(Doctor’s Note: It’s Black Friday and I’m on vacation. In the spirit of the season – and the shopping tradition – I’m re-running this article from 2013….)
I’m going to be honest with you: I’m not a huge Christmas guy. Halloween’s more my holiday these days. It’s not a Grinch thing; I don’t have anything against the holiday in theory. I genuinely loved certain family traditions like the annual gathering of as many friends as possible to take over a local Tex-Mex restaurant for Christmas Eve lunch – before we all got older and had responsibilities that made it impossible to keep it going. No, my biggest issue is the way it gets shoved down one’s throat earlier and earlier every year. Hell, stores in Austin were putting up Christmas displays in October. And to be perfectly honest, if I never hear another Christmas carol1 ever again, I will be a happy, happy man.
But the other issue is the sheer level of stress the holiday induces in my friends and family… and it doubles the amount of anxiety-induced emails I get. Every year, once we get past Thanksgiving and Black-Eye Friday and the Christmas Shopping Season officially begins, young men around the world start to panic as they wonder: “What the hell do I get my girlfriend for Christmas this year?”
It’s a trickier question than you’d think. Gift giving, whether at Christmas, Valentine’s Day or a birthday, can be fraught with insecurity and peril, especially when you’re at the beginning of a new relationship – or worse, are still in the “are we/aren’t we” stage of dating. It’s a delicate balancing act: if you spend too much, too early in the relationship, you risk coming off as though you’re starting to get clingy and desperate. On the other hand, spend too little and you look like you don’t care at all.
And then there’s the eternal question of “what do you get”? Do you go with the practical or the romantic? The sentimental or the sexual? How do you thread the needle when it feels like every gift is practically soaked in unspoken messages about commitment, intent and expectations?
The longer you’re together, the easier some questions get, but then you still have to walk a tightrope of sweet vs. sappy, traditional vs. original… it can be maddening.
Fortunately, I’m here to help you through all of this. So I give you Dr. NerdLove’s guide to gift giving…
- That isn’t Christmas in Hollis, The Season’s Upon Us or The Fairytale of New York [↩]