Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Question of the Week

In Cobweb Morning, Alexandra has to buy the man she loves a Christmas gift. But since he (as far as she knows) neither knows of her love or reciprocates it, the gift she chooses has to say, "We are friendly but you're paying me but I wouldn't presume on that relationship by appearing too personal or flinging myself into your arms without warning".

So she gives him a leather pocketbook. The second gift I gave my boyfriend (the first was a card and brownies for his birthday three weeks after we started dating and I was in a flap about how much and how little to do) before he became my husband was a leather pocketbook. And the reasons I choose it was because I:
  1. Didn't know if he was getting me anything for Christmas. (I didn't want to look like I was giving him a guilt trip if he'd forgotten.--Which he totally had and then picked me up an Erykah Badu CD in recompense.)
  2. Couldn't afford much better.
  3. Knew him well enough not to get him clothing. (Mijnheer van Voorhees is a man who likes to conduct his own shopping trips.)
One of my favorite second-hand book buys is a copy of Your Manners are Showing: The Hand-Book of Teenage Know-How (1946) by...Betty Betz (verses by Anne Clark). She offers the following advice:

Boy-girl should always be in very good taste because parental eyebrows are raised easily if the gift is too personal and too expensive. Boys, if you don't know what to send your girl you won't go wrong with books, records, candy, flowers, a compact, or your best photograph (unautographed please). And girls, if you're stymied, try to keep it in the lower price brackets with a wallet, key chain, books, records, hand-knit socks, or your prettiest picture. Expensive jewelry or intimate clothing is very bad taste in gifts unless two people are formally engaged and even then it's questionable...

So, my question is: What was the first thing you ever gave your fella? Did it fit the criteria of both Bettys?


  1. I've always been a rather aggressively generous gift-giver (I've mellowed out over the years). In 1980, when I first madly in love with Brit Hub 1.0, I arranged for his birthday a scavenger hunt throughout all four floors of his parents' house in London. I think there were quite a few presents involved -- books of crosswords, etc. -- but it was the scavenger hunt that he recalled.

    And believe me, any event that he remembered 20 years later (especially since I didn't recall it myself) had to have been pretty special.

  2. A hunt is in the very best of taste. I remember getting one boyfriend a CD (always a good neutral fall-back) and he got me a shell necklace (he was New Caledonian so it was personal but not expensive and inclined to raise eyebrows or blushes).

    I don't think any of my other also-rans coincided with gift-giving seasons, happily.

  3. I gave a book I'd picked up at Powells. It was in Portuguese-his mission language, so I thought he might appreciate the gesture.