A Don't-Buy-That gift guide
Sometimes knowing what NOT to get someone can be just as important as the gift that's ultimately given. Indiana University experts in romance, disability and accessibility, fashion and fitness offer advice that could turn a problem or awkward gift into a winner.
Gifts to keep the flame alive
"The holidays and New Year can be a nice time to focus on one's relationship, to be thankful for what a couple has and to start over anew," said Debby Herbenick, associate director of Indiana University's Center for Sexual Health Promotion and author of Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
However, people often shy away from giving sex-themed gifts, such as lingerie, books or toys, to their significant other.
"They may worry whether such a gift is 'appropriate' or too self-serving."
Herbenick offers some suggestions:
- DON'T re-gift. "This is not a time to give your partner the toy or Teddy your ex left behind," Herbenick said.
- DON'T guess on sizes. "This is a good time to snoop," Herbenick said. "Check the label of a few pieces of lingerie that she looks particularly sexy in."
- DON'T go for jelly toys. Many contain materials that are commonly considered to be toxins. Opt for silicone-based, hard plastic or glass toys instead.
- DON'T spring a toy on a sex toy virgin. If your partner has never used a toy before, ask before you buy.
- DON'T assume you know what your partner wants. "Sometime when you're talking about sex, casually ask your partner what she or he thinks about sex toys and whether your partner would be into using them with you or is interested in a particular one they're interested in," Herbenick said. "That way, you'll have an idea of what they like.
- DON'T get lingerie that highlights non-favorite parts. If your partner doesn't like to reveal her tummy, opt for a slip rather than a bra and underwear. If she likes to highlight her breasts, consider a balconette bra or a corset. "Play with her strengths and help her feel confident," Herbenick said.
A few DOs of lingerie and sex toy shopping:
- DO ask what she'd like. "Some women know that lingerie is on their partners' minds and will say 'no lingerie' right off the bat," Herbenick said.
- DO consider getting a couples' gift such as a book about sex that you can read together, preferably one that's pleasure-focused rather than problem-focused, which could be a downer.
- DO include batteries. "Most sex toys don't come with batteries, which is like being a kid and getting an awesome battery-powered toy that you can't use because your parents forgot to get batteries," Herbenick said.
Yes to technology but skip the bells and whistles
Some -- but not all -- older adults are behind the times when it comes to technology so technology gifts need some special consideration.
"Sometimes what we see as a means of supporting or encouraging improvement might appear threatening to an older loved one," said Lesa Lorenzen Huber, an aging and technology expert in the School of HPER.
Huber said, for example, that someone might want to give their loved one an electronic cognitive game because they read that it can help prevent Alzheimer's Disease, but the gift receiver might actually be afraid to play it out of fear that her memory is slipping more than she thought.
"We tend to have a perceived notion of usefulness," Huber said. "Find out what they are interested in and don't just think about what you think they need."
Huber and Sherill York, executive director of the National Center on Accessibility at the School of HPER, offered these suggestions:
- DON'T just hand them the gift and then leave. Explain how to use it. "Give the gift of your own time," Huber said. Even if you think the technology you purchased is self-explanatory, take the time to explain how to use it -- and illustrate how it fits into their life -- otherwise, your purchase will remain unused. "If they see the product being used they will be more accepting of it," York said. "Give them time to use it." York suggests that you be their liaison to this new technology. "As a whole, the aging population resists technology because they assume that it will be too complicated," York said.
- DON'T leave it in the box. Huber said plugging a Wii Fit into it a television might seem like a simple task, but for an older person it can be intimidating.
- DON'T purchase technology with unnecessary features. For example, the Jitterbug cell phone is easy to use because it has large buttons and a large display screen, which makes it simpler to manipulate, York said. And the phone doesn't have any fancy features that are the norm for most cell phones, including text messaging, music, games and a camera. "Many older people want a cell phone with no bells and whistles," York said.
Ugh -- another sweater
Shopping for a fashionable gift need not be so difficult especially when accessories such as handbags, scarves and standout jewelry are trendy this season, said Margaret Fette, a visiting lecturer in IU's Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design. The key is to pay attention to the gift recipient's style and fashion interests, Fette said. She suggests going window-shopping with your gift recipient.
"Basically, step into their world," Fette said. "When somebody pays attention to you and puts an effort into buying a gift, the receiver will be a lot more touched by that than by a gift card."
Fette offers these tips:
- DON'T buy anything that can't be returned. Do buy something practical for winter. Make sure your gift is exchangeable if sizes are involved, Fette said. Almost everyone can use long sweaters (not pullovers, though), an extra pair of gloves, ankle or knee boots and a scarf. "Even a conventional person would have fun with winter scarves," Fette said. Sweaters can be worn to accessorize an outfit or to wear over (or under) a down jacket.
- DON'T over -- or under -- whelm."Pay attention to proportions," Fette said. "You shouldn't overwhelm the petite person and you shouldn't underwhelm the large person." But some textures and patterns work on every body. "In general textures such as knit scarves are huge this season," Fette said. "Herringbone patterns, textured wools, classic tailoring, pleating and gathering are not too exaggerated -- they are perfectly pronounced."
- DON'T buy small and delicate jewelry pieces. "Stand out pieces are in right now," Fette said. "Delicate is invisible this year." No matter what someone's fashion style is, clothes can always be dressed up with accessories. Everybody needs a place to put his or her things. Leather handbags, purses and wallets, and even an umbrella with an eclectic design are items that people can make a lot of use out of, Fette said. Since long sweaters are an essential for the winter months, a belt can pull the whole look off, Fette said. Pieces of jewelry such as bangles are an item that many women are wearing. "Bangles are huge," Fette said. "A lot of couture runway shows have their models wearing them as complimentary pieces."
- DON'T pick just any color. Jewel tones including topaz, amethysts, ruby and crimson are in this season, Fette said.
- DON'T buy an unflattering item even if its trendy. "There are elements from previous decades that are sneaking into the fashion world," Fette said. Some decade-specific trends include: the '50s silhouette and defined waists, the chic '60s dress, '70s-syle skirts and the '80s military-style. But you must keep your receiver in mind, Fette warns. "Buy clothes that will look flattering on the person," Fette said. "Buying a full gathered skirt for a person with large hips is not the best idea."
- DON'T think you need to spend a fortune. Fette suggests shopping at local, small boutiques. "They are struggling financially and have frequent sales with unique selections and reasonable prices," Fette said. "Plus, you'll be supporting your community." Fette also suggests going to retail stores such as T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and Kohl's to get deals on designer duds.
You think I'm fat?!
Not sure you should give your niece that Pilates video? Then don't, said Andy Fry, assistant director of Fitness/Wellness at Indiana University. Fry said a person's interest must be involved in purchasing any gift, especially a fitness gift.
"Make sure your gift is not going to offend someone," Fry warns.
Chris Meno, an IU Health Center psychologist and member of the Coalition for Overcoming Problem Eating/Exercise (C.O.P.E), suggests avoiding fitness gifts altogether.
"The receiver might read into the meaning of the present," Meno said. "They might think to themselves, 'Why would they give me this gift?' and conclude that you think they need to change their appearance. This could lead a person to begin feeling self-conscious or negatively about his/her body, and possibly even to start using unhealthy methods to quickly change his/her appearance and thus relieve the self-consciousness. Overall, I think giving a fitness gift can be more damaging to give than not to give."
But Fry said if someone wants a change, there are some fitness gifts that could be beneficial to the receiver. He offers these suggestions:
- DON'T set someone up for failure."Many people want a change, but have a hard time deciphering how exactly to make the changes," Fry said. For someone who has already been exercising, Fry suggests getting him or her workout clothes or a gym membership (especially during this season since many gyms have holiday deals). However, if the receiver has no prior exercise experience and wants a change, Fry still suggests workout gear, but says to consider giving the recipient personal training sessions as well.
- DON'T force it."You can't force fitness on people," Fry said. "They have to be at a level of desire to change, but no gift can change that for them."
- DON'T buy into fads. The at-home pull-up bar might seem like a good purchase on that 2 a.m. infomercial, but it won't look good when it leaves a mark on your friend's bedroom door. "Be careful with your purchases," Fry said. "You don't want them to be detrimental."
- Friends don't let friends have a boring workout. "If people like the physical activity they are doing they will stick with it," Fry said. "So, varying exercise can be good for someone who has been exercising for a while." Zumba and "Hot Yoga" are fitness trends many women (and some men) enjoy, Fry said.
- DON'T let them exercise alone. If you and the gift receiver both want to make a significant change in physical activity, offer to be their workout buddy -- this way, you will get to spend more time together and get healthier together. Fry suggests signing the gift receiver -- and yourself -- up for a 5K run that you can train towards. "It will be more fun for both of you to go through it together," Fry said.
To read more articles from the Department of Applied Health Science in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, visit http://newsinfo.iu.edu/cat/page/normal/357.html. To read more articles from Campus Recreational Sports in the School of HPER, visit http://newsinfo.iu.edu/cat/page/normal/354.html.