Jewish Journal


December 6, 2001

It’s Just a Present ... Really


Legend tells us that Judah and the strapping young Maccabees faced the mighty Syrian army and defeated it against all obstacles. But if you want to face some real odds, try finding a nice Jewish guy courageous enough to accept a girl's Chanukah present.

I just started dating a guy. Now I know it's early, but I love the idea of celebrating Chanukah together. My dilemma: how do I prevent him from contracting "commitmentitis" the moment I hand him a Chanukah gift?

The present I've conjured up for him is genius. On our first date, he mentioned how much he loved Michael Jordan. His eyes danced when we discussed M.J.'s recent comeback. But unlike Jordan, I was on top of my game.

First, I threw out all the "how to play it casual" advice I acquired from those "Venus and Mars" books. Then I spent hours on the phone hunting down a friend of a friend whose agent's assistant snagged me tickets to the Wizards-Lakers game. OK, so they're not Nicholson seats. Best-case scenario: He'll freak when he opens this present; look at me like I'm the most amazing woman (which, by the way, I am). He'll conclude that after months of bad blind dates and high-maintenance disasters, he's finally found the right girl.

Actually, with my luck, he'll have a conniption. He'll unwrap the package with considerable hesitation. His mouth will squeak out an insincere "thanks" while his eyes scream, "Why did you buy me this?! What does it mean?! Do you expect a gift in return? First a gift, then a ring. You probably already picked out the chuppah. I can't breathe. I need my space. We need to talk."

Girls can't help it. Giving gifts is in our genes. We fantasize about coming up with the perfect Chanukah gift the way guys fantasize about this month's Maxim cover.

It's so hard to fight that gift-giving urge when the mall is blizzarding with holiday sales. But we've got to squelch that impulse. As far as I can tell, holiday gift giving follows the same absurd set of unspoken rules as every other aspect of singlehood. It seems that giving too nice a gift is a bigger turnoff than calling him first. In the same way that we unfold and refold that little scrap of paper with his number on it, resisting the urge to call, we must crush our present-buying cravings. A girl should play hard to get: an overly thoughtful gift makes her appear eager and less of a challenge.

So at what point do men stop interpreting our gifts as "I'll get you, my little pretty, and your little black book too?" How far into a relationship do we have to be before it's safe to exchange holiday presents?

The Better Dating Bureau states that when purchasing a gift for a significant other, spend $10 for every month you've been together. It's the Pythagorean Theorem of dating. If you've been dating for one month spend $10, if you've been dating for two years spend $240. According to this formula, I should ditch the basketball tickets and just pick him up a pair of Marky Mark boxer briefs instead.

But I can justify the tickets, since technically I can give him eight Chanukah presents: 1.5 months x $10 per month x eight nights = $120.

Then I can designate that entire total for one night rather than distribute it over eight nights.

When did it all get so complicated?

Chanukah should come with speed bumps, warning us well-intended givers to slow down. But the reality is, giving gifts makes me happy. Especially when I sidestep the generic beer-of-the-month-club membership and Banana Republic sweater and find my guy something special. My gift doesn't have to mean, "I can't breathe without you" or "I'll never wash this cheek again." It can simply mean, "You're a great guy. I like hanging out with you. Happy Chanukah." We ladies don't expect anything in return. Not much anyway -- a kiss, a thank you, a reaction that does not include dizzy spells or hyperventilating.

It's so difficult finding one such courageous mensch in this sprawling city.

Not helping matters is the Maccabee legend that circulates this time of year that speaks of that entire clan of brave young Jewish men -- strong, athletic Jews -- all living in one village. If only that were the case in Los Angeles. Now that would be the real miracle of Chanukah.

Carin Davis, a freelance writer living in Los Angeles, has an extra ticket to the Lakers game.

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