Buy Gifts That Aren’t Clichéd or Offensive This Year
This trending tweet from New York Times writer Sophie Vershbow does a great job of deconstructing all the “gift guides” for men, listing stereotypical male gifts such as “whiskey stones”, Jonathan Franzen novels and grill accessories. I wouldn’t mind, for example, beard oil or a good leather night bag, but is everything else crap? No, thanks. It’s a gift to the simplest guy, and no one wants it. Instead, here’s what to keep in mind when you’re looking to buy an unusual gift for the comrades on your list.
Gift giving is linked to personal relationships.
The reason “whiskey stones and barbecue tongs” gift guides fail is because they are lists of currently trendy items for the most generic, stereotypical “man-to-man” imaginable. Gifts that are not formulaic are associated with the unique personality of the recipient and your relationship with him. Sometimes it means knowing they need something esoteric, but sometimes it means knowing they’d rather have a Steam gift certificate than a Tibetan prayer flag. This may not be difficult for some, but if your recipient either already has everything they want, or seems mysterious to you, making it difficult to buy a gift, here are some tips on how not to give them barbecue tongs or another scented candle.
Buy what they will never buy themselves…
For me, the best gifts are things that I would like to have, but would not buy for myself. For example, I enjoy playing the guitar, and I told a musician friend that I was a little dissatisfied with my distortion pedal. A few months later he bought me another, better distortion pedal for my birthday – a bit more than I would have spent to have a slightly different fuzz quality in my tone, but just what I wanted anyway.
…or the thing they will buy for themselves anyway
Some people are genuinely not sentimental about the holidays and don’t really care about being surprised by something flashy on gift day. For those steely-eyed people who don’t want to make a fuss, consider gifting something overly practical. Even boring. Give them another pair of socks they love, or a gift certificate for an oil change, or a week’s worth of groceries. For the right kind of people, dumb as dirt is the most thoughtful gift of all.
The power of food and drink for the holidays
When you need to buy something for someone you don’t really know that well, take a corporate America page and give them a grocery cart. Everyone eats, and most people welcome the choice of gourmet food for the holidays. Because grocery cart treats tend to be more exotic or more expensive than what you’d buy at your local market, they fall into the “things I wouldn’t buy for myself” category.
At the risk of getting into “barbecue tongs” territory, if the person you’re buying a gift for loves booze, booze is a good gift. I have never met a drinker who did not value his favorite poison more. But make it special! Be thoughtful and individual – an interesting bottle of Riesling for a wine friend is better than a “it looks expensive” bottle from the supermarket – and you might think of something they don’t usually drink if it’s awesome in some way. You know they’ll appreciate it.
Regional culinary gift
If you are buying a gift for someone who is far from home, consider giving them a taste of childhood. Restaurants that are famous for a special regional dish that you can’t find anywhere else often deliver menu items anywhere in the world. Sending a sandwich or burrito across the countryside is ridiculously extravagant, but unforgettable, especially if it’s a favorite dish. This site features signature delicacies from restaurants around the world, or you can do a little detective work of your own and pop into their hometown and figure out their signature burgers/pizzas/crab cakes/whatever – this gift works even better if it’s an unexpected surprise. .
What to give the person who has everything? An experience.
If your giver is actually someone who enjoys spending time with you, consider giving them an experience, not an item — theater tickets, a ski trip, a session in a sensory deprivation chamber, etc. Obviously, make sure that’s what he wants. may want to do rather than what you want to do, and make sure you actually take responsibility for planning and executing the trip. This is not an excuse to just say, “One day I’ll take you to the movies.” Come with a plan.
It is rare to re-give or give joke gifts.
Giving a shitty gift to someone you care about is a time-honored holiday tradition, but usually frowned upon. Although there are rare exceptions. One Christmas in 1967, my uncle gave a bottle of Lectra Shave aftershave to his brother, unaware that it had originally been his brother’s gift. Since then, they send each other the same bottle of aftershave every Christmas. It falls into the category of “joking gifts” much like giving an ugly sweater or a gaudy pair of socks simply because it would be funny for a few minutes on Christmas morning. This varies from person to person, but I guess most people don’t really want these gifts, if only because you have to decide whether to throw them away after Christmas, so tread carefully.
Speaking of playful gifts, never, ever give gifts that are critical of the person you are giving. Now is not the time to make someone the butt of jokes. Don’t gift an overweight friend a gym membership. Don’t buy your child a new broom because you want him to clean more. Even if they laugh with you on Christmas morning, these gifts secretly make people sad.