We're in the midst of the gift-giving season, and one of the big questions that comes up this time of year is both whether you ought to buy gifts for a girlfriend - and, if so, what kinds of gifts... and how many?
My phys ed teacher in high school, a guy named Mr. Myers, was known for dumping his girlfriends a few weeks before Christmas because he didn't want to buy them presents - all the boys thought this was hilarious and badass, and the girls thought it was despicable (but still flirted with him anyway). He was one of those assholes who wasn't completely magnetic, but he had this half-sleazy, half-charming way of grinning that told you he probably did all right with the fairer sex regardless.
When I was younger, and a bit more white knight-y, I thought this was just poor behavior of his; "If I had a girlfriend, I'd sure buy her Christmas presents!" I thought to myself.
But when I got a little bit older, and picked up a bit more actual life experience with women, I began to reconsider that position: was it possible that Mr. Myers had a point?
Might it be better to be Scrooge than Santa during the season of holiday cheer and good will toward men?
When I was a seduction greenhorn, I had a mentor who swore off holidays altogether as his rationale for not having to figure out which of his multiple girlfriends he'd spent Valentine's Day or Christmas or any other special occasion with.
"On Valentine's Day," he'd tell a girl he was seeing, "I'll be playing video games."
At least for this friend, I think it ran a little deeper - he'd had an uncomfortable childhood growing up, and swearing off the holidays for him seemed to be a way of sweeping up occasions that were devoted to family... a part of his life he'd always had strained relations with.
I'd grown up in a happy family with a tranquil home where holidays had always been of great importance: statues and figurines and paraphernalia decorated the house a month before any given holiday; holiday-appropriate music played at all times; holiday movies ran almost every night. Church visits were made for holidays with a religious component; and gift-giving, in the form of piles of presents, baskets overflowing with Easter candy, or the like, was the norm.
Despite being a somewhat removed individual myself, the holidays always held a bit of a soft spot in my heart.
But to listen to my mentor, celebrating them at all could be a very dicey situation - particularly in the dating world of the 21st century.
Figuring Out the Holidays
In "What to Do with Your Girlfriend on
I talked a lot about the intricacies of whether to meet a girl or not
on a holiday, based on the level your relationship with her is at.
We'll touch on that a bit here, but if you want a more in-depth
treatment, have a read through that article.
The long and short of it is, if a girl is just a casual partner of yours, do not see her on a holiday; conversely, if she's a serious partner of yours, you probably do want to see her then.
What if you have multiple serious-ish girlfriends? Pick the one who's most important to you; your #1 girl, or "primary", or whatever term you like. Some argument could be made that you ought to pick whichever girl is in the most need of a boost / can least tolerate another holiday without you, but that's a flawed approach; then you end up with multiple girlfriends who are in some degree of disquiet, rather than one who's fully content and one or more others who simply have to deal with the fact that they aren't #1.
If you're in a more conventional / monogamous relationship, and it's already past the casual phase, you have the easiest decision of all: just spend the holiday with her.
Unless you're swearing off holidays, of course.
So, back to that - should you swear off the holidays?
I've lived a not-quite-usual lifestyle for a number of years now, and frankly, I haven't really run into much trouble with holidays. For me at least, I tend to be somewhat sporadic - some holidays I will spend with a girlfriend, while other ones I will work or take the day off or, like that old friend of mine, just kick up my feet and play video games. Other times I will go to visit my family (especially around Christmas) - occasionally I've taken girlfriends with me, but usually I just go myself. Getting out of doing holidays is simple enough when you just aren't in town.
There are a couple of secrets to handling holidays when you're
seeing multiple women in serious or semi-serious relationships (and you
think or suspect they might both or all be inclined to angle for
spending the Yuletide or another holiday with you):
One of the secrets is figuring out your holiday plans far in advance of the holiday. Know exactly what you're going to be doing before anyone can even start pushing or pestering you to spend the day this way or that - you'll avoid any sticky situations by already having a map for the terrain.
Another is not making holidays a big deal publicly. If you make a big show about how Christmas is your favorite time of year, your girlfriends will necessarily want to spend it with you, for instance. If you have two girlfriends, and both are under the impression that Christmas is super important to you, both are going to make spending Christmas with you their utmost priority (and be crestfallen if they can't).
Even if you only have ONE girlfriend, if you make a holiday a huge deal, she will pursue getting time with you during that holiday with single-minded determination, and feel confident she "has" you if she gets it, or lose faith in the relationship if she does not. Never make holidays a big deal around girlfriends - even if they normally are to you. Unless you're already committed to a girl - at that point, it's fine to let some holiday cheer really come out if you're a big holidays person. But don't do it while the relationship's still being sorted, because you instantly place yourself in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" position.
Of course, if you are going to spend the holidays with a girlfriend, that introduces another question - namely, gifts for your girlfriend: to buy, or not to buy?
There's one key that makes the whole gift-giving thing become immediately clear: how big a deal is it?
It's the same question as whether you ought to buy a girl a drink or not... whether you should pay for a date... whether you should do anything at any time or other.
The reason that some men are able to buy women drinks and have those women end up in their beds while many other men buy women drinks and have those women thank them curtly and then vanish off into the night, drink in hand, is the same reason why some men buy women gifts and only have those women like them, love them, and respect them more... while so many other men who buy women gifts do it wrong and lose like, love, status in the relationship, and respect.
And it all comes down to that single question: how big a deal is it?
Effort, Expectations, and Gift-Giving
Imagine, if you will, a scenario.
A woman is dating two men. She has yet to make up her mind about which of these men she wants to become her boyfriend. Both men decide to give her gifts.
One man spends his bottom dollar to buy her a beautiful, expensive necklace that looks fantastic on her. The other man buys her a cheap, but meaningful, gift - a heart rate monitor watch, something he knows she'll love because she's an avid treadmill runner and is always telling him how fast her pulse was racing after such and such workout.
Which gift does the woman value more? She'll be dazzled by the necklace, at least at first... but a month or two out, she'll have completely forgotten it, whereas the watch she'll wear every time she goes to the gym, and will think about her beau that got it for her every time she straps it on.
Even more than which gift she'll value though comes the question of which man she'll value more highly - the man who scrimped and saved and sacrificed to get her the necklace - or the man who barely dinged his paycheck and got her the watch?
The necklace-buying suitor of course plunges himself deep into boyfriend consideration (and possibly an early boyfriend role, if the two of them are not sleeping together yet), but if that's not what she's looking for - and unless she's rebounding from a relationship with an exciting bad boy whom she frustratingly couldn't tame, or she's reached the age where the "fun" is behind her and now it's time to "get serious", it almost certainly isn't - she's going to devalue him compared to the more comfortable, casual, and thoughtful other man.
Because in gift-giving, effort remains king... and if you have to put out a colossal amount of effort to buy an unimpressive and generic gift (i.e., one you could buy for ANY woman), you don't look so sharp.
There's one other problem with the sold-everything-he-owned-just-to-get-you-this-present guy, too: his expectations are going to be sky high.
Unrealistic expectations are a big problem for women, just as they are for men when women do it with you, because they communicate that the man with the unrealistic expectations has placed a given woman on a pedestal - which, of course, tells her two things:
You judge her as being out of your league - which probably means she needs to reassess how highly she valued you before, and dock your score in light of your own scoring of her vs. you, and
You're going to expect her to act like and be some unrealistic picture of perfection personified that she will never in a million years be able to live up to - nor want to
Conversely, the casual gift-giving man who does not sell a kidney to get her the present of her dreams (or that he thinks OUGHT to be the present of her dreams) sets expectations of calmness, casualness, and realistic expectations - she can let her hair down around him, be real, and not have to act like a Disney princess at all times, lest he become disillusioned with her less-than-pristine real life nature. And that level of comfort with him means she's far more honest, far more relaxed, and far more comfortable with him than she is with his opposite.
The secret in giving gifts lies in not
making them a big deal - to save your effort, your status, and her
comfort and ease with you and your relationship together.
What Kind of Gifts a Girlfriend Values Most
Much as women might tell you they'd like a diamond ring (or a house), these are not heartfelt, deeply emotional requests (whether made superficially in jest or clearly in all seriousness) - rather, they are logical ones, or tests to probe their standings with you.
In fact, a woman will never be able
to TELL you what kind of gift she'll truly value most - because the gifts
she'll truly value most are almost never the ones she expects.
That's because the most impactful gifts are the ones that tell a girl, "I know you better than you realize I do - and maybe even better than you know yourself."
It isn't the gift that means most to women; it's the message behind the gift.
Buy her a piece of jewelry? Almost no time or thought went into it. Might be expensive, sure - but you'd have bought the same damn thing whether she was her, or some other girl, or some other one.
Pick gifts that appeal as strongly as possible to someone's own unique tastes and preferences - this is how you give her gifts she really loves and values, and how you show her that you really "get" her - and really care about her.
As noted in the article on Valentine's Day, you don't have to buy presents for a girl usually; usually all you really need is to give her time: give her some time from your schedule that you spend just on her, and (particularly if you're a busy man) that's frequently all she needs. You can go on a day trip; go to a restaurant; or just spend time together at home - nothing special needed.
That said... there is something invaluable about gifts themselves. I don't always get girlfriends gifts for birthdays and holidays - I try to, but sometimes forget or run out of time, and I just spend time with them instead.
But when you do get gifts, you want them to be gifts with a little thought behind them - that are meaningful.
What's the best kind of gift? In my opinion, one a girl will use again and again, that serves to make her think about you and remind her that you do "get" her. Such a gift provides ongoing relationship management benefits - even if she's mad at you, if she pops on those stylish boots you got her because you know she needed new boots, or she has a coffee or a cocoa out of that awesome high-tech mug you got her that keeps her drink hot a lot longer, she'll think warmly of you and tie the satisfaction with the gift back to you, taking some of that edge off.
In this way, your gifts can serve a dual purpose, if you make them gifts she's going to use a lot: they provide a boost of comfort and reassurance to the relationship when she first gets them, and then again every time (in lesser amounts, but still noticeable) she uses them.
Now, I can't tell you exactly what to buy her - that's the hard part, and it's one you've got to figure out on your own based on how well you know her. However, I can give you some guidelines that will make great gift-giving immensely easier:
Pay close attention to her favorite activities. What does she really love to do? It doesn't have to be all the time. If she's an avid skier and gets to go ski four or five times a year, for instance, that's enough - just look at what gear she has, and get her a really amazing version of whatever she needs most. Her ski mittens are looking threadbare? Get her a new pair with some nifty features in them.
Observe habits she has and hews to. Is she an inveterate juice drinker? You can buy her a juicer and a bunch of vegetables to start out with. Does she like writing in a notepad when she has downtime? Get her a really nice pen (find out what kinds of pens she likes first - if you get her a ballpoint and she likes rollerballs, you may find your gift quickly ends up in a shoebox somewhere).
Pay attention to things she says she likes, wants, or needs. People will make off-the-cuff comments about things they think are really cool or interesting - keep track of what she says things like this about... especially if she says it more than once. She might say something is cool once off-hand, and not much appreciate it as a gift if you get it for her; but if it's something she flips out over every time she sees it, you've probably got a winner.
Personalized personality / astrological items. Not every girl is into astrology - but a lot of them are. Particularly if you know her combined Chinese and Western zodiac signs, you can find some neat gifts in this area that feel highly personalized - whether you subscribe to astrology personally or not.
Customized items. You can get customized items with your and her pictures on them, or customized in some other way. Many times these items are kitschy, but sometimes you can find something really nice that you know will be a hit, and customize it and make it even more of one.
Gift idea tracker. Something I started doing a little while back was keeping a spreadsheet on my laptop with a list of gift ideas for everyone I'd normally buy presents for in it. I noticed that at multiple times throughout the year, I'd see something and think, "Wow, that'd be the PERFECT present for X," but then when it was gift-buying time later on, I'd be struggling to come up with even a single good gift idea for X. With a spreadsheet like this, any time I stumble across something I think would make a great gift for a certain person, I jot it down under his or her name in the sheet; then, when a birthday or holiday rolls around and I need gift ideas, I can pick a few out of the list and my shopping is finished in a fraction of the time, with zero deliberation - and it results in great presents that everyone loves, because I have a year of thinking and idea-generating behind my buying, instead of a last minute hour or two.
Gifts don't have to be big, or expensive; and very often, big and expensive gifts end up underwhelming (they're not that useful, or thoughtful) while carrying with them burdening expectations (wow, he got me THIS? Crap... I'd better be nice to him).
Go small, go personal, and go highly targeted - you'll become an amazing gift giver as soon as you do.
Putting a Bow on Things
Unlike Mr. Myers and that early mentor I had in seduction, I don't see a need to play Scrooge for the holidays. Dumping a girl for Christmas or disavowing the holidays to save yourself hassle is, to me, throwing the baby out with the bathwater - it's getting rid of a fox in the hen house by burning down the hen house, with all the hens still in it.
The difference comes in how you treat gift-giving: as some chore to complete, where you buy people something just to dutifully do so, or as an opportunity to purchase thoughtful, useful items that are tailored to the individual and something that will serve as a frequent reminder that, yes - he makes me feel good.
Of course, if the relationship isn't that serious yet, it's better not to see her for the holidays; and, unless you've already passed the commitment point, you probably don't want to make the holidays seem like too much of a big deal.
Yet, if you truly get behind the spirit of the season, and behind gift-giving itself, and instead of trying to impress and wow with big ticket items or fanciful displays you stick to try to really add value to someone's life by getting her things you know she will appreciate, enjoy, and use, you can use the holidays as an occasion that neither makes her feel like she "has" you, nor one that makes her feel like you're bending over backwards for her; instead, you're just a cool, thoughtful cat who knows exactly what she wants.
And that's the best present of all.