It’s true, but before you call me a Scrooge and stop reading, let me explain why and what we do instead.
At my girlfriend’s request, I have never gotten her a single material item for a holiday. I make this statement as someone who as teenager got up at the crack of dawn on Black Friday to blow my hard earned cash on gifts for people in my life. Gifts that, with the exception of a few, no one remembers.
So, why break tradition? First, why do I give gifts? I give gifts to some people to make them happy, show them love, or tell them I’m thinking about them. For others, it’s out of obligation or because they got me a gift. How genuine?
Now, I’m not saying I don’t give gifts ever. When I come across a gift I know my partner will love, like a signed copy of Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business by Dolly Parton, I give it to her just because. I find this type of gift giving to be way more fun and spontaneous. Plus, after nerding out with my partner’s recommended economics reading—appropriately titled “The Deadweight Loss of Christmas,” a seemingly unromantic read—I’ve learned it’s also more efficient.
Upon deeper reflection, I also saw how societal structures were tricking me into thinking I needed to spend money beyond my means to give gifts at the holidays. Couple the pressure to give gifts with the fact that we are a dual-woman household, which means we can take the gender-wage gap and times it by two, and we’ve got a tradition that doesn’t work for us. And I can’t reference the gender-wage gap without noting this inequality is only compounded for individuals in our community who are people of color. So, until we break down the systemic economic oppression of women, people of color and LGBTQ people, we’re stuck doing double time to make ends meet.
It’s within this context that I see not giving my girlfriend gifts for the holidays as a wildly romantic act of resistance. And the good news is, there’s plenty you can do instead.
Forget Black Friday and get outdoors
Why literally risk your life for the doorbuster deal when you can get outside and give your body the gift of movement. Your options are, crowds of people trampling each other for flat screen TVs vs. hiking to an incredible overlook and cozying up with your partner and pup to take in the view. Treat your partner to lunch and beers or hot chocolate on the way home for a perfect day that leaves you feeling like you conquered the world without setting foot in a store. Some businesses are shutting their doors on Black Friday to promote getting outside and many parks have free admission—visit the website for your state parks and recreations department.
Can’t not shop? Go local on Small Business Saturday
Purchases are even more enjoyable when you know they are benefiting your community—bonus if the shop is owned by a member of the LGBTQ community. In countless small businesses, I have actually gotten to meet and talk to the person who made the item I’m purchasing. This allows me to give a more meaningful gift with a story behind it.
Support your partner’s favorite organizations on giving Tuesday
And don’t forget to donate to your local LGBTQ organizations. Last year, I went on a donation spree and gave what I could to seven organizations. Even though it was a modest donation to each, it felt good putting my money where it counts. For many organizations, it not just how much money it raises, but also how many supporters it has that bolsters the work. This year, I will be donating in my partner’s name to organizations of her choice and acknowledging her in an actual handwritten love letter for how she gives to me and her community.
Do give an experience
Because nothing says ‘I love you, babe’ like a thoughtful date. The most epic experience I gave my partner was flying her to see the love of her life, Dolly Parton, in concert. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity so I saved up and went all out with surprise 10th row seats. The look of sheer joy on her face through the entirety of the concert and every time she’s told the story since, far outweighs the joy of any material item. Some of my favorite dates involve making dinner in the slow cooker while enjoying champagne and watching Sense 8 on Netflix.
You don’t have to go all out Dolly Parton to give the gift of the best date ever.