First and generally speaking girls like anything pretty, all manner of spoiling face creams (watch out for antiwrinkle, it is a bit of a minefield, unless it is something like Crème de la Mer, in which case you will be heralded for understanding that girls need a pot of something that costs that much for their delicate skin), oils, nail polish, scent. If this is backed up by the fact that you like them wearing it, then you cannot fail. Far too many girls complain that their boyfriends or husbands simply don't notice anything about them, and if you don't, then lie!
* Be careful of scent. This is dodgy ground as it can be a very sexy present and it can just be the worst. If you are going to give scent, you have got to go and choose something totally delicious that reflects the girl you are giving it to. You simply cannot pick it up in an airport while your plane is delayed, unless you are buying her a bottle of the scent she already wears.
* Go for the things that they would never buy for themselves, like beautiful nightgowns. If it is going to make her feel feminine and glorious, then it is good.
* Good music is lovely, too, especially if you have any decent knowledge of it. You will hold a place in the girl's mind - should you want it - every time she plays it. Even if she does not show that much interest in music, everyone needs to have it in their lives and, speaking from experience, if you have a pretty dire collection of CDs, it is usually because you don't know where to begin. This gift has the bonus for a man of being able to buy something that he understands.
* For the all-time mega-surprise, there is the trip. The call at four o'clock saying meet me at the airport, and there you arrive and have your passport and plane ticket put in your hand to be swept away. This is, of course, the most excellent first-wedding-anniversary present. Anything like a trip needs to be given in a very clever way, because you can't possibly manage the box and the bow. A wad of currency in a travel notebook is a pretty good indication that you might be off somewhere. The more foreign the country, the better this is, first because you get more wad for you money and second it still may not be totally obvious where you are going. Scuba diving lessons are extremely romantic and can be given with an Ursula Andress-style bikini. These are major presents and are the once-in-a-lifetime type, so back to solid ground. How about a fireworks display? This was given to a friend of mine by her husband on her birthday. They had dinner at a friend's house and it went off at the end of the garden spelling "Happy Birthday Hunny Bunny." When boys put their minds to it, they can really come up with the goods.
* Girls like toys in the same way that boys do. It just depends on what games they like playing. A bicycle can be fabulous and bring back that childhood rush when you got your first bike under the tree. These sort of large and unwieldy presents MUST be wrapped and you must make sure you are not giving her what you want, which is the kiss of death. Cameras, DVDs, and MP3s are just as good for girls as they are for boys, and if you are into gadgetry, giving something like this is really fun because you can be as excited about giving it as she will be about receiving it.
* Then, of course, there are the designer labels that girls just dream about getting. Tiffany made a mint with that little blue box. This is proof that the presentation matters so much and sadly it is never something that men are usually terribly good at. The designer gift does not have to be extraordinarily expensive; the smallest of the best is truly romantic. My diamond, for example, is the smallest you can buy at Tiffany, which somehow gives it rather Holly Golightly connotations. I love it more than if it were any bigger, let alone the largest.
* If you have paid any attention to what the girl in your life likes to wear, buying clothes should not be a problem. Think of what you like her wearing, know your own mind before you go in and don't get sidetracked. If you are going to go clothes shopping, then it needs to be for special items like a beautiful party dress or a deliciously spoiling cashmere sweater. If you are nervous, take a sister or best friend for trying things on.
The writer is the author of Domestic Bliss: Simple Ways to Add Style to Your Life & contributor at
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