Gift shopping is never easy. Whether you want to surprise a loved one, family member or dead stuffed cat, it is hard to know exactly what that special someone will want, especially if you want to stay within budget. Now that I have a girlfriend (see you later, dead, stuffed cat), it appeared as though gift-giving occasions suddenly popped up every month-and-a-half. Between birthdays, anniversaries and having to apologize for things, I have to go shopping as soon as the last batch of presents are unwrapped.
It wasn’t long before I found myself scraping the bottom of the barrel for present ideas. I got through the good stuff early: dinners, plays, dinner-plays (thank you, Medievil Times). Presents that show a lot of “thought” or “heart” or “not-bought-by-assistant,” require both heart and thought. Who has the time for that? I found myself needing to brainstorm stuff to buy my girlfriend that she would like. I quickly came up empty. That was until I stumbled upon a brilliant solution.
Thinking about things she would like was getting me nowhere. That was when I changed my thought process entirely. Instead of trying to come up with stuff that I would like if I was receiving a present, I began thinking about things I would hate. Using this incredible new strategy, I will never have difficulty thinking of presents for my girlfriend again.
All it took was the slightest of changes in my approach to gift-giving and a torrent of ideas made themselves available. I am no longer trying to guess her taste or the things she likes or the places she wants to go. How am I supposed to tell the difference between shiny things or expensive food places? I am a guy. Our brains are too filled with statistics and useless history knowledge.
But then I imagined myself during the holidays. All warm and cozy in my Snuggie, sipping on some Shasta-brand hot chocolate. Filled with anticipation as I open the first present and my hopes skyrocket. Then I tear the box off and crash back to reality. All that build-up for nothing and now I am stuck with a keepsake of lame disappointment. What is in that box? The thing I would hate is something that my girlfriend would absolutely love as a present.
It can be anything. As long as I hate it, that means it is the perfect gift for my lucky lady. Perhaps it is a back rub from a Scandinavian fella who orders you to be still so that the balancing stones on your back continue emitting chi. Or a word-bracelet that if I wore it near a construction site would result in me being tagged with a permanent nickname. “Hey look, Faith is walking by. Lemme see your little bracelet Faithy. Aww, Faith is crying. Wassamatter?” I could get her a juice cleanse. Just the thought of a juice cleanse makes me cringe. “What’s for every meal for the next month?” “Juice.” “I’m going to go kill myself.” But my girlfriend? Ape shit for a juice cleanse.
All fancy restaurants are pretty much the same to me. Very expensive places for small amounts of food that don’t involve either “chicken” or “fingers.” But what is the restaurant that I would despise the most? Maybe one that is loaded with frilly decorations and makes you wait for two hours and has a lot of tourists and pink. Aha! I’ll take her out to Serendipity. Y’know what? She would fucking love Serendipity. Not because I put thought into who my girlfriend is and what she would like, but because it’s what I would hate.
It is no grand revelation that men and women are fundamentally different. As someone who is still new to a serious relationship, I have a long way to go when it comes to showing sentimentality, giving gifts and letting my girlfriend know how much I appreciate her. So the important thing is to find short-cuts that let me fake it. What is the least amount of work I can do to make it appear I went the extra mile? Especially when I have never traveled that initial mile in the first place.
The key is to use those differences between guys and girls for an advantage, not a hurdle. Instead of saying, “I don’t know what my girlfriend wants for her birthday so I’ll shoot her with a new paintball gun that I’ll love,” own the differences. Try thinking along the lines of, “I would hate to get a gluten-free cupcake on my birthday,” because it means she will love you more than you ever possibly deserve. And that is the secret to a long-lasting relationship.