When I was young, whenever I labored aloud over what to buy a boy I liked—for a birthday party, Valentine's Day, whatever—my mom would invariably suggest, "How about a nice pen?," and I would invariably wince. Gift giving in a new romance is the trickiest gift giving of all, and these days, when I'm in an amorous fog and trying to find a gift, I think a pen is as good a guess as any.
At the beginning of a relationship, you want your gift to send a singular message—I like you—while avoiding myriad unintended ones. A gift too small might suggest you don't care much. Clothes could be misinterpreted as a hint to a dress differently. And a surprise from left field could leave the recipient wondering if you ever really listen to him or her. Et cetera.
Our advice: Calm down and consider: Experiential gifts (such as tickets to a concert), handmade gifts (yes, made by you), and this roundup of finds (most good for men or women), all of which were given loving attention by the designers who created them.
To make sure we've got everyone on your list covered, we're posting a new gift guide every weekday from now until Christmas. See all of the Gift Guides to date in our archive.
Above: A nice pen, made of matte black aluminum designed and inset in a hard-covered notebook. Designed by Dietrich Lubs of Braun and IDEA International, the Dietrich x Düller Ballpoint Pen is $55 at neo-utility.
Above L: Leopold Bros. Small-Batch American Gin, handcrafted, hand bottled, and hand numbered; $36.99 from K & L Wine Merchants. Above R: Morris Kitchen Preserved Lemon Syrup for cocktails; $16 at Green Tree General Store.
Above: A token of esteem for the bespectacled man or woman, a Cross-Stitched Handkerchief from Japanese hanky boutique H Tokyo, available from Sweet Bella USA (email to request price).
Above: The l'Atelier d'Exercises Monthly Measure is a perpetual calendar that marks the day, month, and date, plus a metric ruler; $60 from Dry Goods in Brooklyn.
Above: The Alwych All Weather Notebook, a Scottish design unchanged since the 1930s, is durable enough to take on adventures; $20 from the Walker Art Center Shop.
Above: I've heard dissenting voices, but I think jewelry is always a smart bet. (Maybe just avoid rings.) Above L: The Corter Copper Cuff is hand made in Montana; $45 from Spartan in Austin, Texas. Above R: The Turquoise Stone Cuff is made of brass with a tiny turquoise stone; $74 from Spartan.
Above: A Minnesota woolen mill dating from 1865 is back in business and making these scarves in collegiate-inspired designs. Faribault Woolen Mills' Scarves are shown here in heather gray/charcoal herringbone, and rust/silver stripe; $50 each at Canoe in Portland.
Above: Okay, one for the big spenders: Tivoli Audio's Radio Silenz Noise Canceling Headphones are detailed with solid wood ear cups. The Wall Street Journal likened them to "an Eames lounger: classic, comfortable, and likely a solid choice for years to come." Available in black ash, walnut, and cherry; $159.99.