Q: What do I get a girl for Christmas who I have been casually seeing for one month? —Late to the Party
A: Some of us have been with the same woman for more than a month, and in some cases even several months, and have faced the same Christmas gift-giving dilemma. From experience we can say one thing is for certain: physical objects are an absolute no-no. Even seemingly sure-fire presents like sports cars and private islands can blow up in your face — "This latitude is too low!" — and the return policies are a nightmare.
This is why we strongly recommend this simple, convenient, relatively affordable, and extremely popular solution: a spa gift certificate.
There isn't a woman on earth who doesn't like to be pampered with a facial, massage, pedicure, or achiote hydrating wrap, and in some cases the treatments are mutually beneficial. Further, depending on how much you want to spend, this gift opens up several hours of free time to watch a football game, drink beer with your mates, or do both of those things simultaneously.
We want to get a special gift for my son's 21st birthday. We are thinking a leather messenger bag. Recommendations? —Erik
First, pour you and your son a couple of MBs. Then, sit down and have an important conversation about the virtues of forbearance. Why are you having this conversation now? Because we're about to recommend a bag that is currently out of stock.
It's from Billykirk, and it's called the No. 236 Schoolboy Satchel. We specifically like this version in Brown Dublin leather from Horween. Which unfortunately sold out very quickly and is now out of stock.
We think the name is a bit of misnomer. These days, schoolboys tend to carry Cordura backpacks, or if they're on the path to MB-dom, maybe waxed canvas. All-leather bags, on the other hand, are generally a hallmark of adulthood. And not just adulthood. To our eye, most all-leather briefcases read as "middle-aged banker."
That's why we like the No. 236 so much. It projects substantially more maturity and sense of purpose than a backpack does. But it still has an obvious sense of play about it. And it's not too big, so it's impossible to weigh yourself down with this bag. Finally, the No. 236 in Brown Dublin has an especially artfully disheveled look to it, which we obviously appreciate. All of these factors make it perfect for a 21-year-old, and worth the wait until it's available again.
That might be a while — we have asked Billykirk if there is a target restock date and will update this post if we hear anything. But the No. 236 in Brown Dublin has a timeless style. Indeed, in 30 years or so, we suspect it will be something your son will be able to hand down to his own 21-year-old. So we encourage you to encourage him to take the long view. And in the meantime, pour yourselves another MB. The days, months, and years go fast.
UPDATE: We've received a reply from Billykirk: "We may be releasing a few more of the Dublin in the coming weeks, but we are currently working with a new leather for the Spring season. These should release online towards the end of March."
Based on this news, our advice remains largely the same: Wait. More specifically, sign up for the Notify Me When Available option on the Brown Dublin page, then wait. If the new Spring season version appears before the Brown Dublin does, who knows? Maybe it will also be a viable option.
If you and/or your son absolutely can't wait — and simultaneously have truly long-term patience, J. Crew is selling a version of the No. 236. It lacks the overt artful dishevelment and rich character of the Brown Dublin version — but it is available immediately. And a decade or so of hard use will undoubtedly improve its richness and resonance.
Q: Great to have you back! I am attending my office Christmas party and I am to bring a $10 gift. Any ideas? —Richard
A: If you want something that will appeal to the widest range of potential recipients, our focus group testing has found that virtually all of white-collar America responds positively to a smoking, drinking man-deer who is not afraid to make a nonchalant spectacle of himself at Yuletime.
If you think the booze will be flowing freely at your party, and your 4th quarter performance has been strong enough to withstand a visit to HR, we like this plastic wine stopper from Gama-Go.
If you're lucky enough to work with literate, discerning colleagues, you can't go wrong with Paul Fussell's Class.
We can't make promises for the last two, but if you buy a Non-Denominational Winter Tree Accessory today, it will arrive in time for Friday office parties. (I.E., we ship it USPS two-day delivery at no extra charge.)
Q: I've been dating a lady for about 6 months and I want to get her a Christmas gift as spectacular as she is. Does the SB have any suggestions or a list of things she's wanting for Christmas? —Cameron
Ed. note: The Spectacular Bitch's site is just about ready, finally. Thank God. In the meantime she answers questions here sometimes, like now.
A: Dear Cameron,
I love and adore that you are giving this some forethought, you sweet little buck, you. There is nothing like the heady first months of new love, and you, my dear, are smitten.
Nevertheless, as you know, the key to gifting in a new relationship is to walk the delicate line between overwhelming the girl and underwhelming the girl. Obviously, avoid anything electronic or practical — forever. At the six month mark you need to be thinking romance and whimsy.
If you ask me, which you did, the perfect gift for your lovely SB is a beautiful clutch. Wrapped up, it's like opening a jewel but without all the implied history of giving and receiving jewelry. It's an object that, by its nature, foretells of sparkly nights out on the town — don't you want to be that guy? Basically a clutch is fun. And pretty. And girlie. And glam.
To my mind, Lauren Merkin makes a genius clutch — drop dead sophisticated, impeccably well crafted, to die for gorgeous, with an edge. Tuck a sweet note inside and I guarantee it will live in there for eternity.
Q: I'm struggling to figure out what I should get my groomsmen for being in my wedding. Any ideas? —Trae
A: If it's your first marriage, you're probably relatively young and so are your groomsmen. They haven't been groomsmen at a ton of weddings yet, so we think it's safe to go with something fairly predictable and yet eminently useful to any man: A decent flask. Yes it's cliché and our endorsement might have something to do with our love affair with alcohol — did you ever think for one second this site is the product of men who are sober? — but it's the only groomsman gift we've ever received that isn't either in a landfill or hidden away in a drawer somewhere. (In fact, this gift is hidden inside our blazers' breast pockets right now.)
Anyhow, we like this Wentworth pewter flask from Kaufmann Mercantile. It's handmade in Sheffield, England, fully satisfying the principle of Anglophilia, and with the 6oz. version, also satisfying the principle of getting tight.
Now, if it's your second marriage or beyond, you need to be a little more creative. In this case, we like the Survival Hand Chain Saw from Garrett Wade. Extremely portable, weighing almost nothing, your groomsmen will find it perfect for sawing through their own arm when they need to escape that bridesmaid they're stuck under the morning after. It's not an item most guys have, but who wouldn't want to have one handy?
From gourmet scooping ketchup to a personal cask of single malt whisky, the 2010 MB Gift Guide is here. But it's not all food and drink. If you have the dough, we definitely recommend you buy him an Original Kilburg Geochron (in brushed stainless steel), an invention second only to TV's yellow first down line in awesomeness. Tomorrow the holiday cocktailing guide. Thursday the MB mistress guide.
Q: This question is for our spectacularly aloof SB. I'm a doting big brother and my 11 year old little sister likes sock monkeys. I was thinking about getting her this hat. I'm pretty confident she'll think it's cute and would wear it. What do you say, fair lady? --Cameron
Ed. note: While we prepare the SB's site for launch in very early 2011, she is occasionally answering questions in this space.
A: Dearest Cameron,
At age 11, your sister is teetering on the brink of being too cool for everything, so by all means, buy her the sock monkey hat. In this wretched age of gussied-up gossip girls and pole dancing Disney starlets, it's refreshing (not to mention spectacular), to see a girl dressing like a girl. After all, it's the late bloomers who bloom most beautifully in the end. Just be prepared to conduct a stealth mission to make it disappear should she still be wearing it at age 18.
By the way, Cam - may I call you Cam? You are to be commended on your thoughtfulness in choosing the perfect gift for the spectacular ladies in your life. Very MB indeed.
Later this week we'll finally be finished with the MB Holiday Gift Guide. One of the items that made the cut is Bob McGinn's The Ultimate Super Bowl Book, which we believe to be the most insightful and enlightening football book ever written and a must for any NFL/football fan ... even if you're team has never won a Super Bowl (hi there, Minnesota Vikings fans!).
We're not recommending the book merely because Bob McGinn is America's best football writer and he happens to cover the Packers (for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), or because the damn trophy has Vince Lombardi's name on it. No, we like it because it's just really good, as Amazon.com readers can attest. But you didn't get that link from us. Mr. McGinn has requested interested parties contact him directly at email@example.com to get a personalized signed copy.
Q: I've been reading your site for quite a while now and have gotten some great advice. I know SpectacularBitch.com will be up and running soon, but I have a holiday issue. I would like to get my girlfriend a brown leather jacket for the holidays (she has been wanting one for a few months, but she is really picky). I was wondering what leather jackets SpectacularBitch.com would recommend. --Stefano (MB-in-training)
A: Stefano, buying clothing for a girlfriend is not recommended. Buying clothes for a picky girlfriend? Hang on to the receipt.
Without knowing your gal's style, here are three options for three SB archetypes:
If She Owns Pearls (Classic) Daryn Suede Hacking Jacket (Top)
This Ralph Lauren Black Label jacket was once $2498.00. It's now just $1099.00.
If She Thinks Snow-shoeing is More Than Just an Excuse to Buy Another Pair of Shoes (Outdoor Enthusiast) Weathered Leather Peacoat (Middle)
Made of 100% black sheep's wool, Cordarounds' Black Sheep Sweater is this year's most thoughtful backhanded Christmas gift. Exclusive, imported, and $125, it shows you care enough to give only the finest-quality mixed message. (By the way, mom, we'll take ours in a size L.)
For the Magnificent Bastard who you think has everything, we bet he doesn't have a wool cardigan lined with rabbit fur. We're pretty sure it's like carrying around the lodge at the Ahwahnee Hotel on your back -- it's that cozy and luxurious. Like the rest of Costume National's Fall 2009 collection, it's now 40% off.
These may be better suited for your mistress than your girlfriend or wife, but In God We Trust's Shana Tabor has come up with some exceptionally cheeky engraved heart necklaces. Consider these high risk/reward. Like a 490 yard par 5 with water in front of the green: a good birdie opportunity but could quickly turn into an 8. Call 718-388-2012 with questions or to place an order.
Q: I just started dating a truly Magnificent Bastard. But it seems he has everything! With Valentine's Day coming up, I'm at a loss as to what to get him (under $100 since we're new), any suggestions for an outside-the-bedroom present (he's already getting a bedroom present)? --Jackie
A: Jackie, in this situation we have one simple rule to follow: Don't get anything that puts him in the position of overtly having to display or wear it; in other words be forced to answer the question, "Why aren't you wearing ______ tonight?" If he hates it, it can disappear into a closet or drawer and for all you know he uses it every day. This means no clothes or personal furnishings or any display-necessary housewares. So ties, wallets, thumb rings, and placemats are all out.
Poke around at a couple of our favorite four-letter design boutiques, Moss and Good. If you come up empty, visit your favorite antique shop and you're certain to find a one-of-a-kind MB-worthy item he doesn't already own. After a few minutes of Googling we unearthed this elk-horn corkscrew that isn't just an excellent addition to any bar, it distinctly foreshadows the "in the bedroom" present.
Q: MB, I need you to recommend gift ideas for the boss under $50. Please! —Rob
A: We're going to assume your boss is a dude, OK? (Duh!) Thanks for the question, and the following five things will get him a.) educated, b.) drunk, c.) entertained, d.) caffeinated, e.) saving the planet.
On bottom of Old Fashioned glass (what else?) dribble bitters on sugar cube. Muddle. Fill with ice, then with bourbon. Garnish with lemon twist. No, not a thick orange wedge, handful of cherries, or a cup of fruit salad. A simple lemon wedge.