What do you get the guy who has everything?
You have to get creative, that’s what.
My boyfriend, Matt, has expensive hobbies. He’s into guitars, wine from Burgundy, and travel abroad – all things that I, as a newspaper photographer, cannot just gift willy-nilly. But for him, a fifth-year corporate attorney, they’re just part of the lifestyle.
So when he took up hiking earlier this fall, I was elated. Not only because it’s a nearly free (save for gas and Adventure Passes) activity that gives us something to do on Saturdays, but it’s also a great form of exercise: though exercise has been part of my life forever, it’s the last thing that Matt would ever willingly choose to do in his free time.
But as new hikers, that also meant his new hobby gave me a lot of ideas for Christmas. Finally! A hobby that I could buy him things for that are both affordable for me, and meaningful, since it’s an activity we took up together.
I started searching for backpacks, hiking boots, jackets, socks, first aid kits.
Though Jewish, his family takes Christmas very seriously. Every year I’ve known them, they’ve gone all-out with the decorations: from the seven-foot live tree, packed with ornaments from childhood and some from their international travels, to the Christmas Eve party they attend each year with family friends.
But the highlight is always watching the gifts stack up under the tree. With six adults, and each one of us gifting to the five others, it can grow quite large, and each of us thinks ourselves the most thoughtful gifter, carefully listening to each other’s wants and needs, and taking secret notes on our phones to generate the ultimate shopping lists. And like the ultimate gifters we are, we keep our shopping top secret until the wrapping paper comes off.
I just knew I’d hit it out of the park, thanks to Matt’s newfound hobby. I imagined Matt opening his gift on Christmas morning, excited to see a backpack, or a pair of boots, and eager to put it to use.
Imagine my devastation after learning that his family won’t be celebrating Christmas this year. His family, sans Matt and I, are departing for a trip that day to make use of work holidays, and didn’t see the use in getting a tree, or putting up decorations, or holding the annual gifting arms race. It would be more casual, his parents said.
Still, I kept looking at backpacks and boots, saving ones I thought Matt would like to my Amazon cart.
One evening, five of the six of us were headed out to dinner. Just before we walked out the door, Matt’s dad and sister admitted to having done a bit of Christmas shopping earlier that day.
“But I thought we weren’t doing Christmas?” I asked.
“We’re not, so that’s why we’re giving everyone their gift tonight.”
Hmm, early Christmas isn’t so bad, I thought.
As we loaded into the car, Matt’s dad began to explain how he and Hayley had visited Adventure 16 that morning.
My heart dropped. Adventure 16 is an outdoor store, akin to REI.
From the backseat, Hayley began to pull bags out from the trunk area behind her, straining to identify colors in the dark, and pass out the gifts.
A bright green backpack landed in my lap. Matt reached behind his seat to grab a black backpack from Hayley.
“I’ve been OUT-GIFTED!” I exclaimed, and the car erupted with laughter.
And it was true. Matt’s dad had purchased everyone in the family – hiker or not – a backpack with removable water bladders, and trekking poles.
I couldn’t believe it. I’d have to start all over in my quest for the perfect gift for Matt.
But there was a clear upside: I got a backpack too. And I hadn’t even considered trekking poles, even though Matt had found a stick to walk with on each of our hikes.
Not only that, we could get in at least a month’s worth of hiking with our new packs and sticks before Christmas even arrived.