Gawker's Better State of Living Conversation series is brought to you with the support of State FarmTM. Today, dating expert Chiara Atik is live in the comments to answer your questions about holiday gift giving.
Some people are simply born with a gift-giving gene: The ability to spot the exact perfect token at the mall/bookstore/Etsy and purchase it well in advance of the holidays.
And then there's the rest of the population: The people who find themselves wrapping empty boxes on Christmas Eve with "IOU a scarf!" written on a piece of paper inside, the people who, in a moment of desperation, have given company letterhead in the office Secret Santa exchange, the people who give their mom bath oil sets every. single. year.
Gift giving, especially when done at the last minute, can be stressful, and despite what some people might have you think, no where near as fun as getting presents. But there is something about finding a suitable gift for someone that can make even the most reticent shopper swell with pride and holiday spirit.
The trick is to make the gift as specific to the intended recipient as possible. Gloves for your brother who bikes to work in winter. An old-fashioned cocktail set for your sister who loves Mad Men. Customized wine-labels for your aunt. It's even better if you can find a gift that's specific to your relationship with that person: Crime and Punishment, because you and your Grandfather had that conversation not too long ago about re-reading the classics, etc. A book is always a pretty safe gift because it's so easy for them to return/exchange if they happen to already have it — just spend some time thinking of what book they'd like to read, instead of just grabbing whatever's on display at the Hudson News Stand at the airport.
When it's impossible to be specific (like during Secret Santa or while buying a gift for a significant other's parent), stick with the gift-giving failproofs, like a bottle of wine, a food basket, etc. Just try to stay away from the cliches: candles, lotion, socks, fruitcake. (Women of a certain age accumulate an ungodly amount of lotion and candles at Christmastime.)
And, if you're in doubt as to whether or not to give a gift to someone, go ahead and do it! You're never going to look bad for getting someone a present. At least, not as bad as when they have something for you, but not vice versa.
Not sure what to get your boss? Dreading the parties that ask you to "bring something for the gift exchange"? Unclear as to whether the girl you've been dating for a month is expecting a present (she is)? Ask in the questions below, and we'll work it all out.
Illustration by Ramona Udvardi, Studio@Gawker