This time of year, the internet is pretty much nothing but porn and gift guides. That’s because buying gifts for people sucks ass, because deep down none of us really care that much about other people or bothering to think of something thoughtful. Hence, gift guides. Here, have this Applebee’s gift card, because when I look at you, I think “2-for-1 appetizers.”
The problem is, the gift guides suck too! They’re usually written by either a) an editorial staff utterly divorced from the real world, or b) more dark-money input than the latest shitty tax bill. It’s all “here, buy your boyfriend this leather pouch for his Pokémon cards, he’ll love it!” No, dumbass, I will not.
Instead, here are a few common recommendations, and some better options for when you want to at least pretend you give a damn.
Recommendation: A Bathrobe
I’ve seen a few outlets put this bathrobe from Snow in their gift guides, based on the fact that it’s soft and comfortable. I’m not going to lie, the idea of hanging out in an oversized towel does sound pretty appealing, but it’s impractical: After I take a shower, I’m not going to want to try to make dinner or cut my toenails or whatever in a big bulky robe.
Better Idea: Lounge Pants
Much more practical (and no less comfy) would be a pair of pajama/lounge pants, like these from Bonobos. They’re cut to fit men (read: they can accommodate our junk), and while comfortable enough to sleep in, they’re stylish enough for a trip down to the corner store if need be.
Recommendation: Xbox One X
The latest Xbox is on a lot of lists because a) people assume all guys are video game-loving idiots, and b) it contains more computing power than all of NASA. The problem, though, is that it costs a fuckton of money, and you probably already know if your boyfriend is the type of person to park himself in front of a game console for an entire lunar cycle. Sure, there’s a chance you could surprise him and turn him into a gamer (good for you, I guess?), but more likely he’ll dick around with it a bit, and then it’ll sit on a shelf, beautiful yet unused like Melania Trump’s vagina.
Better Idea: SNES Classic Edition
If you want to do something video game related, the SNES Classic is the hot toy of the season. It’s not a game console (the pictures don’t do it justice, but it fits in the palm of your hand), but rather, an emulator pre-loaded with a bunch of well-known games from the 90s. They’re fun and simple to play, and the best part is you know damn well you got down on some Mario Kart and Donkey Kong Country when you were a kid, too. The best gifts are the ones you derive equal benefit from, IMHO.
Recommendation: Fitbit Charge 2
The thinking here makes sense. Whether your boyfriend already works out or wants to start, a fitness tracker will help by relaying his heart rate, calories burned, miles traveled etc., providing both motivation and real-time coaching. The problem is that even in 2017 these things are inaccurate as hell, especially for what they cost. If your boyfriend doesn’t work out, a goofy wrist computer isn’t going to get him off the couch. And if he already has the body of an Adonis, well, he was doing just fine without one, wasn’t he?
Better Idea: A TRX Trainer
Rather than a gadget that does nothing, why not one piece of equipment that does everything? Moving your body through space is the most sophisticated form of resistance training, and a TRX strap allows for that and so much more. You’re unlikely to find this at most gyms, but it’s portable enough if he wants to bring it with him. Otherwise, he can use it at home to develop upper and lower body strength, and get a killer ab workout.
Recommendation: Keurig K575 Coffee Maker
Everyone loves coffee, and there’s nothing more convenient than a Keurig, right? Well, sure, until the stupid touchscreen stops working, at which point you have a $90 paperweight. Not to mention, the thing itself is made with a bunch of rare, environmentally damaging materials, and the K-cups themselves with overfill our landfills and bury us all. No thanks.
Better Idea: A Cold Brew Coffee Maker
Cold brew is just a superior form of coffee. It’s smoother and tastes sweeter, and I drink it all year ’round because I’m not a little bitch who makes his beverage choices based on the ambient temperature. Rather than shell out for it at Starbucks every morning, get this little contraption that can make it for you at home—it’s literally as simple as putting some coffee grounds in water and letting them sit there for a while. Tbh you can get by with much simpler, cheaper makers, but it’s nice to show you care.
Recommendation: A Coat Or Whatever The Fuck
Accessories are low-hanging fruit on any gift guide. They’re slightly less personal than something that actually touches your skin, and like, who doesn’t need a coat? That’s fine, but it’s a little too impersonal, and I personally am 100% not here for these stupid sewn-in bibs they’re putting in men’s coats this year. I can wear my own big like a big boy if I want to, thank you very much.
Better Idea: Stitch Fix
You probably know the deal with Stitch Fix, and they do the same thing for men: Fill out a questionnaire about your style, price range, which way your penis curves, etc., and a personal stylist will send a box of shit they think you’ll like. Send back what you want, and the $20 fee goes toward anything you buy. It puts him in control of his style (while still leaving him in capable hands), which is a win-win.
My general philosophy when it comes to gifts is to 1) figure out what you want and 2) email out a detailed registry tell the people in your life what that is. Unless all your loved ones are some combination of rich, stylish, and psychic, or you genuinely don’t give a shit (LOL), this is the best way to ensure you don’t end up pouting through Christmas day and getting a lecture about your “attitude.” Also, people will probably thank you for saving them hours of half-hearted Amazon scrolling dedicated research, so it’s a win for everyone.
When it comes to SOs, though, this is a little trickier. You can chant “it’s the thought that counts” to yourself all you want while your boyfriend hands you a gift, but there’s going to be a little part of you that’s disappointed if the gift he chose doesn’t demonstrate that he’s willing to spend a lot of money on you he pays attention to your style/interests/Pinterest board and thoughtfully found something that you genuinely love. And of course, because boyfriends are meant to be life-completing soulmates who know you better than you know yourself (thanks a lot, Disney/patriarchy), he’d ideally have found this gift without your help. Personally, because I’m shallow AF, I still opt for giving clear and direct guidance here—but if you care about your gift being a surprise, I’d give general guidelines (e.g. “stuff” gift vs. “experience” gift, all your relevant sizes) and then set him loose. Here’s what the gift he comes up with says about your relationship.
Disclaimer: These analyses don’t really apply if you’ve been together forever/told him what you wanted and he got it. This is specifically for unrequested gifts from short- to medium-term SOs.
There’s a bit of a range here, depending on what exactly he got you. If it’s an okay-but-not-great sweater, he likely enlisted his mom’s help for this gift and yet isn’t sure he sees a future with you—he just talks to his mom a lot. If it’s a gorgeous cashmere sweater, or a dress you’re actually excited to wear out, he has good taste and knows what you like/look good in. He also actually gives a shit and was probably really excited for you to open this (aka lock it down). If he buys you jeans or athletic wear (like, sports bras, not cool joggers/leggings you’ve ordered in front of him 40 times), he’s either an outdoorsy/CrossFit guy who has a tiny orgasm every time he saves five cents and thinks gifts should be “practical,” or he’s secretly a life coach hired by your mom. If the jeans were under $150 and any kind of boot-cut/flare, I’d dump him immediately or look forward to 20 years of shopping Black Friday sales at Old Navy.
This is a suspect gift, because there are very few straight males who would actually do a good job of picking this out. So, assuming he picked this out himself, he’s either gotten you an eye shadow palette that doubles as clown paint, or the G-string and stilettos he saw on PornHub last night, because that’s his understanding of “girly shit,” and he has no idea who you are as a person. And if he gets you legitimately nice makeup, shoes, or lingerie, you have three troubling options to consider: 1) this is a gift his ex-girlfriend really liked/requested 2) he has a way-too-involved female friend who’s secretly in love with him 3) he’s gay he legitimately knows more about fashion, beauty, and women’s underwear than you do, which is something you’ll have to decide if you’re okay with. Basically, nice makeup or shoes is a sneaky red flag and you should def investigate further.
I know girls aren’t supposed to ask for jewelry and it raises up engagement ring-related issues and blah blah but honestly, I think jewelry is a classic gift that, with some subtle nudging, is hard to mess up. If you’re even semi-serious and he makes enough money to afford better quality than Claire’s, a simple, pretty necklace or bracelet demonstrates that he’s invested (literally) and that he’ll probably get really happy whenever he sees you wear it. He’s also likely a pretty traditional guy who probably waited three dates to get to Bone Town and opens doors for you a lot—so if you’ve spent all week romanticizing the nuptials of someone who pretty recently donned a full Nazi uniform in public swooning over Prince Harry’s engagement to Meghan Markle, this guy is probably a good match.
4. Concert/Event Tickets/Day Trip
In recent years, there’s been a strong trend toward these “experience gifts,” largely consisting of people who voluntarily skydive (by which I mean, unlike Bachelor contestants who are forced into it) looking at you with pity and condescension when you mention the leather jacket you’ve been eyeing for three months. I mean, I guess experience gifts make for better Instas, but please don’t pretend you actually find it “more meaningful because the gift is the memory” or whatever. (Clearly, I am a “stuff gift” person, and I accept that it’s less cool because I have nicer stuff than you. Stop making me feel bad that I haven’t been to a concert in five years.) Ranting aside, these do have the ability to be very cool gifts that relate specifically to your interests (aka he listens when you talk, and doesn’t hate all music you love), and are an excellent sign that the guy in question sees a future with you, since he likely purchased tickets well in advance of the time he’d be attending, with full confidence that you would still be together when that date rolled around. These gifts are less cool if it’s clearly an event that only he will enjoy (one of HIS favorite artists, anything sport- or beer-related that you haven’t specifically mentioned you share an interest in), and he’s using the whole “experience gift” mythology as a way of pretending this is a thoughtful gift anyway.
5. Homemade And/Or “Trinkets”
Again, if you’re the kind of person who does actually think it’s the thought that counts (anyone?), this could be the best kind of gift to receive and has the potential to be very well-thought-out and sweet. On the other hand, if you’re the kind of person who is dead inside can appreciate sentiment but also likes nice things, even a sweet and thoughtful version of this will make you feel doubly like shit: first, for not appreciating the gesture; and second, for being with a guy who probably doesn’t understand why you need to bring more than underwear and a toothbrush for a week-long vacation. If he gets you this kind of gift and you’re disappointed with it, this is probably a sign that you two aren’t very compatible long-term. I’ve found that guys who insist on treating you as though you’re low-maintenance (when you’ve made it abundantly clear that you’re not) often don’t have a ton of respect for your values or priorities, and inherently view their mindset as “objectively correct.” You don’t need to settle for that, and it’s perfectly okay to want more than a handwritten note and a cookie from the Starbucks where you met for Christmas.
The most important test is obviously whether or not you like the gift he gives you: whatever category it falls into, gifts that make you happy are good gifts and no one else’s opinion matters. But if your winter cuff has slid over into just-serious-enough for gifts territory and you want to use this as a Hunger Games-type trial for his worthiness, feel free to rank his choices using the above scale—and if you drop ANY hints about gift-giving in the upcoming weeks, lead with the fact that gift receipts and lax return policies are always a good investment.
Because my MO is apparently to just discredit myself before I even have the chance to give amazing advice, I’m going to start this article off with a confession about my last DTR* experience. (*DTR = the “define the relationship” conversation, BTW. And we actually mean “conversation.” We’re not talking about the drunk scene you make screaming, “What are we?!” at 2am, or the talk you have the next afternoon when you’re deep in your shame hangover.) Anyway, my drunk at 2am DTR prep-talk involved me getting jealous of a high school friend and playing the piano, so it would obviously be the worst memory of my life, if I remembered it. My sober DTR wasn’t a lot better—I wound up telling him I wanted to “slow down,” when he hadn’t even thought we were dating. Besides the fact that I’m incredibly smooth, what you should be gleaning here is that there are many, many wrong ways to DTR (and you’ve probably tried at least three). Here are some (slightly) less cringe-inducing ways to have this conversation.
Two Drink Max
Yeah, this is one of the few times I’m going to recommend you hold off on the pre-date vodka sodas. I totally get the urge to blur some of the memory and get some liquid courage, but sometimes liquid courage looks like you speaking your mind, and sometimes it’s just an incoherent asshole. If you give any kind of a shit (and if you’re having this convo, you probably do), now’s not the time you want to take that gamble.
Know What You Want
In the early stages of dating, it’s really easy to get wrapped up in holding a guy’s attention; it’s exciting, it’s fun, and it usually involves free stuff. But if you’re getting anxious about tying down your latest booty call (I have no fucking clue what the kids are actually calling it these days, and I don’t intend to learn), take a second to think about whether you really want to be with this specific guy, or if you just don’t want to be alone. If you pull the trigger on a DTR and then realize it’s the latter, you’re going to be in an awkward, sexless relationship with a tiny, tiny high of you realizing you had the upper hand all along, followed by three weeks of you guilting yourself into dumping him.
Along those lines, if he initiates the DTR and your answer to “What are we?” is “I don’t know,” “I’m not sure,” or even “I really want to date you”—you have to say those things. Out loud. Is it fun? No. It doesn’t even burn calories, like most other un-fun activities I subject myself to. But you know what’s even less fun? Having a second nausea-inducing DTR two weeks later, because you lied your ass off the first time, and you both still have no idea what’s going on.
If Possible, Avoid It
As I say this, I fully expect a collective scream of fury from everyone who’s ever dated men, because I KNOW it is not your fault that these talks have become a “thing.” But in all honesty, I think the rise in the term DTR is pretty directly correlated to a recent proliferation of douchebags in our society. The guy who makes you ask him, point-blank, “Do you care about me?,” is clearly not otherwise demonstrating that fact—probably because he does not, in fact, care about you. If you’re entering this conversation afraid that it’s the last time you’ll see him, maybe ask yourself why you’re so eager to settle for such a low level of excitement from a potential boyfriend. And maybe don’t be too surprised if it turns out he thought you were just “hanging out.”
Basically, as we’ve said before, there are ways to mitigate the damage initiating a DTR convo will to do your ego, but if you have to ask him in the first place, his answer is probably a no. Don’t shoot the messenger; I’m only trying to help.
On this week’s Betch Slapped, we talk about Bachelor Ben and Lauren’s breakup and how much we love the upcoming Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay. We discuss a reader response to our Bill O’Reilly discussion and give a male listener advice on how to not be a fuckboy. We also give our thoughts on extravagant weddings.
Why is it that the shadier a bro is, the more likely you are to have a crush on him? Despite insisting to your friends that you do like nice guys, you just haven’t met the right one, you have no real interest in dating the bros that are already in love with you. Much like every billionaire’s kid would rather go to art school than work for their parent’s company (unless those billionaire kids have the last name of Trump), the idea of a sure thing—no matter how promising the future might be—is just boring. Like, if Annie was Daddy Warbucks’ biological daughter, you know she would have Princess Jasmined that shit and run off with the baker’s son.
The reason it feels wrong to date someone that’s actually into you is actually pretty scientific. It’s called attachment theory, and basically it’s the reason you could be totally chill about a bro one day and then freak TF out when he stops answering your texts. Like, you didn’t even like him that much and suddenly you’re four years back in his Facebook profile photos wondering if your kids would have his eyes or yours. Basically it all comes down to your relationship with your parents. If you grew up with parents that withheld love in your childhood, then you’ll seek bros that withhold love when it comes to relationships.
According to attachment theory, whatever you knew in betchhood is what you’re going to seek as an adult in relationships. Some people fall into the secure attachment style, which means they are confident and stable when it comes to relationships. We know you can’t relate, so think every character James Marsden has ever played. Usually, these people are boring. Like, they’re ones at Sunday brunch whose only relationship update is that they’re thinking about seeing if their bf would be into adopting a cat. Sure, this person is good when it comes to actually needing real advice or finding a DD, but they’re never going to be the person who makes you feel better about yourself because their poor life choices make you look like a saint. On the other hand, there are avoidant and anxious attachment styles, which tend to attract each other despite being complete opposites and are responsible for 90% of the “Woman Shoots Ex Over Stolen Chicken Nugget” type articles you see in your newsfeed.
Remember in Jersey Shore when Sammi was obsessed with Ronnie even though he was straight up a dick to her? Or when goddess Selena Gomez was so obsessed with King of Fuckboys Justin Bieber? These bros have avoidant attachment styles, which means they’re both afraid of getting too close to someone but also afraid of being alone. Hence their hot and cold shady AF behavior. But because fuckboys play mind games and make us think their love is limited, it triggers us into thinking they have something we need to hang on to. Basically the more someone pulls away, the more likely they are to trigger attachment and anxiety from their partner.
Think of it this way: Diamonds didn’t get expensive until DeBeers locked up all the diamonds in the world, because once something’s rare and hard to get, everybody wants it. Likewise, a bro could be living on an air mattress and playing music in the subway for a living, but if he indicates he might be losing interest, that’s when we think he’s the motherfucking prize. At least that’s what my therapist tells me, and given that when she doesn’t return my calls that’s when I want to see her the most, she might have a point.
Despite what your exasperated friends might tell you, you don’t actually like fuckboys more than nice guys—they just know how to trigger your attachment to get you to think you do. Can you imagine if in Sixteen Candles the jock just told Molly Ringwald in the beginning that he liked her? She’d be creeped out and he’d never questionably pawn off his drunk girlfriend to the freshman. I mean, that movie is problematic for many reasons now that we’re thinking about it, but that’s a discussion for another time. The bottom line is, thanks to attachment theory, a bro can be hot AF and we’d still be creeped out if he was into us before we determined how we felt about him.
So why does your brain tell you something is more valuable when you’re about to lose it? It’s because baby animals in the wild need to learn not to leave their mothers too young, so when they start to lose their sense of safety, their brain tells them to find it again. It’s for their own good, but in your case it makes you think you’re “settling” if you date a bro who brings you flowers on a first date, but lose your shit over a guy who shows up 45 minutes late in the same T-shirt they wore last night.
In your case the “safety” is actually just whether or not he’s going to take you as his plus one to his college buddy’s wedding in a few months. If you’re not totally sure you have that on lock, you’re going to retaliate by accidentally leaving your Bumble open so he can see you’re not too attached. The good news is attachment styles may come from your childhood, but once you identify your own patterns, it’s much easier to change it. So before you convince yourself you’re falling for a bro right after he stops texting you back, reconsider whether you’d be as into him if he was actually into you. And if you meet a bro that is more into you than you are into him, you just have to convince yourself he hates you and then maybe you’ll fall for him too. Just do your best to avoid bringing up the whole “my subconscious mind thinks that you’re my monkey mother” thing on a first date. It’s kind of a red flag.