An Asexual Couple’s Guide to Giving Gifts

The Holidays are upon us and many are starting to stress about what gift to give their partners. But never fear! The Ace Couple is here to talk about the way they handle gift giving, because it just so happens that Royce is the best gift giver that Courtney has ever known.


Courtney: The holidays are upon us, my friends, which means that people far and wide are going to start stressing, perhaps even panicking, about what they should gift their significant other – their partners, their girlfriends, their romantic interests. But never you fear, for The Ace Couple is here to talk about how we deal with gift-giving in our relationship.

Courtney: My name is Courtney. I’m here with Royce. And Royce, you just happen to be the greatest gift-giver whom I have possibly ever met. [laughs] And considering the fact that many people see gift-giving as being an integral part of a relationship – often with many romantic connotations – there might be some straight people out there who are surprised [laughs] to know that an asexual is better at gift-giving than they are. So I thought perhaps today, being as though it is December, we could chat a little bit about gift-giving, romantic presents, and the holidays, [laughs] and whether or not to observe them with gifts.

Royce: So when you first pitched this idea for this episode, I was a little surprised because I’ve never really thought of myself as a good gift-giver. Maybe it’s more that I’m a difficult gift recipient.

Courtney: [playfully] Oh, you’re the worst. [laughs] You are horrible to shop for.

Royce: But I think what helps in gift-giving is to not… force it. Because a lot of times when holidays come up, I think, “Oh, it’s a special occasion. What can I get for someone?” And I usually come up blank. And I think there is something to be said for that, that… we don’t need to abide by tradition-oriented gift-giving times. There’s… there are a variety of times that is just right based off of what’s going on. And I’m trying to think back on examples in our relationship.

Courtney: There are many! We can go down the list [laughs] if this is a good way to start.

Royce: Probably so, partially because we don’t really do a whole lot of gifting anymore.

Courtney: I would say… I don’t gift you anything because you are a nightmare to shop for. [laughs] And I tried so hard in the first year or two of our relationship. [laughs] And since then, I’ve just given up, because it’s rarely, if ever, landed. And I’m someone who really enjoys giving gifts. And when there’s a holiday, like Christmas, I really like the presentation and the pageantry of doing really elegant gift-wrapping. I always try to come up with really creative or unique gifts. So that’s always something I enjoy and aspire to do. But you’re absolutely right – sometimes you want to give someone a good and creative gift more than you…

Royce: – have an idea?

Courtney: – have an idea of what that would be, even. [laughs]

Royce: There’s also just a lot of ingrained capitalism of, “Now is the time to buy things,” even if there’s nothing you actually should be purchasing at this point in time.

Courtney: [lamenting sarcastically] Oh, the capitalism. [regular tone] Well – and I mean not all gifts have to be corporate or expensive or even be something you bought. I mean, there are many different ways to give gifts. But we’ll go down the line of the… successful gifts and the occasions or lack thereof. But I think our very first takeaway, right out of the gate, is… “Smash the societal norms”?

Royce: I was going to say, “Don’t force it,” but –

Courtney: “Don’t force it”!

Royce: But “Smashing norms” sounds better.

Courtney: [laughs] Well, this is “An Asexual Couple’s Guide to Gift-Giving.” So, you could say that our advice for relationships is the same as our voice for gift-giving: Just make up your own rules that work for you! [laughs]

Royce: So, onto some examples. I think the first gift in our relationship was actually a birthday gift, coincidentally.

Courtney: That’s true… kind of. Would you consider… the top hat you showed up in the very first time we met in person to be a gift? Because I –

Royce: I –

Courtney: It was a gesture, but it was a gift.

Royce: I thought it was more of a gag.

Courtney: It was a gift. [laughs] It was a gift in the form of a gag, because it was a very, very cheap top hat. If you’d come with a really nice top hat, then it wouldn’t have been a gag at all – just pure gift.

Royce: But if I purchased a really nice top hat, I’d have to wear said nice top hat more than the one time.

Courtney: Or I would have just stolen it from you. [laughs, continues playfully] I wouldn’t have complained either way. [regular tone] But yeah, that very first one, you did give it to me for my birthday. But I think that was just because you had the idea for the gift, and my birthday was right around the corner.

Royce: It was pure –

Courtney: Like, pure happenstance.

Royce: It was close enough that I… had the idea, purchased it, and was able to just wait a little bit, without it being too long for the reference to slip the mind or anything like that.

Courtney: Yeah, and it was also maybe early on, where we hadn’t really had a conversation about, “Are we going to do birthday gifts or holiday gifts?” And I think that is a conversation that you should have with people early on in your relationships, because you don’t want any hurt feelings if expectations aren’t met. So I think setting expectations is always a good thing. But we hadn’t had this conversation, really, yet.

Royce: And our answer sort of changed, because once we were living together and had a joint checking account, it was like, “Should we try gift-giving stuff?” And the answer was kind of…

Courtney: “Why?”

Royce: “Why?”

Courtney: Most of the time it’s a “Why?” Just because if there’s something that one of us wants or needs, it’s probably just going to be a conversation at this point. Like, “Oh, just does this fit into the budget? Does this make sense to get right now?” You know, that kind of a thing. But that very first gift was one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten. Because by this point we hadn’t had any really big fights or quarrels. And we don’t really fight [laughs] very much as a couple – at least, not in the way I’ve seen other couples fight – so it’s not as though we’ve had much of that at all.

Courtney: But one of the, I guess, more spirited debates we had gotten to early on was very superficial and not important at all. But it was about just paper books, real physical books. Because I love books. And I never got a Kindle or any… book gadgets or technologies like that, because I like holding a book and I like feeling a book. And before I met you and I was at home, I would just read books by candlelight like a proper Victorian woman. [laughs] And that was my idea of a good night.

Royce: And at this point in time, I don’t think I had read a physical book in probably four or five years. It had been – I had been reading strictly on computers of some kind.

Courtney: I think you only at that point owned one physical book, and it was because it was a gift someone had given you earlier. [laughs]

Royce: A bad gift from an allo partner.

Courtney: [exaggerated gasp] A bad gift from an allo partner?!

Royce: It was a book I had no interest in reading. I don’t even remember what it was now, but I read the preface and was like, “Nope. Not for me.”

Courtney: [laughs] I’d forgotten that detail, but that’s right. So that’s funny and topical. But yeah, I mean – so Royce, you are… so frustrating to debate because you are the only person in the world who just, like, always makes sense, 100% of the time. I can’t disagree with any of your points because they’re never wrong! [laughs] So, when we’re having this debate about ebooks versus physical books, you’re coming at me with all of the logical facts. [laughs]

Royce: You can have practically every book in existence on a single device. And it’s more efficient. And it’s better for the environment. And it… costs less money.

Courtney: And you’re not wrong about any of these things. So this is why it’s so frustrating to debate you – because all I have are my emotions! And my emotions say, [not assertively] “Well, I really like to look at the pages as a physical, visual cue of how far along I am in the book. And I just like the feel of the pages and the feel of the book in my hand.” And you’re throwing all these facts and logic at me, and I can’t argue them. So I eventually just – in a last-ditch effort, I was like, [emphatically] “But what about the smell of a book? Just a brand new book, the smell of those pages?”

Courtney: And so what does this smartass do, but a couple months later, after we had this argument that I clearly lost – but I don’t care because I like my books [laughs] – Royce brings me a goddamn book-scented candle! [laughs] That was my one argument [laughs] and you quashed it in the form of what was actually a magnificent gift. This candle? This was like a high-end candle. It was probably… I don’t know how much you paid for it, but it is probably the most expensive candle I have ever owned.

Royce: It was the most expensive candle I’ve purchased. It was a $40 candle.

Courtney: That’s expensive for a candle.

Royce: Mm-hm.

Courtney: I’m sure with inflation, there are more $40 candles these days. [laughs] But it was luxurious. It had… I mean, it was a very custom candle case that was beautiful and dark, very reminiscent of a Victorian library, and it was just stunning. Smelled phenomenal. I love me a good candle. So not only was that a great story, not only was I both frustrated and laughing [laughs] at the same time, but it was actually a magnificent candle – so good to the point that I still haven’t burned all of it, because I’m so afraid of the day when it will be gone. I just burn it in incredibly small, little increments and only every once in a while.

Royce: I’m pretty sure the company discontinued it too.

Courtney: Yeah! We’re gonna have to scour eBay and see if anybody snatched some of them up before they discontinued. [laughs] Because yeah, I swear I only light this candle once a year at this point, because I’m like, [mock crying] “Someday it will be gone, and it’s such a good candle!” [laughs, back to regular tone] So that’s just silly of me. But that was your first physical item, “Here is a thing I am giving to you,” gift. And… it was perfect right off the bat.

Royce: And the way that went down was, we had a lengthy discussion, and then immediately after it, I did a few quick searches and either purchased it right then –

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: – or made a note to purchase it at a more convenient time.

Courtney: So I guess if you can take really light inconsequential arguments [laughs] and spin it into a very thoughtful gift, that is good. I don’t want anyone to think that this was actually a fight that we had that was bothering us at all.

Royce: The discussion –

Courtney: Because it was not.

Royce: The discussion wasn’t heated at all.

Courtney: No, it was just ongoing. [laughs] So, probably don’t try to pull that if you’re actually going at each other and having a bad time, because then it seems less sweet and more…

Royce: Petty.

Courtney: Petty! It’s petty! [laughs] So, at this point, I feel like I have to up my gift game. I hadn’t given you a gift yet. Well, I had given you a gift! I had given you a gift! Alright, here’s a great story. This is carrying on… if you listened to our episode of how we met and fell in love – I believe we entitled it “Our Asexual Love Story” – this fits right in between all of those days we were talking about early on.

Courtney: I had gotten a job at a Things Remembered store, and they do a lot of occasional gifts, a lot of sentimental items, and custom engraving for all of these items. So we do a lot of, like, champagne flutes for weddings where we engrave the spouses’ names on them, and things of that nature. And since I was to be the manager of the store in, at the time, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, there wasn’t anybody who could train me on the engraving machine in that state. So they actually sent me down to Omaha, Nebraska to get trained before I officially started. And it was in that time, when I was coming down to Omaha, that I used the weekends before and after my engraving training to come down to the Kansas City metro to visit Royce.

Courtney: And I don’t even know why I started doing this, because this wasn’t really a… quirk or speech habit that I had before meeting you. So I don’t know if there was some kind of inside joke that prompted it or something, but we were talking about gold stars a lot. Like, “Oh, well done, good star,” or –

Royce: “Gold star.”

Courtney: “Gold star.” [laughs] And we ended up awarding each other fictitious gold stars a lot over the span of a couple of different days. And so, after… having a visit with you, I went up to Omaha and getting trained on the engraving machine. They were just giving me Scratch and Dent items – things that they couldn’t quite sell, but things that were still engravable. And just saying, you know, “Play around with the machine, learn all the different fonts, figure out how to program it so it’s centered and even,” and all that good stuff. And I found, in the back, a discontinued trophy that literally was just a gold star. And there was a gold plaque along with it that was as of yet unengraved. So I took that plaque and I engraved it to just say “Gold Star.” [laughs] And I put this trophy together and I said, “I am going to hide this in my purse and the next time I see Royce, the next time Royce wins a gold star for something, I’m literally going to take this trophy [laughs] out of my purse and give it to Royce.”

Royce: And that trophy sat on my desk at work until I no longer worked in an office!

Courtney: Well, it’s still on your work desk. It’s just your home office upstairs. [laughs]

Royce: That’s true.

Royce: I just remembered Little Robot Guy!

Courtney: Oh, Little Robot Guy! I did that too! Damn, I was actually very good at giving gifts early on. [laughs] I just got so much worse after I didn’t work at a Things Remembered. [laughs]

Royce: The Gold Star is easy to remember because it’s visible. Little Robot Guy is tucked away in a drawer because he has secrets hidden inside of him.

Courtney: [whispers] Secrets! [laughs] [speaking] That was another little inside joke. Did that start because you had a knockoff Roomba and you called him a little robot guy?

Royce: Maybe. I don’t… I did have a knockoff Roomba. [laughs] I don’t remember what the impetus was for this little robot person flash drive.

Courtney: Well, because Little Robot Guy became a thing, just like Gold Star. We were just saying “Little Robot Guy” all the time. And I think that started because you had a knockoff Roomba and I was like, “Wait, you have a Roomba?!” [laughs] And you were like, “Well, it’s not a Roomba, but it’s a little robot guy.” [laughs] And then, I don’t know if we saw an anime or something that had a robot character, but we said “Little Robot Guy” frequently. And so we were just like, “Oh, yeah, a little robot guy, gold star.” Those were just the two things that kept coming up. So… Oh my gosh, I haven’t seen Little Robot Guy in many years at this point.

Royce: He’s hiding so he doesn’t share the secrets.

Courtney: [laughing] So he doesn’t share the secrets! It’s a flash drive, yes?

Royce: Yes, it’s a flash drive.

Courtney: It’s a flash drive, but it looks like a little robot. Is it also on a keychain?

Royce: That sounds right.

Courtney: So yeah, I also found that in the back room of the Things Remembered, and I was like, “Oh my goodness. I found a Little Robot Guy and a Gold Star.” And as of now, those are our only two inside jokes. [laughs] Yeah! And what did I engrave on that, Royce? Do you remember?

Royce: I… don’t remember. Should I go grab it?

Courtney: Go get the Little Robot Guy! What does he say? [laughs]

Royce: [quiet, from a distance] Oh my god.

Courtney: Oh your god? [laughs] Oh my god! [laughs] It says, “You’re weird.” Aw, that’s cute! I was cute! [laughs] This guy’s great. I haven’t seen him in… over seven years? We’ll have to take a picture of him and put him up on Twitter. That’s Little Robot Guy. I had totally forgotten about him. So considering the fact that those are [laughing] probably I believe the only two successful gifts I’ve ever given you, what about them was – what was a hit? What was successful?

Royce: Well, the Gold Star was an ongoing joke, and Little Robot Guy was kind of funny and also functional.

Courtney: [laughs] Funny and functional. I like it. So yes, and then you repaid these… [laughs] kindnesses with a book-scented candle. So yeah, I’d say we were about even at that point. And then I lost all of my gift-giving game, and yours only continued to excel.

Courtney: So then we kind of had a gap of many months, if not a year, without any real gifting. But one thing that is potentially of note was the… wedding ring situation and conversation. Because I know that people are increasingly moving away from the traditional wedding ring norms, both in terms of cishet rules of “the man picks out and buys the ring in secret,” and also just more and more people going away from white diamonds and De Beers. But with us, for a wedding ring, I wanted one, and you were not about to touch that. [laughs] It had never even crossed your mind that you would pick out such a thing that I would be wearing all the time.

Royce: Yeah, that just doesn’t make sense. It’s a very expensive item that you’re going to be wearing constantly. That’s not something you guess on.

Courtney: Which is totally fair. And honestly, we… I picked out my own ring, [laughs] which was good because I got something that I know I will be happy with wearing every single day. And I do wear it on my normal wedding ring finger, ring finger on the left hand. But as a bit of an homage to ace culture – we have the black rings on the middle finger of the right hand, as kind of ace culture, but black is the color for the ace ring. And so I got a black ring – partially for ace culture, partially also just because black is more my aesthetic than anything really white and shiny. So I picked out a ring that was actually a small business, an independent jeweler, with a lab-grown black diamond, and also plated black. It was so much cheaper than anything you could get at a traditional jeweler in the same size and shape, and it’s just as fine work, if not better. So I can definitely recommend finding independent jewelers. Especially with websites like Etsy, you can definitely find lots of fine jewelers on there, or just google searching. So I’m really thrilled that I was able to pick that out myself.

Courtney: And then there was one Christmas which, in hindsight, I am borderline embarrassed by. Because I just… I was in the gift-giving mode. I was making a list for family members, close friends, people to shop for. I was going out to stores and going out to the mall and trying to find small businesses for certain gifts wherever I could. And I was just in the zone. And I realized, “Oh my goodness, I haven’t even done anything for Royce!” And since you’re so hard to shop for, I was just at a loss for anything. Because I didn’t have any ideas that were fun or cutesy or quirky or related to an inside joke, and you don’t really do a lot that is… extravagant. You basically stick to… mostly functional things.

Royce: Yeah. I’ve never really purchased things for decoration, nor do I wear accessories or things like that.

Courtney: Yeah, I mean you wear black t-shirts and jeans, and your closet looks like a cartoon character [laughs] who has multiple copies of exactly the same outfit. And if there is anything that would be convenient for you, something that would make your life easier, you tend to just buy those things for yourself as soon as it makes sense. And so I couldn’t even, like, “Oh, you know, does he need a nice new pair of socks?” Yeah, no, [laughs] because you don’t really procrastinate on those things that you need or would be nice to have. So it’s like, “What am I going to do?” And I looked down at my ring and I was like, “Well, you know, Royce doesn’t have a ring, and I know…” And this was… [laughs] this was my downfall. I should have just stopped right then and there. I was like, “I know Royce doesn’t really wear any jewelry, but I wonder if it might be nice to just have a low-cost ring to wear for special occasions, like special events, if we go to a formal event.” I never expected you to regularly start wearing a ring, but I was like, [hesitant tone] “Yeah, special occasions, maybe.”

Royce: This was after the conversation we had had where I had explicitly said that I didn’t really want a ring, though.

Courtney: Yeah, it was terrible of me. And I was at a loss. [laughs] I didn’t know what to do. I was like, “I’m getting everyone on this earth a gift except for Royce! [laughs] Royce is my spouse. We are married. I should get Royce a gift.” So yeah, don’t feel beholden to holidays if it doesn’t make sense for your relationship. Because I actually bought a ring – one that was closest to something I could see you wearing. [laughs] I mean, it also had black coloration. It was a little alternative in style, and…

Royce: It was a nice-looking ring. It was simple. I believe it was tungsten. Tungsten or titanium. It was a little too large.

Courtney: [laughs] Yeah.

Royce: Which meant that you had to drag me into a mall.

Courtney: [laughs] Yeah, I forgot you actually had to go into the mall. Yeah, so here’s the weirdest part, because you can’t be the only person in the world with this problem. I had purchased the smallest ring size that they had in the store, because I know your hands and I know your fingers have a very small circumference, but… it was still a little too big. So we were like, “Oh, well, we can just get it sized.” So we actually went to get your ring size. So they took your size. They took the ring. And then we got a call, days later, saying that they can’t size the ring down, and they also just don’t make any smaller sizes. I had purchased the smallest size that they make, and they just don’t have them any smaller. And… okay, so I guess give us a refund. So… that was probably the best case scenario, honestly. I mean, you didn’t want a ring and I was just desperate to try to get a gift for you for the holidays, [laughs] which, in hindsight, super silly of me. But after that point, I think we had one anniversary where we decided to do gifts for the anniversary. And… was that kind of the last time we ever did occasional, formal gifts?

Royce: Probably. I think the nice, shiny paperweight was the last traditional gift.

Courtney: Ah, yes. My nice, shiny paperweight [laughs] was… first year marriage gift, and was probably the gift you went out on a limb for the most. Because it’s a [clears throat] paperweight that looks an awful lot like brass knuckles, with spikes on where the knuckles would be if it was brass knuckles, [laughs] but it is in fact a paperweight.

Royce: Because it can’t legally be brass knuckles. So it has to function as a heavy device to set on top of papers to keep them from moving around.

Courtney: It is perfectly legal as a paperweight. [laughs] So Royce… I loved it, by the way. That is, I was so thrilled to get this paperweight for our first wedding anniversary. But I’d never expressed any interest to you in owning such potentially violent, heavy, office desk-core. [laughs]

Royce: But you already owned a number of potentially violent things. They were mostly bladed, though. This one was a little more blunt.

Courtney: Yeah! So I mean… I had a sword. I was a fencer once upon a time, and obviously those aren’t real swords, but that leads to a healthy interest in real swords, I would say. Some shorter blades, midsize blades. So yeah, I didn’t have any blunt weaponry for my office desk, but well done, gold star. [laughs]

Royce: And what you got me for our one-year anniversary – or I should say what you made – was 365 little strips of paper with something written on each of them.

Courtney: Ah yes, 365 “I love you”s. I went to a Things Remembered store to buy a cut crystal vase to put all of those in! [laughs] And we have come full circle, ladies and gentlethems. But yeah, that was really nice. I was pleased with how excited you actually got for them, because I wasn’t sure. You are not nearly as much of a sentimentalist as I am. But I had written out 365 reasons that I love you or things that I love about our relationship.

Royce: Which I think we are going back through now, in preparation for this podcast. I grabbed said vase and pulled a random one out, and it was mostly an inside joke that still fit to this day.

Courtney: Ah, yes. Another one of those arguments that we keep dredging up. [laughs] I genuinely think – we only read one of them and we have not gone through all of these one by one since that very first year marker. We might have to go through each and every one this year for our anniversary, coming up at the end of May. Maybe, maybe, if we’re feeling it, that’ll be our special anniversary episode of the podcast. If we’re still going strong by that time.

Royce: If we do a reading as a podcast episode, is it funnier to do it no context or to try to explain? You probably wrote some weird things.

Courtney: I’m sure I had to have written some weird things. That’s a good question. Tweet at us @The_Ace_Couple and tell us which you prefer: with context or without context. Okay, but that was a gift that you enjoyed, that meant something to you, I hope? It took a lot of time. [laughs]

Royce: Yeah, it was really, just a… vase full of memories presented in a form I wasn’t expecting.

Courtney: The form being Courtney long gave up on actually handwriting them because she has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and kept dislocating her fingers and wrist. So instead, I typed them all out on an Excel spreadsheet and went to an Office Depot to print them all out and cut them all into little strips. [laughs]

Royce: I was about to say, I know that handwriting is difficult, but cutting 365 very thin sheets of paper must have been difficult as well.

Courtney: Oh, not after going to the Office Depot. I realized this was going to be an issue. So I used one of their guillotine cutters, one of their great big industrial, [imitates sound] whoosh, [laughs] big big choppy things. I mean, yeah, it did take some time. The people at the Office Depot were giving me funny looks, but I don’t mind receiving funny looks in the name of love. So I stand corrected: that was the last gift I successfully gave you. [laughs] But after that point, every single gift, I think, that you have given me has been ten out of ten, but also just random, not tied to an occasion.

Royce: Situational. Yeah.

Courtney: Situational. Such as… Well, I just mentioned having EDS and joint problems. There are some days where it is so bad that I can’t really do anything. And the pain is just extraordinary. And especially if I have a subluxation, a dislocation, a general joint displacement in my neck, that really, really affects my entire body, and it’s difficult for me to even sit up out of bed. And there was one of these days where I was in so much pain, and I was really thirsty also, but I couldn’t comfortably sit up to drink water. And so I just said in frustration, half as a joke, not expecting that any such thing even existed, I just said, “I need a customized crazy straw, something really crazy like you’d see in a cartoon that just goes in all different directions, but can go from the glass to my mouth while I’m still laying completely horizontal.” [laughs]

Royce: And I found something. It was a… basically, a build-your-own crazy straw thing that was a number of little pieces. It was a number of little plastic straw pieces with connecting joints, like if you were to imagine a plumbing company designing toys for children.

Courtney: Well, isn’t there… I feel like I’m getting a memory of a video game. Is there a Super Mario mini-game or something that has… work through the pipe system to get to the end? Oh, it’s on the tip of my tongue.

Royce: Could that have just been a mini-game on a Mario Party game or something?

Courtney: It could have been. Oh, it’s gonna bother me that I can’t remember exactly. But I’ve almost certainly played a video game using pipes and joints to move around.

Royce: But anyway, we concocted a straw that went from a tall glass at a bedside table down to a laying drinking position, and it worked quite well.

Courtney: “We” is being generous. I said that totally off-handed, not even thinking that this is a real thing we should search for, just a thing I said. And I don’t know how long you had this in your possession, but there was another really high pain day, where you just brought me a glass of water with a customized crazy straw and all of the joints and you just built around it. And I was elated.

Royce: It was probably bookmarked until I needed to add something to get free shipping on Amazon. And that was the time gap.

Courtney: [laughing] Oh, okay. But yeah, I don’t know how long you were sitting on it because I had no knowledge of you even searching for such a thing until I had another incredibly high pain day where I couldn’t really move or sit up. So that was just amazing because the thoughtfulness that happened behind the scenes while I was in extraordinary pain was just so nice.

Courtney: And really, along those same lines, it wasn’t a physical pain kind of a situation, but since we’ve been together, my grandmother has died. And you met her – I’m so glad that we met each other before she died. Because now you have gotten to know my grandmother, who was a huge part of my life because I grew up with a single mother and my grandmother, her mother. I didn’t have a strong father figure in my life, and I didn’t have a big family. So those were like my two core family members. So to lose her was devastating. And I’ve been… obviously, that was a really sad time in my life. And during this period of time, I was sharing a bunch of different memories with you of Grandma things that maybe you hadn’t gotten to see firsthand or just things that came up as I was grieving her loss.

Courtney: And at some point I mentioned yogurt spoons. Because there was a time in my life where Grandma got just like really obsessed with yogurt, and she started getting all these different flavors and keeping little yogurt cups, and she was adamant – downright insistent – on eating with a yogurt spoon, which to her was just a very tiny spoon. And I don’t know if these very tiny spoons actually have a name or not. But every time, eating yogurt, she’s like, “Make sure to use a yogurt spoon! It makes the yogurt experience so much more fun if you have a yogurt spoon.” [laughs] So she had these really, really teeny tiny, like half a bite sized spoons that you would eat yogurt with. And it was just such a charming thing that I also was like, “Okay, yeah, sure. Yep. Yogurt spoons. I’m on board with this.”

Courtney: And so I mentioned the yogurt spoon phenomenon. I’m sure we probably inherited a yogurt spoon or two from her. I mean, she was also a single woman who lived alone, so she didn’t have all of the yogurt spoons in the world for her whole huge family or anything. But I guess that was your inspiration for this gift. But I would have never known because I was just talking about cute little yogurt spoons and that being a thing with Grandma and a memory I had. But then you got this spoon for me that was so perfect for me – that, again, I couldn’t have even shopped for this for myself, but it was so on the nose. Well, I don’t even know how to describe it. How would you describe it? And how did you find this thing?

Royce: It’s a relatively small spoon, and the basin, or the cup, the spoon-y part of the spoon –

Courtney: The spoon-y part of the spoon, yeah.

Royce: – is a vague skull shape.

Courtney: It’s a skull. Yeah. And it’s actually – you couldn’t eat soup with it because the eyes of the skull are actually holes. So it’s only practical for at least partially solid food.

Royce: Like ice cream.

Courtney: Like ice cream! There was a day where I was just really sad, and we were coming up on the first anniversary of my grandmother’s death. And so I was, of course, very sad about this. And obviously, little yogurt spoons was kind of a fun little thing, but my grandma loved ice cream. And she wasn’t the kind of grandma who would bake homemade cookies or anything, but she was the kind of grandma who would buy legitimate ice cream cones that you’d expect to get at Gigglebees.

Royce: Uh, Gigglebees?

Courtney: Gigglebees. This is something that only if you grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota during my generation or earlier will understand! [sighs] Gigglebees. So, I don’t know if the average arcade serves ice cream or not, so I don’t know if I can just say “arcade.” But when I was growing up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, we didn’t have a Chuck-E-Cheese’s for a very long time. We eventually got one, I think. But Gigglebees was our place for kids to get pizza and ice cream and play games to win tickets for prizes, and it was the best thing in the entire world. There was a coyote mascot named Wilbur who rode around on a tricycle and delivered you pizza. And when you were a kid, Wilbur always remembered your name from the last time he saw you, because the adults didn’t tell you that there was just a guy who was doing the voice of Wilbur in the back room and your parents would tell him your name ahead of time. [laughs] But it was a magical experience. And they served dollar ice cream cones that were really good ice cream. So I guess probably the same kind of ice cream cones that you get at a carnival or a state fair kind of a situation.

Courtney: So, Grandma kept those ice cream cones at home in her cupboard, and then a couple of tubs of ice cream in the freezer. And during the summer, she would just make ice cream cones for me. So that was her version of making homemade cookies, since she didn’t actually bake. It was my great-grandmother who was the baker, not my grandmother.

Courtney: And so in sort of preparation for being sad… you know, anniversaries are important not only for happy events, but also for tragic events. Because it just really dredges up all of those memories, and it’s very real and very close again. So I knew that on the anniversary of my grandmother’s death, I was going to be pretty sad. So I was like, “Well, let’s make sure we have ice cream in the house. Because I will be sad and ice cream helps. And ice cream is especially noteworthy for remembering my grandmother. She’d want me to have some ice cream.” And there was a day where I was just sad and you just brought me a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream with a freaking skull-shaped spoon! No commentary. You just brought it to me.

Courtney: That’s another thing that’s actually great. You don’t wrap gifts – which I almost hate to say as someone who really prides herself on making beautiful wrapping paper and getting the perfect bow and making everything very cohesive. I really enjoy that creative aspect of wrapping gifts. I almost hate to say that it’s totally unnecessary and maybe even detracts from the gift itself. But I think that might be the case.

Royce: I think it’s actually more surprising if you don’t know that a gift is about to happen. Like if it’s a skull spoon, but the skull part of the spoon is shoved into ice cream, and so you don’t notice it until you pull it out.

Courtney: Yeah! Actually, though. Because if I was really sad and you’d walk in with a wrapped thing and be like, “I have a gift for you,” I would still be at least a little bit happier. But I’d almost be more confused and almost wary. I mean, do you know that feeling of wariness if someone just pulls out a wrapped gift out of nowhere when it’s not an occasion? You’re almost like, “Oh, what… what is this?”

Royce: Like, “Am I going to have to feign enjoyment?”

Courtney: Oh my goodness! That’s exactly what that feeling is! I don’t even think I realized that until you just said it. [laughs] But yeah, actually, it’s like, this is either going to be really great or the person giving me this thinks it’s greater than it actually is. Oh, that’s horrible! See, you are very intelligent where it comes to gifts. That’s why we’re doing this podcast. We’re helping out [laughs] the people who want to give romantic gifts and have a very strong pressure to do so. Oh man, that didn’t even occur to me! But yeah, absolutely. Bringing me a skull-shaped spoon in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream when I’m sad out of the blue is like… knocked it out of the park. How many more metaphors for just being very good can I come up with? I’ve been like, “right out the gate, knocked it out the park, ten out of ten, you’re very good at this, gold star!”

Courtney: But that was almost more of a surprise. I almost wonder if… I think if it’s a formal holiday and you are definitely an established couple or family or friendship that definitely always swaps gifts, sure, go ahead and do the wrapping thing. But if you’re just trying to surprise someone with something great, sit on it until the moment feels right. And then just present it without the wrapping, because the wrapping almost – even if you take away the fact of “Do I have to feign excitement,” the surprise is then the fact that you’re being given a gift and not the gift itself. Because your surprise has already been wasted on, “Oh, there’s a wrapped present in front of me.” Whereas when I’m just feeling mopey and depressed and I pull a spoon out of the ice cream and it’s [louder] shaped like a freakin skull, I’m like, “Wow, that’s the surprise! It’s perfect. I love you, and you’re the best spouse anyone could ever hope for.”

Courtney: And I guess I don’t have many more examples to pull out. We’re probably nearing the end of our stories here. But I would truly be remiss if I did not advocate for the exceedingly old-fashioned romantic gesture of giving your loved one a lock of your hair. I am both a historian and an artist of sentimental hair work. And as antiquated as it seems today, I do think that it very much can hold up. As long as you don’t have a partner who has a serious phobia of hair, it can be very sentimental. It can be very meaningful. Because you are, in essence, giving them a literal part of yourself.

Courtney: And I do remember, earliest of days in our relationship, asking if you would ever consider parting with a lock of your hair so that I could keep it in a locket. This was when we were still long distance. And I was like, “Well, if we’re long distance, I’m definitely going to need a lock of hair.” But we solved that long distance problem very quickly and decided to cohabitate before long. So I didn’t need it right then and there. But that was definitely something on my mind. You could, of course, use the hair to make artwork, put it in a piece of jewelry, put it in a locket. Or it could just be a lock of hair. Keep it in an envelope. Tie it with a ribbon. Costs you nothing but could mean everything.

Courtney: So I guess. Let’s end off – let’s round it out by talking about our takeaways, or our steps to keep in mind if someone is trying to up their gift-giving game. I think the first step, first and foremost, is to open up a dialogue and start a conversation with your partner about whether or not gifts are meaningful in your relationship, and whether or not you are going to make a decision together to stick to specific holidays. I think that’s a really key factor. That doesn’t always cross everybody’s minds when holidays are just such a given, usually.

Royce: Yes, setting expectations is important, particularly if you are pretty far into a relationship and have joint finances. You don’t want to have an argument after getting a gift of, “Why did you spend our money on this?”

Courtney: That’s a good point. I mean, we haven’t had such an argument, but I definitely know of couples who have. So that’s a good point. But I mean, even before you have a joint finance situation, or if you decide to never do that in your relationship, I think even beforehand, that is a good conversation to have. Second takeaway: Use the things that are only meaningful to you. Think of inside jokes. Think of metaphors for your relationship. Or memories that are specific to you I think are always going to be the most impactful things, if you can come up with something that fits that criteria.

Royce: And in that regard, when something does come up, either take note of it in the moment – because chances are, you won’t remember it come holiday time – or toss out the holidays altogether and just give gifts when it makes sense or when it comes up.

Courtney: Yeah. That’s such a good point. Because what you’ve done with a couple of the greatest gifts you’ve given me could be applied to holidays, if that made sense and if you thought that would be the most impactful. Like taking note of the yogurt spoon, and finding one that looked like a skull that I would really like, you could have theoretically saved that for a birthday or a Christmas kind of a situation. Heck, maybe Halloween, you could have given me a skull spoon. And that could apply for any holiday at any time. But you need to really take note of things that happen throughout the year and sit on it for a while. Because you sat on that spoon for a while, and you sat on that build-your-own crazy straw for a while, but you brought them out at a moment that was really impactful. And both of those, for me anyway, were better received when there was a day I was in tremendous physical pain and there was a day I was in tremendous emotional pain.

Courtney: So definitely, I think, if you and your partner, or partners, decide that giving gifts is meaningful – whether it be around holidays or not – I think it’s very good to get into the mindset of thinking proactively about meaningful gifts throughout the entire year, rather than waiting for a holiday to be imminent or an anniversary to be imminent. Because then you’ll dig yourself into a hole like Courtney did where you’re going, “Oh, no! [laughs] That date is almost here and I haven’t done a thing for my spouse,” and that’s when bad gift-giving happens. And you know, I mean, hashtag Not Sponsored but Things Remembered or any such non-corporate small business customization options could be really, really great. If you have an idea for a gift, but you can’t find it already made, there are so many magnificent artists, creators, independent people who can help you make basically anything you can think of. When I worked at a Things Remembered store, I engraved my own items with things that I thought were witty or funny or meaningful.

Royce: Along those lines, we gave a friend couple a Bob’s Burgers-inspired portrait that we commissioned from an online artist.

Courtney: Oh, yeah, absolutely! I mean, artists are such an underutilized resource for personalized gifts. We got hooked on Bob’s Burgers years ago. A couple of friends of ours were already fans of the show and they just sort of sensed that we would enjoy it, so they definitely got us hooked on it. We love it because it’s such an endearing family. And it’s kind of sitcom-y, it’s a cartoon, but it’s in a way where the comedy doesn’t come from the family hating each other. They’re all very loving and supportive, and we love to see it. And I had found an artist who does portraits custom in the Bob’s Burgers kind of art style. And so I immediately thought of our friends who got us hooked on this show. So things like that. Try to try to think like an artist, even if you are not an artist. If you can draw or paint something yourself, go for it, but if you can’t, and you have an idea, you can find someone who will do it for you. And we definitely love supporting artists and small businesses. So, keep that in mind for sure. And if all else fails, just give them a lock of your hair. [laughs] [joking] And if they don’t like it, you get that lock of your hair back and you dump ’em. [laughs] I’m just kidding. But no seriously. Dump ’em.