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the gravy boat

This Thanksgiving and every other, I’m grateful for my husband, who makes me laugh every day.

Three months after I met my husband, he gave me a diamond necklace. When Tom wants something, he wants it bad, and at that particular moment in time, he wanted me. I’m not telling you this to brag. I’m telling you this at the outset to give you some background, and also because Tom demanded that I write something to mitigate the implication that runs throughout the remainder of this post, which is 1) that he is cheap, and 2) that he has terrible taste. Neither of these is true, but you’d never know it from some of the gifts he’s gotten me over the years.

Guys, I humbly suggest that you at least skim the rest of this post before you hit the mall for your lady’s gift this holiday season. Ladies, please consider this post a PSA on your behalf.

1. Clothing

My husband once walked by a Talbots window and suggested, helpfully, that I shop there. I know Talbots has recently sort of re-branded itself as Ann Taylor, but back then, they sold clothing that you might see on Hillary Clinton during a speech to delegates at the United Nations. Pantsuits, navy blazers with non-ironic gold buttons, sweater sets, the occasional tartan.

My suspicion that Tom wanted me to start dressing more like a genteel sixty-year old was confirmed when he gifted me a shirt from his favorite store, Thomas Pink. Thomas Pink is a UK clothier that is best known for its dress shirts for men. Anyway, I don’t have the shirt anymore, but it looked almost identical to this:

It’s a nice shirt. It’s got stripes, which I like. It’s got the spiffy cuffs, which you can personalize with the pair of ladies’ cufflinks that you don’t own. The problem is, it’s just not me. If there’s anything that you want to express with your gift, it’s the sense that you know your lady, that you understand her, that you get her essence.

In this instance, I actually was quite touched because I was starting out as a brand new lawyer and I think Tom thought this shirt looked lawyerly. But generally, I skew a little less Fox & Friends in my work wear. Good intentions aside, unless you know her favorite store AND that store only sells one item, it’s best to steer clear of clothing.

2. Kitchen stuff

If your wife ever mentions that she could use a gravy boat, try to tuck that info away in your brain and remember it the next time you are out and happen to see a gravy boat. And then, buy the gravy boat, and present it to her in an offhand fashion that underscores your casual thoughtfulness, like so: “Oh hey babes, while I was out for some milk I picked up this gravy boat…you said you wanted one, right?”

What you don’t want to do is what my husband did–buy the gravy boat one year as her sole Christmas gift.

my gravy boat

This is the gravy boat I got for Christmas in 2002. It’s a simple, classic Fiestaware number, and also happens to retail for about $24.99 during a sale. Did I mention that this was all I got for Christmas in 2002? To add insult to injury, he wrapped it himself, without a box, so that when he presented it to me, it looked approximately like this:


Lest you think I am exaggerating, let me assure you that my memory never fails me when it comes to traumatic events.

Besides being spectacularly unromantic, the inherent problem with gifting a woman with a kitchen item is that it is difficult to do so without the implication that she should be using the item to cook you something. For the woman who cooks, kitchen items can be great stocking stuffers (try wooden spoons, cookie cutters, or spatulas). And there is the rare situation where the lady has long desired a big ticket item like a stand mixer or a Vitamix, in which case, the sheer expense of the item creates its own measure of goodwill. But by and large, a kitchen item is not going to be her favorite gift this Christmas. You can do better.

3. Lingerie

I realize lingerie is technically clothing, but lingerie is deserving of special mention in this post, because things can go very bad very quickly, when we’re talking about gifting underwear. You may have a wife or girlfriend who has said that she would love to receive lingerie from you, but the odds are really good that she’s lying, misguided, or both. From a theoretical standpoint, buying lingerie for a woman implies that you find her existing underwear choices deficient, and who needs that? Imagine if your wife gifted you a bottle of Rogaine, or a book titled “How to Fix Things Around the House Like a Real Man.” That doesn’t feel sexy, now does it?

don't these look fun

From a practical standpoint, the lingerie that appeals to you in the store is undoubtedly not fit for human wear. Don’t believe me? Let’s examine this sassy little number above, which Tom got me approximately six years ago. I only keep these around because they make me laugh. Be assured that I have never worn them, because they 1) are made of polyester, 2) have a butt ruffle, and 3) are not my size. Polyester is scratchy and doesn’t breathe. Enough said. As for the butt ruffle, the average woman needs a butt ruffle like you need an extra testicle. Every time I see these, I wonder, why would I want to make my butt look bigger? Why would HE want to make my butt look bigger? I am totally mystified.

The worst thing, however, is that this underwear is too large for me by half. And therein lies the biggest problem with buying lingerie as a gift: sizing. If you buy too big, you are screwed. If you buy too small (especially a bra), you are screwed. Save yourself the aggravation. Don’t buy her lingerie.

Guys, if I’ve written this post correctly, you are now frustrated and feeling hopeless about your gift-giving prospects this year. Don’t despair. I have a few ideas, and I’ll soon be posting about them. Ladies, do I have it wrong? Do you love getting kitchen stuff and lingerie? And what’s the worst gift you’ve ever gotten?

43 Comments Post a comment
  1. thebabylee #

    the worst gift i received was a bong from my college boyfriend, how romantic right?…sadly, that summed up our relationship haha! luckily that was many moons ago and am happily married with a husband that knows to stick to the three safe categories: jewelry, vacations, and handbags.

    a friend directed me to your website, love your writing!

    December 19, 2012
  2. Great post Yoona! First christmas gift ever from my husband: gravy separator. Six years later he gave me a gift I really wanted, a camera, and I cried. I’m still married to him 20 years later and the camera is still the best present he ever gave me. I get a wonderful life being married to him, but don’t send him to the store!

    November 28, 2012
  3. It’s the opposite here, I’m the better gift-giver. For Valentine’s Day this year, I got a toaster.

    November 27, 2012
    • both genders can be bad gift givers. i gave tom some underwear made out of bamboo and I get to see them once a year when he runs out of every other pair

      November 27, 2012
  4. Pat #

    Dearest Yoona,
    You are speaking directly at me. My ex-husband – notice the ex in husband, gave me several gems during an eighteen year marriage. The first was an orange izod dress in size 12 one Christmas, explaining to me that it was his mother’s favorite brand and that they didn’t have my size … but I could take it back in exchange for another dress. The next year I received placemats????? The best was an Easter Lily for my anniversary……. do you think he was trying to irritate me?

    November 24, 2012
    • oh pat. i wipe a tear from my eye from laughter at the izod dress in size 12. it’s even better because who’s favorite brand is IZOD?? Tom presents me with all my gifts with the phrase “you can return it,” which he must think is reassuring but in actuality just feels like a cop out

      November 25, 2012
  5. missmarple69 #

    First things first, I love your Blog, you have such a wicked sense of humour, and I always look forward to reading your words of wisdom and whit.. One Xmas my Hubby bought me a, Calender, and yes it was my only pressie from him that year.. LOL I didn’t hold it against him, and he’s improved a 100% thank goodness.. It’s now in our Family History Book under the heading; The Funnies Section… We’ve been happily Married for 25yrs, and he’s learnt his lesson… :))

    November 24, 2012
    • a family history book is such a good idea! Although in my family I fear the entire thing would be a funnies section. Thanks for the comment!

      November 25, 2012
  6. I bought my ex an electric wok for Christmas one year, oops we’re now divorced and she got the lions share. Wish I’d known you back then.

    November 24, 2012
    • surely the wok wasn’t the cause, but merely a symptom. and now you know never to do that again

      November 25, 2012
      • No you’re right the wok wasn’t the cause, I did end up being gifted a great wok cookbook the following year though so I still won.

        November 25, 2012
  7. My husband bought me a pocket knife for my birthday. And it was wrapped beautifully in a box that suggested it was a fine piece of jewelry, say a bracelet. You can imagine my disappointment and our subsequent marital crisis, right? He said he thought it was a terrific idea because I always ask to use his pocket knife. I had to actually explain that asking to use his knife, which I’m glad he carries and does not mean I want to tuck one into my purse, does not mean it is an appropriate gift for me anymore than a tampon is an necessary toiletry item for him. How are men so clueless?

    January 7, 2012
    • i missed this, thanks for the morning laugh, joan. a pocket knife!!! ah, men.

      January 9, 2012
  8. Cobb #

    I’ve only bought lingerie for my girlfriend once, but then at least I had the wits about me to raid her lingerie-drawer beforehand to make note of the size she wore, and then – when I got to the store – to simply grab whatever friendly looking employee I could find and say “I want to buy some nice lingerie for my girlfriend. She wears this size *show scribbled note* Please help me!”

    January 6, 2012
    • cobb, i like how you roll. preparation + thoughtfulness.

      January 9, 2012
  9. Lori #

    My husband gave me a meat thermometer for our anniversary one year!

    November 30, 2011
    • but surely, not JUST a meat thermometer? if so, i am affronted on your behalf…

      November 30, 2011
    • Cobb #

      Now, I could make a sassy joke out of that – but I’m not going to… 🙂

      January 6, 2012
  10. mcellis #

    An extra testicle. Hmmm.

    November 29, 2011
  11. Misha #

    So true! My husband bought me a digital alarm clock radio the first christmas after we got married. It was so bright we had to turn it upside down every night. Your blog is really funny Yoona !

    November 27, 2011
    • Hi Misha! There should be a separate category for gifts that are not just benign, but actively annoying, like your clock.

      November 30, 2011
  12. Awesome PSA. Your gravy boat reminds me of the last Christmas I spent with my now ex-boyfriend. We had been dating long enough that it was time to produce a ring. I opened a small box on Christmas morning to find…a mug. Colored like a black and white cow. With three udders for legs on which the mug sat. It was hideously humorous…except it was no joke. No ring. No other gift. We broke up by the end of January. I’m glad I married a thoughtful man instead!

    November 26, 2011
    • Wish I had a visual of that cow. Thanks for posting, Sarah!

      November 27, 2011
  13. Emily #

    This post literally made me LOL. My favorite line: “The average woman needs a butt ruffle like you need an extra testicle.” Well said, Yoona, well said.

    November 26, 2011
    • in hindsight i think some guys wouldn’t mind an extra testicle, so i should have picked a better analogy…

      November 27, 2011
      • E.T., the Extra Testicle! Yeah, getting out of bed in the morning may take 50% longer.

        November 27, 2012
  14. Emily Jones #

    I got a stick vacuum for my birthday one year. I think I’d mentioned how convenient they theoretically were when we were on a Home Depot run a few weeks earlier. Way worse than kitchen utensils in its implications for what you should be doing with it.

    November 24, 2011
    • Yikes. I should have broadened the category “kitchen stuff” to “household stuff.” Or a blanket category called “stuff you’d buy for yourself because you need it or ran out.”

      These comments are making me feel less bad about my gravy boat!

      November 24, 2011
  15. Tiffin, I totally agree that the amount of the effort put in by the guy means a lot. I kind of suspect that with the pair of underwear above, Tom walked into a Victoria’s Secret and grabbed the first thing that he saw–which I don’t blame him for, since I find Victoria’s Secret intimidating and I’m a woman. Your hubby sounds like a keeper.

    November 24, 2011
  16. TiffinsBLU #

    Ohhhhh Yoona! You have me laughing again! As for kitchen or tools for the home in any variety I totally agree…..however, this being year eleven for hubby and I ….I have to give him major props….the man knows my body. The lingerie he has gifted over the years….Wow! It has been and continues to be amazing!! I think he once said his secret was that he buys it for both of us. He said he assumed if he really liked how it felt- so would my skin….the other reason he gets major props is he can be shy, and is not that comfortable shopping to begin with… I know he has to ask for some assistance… imagine something along these lines… wife’s ass is this big, holding up both hands to a mortified sales woman…then further, saying I like something that really shows it off -but she’ll probably want something that makes it look smaller, got anything like that? Oh, and it should be blue and really sexy….? Heheeh, so the fact that I get something stunning, whether LePerla or Victorias secret and that I can put it on that day…yeah my man gets huge props for that! Thanks for another amazing post Y!!

    November 24, 2011
  17. Amara :) #

    I cannot stop laughing! This post is so funny! Wishing you and the boys a great Thanksgiving and some wonderful gifts this holiday season!!1

    November 24, 2011
    • Can’t wait to hear how the kosher thanksgiving went. Thanks for posting!

      November 24, 2011
      • Amara #

        OMG! I messed up the Kosher bird! I will tell you about it tomorrow @ Zumba. Hope you had a good night!!

        November 24, 2011
  18. Peggy I’m going to need more details on that salad spinner story.

    November 24, 2011
  19. Peggy #

    Ethan- Hint: it’s not going to be from Forever 21.

    Favorite post so far (although it’s a tight race). My unforgettable gift was a salad spinner that caught our house on fire. For real. He’s mostly stuck with jewelry since then.

    November 24, 2011
  20. Kim #

    Zach once gave me a pair of running shoes for my birthday. When his mother called and asked what he’d given me, I told her. She asked me to put him on the phone right away. I don’t know what transpired, but it’s been jewelry ever since.

    November 24, 2011
  21. Karen #

    My last Christmas as an undergrad, my then long term boyfriend, who is not my husband now made a very big production of the presentation of his Christmas gift, complete with champagne and a crackling fireplace. As a 22 year old Kansas girl, I knew this meant he was presenting me with The Ring, as I could recognize the jewelry box through the wrapping. Imagine my disappointment when I opened sId gift with trembling hands to see earrings….homemade…made from fly fishing lures…with barbed hooks still attached. I never even tried them on, afraid they would puncture my carotid artery. Not a risk I was willing to take with my crappy student health plan. My disappointment with the gift and his with my refusal to wear the gift was the beginning of the end of the relationship. The man I went on to marry frequently gifts me family heirloom quality jewelry, despite my instance that it is not necessary. Happy ending…

    November 24, 2011
  22. Ethan #

    The picture of the wrapped gravy boat is classic. I can’t wait for the follow up piece on what to actually buy. My favorite post so far.

    November 24, 2011
  23. Kaula #

    Oh my god, the lingere one was spot on. My ex once gave me a bra/panty set for Christmas, from KHOLS. I do not buy underwear at Khols. They were too small and destined for the back of the drawer as soon as I opened it. To add insult to injury he gave them to me as my sole Christmas gift, at our first Christmas together, in front of his entire family! Younger cousins and siblings, parents and grandparents included. Talk about mortifying.

    November 24, 2011
    • Lingerie in front of family: the stuff of nightmares. Thanks for posting, Kaula!

      November 24, 2011

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