It's officially December.
I can finally concede that Christmas is indeed coming, something that supermarkets and shopping centres have been trying to convince me of for weeks now, without much success.
October, November - way too early. But in December, sh*t gets real. It's the last month of the year, things are winding up at work, Christmas parties are popping up here, there and everywhere, and somehow, in between all the excitement and festivities, most of us have to find the time to do a spot of present shopping.
Parents, siblings, extended family and friends are generally relatively easy to buy for, if we know them well enough. Partners tend to be trickier, particularly if the relationship is a new one.
In the spirit of the silly season, I've comprised a list of dos and don'ts when it comes to Christmas shopping for your lovers. It's by no means definitive, and far from exhaustive, but it's a starting point. Here goes.
1. DON'T buy your partner, male or female, anything that can come under the umbrella of weight loss. This includes gym memberships, workout gear, exercise equipment, Lite and Easy meal plans, and diet cookery books. If they have specifically indicated that they would like a pair of runners for Christmas, then go right ahead - BUT ONLY IF THEY'VE ASKED FOR THEM. An unprompted gift of a Fitness First membership or Dukan diet book sends a not-so-subtle message that you think your partner a bit of a fatty. It's never a good idea, and particularly not on the one day of the year that we want to gorge ourselves guilt-free. This rule also extends to gluttonous animal-themed gifts - think carefully before purchasing her a piggy bank or pair of cow-print pyjamas.
2. Remember that episode of The Simpsons when Homer bought Marge a bowling ball with his name on it? DON'T do that to your partner - go Christmas shopping for yourself if you have to, but make sure what you buy for your beloved is actually for them and not for you. If she's not really into sport, tickets to the cricket probably won't fly. The naughty nurse outfit? I'm willing to bet it wasn't on her wishlist. Similarly, just because you really want to see him in a new pair of jeans, it doesn't mean that's what you should get him for Christmas. I spent a stupid amount of money on jeans for an ex one year, only to have him wear them about twice, and only after I'd begged him to. I wish I'd kept them for myself. They were great boyfriend jeans.
3. DON'T forget to buy your partner a present altogether. This might seem like an obvious one, but trust me, it happens. The ex I bought the jeans for? It wasn't the first time I'd tried to buy him clothes. OK, I was trying to change his style - I wasn't a fan of his ten-year old Tool concert t-shirts and the jeans he'd been wearing since high school. So I bought him some expensive, fashionable clothes from an expensive, fashionable shop, only to be met with laughter when he opened the package containing the fashion-y boardshorts and trendy t-shirt. Granted, the new clothes weren't really "him", but I'd done one better than he had - the guy rocked up to my house on Christmas day empty-handed, and didn't rectify the situation until March. If your gift's arriving a little late, it's not ideal, but not a complete disaster either. Just don't show up empty-handed - a card and flowers/chocolates/a bottle of wine is a fine stopgap.
4. DON'T get her an overly practical present, particularly if it pertains to domestic duties. The gift of an iron will practically guarantee that you won't get laid for at least a week. Similarly, a new washing machine might cost you a bomb, but that's about all it has going for it. Wait for the Boxing Day sales and buy your bargain whitegoods together.
5. DON'T get them a voucher. Is there anything more dull? Again, disregard this advice if your partner has specifically requested some paper money for JB Hi-Fi or David Jones, or if you have a track record for buying terrible gifts, but as a general rule, it's nice to think that you've tried a bit harder. Go on. Use your imagination.
6. DO keep the receipts, and try not to get offended if he/she doesn't like what you've chosen. Ask them where you went wrong so you can get it right next time.
7. DO remove the tags. No one likes to know that their gift came straight from the 50 per cent off rack.
8. DO attach a handwritten card. To me, a well-written card is almost as, if not more important than the gift itself. You only have to do it a couple of times a year. Say nice things and make them feel special.
9. DO ask them to write a wishlist, especially if you're stuck for ideas. They might not end up getting anything from the list, but it at least provides a good indication as to what they're into, and how much they might expect you to spend (and how much they might be spending on you).
10. DO wrap it, where possible. Some stores handily offer wrapping services, but I think there's something sweet about knowing your partner has taken the time to do it themselves, even if it's a bang-up job using newspaper and sticky-tape.
Received an awful gift? Something wonderful? Let us know.