What to get an ex?
March 4, 2009 7:33 PM   Subscribe

Ok, I have been invited to my ex-boyfriend's surprise 50th birthday party. WHAT do you get an ex for a major birthday? We dated for 4 years back in the day and have remained friends. Problem is his wife does not appreciate our friendship, yet she is the one who invited me. Do I get a serious gift or gag gift? Are there any tasteful gag gifts? HELP!
posted by Kam1761 to Human Relations (25 answers total)
No, there are no tasteful gag gifts. The concepts are mutually exclusive.

Get something that's ostensibly for him, but secretly for the wife. You know what I mean.
posted by box at 7:34 PM on March 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

If I were you I'd get a couple gift. Gag gifts are either tacky nonsense or inside jokes (and neither will endear you to your ex and / or his wife). If I were you, I'd give a gift card to a nice restaurant or (if you're anti-gift card) a nice basket with wine, fancy coffee, etc. that they can enjoy together.
posted by moxiedoll at 7:37 PM on March 4, 2009 [13 favorites]

moxiedoll has it right. She extended a bit of diplomacy in inviting you, it would be excellent for you to acknowledge that.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:39 PM on March 4, 2009

Make a substantial donation to his favorite charity in his name. Rocking ass gift and how can she snark about that?
posted by pearlybob at 7:42 PM on March 4, 2009

I'd be tempted to ask her, "Hey, I don't really know what to get So-and-so. What do you think he'd like?" Give her a face-saving way of steering you towards presents she'd find appropriate and away from ones that would make her uncomfortable.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:51 PM on March 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Donations to charity are not gifts. I'm with moxiedoll on this one.
posted by grouse at 7:54 PM on March 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Do you do everything that is asked of you? DON'T GO
posted by america4 at 7:59 PM on March 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

I kind of have to agree. Based on what you've said, I would probably decline the invite. However, sending him a gift that is clearly for the two of them --gift certificate to fancy restaurant, say-- would be really gracious.
posted by cymru_j at 8:02 PM on March 4, 2009

Definitely not a gag gift. I would take pearlybob's advice on this one. Just make sure its a favorite of his ( maybe hers too ? ). They are very much appreciated by many people, and they're right " how can she snark about that?" He's at the age where he probably doesn't really need much. Another thought though.....a dinner gift certificate? Yes, that would be for the two of them.
posted by Taurid at 8:04 PM on March 4, 2009

If you go, I really like nebulawindphone's advice of asking the wife for suggestions. This has two advantages: (1) guarantees you get him something that she won't misread or otherwise be uncomfortable with, and (2) reinforces in her mind that she knows him better than you, ergo she is closer to him, ergo she wins and you're not really a threat. Might go some small way toward mending fences.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:20 PM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

His wife may be making an effort to better understand and respect his relationship with you. Moxiedoll's suggestion of a couples gift is so right on, and she will remember it.

A (difficult) old ex of mine remains in my orbit, and for years, my wife did not like her. Over the years, my wife got to know her and tried to include her occasionally in parties and the like, and they've actually had a somewhat rewarding friendship, I think.

This could be a good chance for you and her to break the ice a little.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:21 PM on March 4, 2009

I'm surprised by the some of the directions people are going with this.

I'm assuming she is throwing a big 50th bash for him and inviting all his friends. She might not appreciate your friendship with him, as you say, but if she is throwing a party for him, she is showing maturity & consideration by inviting who he would want to invite rather than who she wants to invite. Go along and enjoy celebrating his 50th with him and his other friends and family.

Don't do gag gifts, just don't. I don't think a couple gift is at all necessary, it's not HER party, it's for him, but there's nothing wrong with getting something that he can enjoy with her. A really good bottle of wine, or scotch would be lovely if he likes those. Tickets to a concert or the theatre? Something related to a hobby you know he enjoys? If you're stuck for ideas, do call her and ask if she can suggest something. Don't get something excesssively expensive, but don't skimp either.
posted by goshling at 8:24 PM on March 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Donations to charity are not gifts.

When you're over 35, donations to charity are often the best gift, because many people who have been around for that long feel like their life is full of enough stuff already. Seriously, I never ever want anyone to give me any non-perishable object of any kind because I am 44 and have a house full of stuff I like and no room for any other stuff.

That said, gift certificates to restaurants, tickets, wine/booze, a fancy food thing like a giant white truffle if he's a foodie, a gift certificate to an awesome garden vendor if he's a gardener--something ephemeral that isn't some big ol' silver tray or monogrammed highball glass or whatever that will just sit around in the house--are also excellent gifts.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:30 PM on March 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Bouquet of fifty flowers, as various as can be, for him. Not fifty different kinds, just fifty total. Numbers are cool.

Bunch of roses, baby's breath, and evergreens/ferns, no fanfare, maybe a ribbon, for her, maybe an orchid thrown in.

(No, I am not a florist. But I know my flowers.)

Best wishes. -- And I agree with previous answerers, no gag gifts, never ever.
posted by emhutchinson at 8:39 PM on March 4, 2009

Yes, this is a peace pipe. You can smoke it if you want by buying something for both of them that she would enjoy more than he would.
posted by Pants! at 8:50 PM on March 4, 2009

Yo, if you want to get along with your ex spend some time with his current. Unless its stupidly offensive, the gift you gve him for his 50th won't matter.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 9:00 PM on March 4, 2009

Ask if there are any group-gifts that you can contribute too.
posted by -harlequin- at 9:06 PM on March 4, 2009

Assuming he and his wife drink alcohol, what about a nice bottle of scotch or champagne?
posted by scody at 10:32 PM on March 4, 2009

Yeah, don't overthink this; just get a bottle of something nice. If he's a non-drinker, get something similarly innocuous but enjoyable.
posted by hpliferaft at 5:57 AM on March 5, 2009

I was going to post exactly what moxiedoll wrote. Give him something that he will like and correlates to his interests, but that they also can enjoy together. A bottle of wine, tickets, restaurant gift certificates, etc are all great ideas.
posted by katemcd at 6:34 AM on March 5, 2009

Yeah, bottle of wine or other booze, restaurant gift certificates. Nothing too personal and nothing that is representative of your time together.
posted by electroboy at 6:47 AM on March 5, 2009

I really like nebulawindphone's advice of asking the wife for suggestions.

Me too. Otherwise, you can't go wrong with a bottle of wine (assuming they drink, of course).

Seriously, I never ever want anyone to give me any non-perishable object of any kind because I am 44 and have a house full of stuff I like and no room for any other stuff.

That's nice, and I'll bear it in mind should I ever be invited to your birthday party, but most people are not like that. I'm 57 and I still like getting stuff (books and wine, not the electronic crap these kids today are hooked on).
posted by languagehat at 7:09 AM on March 5, 2009

I think it's fine for someone holding a party to suggest a gift to charity, but doing it instead of a present is a bit off-putting. Did they not know what to get you? Are they making a political point? Is it passive-aggressive because they would really rather not give you anything? Etc. In this case it might come across like you're playing ju-jitsu with the wife. "No way can you object to the UN Children's Fund! Ha!"
posted by dhartung at 10:12 AM on March 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

I recently put on a large but very casual 50th bday bash for myself with a lot of help from a few friends. On the invitation, I specifically asked for no black balloons (translation: no gag gifts) and no presents. Quite a few people were coming from out of town and most of the others were bringing some sort of food dish so I really didn't want them to feel like they had to get me a present, too.

Even so, a few people brought gifts anyway - one of which was a donation to a favorite charity of mine in my name and probably the one I appreciated the most. I didn't think it was off-putting in the least, in fact I thought it was a great idea. But then, I wasn't expecting to get anything at all.

If you feel certain that a gift for your ex is expected, then I'd have to go with electroboy and others who suggested something impersonal that could be used by both of them.

FWIW, I wanted as many of my friends from over the years to attend so I just invited them all (exes included) - even though that meant inviting former couples who were no longer together. Surprisingly, almost everyone came and set all their differences aside and we had a blast. That was over 3 months ago and some are still contacting me to tell me how much fun they had.

So, don't overthink it. Keep it simple and have a good time. That's really the best gift you can give to him anyway.
posted by ourroute at 5:07 PM on March 5, 2009

That's nice, and I'll bear it in mind should I ever be invited to your birthday party, but most people are not like that.

Most of my same-age friends are. But we live in Boston and New York and San Francisco and other places where you don't get a lot of house for your money; folks who have more square-footage may well differ.

In any case, both moxiedoll and my opinions are tangential to the whole thing. The OP probably knows the ex well enough to know whether he would prefer a gift to charity, or a bottle of Scotch, or an orchid, or gift certificates to a restaurant, or whatever, and that's what matters.

The worst imaginable gift in this situation--and I know a couple of people who would do this, too--would be a silver-framed photo of the donor and the ex snuggling back in the days of their relationship. Now I want to put that in a story.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:56 AM on March 6, 2009

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