**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a close friend, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
I have heard all sorts of hilarious dating tales, but one in particular always stands out to me. A friend of mine was going on a third date with a guy she’d met online. The first two dates had gone well, so she was pretty excited for this one, especially since it was his birthday.
In the days leading up to the date, she was conflicted about whether she should buy him a gift or not, seeing as they were still getting to know one another. She eventually decided against it, reasoning that it might be too soon. But then she changed her mind mere hours before she was set to meet him for dinner.
I should tell you that my friend is one of the most pragmatic people I’ve ever met. And in the past, when she’s gifted me things, it’s always something useful. So you can imagine the horror when she presented this guy with a full-length mirror on his birthday.
Needless to say, the date did not end well.
He was insulted by the gift and left the restaurant before the meal arrived. He was kind enough to leave money for the meal, a tip, and the mirror.
When I asked my friend why she chose to give him such an odd gift, she said that she saw it as a way of saying, “I want to see more of you.” And she admitted that there was an ulterior motive: she assumed that he didn’t have a full-length mirror at home because he tended to be “poorly dressed.”
“The guy was 30 years old, and he dressed like a seventy-five-year-old man. I was trying to subtlety give him a hint,” she said.”He clearly could not appreciate my humor or attention to detail.”
All things aside, she was genuinely heartbroken that things had not turned out the way she’d planned. Though, in retrospect, she thinks she might have dodged a bullet.
Should you give gifts when dating?
Dating is tricky enough without worrying about the etiquette of gift-giving. On the one hand, you want to impress your date and show them how thoughtful you can be. On the other hand, you don’t want to come on too strong and scare them off. So what’s the right move?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Every situation is different, and you’ll have to use your best judgment. If you’ve only been on a few dates, a small gift might be appropriate. But if you’ve been seeing each other for a while, it might be safe to go a bit bigger.
Of course, the type of gift you give will also be a factor. For example, giving your new partner a pair of tickets to their favorite baseball team might be too intense if you’ve only been dating for a few weeks. But if you’ve been together for a few months, it might be the perfect way to show them how well you know them.
“In a series of experiments, researchers found that givers tended to overlook gift lists or gift requests, believing that any gift would be equally appreciated by receivers. For their part, recipients preferred gifts they’d requested, which suggests a mismatch of expectations that could affect relationships.” — Jill Suttie, Psy.D.
Then, of course, you should consider whether they like receiving gifts at all, which tends to get revealed over time. Some people love nothing more than getting presents, while others prefer to stick to dinner and a movie.
If you’re struggling to figure out whether a gift would be appropriate or not — just ask. Let them tell you what they would prefer.
When the “thought that counts” misses the mark.
It’s been said that the thought is what matters most when it comes to gift-giving. But sometimes, even the best intentions can go awry. For example, if you give a gift that’s not to the person’s taste or choose something too personal, it can come across as thoughtless.
It’s always best to err on the side of caution when giving gifts, especially with someone that you’re still getting to know. Because despite giving it the good old college try, it’s easy to miss the mark.
“Picking gifts that are useful, experiential, or desired, or that keep on giving — without strings attached — will likely make the people on your list feel happier, grateful, and closer to you.” — Jill Suttie, Psy.D.
Sometimes the most thoughtful gift is the one you don’t give. Imagine how things might have turned out if my friend had gone with her first mind and not given the gift. While she might beg to differ, I think they might have been good together. But I guess we’ll never know.
What do you think? Is it ever appropriate to give a gift when you’re still in the early stages of dating? Let me know in the comments!