star restaurant or tickets to a show are out of your price range? You plan a picnic date to the Sculpture Garden Ice Rink.
Get a basket, a thermos full of hot cocoa, a bag full of marshmallows, a warm blanket and some snacks and head down to the National Mall. Ice skating is romantic and fun, provided you don’t fall on your head. And if you want to avoid the crowds of tourists and suburbanites (and believe me, you do), take some time off of work and make an afternoon of it.
If you feel like you need a little something extra, throw in a pair of gloves and a scarf for good measure. After all, it gets cold on the ice. GAP has some really cute ones right now that will keep her fingers toasty warm without breaking the bank.
Giving your new girlfriend tickets to a show or a lovely dinner out is a great way to spend time together and do something nice for her without overdoing it. But if a coupley activity isn’t your thing, you can go with a standard gift in the $50 to $150 price range and still be safe.
If you don’t know what to get her, invite her to go shopping with you to “pick out a present for my mom/sister” and watch what she gravitates toward. If she mentions that she likes something or that she’s “always wanted a wallet/scarf/necklace like that” make a mental note and come back to buy it later. Women drop a lot of hints about what they like or want, you just have to pay attention.