Here’s a text message I received last week. “Hi Susannah. Clive here. It’s Iris’s birthday and I wondered if you had any ideas? She seems to like everything you like! Heading to Dover Street Market at lunchtime (don’t tell her, obviously). Clothes. Jewellery. Anything. Many thanks.”
All I can say is: what a man. Not only is he prepared to buy his wife “clothes, jewellery, anything” for her birthday – a white tiger, maybe? – but also his starting point is Dover Street Market, marking him out as highly discerning to boot. More importantly, though, he is prepared to ask one of her friends what she might want as opposed to rushing in where angels fear to tread.
Any number of more adventurous (read stupid) souls out there should take inspiration from such behaviour. Shopping for one’s partner solo is a minefield of unprecedented proportions and one that, however well-meaning, should therefore be avoided. Particularly common pitfalls include underwear that’s inevitably too big or too small – neither is okay although the latter, while humiliating, is probably preferable - and perfume. “Are you suggesting I smell?”
At the other end of the spectrum are practical presents: kitchen appliances, say, or something “special” for the garden. Nothing for the garden is that special. Ever. Upon delivering your gift, do say. “I thought you’d look even more lovely/handsome in this.” Don’t say: “You won’t believe what a bargain it was.” Once you’ve committed to your gift, suggesting it’s not up to scratch is weak-willed/cowardly/lazy (delete where appropriate). The words: “We can always return it/sell it on Ebay”, are therefore nothing short of unseemly.
Back to Iris’s birthday. In fact, I replied: “Go to Balenciaga.” A failsafe present destination if ever there was one. “There’s a little black blazer in there that Iris loves and so do I. It’s small but quite a masculine cut, a little bit like a sporty tux…” I then supplied the size which is private, obviously. “Is it the one with a single button?” asked Clive only a matter of hours later. And it was. Iris’s birthday present was, quite literally, in the bag.
Some of the names in this column have been changed.