When I was young, a boy gifted me a bread tag. You know, those plastic tokens that keep the loaf in its bag and have an expiry date printed on them? I had told the boy in passing that I'd never managed to find one with my birth date on it. (Teenagedom, a special time to ponder unimportant things.) Then, lo and behold, it arrived one day: nestled atop some tissues in a sweet little box, no less.
Bless that boy, and his commendable attentiveness to my trivial whims.
Anyway, turns out he really was one in a million, because according to my favourite bedtime storybook the Daily Mail, men spend an average of only four hours finding the perfect gift, but women spend thirteen.
THIRTEEN! That's 8am to 8pm traipsing around
hell St Lukes with the other zombies, trying to find something that'll make their dudebro's face do happy shapes. Meanwhile, their boo only stayed from 8am to midday. For shame.
But men can make amends! Here are some things that take nine hours to do, which can be added to her four-hour gift. Make a little voucher or write it in a card, and keep your good word - it's only fair:
Nine hours' worth of time spent in the company of her friend you don't get/can't stand. Smile - time goes back to zero if you're not "present". Now's the time to find something about her you can relate to, even if it just the fact you both breathe air. Gotta start somewhere!
Read the book
If you read pretty slowly, it might take about nine hours to get through a regular sized novel. So I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and make it just one book. Which one? THE ONE THAT CHANGED HER LIFE, which you've "never got around to". Does it have unicorns on the cover? Are there words in the title like "awakening" and "power"? Is it an essay collection on the symbolism of the menstrual cycle of political marxist lesbians bird watchers? Doesn't matter. Read. It.
18 half-hour shows of your choosing when preferences conflict
Does what it says on the tin: 18 no-changing-the-channel privileges where it applies to a half-hour slots. Please note this doesn't count if you both agree on the programme at hand.
135 cups of tea, spread over the year, based on four minutes per cup of tea
It's not as good as 365 cups of tea, but it's not bad!! Sometimes my boyfriend starts making me a cup of tea, except then he wonders off halfway through and forgets. Which is to say, this is a nice gift I would quite like myself, although I would be willing to swap half the teas for morning coffees. But flexibility is a strong suit of mine.
One year's Turn-Off rights
It takes 67 per cent of a minute to finish reading a Tweet and turn your iPhone off, once you've swiped the red bar and waited for the Black Screen of Calm. That's 365 iPhone turn-it-off-now requests (= nine hours) to be used once per day or as needed. So: during important conversations, during a show you must watch together or it's less fun, during times that you're bored but he's not because he's deep in a phone trance, hellooooo, Earth to boyfriend. NB: Credit rolls over if not used on consecutive days.
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'Tis the season.
The season to gather with those we love, and then show them how much we love them by buying them things.
Which leads us rather speedily to the all-too-common question: Are you having problems buying the perfect gift for your partner? Do you feel short changed when, in return for your hours pouring over the perfect, love-defining gift, you receive some thoughtless token?
It might sound obvious, but the ability to choose the right present starts with whether or not you've chosen the right partner. And conveniently, my theory about partner-choosing is an ostensibly callous shopping analogy.
See, I believe finding a partner is like buying a piece of clothing.
If you go out shopping knowing you need a pair of shorts, the pressure's on to find that perfect pair of shorts. You'll search all of the short stores, humming and hawing about whether this short or that short meets your very specific requirements.
But what if, when looking for these shorts, you find a jacket?
You definitely don't need the jacket; it's the middle of summer, and not nearly jacket weather. You can't afford the jacket; it's well beyond the budget you'd mentally set aside for jackets ($0) and probably well beyond even your short budget. In short, what you really don't need right now is a jacket.
And yet, you can't stop thinking about the jacket. You can't take it off. And when you have to, your eyes refuse to let go. Maybe you exercise restraint, go for a walk to cool off. And yet, against all better judgment, you find yourself back at the shop, a minute or an hour or a day later, paying too much money for something you don't need. Trust me, you'll love that unneeded jacket far more than you'll ever care for those brief-filling shorts.
And that, for me, is the secret to buying most things. Buying something you want, not something you need.
Finding a partner is no different. If you go out looking to fulfill a need, you almost always end up unsatisfied, because the pressure of the desire overshadows any desire you might have had for what you've found.
It's what we call "settling".
Similarly, we've all heard that love hides where we're not looking, that we find it where we least expect it. We find what we really want when we're not blinded by what we need.
But this approach applies to buying for your partner (or anyone) too. I believe buying something for someone because you need to, rather than because you want to (or indeed because it's something they may want) immediately robs almost (if not) all of the magic of the gift-giving act.
I can't help you pick the perfect present for your partner. There are no cheats or tips that will help you better demonstrate that you know or care for them. Instead, here's my Yuletide gift-giving advice:
• Show your partner you love them through the way you talk to them every day. Don't rely on Apple or Karen Walker to speak on your behalf.
• If you see something you know your partner would love, buy it for them. But wait until you see it. Wait until March if you have to. (It'll be a nicer surprise then.)
• If you're still really, really desperate to give them something, or you're just really into wrapping stuff, make a donation here or here on their behalf. That way, they can give something they don't need to someone who does.
• Don't buy into this seasonal nonsense. It's all a bit silly.