Gift or No Gift?
October 28, 2006 9:17 PM   Subscribe

EtiquetteFilter: Need help on deciding about a gift for a friend I'm meeting in-real-life for the first time.

Later this week, I will be meeting for dinner with a woman I've known for over 8 months online. The relationship is platonic friendship although she knows I find her attractive and good-looking (I've complimented her often on her looks). We are in daily contact, but it's often short, pithy e-mails with the occasional IMing. It seems we both enjoy the contact but by no means is it an exhaustive or very close friendship.

I was thinking of getting her a small gift when I meet her for two reasons: (1) She got me a couple of candy bars from overseas on my request and (2) I want to make a good impression when meeting her.

I was thinking of flowers or chocolate but on further thought can't help feeling it might be miscontrued and/or scare her off by making her feel I want something else from the relationship at present (I don't). She comes from a conservative/sheltered enough background that this is a sticking point.

The other alternative that springs to mind is to pick up the tab for dinner as thanks for her getting the candy (it cost all of $3) with the vague promise that I'll let her get it next time.

So MeFites, any opinions? Should I get her a gift? and if so, what's an appropriate gift that says "I think you're cool" without saying too much?
posted by gadha to Human Relations (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No gift- it would be weird. Just pay for dinner.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:19 PM on October 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

And make no mention of, I'm doing this because you bought me candy. Just do it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:28 PM on October 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

Agreed - pay for dinner. It's a nice gesture and says that you enjoyed the evening & her company, but doesn't need to say anything more than that.

And everyone likes a free dinner!
posted by AthenaPolias at 9:29 PM on October 28, 2006

Fourthed. Just dinner.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:44 PM on October 28, 2006

You can get flowers if and only if they're yellow roses, less than 6 of them. (yellow = friendship)

You can get another small token gift if you know something she actually likes. A not terribly expensive bottle of wine or scotch if you know she likes that, or a paperback book if you've been talking about some particular author she hasn't read, come to mind as ok gifts. Not a box of chocolates or anything else obviously romantic.

Paying for dinner is nice, unless she thinks you're going dutch and takes your suddenly paying for dinner as meaning that you think it's a date.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:06 PM on October 28, 2006

by "another" gift, I meant you can either get three yellow roses, OR a small gift, OR pay for dinner. Don't do more than one of these.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:07 PM on October 28, 2006

You're meeting in a public place, I assume? If so, then bringing any sort of gift, ESPECIALLY flowers, is really weird, because then she has to schlep it around for the rest of the evening.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:10 PM on October 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

I like the dinner idea too. And also the vague notion of saying "next time, you can pick up the check." But you shouldn't phrase it as a thanks for the $3 of candy. That seems strange and forced....unless you're getting the dollar menu at McDonald's.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:31 PM on October 28, 2006

I actually think that the small gift idea (done correctly) is better than paying for dinner. Like LobsterMitten said, you want a small gift somehow related to something you know about her or that you've talked about before. It will show that you value the friendship but be less likely, I think, to relay the wrong message than paying for dinner.

Some guidelines for the gift: no flowers, no chocolate; small enough that she doesn't feel bad about not having anything for you; if you're from different places, maybe something related to your hometown; a book could also work. If you really need ideas, respond to tell us what her interests are.
posted by purplevelvet at 10:47 PM on October 28, 2006

Just dinner. Anything else says too much.
posted by Manjusri at 12:31 AM on October 29, 2006

You could just give her the $3 the candy was worth.

Really though, you're going to have to feel out the evening. Paying for dinner might be a little too much. If she objects to you paying, then offer to pay for the tip instead and at that point mention that you're "getting her back" for sending you the candy.
posted by o0o0o at 1:38 AM on October 29, 2006

If you're both readers, a book is a good present. If you've never discussed books or have wildly different taste in reading matter this is obviously less good. But it's a small token gift without romantic association that gives you something to talk about, which is, I think, what you're after.
posted by handee at 1:05 AM on October 29, 2006

I agree with the people who are suggesting books, CDs, etc - things you've discussed and have in common. Paying for dinner will make the date connection just as much as flowers or chocolate. I also agree with people who say don't mention the chocolate. It shouldn't seem tit for tat.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:44 AM on October 29, 2006

In most cases you shouldn't bring chocolates because they'd send the wrong signal but I think candy would work well here. Give her a regional candy assortment as thanks for scoring the overseas candy for you. If some of the candy happens to be chocolate, well that would probably be OK as long as the candy is inexpensive. If you find some delicious candy that's unusual, then you keep the creep factor down, show her that you put some effort into searching for a gift, and connect your gift with the favor she did for you. Just keep the candy cheap and good.
posted by rdr at 5:59 AM on October 29, 2006

A book or cd that you think she'd like, since you know her pretty well, is a nice, non-datelike, gift. Offer to pick up the check if you know you make a lot more money, or if it seems like the right thing to do when the time comes. It sounds like you might want it to be a date.
posted by theora55 at 9:13 AM on October 29, 2006

'Paying for dinner' = 'date' to me, unless I'm out with someone where there is no possible way its anything more than platonic. I say pay for dessert, or coffee, or something.

Or if you must must bring her something then bring something that directly relates to a conversation you've previously had, or that relates to the city you live in (if she's visiting from far away.)
posted by Kololo at 6:44 PM on October 29, 2006

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