December 2017

Gift Guide for Men and Women: For the holidays and beyond

Author: Linda S. Hopkins

If you are struggling to find just the right gift for the special woman or man in your life, you are not alone. As the season progresses and the pressure mounts, maybe she has dropped a hint. Did you miss it? Perhaps you should ask what he wants and order it online—or go shopping together. Would a gift card be too impersonal? It gets complicated, doesn’t it?

But it’s the thought that counts, you say. Is it?

I was reminded of this recently when I went to lunch with a girlfriend and came home to find a random “gift” on the kitchen counter. It wasn’t a dozen roses or a box of gourmet chocolates. It wasn’t a diamond necklace or a Paris vacation. It was a cookie.

You see, my husband happens to know that I am particularly fond of a specific type of cookie from a certain place. There, wrapped neatly in cellophane with a Post-it note on top declaring his love, was a sweet surprise and one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve received in a while. How simple, you may think. But how intimate the knowledge and thought behind it. For $1.50 and a few minutes of his time, he made my day.

So, let’s get real about what we want. Feel free to circle your favorites and leave this page in an obvious place for your S.O. to find.

WHAT WOMEN WANT
Tangible gifts are wonderful to receive when it is apparent that the gift-giver selected something meaningful—whether it’s a greeting card, a cupcake, a Cartier watch, or the keys to a new car. Please do have a package for her lest you live in the doghouse for all eternity. But remember, too, that sometimes the gifts women want most are the ones that can’t be neatly tied in a bow. Here are a few that may tickle her fancy:

The gift of presence. When was the last time you truly paid attention to what she had to say—showed an interest in her work, her hobbies, her thoughts, her opinions? I promise it won’t kill you to turn off the television and put down your cell phone for, what? Maybe half an hour? Look into her eyes. Really see and hear her. This is a far better investment than those flowers you will buy when you finally look up from your gadgets and realize she’s mad…or gone. This goes for you, too, ladies. Give that selfie stick a rest and take notice of the warm body by your side.

The gift of romance. If you dole out physical affection only when you want something more, it’s not likely to be favorably received. Fuel her fantasies by holding her hand across the dinner table, putting on the music she enjoys, having a real conversation, or doing something with her or for her without expecting anything in return. Hug and kiss her randomly (but not when she is up to her ears in a project or on the edge of a sleep coma.) Timing is everything. If you want to be annoying, just try getting amorous when she’s running late for a meeting, cleaning the cat box, applying mascara, or taking a nap.

The gift of words. For gosh sakes, compliment her. Nothing makes a woman feel more taken for granted than your silence or apathy. If you like what she’s wearing, speak up. If you don’t, then tell her she smells good or you love her long, graceful neck, her soft skin, her smile, or her nail polish—whatever it is that you find attractive at that moment. Praise her for things she does well, too. But don’t overdo it or make stuff up. Women can sniff out insincerity like a coon dog barking up a hollow oak tree.

The gift of gratitude. It’s safe to say that most human beings, male or female, want to be appreciated. Unless you have a full-time housekeeper and/or nanny (and even if you do), a lot is happening behind the scenes to make your household run smoothly. Maybe you both work and share equally in the chores, but it never hurts to acknowledge your partner’s contributions both inside and outside the home. There is no laundry fairy or money tree. Say thank you.

The gift of chivalry. Please do the heavy lifting and act like a gentleman. Bring in the groceries; open the door for her; pull out her chair; help with her coat or drape her shoulders with yours if she’s shivering; hold the umbrella over her head; walk on the street side. Maybe it sounds sexist, but it is downright sexy when a man fills up the gas tank (without being asked). Pamper and protect her. She’s no weakling, and she’s perfectly capable of doing these things, of course. But doing them for her honors her femininity and makes you “the man.” I know, guys. You will occasionally run into one of those bitter women with a chip on her shoulder. But don’t give up. Most of us still appreciate your kind gestures.

WHAT MEN WANT
Men are notoriously hard to buy for. Forget the three-pack of Jockeys, the Gold Toes and the neckties; spare him the agony of having to feign surprise. For men, it really isn’t about the package but about how you make him feel. If you really want to blow his mind, give him something he needs but perhaps doesn’t even consciously know he needs!

I once read that women need love and men need respect. I’ve also heard some other sayings that are not appropriate for a family magazine, so we won’t go there. While it’s easy to spout out clichés about what goes on in the minds of men, I believe that, in some ways, we are more alike than different. (See the gift of presence and the gift of gratitude above.) From my own personal experience and a little research (yes, I asked a couple of guys I know), here are a few gifts your man may be craving:

The gift of praise. When was the last time you said, “I’m proud of you”? Maybe he’s lost weight, gotten a promotion, made a hole in one, or grilled the perfect steak. Honor him for his accomplishments, big and small, and watch him work even harder to earn your praise and respect.

The gift of fascination. Maybe you don’t love football…or golf…or electric trains. But if he has a hobby or interest that you are not supporting, you can bet there’s another woman around the corner who will be fascinated. If you are smart, you will encourage his outlets and participate in his playful, creative ventures when invited to do so. (A word to the wise: Know the score. Please do not attempt to give him a kiss, discuss the bank account, or ask him to open a jar when it’s third down and goal.)

The gift of control. Most men I know say they like being in control. This doesn’t mean there aren’t ongoing discussions and compromises or that you are tied up in a locked room. But whenever feasible, trust him to take the reins, and let him be in charge. Oftentimes, you will discover your own power in allowing him to exert his.

The gift of acceptance. Like it or not, men are different from women. They think, behave, and express themselves differently. If you want to get under his tough skin, don’t be afraid to show him your tender side. Be the gentleness to his intensity—the smooth to his rough, the soft to his hard, the sweet to his salty. Stop expecting him to respond like your best girlfriend. No matter how maddening, embrace his masculinity, give him a safe space to land, and take pleasure in the magnetism of all those opposing forces.

The gift of touch. It’s no secret that most healthy men have a robust appetite for the pleasures of the flesh. Feed him. You won’t be sorry.

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